This is all that's left of last year's hay.
And this is the hayfield. . .
So it begins again. . .
I can't believe it's haying season already—but I think I say that every year. We put up our own square bales of organic hay, which feed the sheep and donkeys through the winter and early spring.
We don't have a haying crew; it's just the two of us and the canine supervisors (except for the year baby Cary joined us). Joe does most of the work—he cuts, tedders (fluffs up), rakes, and bales the hay, and then we load the bales onto the trailer and stack them in the haybarn.
Bringing in the hay is the hardest, hottest, sweatiest job on the farm, and to be honest, we both dread it. Each bale of hay weighs between 40 and 75 pounds, and each one is handled four or five times between field and haybarn. Last year we put up about 800 bales of hay, which fed 52 sheep, 30 spring lambs, and six donkeys—but only because we very carefully doled it out, feeding several times a day instead of all at once so less would get wasted.
Thanks to several inches of recent rainfall, the hayfield is looking pretty good this year, although the grass isn't as thick as we were hoping it would be. We're at the mercy of Mother Nature when it comes to our hay crop. No hay means no winter food for the critters. Buying hay is sometimes an option, but hardly anybody puts up square bales around here anymore, and if you are able to find them, they're pricey, have probably been fertilized with chemicals, and are never as nice as ours.
This is always an anxious time of year for us. Will we get enough spring rain for the grass to grow? One year we didn't put up any hay at all. Will the cut hay get rained on? You don't want this to happen, but sometimes there's no way around it. Will the bales get rained on before we can bring them all in from the field? You really don't want this to happen. Will our antique tractors and haying equipment break down? Last year we had to borrow two different tractors to get the hay in. Will we be picking up bales in the dark? Been there, done that more than once. Will we be able to physically do this? Gosh, I hope so.
According to the aerial photo map of our farm that the USDA sends us every couple of years, our hayfield is about 16 acres. We break it down into sections and only cut part of it at a time because there's no way we could bring in that many bales at once, and the bales suffer if they're left overnight in the field, especially if the morning mist comes up—and they're pretty much ruined if they get rained on.
Part of me hopes that this year we'll get more than 800 bales, and part of me wonders how we're even going to be able to manage that many. Each year it gets a little harder.
Joe is almost done baling up yesterday's cutting, which means I need to put on my work boots and overalls, fill up a big jug of ice water, make sure there's plenty of homebrewed beer chilling down for later, grab my heavy gloves, and prepare for a very long evening. Putting up your own hay is extremely rewarding—but only once it's over.
I hope your weekend is filled with a lot less work than ours!
Want to spend some more time in the hay?
8/29/05: Raked Hay Ready to be Baled Today
6/10/06: Cary Guards a Hay Bale
6/11/06: Hay Inspector Samples the Harvest
6/12/06: Baby Cary in the Hay Truck
6/15/06: How to Ensure a Happy Haying Crew
7/14/07: In the Hay, Be Back Soon
7/17/07: Haying Supervisor
6/27/08: Antique Haying Equipment
6/28/08: A Slight Haying Delay
6/29/08: Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
6/30/08: View From A Hay Bale
6/30/08: Meet Our New Hay Inspector
6/27/09: One Hot Guy (in Hay Cutting Hell)
7/1/09: A Day in the Hay
7/4/09: The Dog Days of Haying Season
© Copyright 2010 FarmgirlFare.com, the sweaty and itching foodie farm blog where I didn't know the first thing about putting up hay (or feeding hay, for that matter) when I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to rural Missouri 15 years ago, and there are times when I wish I still didn't—but when it's snowing like crazy next winter, there'll be no sight more beautiful than our barn full of homegrown hay.