Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Stills (with a haymaking twist)

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was historic sites or monuments.  Since we were making hay this week, I initially thought that I would probably end up skipping this challenge.  I got to thinking about it though and, really, what could possibly be more historic than making hay on an old farm (built around 1870) in what was once, long ago a thriving community.  The few farms still struggling to survive in an area that was once all working farmland are the best historical sites I can think of for a tiny upstate hamlet barely holding onto existence.

Making hay is one of the truest, most universal cornerstones of all human society.  It's the making and storing of feed so that our farms can survive, so that we can survive.  However, in our ever more urbanized culture, many people don't seem to realize that this is still one of the most crucial aspects of keeping our world fed.  Gone are the days when a barn full of hay is what guaranteed that our workforce, livelihood and transportation survived the winter....

or ensured that we would have clothing to wear....

but it is still the the lifeblood of any farm, very literally the difference between life and death (not to mention the continued survival and happiness of our beloved donkeys and horses as well).

We have been extraordinarily lucky the past couple of years to have the help an incredible group of friends who have taken time out of their own very busy lives to come together to help us put our hay in. 

It is a hot, exhausting, dirty job demanding extreme, prolonged physical effort.  In years past, it has often been just Farm Buddy and I doing this job ourselves, with only the occasional bit of help coming our way.  Doing the job as we did this time, with a group of fun, intelligent, hard workers along with the best four days of hay weather we've ever had made the job into a pleasure rather than a trial, as it so often can be.

We must have racked up some really good hay karma somewhere along the way for this batch of hay. We had been getting worried as the weather was being impossible for so long.  We normally average about 2.5 inches of rain in the month of June.  This year, by June 15 we had had almost 10 inches and the specter of flooding was growing.  It is always better to have a wet year than a dry one, as last year proved (because of the drought last year, this same patch of ground produced half the number of bales it did yesterday), but there are limits. 

We were even luckier this time because Riding Buddy's mother, who is world-class chef, made a feast for all of us at the end of the day.  It is hard to describe just how great it is to come in at the end of a hay day to find that someone else has done the cooking.  That is a luxury we have never known before, but we sure could get used to that in a hurry! 

Through a complicated barter deal with a nearby dairy farm, we make three kinds of hay here; baleage, dry round bales and the small square bales pictured above.  The last are all made with Farm Buddy's ancient, but (mostly) functional equipment, half of which was designed to be pulled with horses.   The neighbor farm does all of our mowing, round bales and baleage.

The modern round baler gobbles up hay at an amazing rate...

rolls it up tight, wraps it in plastic netting, spits it out.... 

and goes on gobbling.  And if you're wondering why we don't have our own equipment like this, it's because just these two pieces represent about $50,000.  Add in the tedder, rake, bale wrapper...The mind boggles.

A couple of weeks ago they made 45 balages.  This week we put in 842 square bales and 6 dry round bales.  The next time we have dry weather, we'll be doing it all again.  We wouldn't want anybody going hungry around here after all.


  1. A great post for the theme. I've helped with this in the past and know how hard it is. Glad you had fun this year.

  2. Well done! And congratulations on getting your hay in!

  3. So much hay! How many acres? What kind of hay is it? What is "baleage?"

  4. It works, we can't make it without farmers and all the hay your organic lawnmowers can eat, just imagine trying to bale all that hay with 1800's technology( a scythe and a rake).:-)
    great pics..:-))

  5. Another great, very interesting post and beautiful pictures (you are spoiling us rotten)! I was hoping you'd have perfect haying weather so that you would get the most benefit from all that hard, hard work. The photo showing the sheep lined up so neatly intrigues me (do they often form this sort of a semi-circle grazing, or was it coincidence).
    To think that after haying (and everything else you have to attend to daily) you still have the energy to write up such a wonderful post - wow, and thanks!

  6. Well, this was a generous labor of love during your busy haymaking!! You answered all of the questions except one: what type of hay is it? a combination? Timothy?
    That photo of the folks on the back of the truck with the tractor and farm is absolutely gorgeous.

  7. Thank you for showing me this way of life! I remember as a child visiting my aunt and uncle's Pennsylvania farm and joining my cousins to play in the barn, sitting on hay bales (squares?) and loving the smell of it. I couldn't have been more than 6 or 7, so of course I had no idea of what was behind this wonderful playland. And then we went home to Florida and all I thought about was the beach!

    Nancy in Iowa

  8. Your beautiful pictures and words made me feel like I was there. I could smell the hay and feel the sunshine.

  9. Lovely post, looks like brilliant hay-making weather - so pleased for you, I know how important this is in the year's proceedings!

  10. Congrats on your beautiful hay! As a Nebraska girl, those photos made me a happy girl. Thanks for all the info! Fascinating.

  11. That was a Fun post................

  12. What a great post! It is hard work. And the best part of the summer. I recognize FarmBuddy's baler. I've used one and it made great bales. Your hay looks great.

  13. What a good feeling to get the hay in!