09 September 2009

Hay Hay Hay!

One reason for the slow posting of late is the extraordinary amount of harvest activity that kicks in on the farm in late summer. Add to that an extraordinary amount of professional work that's come in recently, and I'm going an embarrassing amount of time between blog posts. Hope to get caught up toward the end of next week, when everything should be slowing down a bit.

Last Thursday, the big harvest project was HAY. We brought in our third (and final) cutting of the year, and it was extremely rich in alfalfa. The way hay works, three cuttings is considered a good/standard year. The field is planted in a mix of grass and alfalfa; the latter is what provides most of the protein in hay. The first cutting of the spring is very heavy in grass, but has some alfalfa. This year, thanks to a good application of fertilizer last fall, we got 465 bales in our first cutting. We brought in the second cutting on July 14th, and got 240 bales; it was less bulky, due to the grass slowing down in the heat of summer, but richer in alfalfa.

This year's third cutting was only 123 bales, but they were overwhelmingly alfalfa and will provide a wonderful, protein-rich supplement for the sheep this winter. And in case you're keeping count, cutting #2 yielded 51% of the number of bales we got in cutting #1. And cutting #3 yielded 51% of the bales we got in cutting #2. That is par for the course. You get fewer bales as the year goes on, but they're richer.

The farmer who helps us decided that he would make a single trip around the field making bales and stacking them on the hay rack; that was pushing the upper limit of what the rack could hold, but he didn't want to waste time making two trips to the barn. Instead, he stacked the bales seven high. Our two youngest kids, who'd been riding around on the rack as the bales came it, had the absolute time of their lives: as the bales stacked higher, they got to climb higher. And higher. And higher. By the time the tractor and hay rack were coming in to the barn, they were literally almost as high up as the power lines running from the road to our house. They needed a ladder to come down.
It's a wonderful sense of security to have many hundreds of bales of hay stacked to the rafters in the big red barn. We have much more than we'll need for the next year, but our thinking is that we shouldn't sell any. If drought conditions limit next year's harvest, we'll be very glad to have these extra bales in the winter of 2010-2011...especially because, in a drought year, hay purchased on the open market would be extremely expensive. And it's not like this stuff goes bad, as long as you keep it dry in the barn. If next year's harvest is another bumper one, we might sell some of that hay.

For now, I love looking at the beautifully-cut field and remember that all the haying work is now done for the year and the produce is safely gathered into the barn.


Danby said...

Another good reason not to sell your hay, at least if it's relatively weed-free. It makes great garden fertilizer. We have more garden plot than we actually use. In June I take any leftover hay out and line it up in the garden beds we're not using that year and cut the strings. By the next spring it's mostly rotted and makes an excellent topsoil layer.

Wow, 3 cuttings. We only get 1 around here, and that's at best grass and vetch. Alfalfa doesn't grow worth a darn in Western Washington.

John said...

I know you were hearing Krusty's voice in your mind, "Hey, HEY!"

Zach said...

My mantra, whenever stuck with a *@#! job, was for the longest time "well, at least it's not baling hay!"

For the last few years, though, I've been rethinking that. Not sure if it's wisdom or just nostalgia sneaking up on me, but now I wonder "what was so bad about baling hay again?"

There was certainly never any office politics involved. :)


Danby said...

What's wrong with bucking hay?

back pain
long sleeves in hot weather
hay down your: back neck sleeves pants boots socks gloves throat & up your nose
severe physical fatigue
arm cramps
and exhaustion

Zach said...

Well, yes, but besides those things... :)