Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making Hay, Part 1

If you're involved in raising livestock in any way, then you know that of course you have to feed them.  And if you live where there is winter weather, then part of the year that will mean feeding hay (grasses cut, cured and put up for animal feed). 

You either purchase your hay or you produce it yourself.  Sometimes that includes not just raising the crop on your farm but also having the equipment and manpower needed to cut the hay; rake the hay (turn it over and let the sunshine cure it till dry); make the hay into bales to store through the winter (either big round bales or small square bales); wagons to haul the hay and then a barn or shed to store it until needed.  Equipment can be tractors and machines, like in the picture below (that's quite an array of mechanical horsepower parked in our front yard!) ~

or the original horsepower (draft animals) and implements ~
Four Percheron horses at the hitching post, getting ready for noon break
Sometimes you have a combination of both!  That was the case for the 2011 hay season at our farm, and what a joy this was. 

Here at Serenity Farms the majority of our farm is pasture land for seasonal grazing and hay ground, with some acreage rented out for row crops (usually corn and soybeans, sometimes wheat or spelts)  As a farm raising livestock, haying time is pretty intense!  And it doesn't end with just getting the hay put up in the barn, there are also decisions like "how much" to put up.  You want to be sure you have enough to last through the winter months and just like everything else on the farm that is related to weather, how early winter comes and how long it lasts until  you can get animals back out on spring pasture will effect that decision.  I am pretty obsessive about how much hay we have in the barn for winter - I always want to much!  This year, we cut it pretty close - here is what the hay mow looked like when we first started turning the sheep out on grass ~
The spelt straw (golden yellow on the left of the photo is in good order) but the hay (bright green to the right) was cutting it pretty close - only about 25 bales left at the start of grass season!  Whew, I was stressing a bit ;)

Hay has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, and even the parts that I can't ((grin)).  I grew up in a haying family, and even when Mom and Dad didn't have a farm my grandparents and uncles did, and Dad worked with them.  I married into a haying family - my husband had this farm already set up for hay production when I came along ;)  We don't have our own equipment anymore for various reasons (health and circumstance) but we do have the hay ground and now it's put up "on shares" - where a farmer who does have the equipment makes all of the hay and we get our portion as part of the rent of the land.

Trust me, this does not take the stress of hay season away completely, LOL!

I'd like to share a few photos with you of the first cutting hay making (there will be a second cutting, and hopefully even a third) and I hope you enjoy them, and maybe  understand and appreciate that this isn't just a group of serene, pastoral farm photos but a glimpse of the toil and sweat and hard, hard work in some of the most extreme weather that farmers go through to produce a good crop.  The other key ingredient is the weather, and God is in charge of that.  Some years we get it made just right, some years not.  We have had our share of both, and are grateful that this year it was perfect.

I'll do this in three parts, mostly with pictures and not so many words, so it will be easier for you to view.  This is Part 1.

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