Hay Day

We’re cutting hay! In order to support our cattle over the winter when fresh grass isn’t so plentiful, we make hay in the summer. The first hay cutting, of three, usually takes place in early May, as soon as there’s a window of dry weather forecasted. It always feels like it should be a holiday, celebrated with a little festival. Warmth! Bounty! Tractors! It’s fun, though I don’t know if most people are as excited by it as I am.

I’ve only helped out with hay a little in the past, but being on the regular crew is a dream job of mine. Making hay is a four-step process: mowing, tedding, raking, and baling. Mowing is simply cutting the long grass. Tedding involves an implement that roughly resembles several big spiders, with “legs” that revolve rapidly, agitating the grass so that it dries out more quickly. The grass is then raked into windrows, which are formed into bales by the baler.

Here’s what this year’s first cutting looked like:

Tall grass fed by all the spring rain, ready to be hayed.

Tall grass fed by all the spring rain, ready to be hayed.

The mower

The mower

High South pasture after being mowed

High South pasture after being mowed

This is a pasture I bush-hogged on the same day the hay fields were mowed. Bush-hogging is essentially just mowing grass, as well, but the grass here won't be made into hay, for various reasons.

This is a pasture I bush-hogged on the same day the hay fields were mowed. Bush-hogging is essentially just mowing, but the grass here won’t be made into hay, since it’s already been grazed.

The tedder

The tedder

The rake

The rake

Windrows in central field

Windrows in central field

Central field is tiny compared to our fields at Lawson Land, three miles away

Central field is tiny compared to our fields at Lawson Land, three miles away

Central at dusk...

Central at dusk…

...and midday. The grass needs to dry for a few days before being baled.

…and midday. The grass needs to dry for a few days before being baled. Courtyard in the background.

Big John the tractor with the baler attached

Big John the tractor with the baler attached

Freshly baled

Freshly baled

Edmund collecting bales with Little John

Edmund collecting bales with Little John

The hay barn. Last year's hay on the left, the first bale from this year on the right.

The hay barn. Last year’s hay on the left, the first bale from this year on the right.