Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tough hay

It has rained three out of the last six days. Hard rain, one to two inches at a time. The days it didn’t rain, the humidity was 98% and there was no wind. The hay that was so beautiful on Friday when Dave cut it is now brown and yellow, and still tough, the word farmers use to mean “too wet to bale.”

If we bale tough hay, it might heat to the point where it catches on fire and burns our barn down (although with the amount of rain we’ve had in the last few days, even a fairly big fire wouldn’t have lasted long), or the wet hay might mold and if we feed it to the sheep when they’re pregnant, cause abortions.

Wet hay is just plain dangerous!

When it rains hard on hay, several things happen. First, lots of leaves are stripped from the alfalfa stems along with much of the nutritional value of the hay. Second, the windrows are beaten into the ground, leaving no room for air circulation –it takes even longer for the hay to dry. And so, yesterday, Dave hooked the row turner to the tractor and began retracing the route he took around the hayfields with the haybine just over a week ago. The turner is a beautiful piece of machinery. Two spoked wheels run just behind the tractor, catching the edge of a windrow and turning it over. This action raises the windrow off the ground and flips it, giving air a chance to circulate through the hay and dry it.

The hay will still be more stems than leaves, and it will still be brownish yellow instead of green, but if it dries, we’ll bale it.


If it rains again before the hay dries, we won’t be able to bale it because we’re leaving for Boston to hear Laurel, our youngest, sing. Sometimes, the weather just doesn’t cooperate. And I draw the line at having family lose out because of the vagaries of the weather. So, if the hay isn’t ready to bale by the time we have to leave, we will either find someone who needs some fairly crappy hay at no cost, and who can bale it themselves, or else we’ll chop the hay back onto the field.

We always try to bale in June because the hay is better than the second crop later in the summer. But when the weather is against us, we take what we can get. The chances of this much rain in late July are slim. If we don’t bale this next week, we’ll cut and bale again in July.

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