Progressive Hand Hay Making

Grass mown this morning, spread out to dry

Grass mown this morning, spread out to dry

It has been another good hay making day. This morning Phil mowed two long windrows up the edge of the hay field, opening up a patch ready to be mown on a course that we are running tomorrow. As the day warmed up, I spread the remainder of the hay that was cut on Friday and the hay that was cut yesterday, spreading it in such a way as to move it out from under the shadow of the hedge as much as possible. Phil spread the freshly mown grass and also did a little more turning and spreading of the thicker patches of hay later in the morning. It was then left until this evening, by which time the remainder of the Friday hay was ready to cart to the barn. The rest was rowed up ready for spreading / turning in the morning.

We practice what I believe is called progressive hay making. As you can see from today’s activity, at any one time during a period of hay making we will have hay down at various stages of drying. We make hay (relatively) little and often, whenever there is a suitable weather window. With the use of racks to protect in-completely cured hay during wet patches, the weather window can be quite short – as little as two days to get the grass to a point where it can be put on racks to finish curing.

The advantage of hay making in this way is that the work is manageable by hand with just a couple of people, and does not completely overwhelm all the other work that needs to be done in our busy lives. Also, if the weather turns unexpectedly, only a relatively small amount of the crop is spoiled or lost. Yet over a season, significant amounts of hay can be made. It probably has environmental advantages too – there is always a variety of lengths of grass present on the farm, with a wide range of habitats for the creatures that live there.

During a period of hay making, a typical days work is as follows:

  • Mow an area of grass
  • Spread hay from previous day(s)mowings
  • Spread newly mown grass
  • In the evening, cart any cured hay to the barn and/or make racks as necessary
  • Row up any hay remaining on the field, ready to be spread the following day
  • Depending on the grass conditions and the forecast we may turn hay more frequently or make racks earlier in the day. During these posts over the summer I am planning to go into more detail as to how we carry out these processes, and why we make hay in the way that we do.

    Rowing up in the evening

    Rowing up in the evening

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