Friday, June 10, 2011

Haying Season

Right now, in rural towns all over the Northeast, farmers are haying. Basically, that means they cut down their hayfields, let the hay dry, and use machines to bale it. Those haybales are then put in the barn and used as feed for domestic animals such as horses, sheep, and llamas during the winter months when there's no pasture for them to graze on.

I've been slinging haybales ever since I can remember. When you grow up on a farm, you have no choice in the matter- everyone has to pitch in. Last Friday, I got the call from my dad. 

"Hey Michelle. I just wanted to let you know I have a hayfield down (meaning cut). I expect to bale it tomorrow afternoon." 

I made a note of it and planned to be there the next day.

Twenty minutes later, Dad called back. "I just came home to rake the hay (speeds drying) and it's already dry. So we'll be taking it in around 5 today instead." This call came at about 3:45. 

A call like that means we need to head down there to pitch in if at all possible. Several of my parents' friends received the same call. As you can see from the pictures, some of them came, even at that late notice. When you're making hay, you are at the mercy of the weather. Luckily, when you live in a farming community, folks pitch in as needed. A few nights before, when they brought in the first loads of hay, some neighbors were driving by and saw them out there working. Of course, they stopped to help.

What kid doesn't want to ride on a haywagon?

Especially when they get to sit up high.

This machine picks the haybale off the ground...

and coveys it up and onto the wagon. Much easier than lifting them off the field like we did when I was a kid.

The metal track on the front guides it in.
Now, here's an interesting fact you may not know... because farmers need help bringing in hay, many will gladly accept help from folks who offer. If you have kids who love seeing tractors up close, this is a great opportunity. Or maybe you're a homeschooler looking for a more hands-on way to teach your kids about farming. My dad loves showing kids how it's done. When parents come to help bring in hay, the kids get to ride along (that's my two kids, plus a friend's kids in the photos).

So, if you live near a farm, drop by some time and ask if they need help bringing in hay. You never know...if they're like my dad, they'll welcome your help and you and your kids will get a great education in the process.

(Tip for those who have horses or other domestic animals that need hay: if you buy the hay "off the field," meaning you load your truck or wagon by picking it up off the field, you pay a lower price. My dad loves this arrangement because he doesn't have to handle the haybales. Buyers like it because they save money).

Haying tips:
  1. If you have allergies, this may not be the field trip for you. If you really want to go, I'd suggest taking any allergy medication you normally use before you go. (Note: I am not a doctor. Seek medical advice as needed).
  2. Wear long pants and long sleeves, NO MATTER HOW HOT IT IS. Even if it's 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity Trust me, please. Hay will prick your skin and make you itchy for days.
  3. Wear work gloves.
  4. Blow your nose several times after haying. Using saline may help remove the bits that get in there. Go back and enlarge my second photo (of the kids at the back of the wagon) by clicking on it. You'll see why.
  5. Apply bug spray.
  6. Pace yourself, especially if there's no conveyor. There's no need to race ahead of the wagon trying to outdo the other workers. Let the wagon come to you. (We always laugh at the newbies who do this...teen boys are the most apt.)
  7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
  8. Laugh.
  9. Have fun.
  10. Ask questions.
  11. Learn together as you experience this new bit of nature and culture rolled into one.
Maybe the farmer will even let your kids climb up to the top of the haybales in the barn.

How about where you live? Have you seen farmers bringing in hay? I'm interested to know what's happening in other parts of the country/world. When I was in Morocco in the month of July, I saw a truck loaded with hay bales just like the ones we make here.

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