Monday, July 13, 2009

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Last year was a bad year for hay.

Last year we chose to skip hay making in order to give our fields a rest.

Trying to raise organic pastures is a slow process. We do not have the resources to pour lots of organic fertilizers on the fields so we throw semi-composted manure from the barn onto the fields. We graze them and let the animals fertilize the grass themselves.

Last year we were in a drought. It was a hard year for everyone involved in hay making. Grass needs sunshine, nutrients and rainwater to grow. Hay availability was somewhat limited and seemed to be pretty expensive.

This year we have had RAIN! Inches and inches. The grass has grown very well. The problem with hay making has been the lack of enough sunny days in between rain showers. To get the best quality hay, one must pay attention to grass growth. We want hay that has nice green grassy leaves, not lots of stems and seed heads. it is best to cut the hay when the seed head is partially formed, since that is when the grass has most nutrition. When the seed heads form, the energy goes into seed making. The grass lignifies. That means it becomes more fibrous and has less nutritional value for the animal.

I am no expert on hay making. Try to read about it. Am fascinated by certain facts, such as the fact that hay cut in the late afternoon has a higher energy content than hay cut in the morning. Hay baled into small square bales seems to be more palatable to cows. Salting hay as you put it into the barn helps it to dry out and makes it taste good to cattle.

There is much to learn about hay making.

The main thing for us this year has been trying to find a way to get it made and put into the barn.

We serendipitously found a fellow who would come and cut the hay, rake it and bale it for us (for a price, of course!). He came on the Friday before 4th of July and cut the fields. The hay looked great. Thick undergrowth. Good variety of grasses and legumes. Nice and thick.

Then we started to pray.

"Please, God, we know we need the rain as the garden is drying up, but if you could hold it off til Sunday afternoon, that would be great!"

The sweet smell of cut hay filled our farm. Toasty sun dried it out perfectly.

We had our baking day. We went to market. We had my sister and niece come for the weekend. Some other friends from New Jersey came down for the weekend. Many other farm friends and homeschool friends and church friends and neighbor friends and random friends of friends came over for celebration of the 4th. We potlucked. We made homemade icecream. We shot off lots of fireworks and sparklers. We smiled as the sprinkles of rain tickled our faces, surrendered to the fact that there was not one thing we could do the hold the rain back.

Sunday was planned to be the day we would put up the hay. Friends were lined up. Plenty of people to load and haul fragrant bales of hay up to the loft of our wonderful barn.

Sunday dawned, nice and late, soft constant rain falling on the fields, the house, the hay.

I made coffee.

For some reason a peace enveloped me, a feeling that if God did not answer our prayers, maybe there was something that could be gained. Maybe the hay was not the most important thing.

Calls were made, breakfast for 20 was cancelled. Philip took the kids to church and my sister and I had a long talk on the deck that involved many tears and hugs and more prayers.

At that moment a load of hay seemed like a very trivial matter.

On Monday the sun came out.

TO BE CONTINUED>>>(I have to go cook supper now!)

1 comment:

CountryDew said...

Seldom does it all come together for perfection on a farm. The variables are many, with weather being the biggest one. Still, it is hard to move forward with getting the hay up - for it must be gotten up - after it's been rained on.