For the last couple weeks, in between rain showers, Harland’s been cutting and baling our hay.
Cut and cured at it’s peak, it will be used next winter to feed our cattle. Harland watches the weather forecast carefully. He needs to have two days of dry weather when he cuts. Once the hay is cut down, it will lay in the field for 48 hours curing in the sun and drying out.
The wrinkle in all this cutting, curing and baling is: RAIN. Most of the rest of the year we hope for rain, but not during hay season. If the hay is cut and then gets rained on, it has to lie in the field even longer to dry out, losing nutrient quality with each passing day. Hence the expression, “make hay while the sun shines”. Hell hath no fury like a farmer who’s hay has been rained upon. Such a wailing and gnashing of teeth. Okay, so when it rained on some hay that was down last week, maybe Harland didn’t wail, but there was some teeth gnashing and disparaging remarks made about the weather service. But it turned out to be just a few sprinkles, and he was able to bale it later that day.
If the hay is baled before it is fully dry and cured, it can produce enough heat to spontaneously combust and catch fire. Once haybales catch fire, it’s nearly impossible to put them out. Many bales can be lost this way, and barns too if the hay is stored near them.
Two days after cutting, Harland comes back and bales the cured hay. As he drives over the hay windrow, the baler collects the hay and, much like rolling yarn into a ball, the hay is formed into a tight bale weighing between 600 and 800 pounds.
(All the bales in the pic above were made in just a few hours!)
Once the bale is full size, a netting is wrapped tightly around the bale to hold it together. Then Harland stops, lifts the back part of the baler up and the bale falls out onto the ground.
As he drives away, he lowers the baler lid back down.
Here’s a close up of the bale netting:
and a close-up of the end of the bale:
As I was taking these pics, I heard a noise, kinda like rice crispies in milk. I put my ear close to the bale and realized the sound was coming from the bale itself – the sound of new hay tightly compacted.
Later Harland will be back to collect the bales out of the field and move them up near the pasture where he lines them up in neat rows, ready to be fed to the cattle next winter.
More to come about haymaking – check back soon!