Wednesday 24 July 2013

Making Hay

    My apologies to anyone who came here yesterday looking for a blog.  We had to go up to Prince George and I didn’t have time to do one.   

    “Make hay while the sunshines,” is an old adage which is based in reality.  Farmers in the Robson Valley, have a long winter to get through, and if they have animals, those animals have to have something to eat during that long winter when there is no grass available.  So farmers cut the long grasses in the summer, dry it in the sun, make it into bales, and that is what they feed the animals in the winter time.
    Cutting the hay is not a big problem, but often, the drying of the cut hay is.  It all depends on the weather.  If you cut the hay, and you get some rain, the downed and drying hay may get mold and mildew, and it can’t be used.  It is always a gamble for farmers around here, because quite often the weather can be unstable and rain can be unexpected.
    This year we have had a nice two week stretch of hot and sunny weather, perfect for drying out the cut hay, and the farmers are taking advantage of it.  From the look at the numbers of bales out on the field, it looks like its going to be a bumper crop.
    For many years, I had a herd of angora goats.  Getting hay was always a big concern for me.  I do have a pasture where I grew hay, but since I didn’t have any equipment, I always had to find a farmer to cut and bale it for me.  Their first priority of course, was to get their own hay cut, then after that they would come and cut mine, so I would have to hang around worrying that the weather was going to change and my hay crop wouldn’t be any good.
    As my herd of goats increased, I soon got to the point where I had to just buy bales of hay.  I would always buy the smaller rectangular bales rather than the big round ones shown in the photo.  I found a guy who had fairly poor hay, but goats have a very efficient digestive system, so unlike horses who need very nutritious hay, I could get by using poorer hay. 
    Of course, buying hay led to other problems, the biggest of which was getting the bales to my house.  First, I had to drive out in the field and load the bales onto my old green truck.  This was always done on hot sunny days, and as I threw and stacked the bales on the truck, bits of hay would fall down upon my face and neck, sticking to my neck and face, and get underneath my T-shirt.  The work became gradually more difficult as the stack of bales on my truck got higher and higher.  I would stack as many bales as I could, tie them down so the load wouldn’t fall off, and gingerly drive home to my barn.
    A couple of times I lost part of the load as the truck shifted on the uneven field.  It was always a nerve wracking drive, even when I reached the road or highway.
    Once I got home, I immediately had to put the bales into my barn, onto the second story.  I would back the truck next to the barn, climb up on top of the bales on the truck and lift them through the opening in the barn that was 10 ft (3 m.) off of the ground.  Once in the barn, I then had to carry them and stack them.  After I got all of the bales off of the truck and into the barn, I had to turn around and drive back to get another load.  It was a lot of hot  sweaty work, and it was always a great relief to finally have the job done.
    As my goats aged and died, the size of my herd declined down to the point where I just had a couple left.  Then I began cutting hay from my field using a grass trimmer.  I would let it dry in the sun, flip it over every after a few days so that the underside would dry, then just load the loose hay  into my truck in a big haystack, haul it to the barn, and carry it into the barn a pitchfork load at a time, and depositing it onto another big haystack there.  This was also hard, uncomfortable work, but it took less time and less gasoline  and I didn’t have to drive out on the road with my truck which was no longer insured.
    Even though I don’t have any hay-eating animals now, I still cut some hay every year and make a small haystack in the paddock.  The deer eat some of it during the winter, and I use whats left for mulching the garden and greenhouse.  
    I have spent many ours in my life making hay, and it certainly is an important part of farming in the Robson Valley.  I am happy to see the farmers get a nice stretch of sunny weather this year so they can have a successful haying season. 

I have a painting of my old truck at:

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