We try to cut it close around the here, but this year was just a little too close.
I’m talking about hay bales. We try to produce enough hay to feed our herd without needing to go buy a bunch of hay, while still keeping enough animals to use up all the hay we produce thereby eliminating the need to sell hay.
This year we missed the sweet spot by about a week, the barns are empty and we have had to do a little improvising. Mike mowed a portion of the hay field with the hay mower. This portion is the small neck of the field that is difficult to mow, rake and bale because it is just a rounded corner of the field where the old barn had stood. The hay equipment just doesn’t fit in the area very well to pick up the grass.
It seemed like a good idea because Mike wanted to check out the adjustments that he made to the cutting deck of the mower before starting in on the big field anyway, and the cows in the show barn are positive that they are starving all the time.
This last week we have been manually raking the rows of hay with pitchforks and loading wads of green grass into the John Deere Gator and hauling the loads across the county road to the show barn. The cows love the fresh mowed grass and are eating it up, literally. We estimate that we have moved 20-25 bales of hay this way, one Gator load at a time.
This extra work is a lot more difficult than moving bales or even dried hay, the weight alone of a pitchfork full of fresh grass dripping with rain water is surprising. Many times it would take two people tag-teaming the wad with a fork on each side just to raise and maneuver the thing into the back of the Gator. And we did this twice a day, once for each feeding all week long.
At the beginning of this task, I had told myself that the extra effort of man-handling the cattle feed would be good exercise and that I would be getting in shape for the actual hay season. Now I am just thinking that I cannot wait for the real hay season to start and put this part behind me.
I look back at how hay making was done in years gone by. Horse-driven mowers and wagons, long back-breaking days in the field with pitchforks, stacking the loose hay onto low trailers then unloading at the barn with the same forks. I just can’t imagine how tough hay season could have been, or how those farmers were able to do that task every year.
‘Oh give me bales, lots of bales, under a starry sky above–don’t fence me in…’ I think that is how the song should go, at least that is how I’m singing it today.