Summertime Hay Hauling Memories

| 6/9/2011 2:42:39 PM

cloverThis is haying season. It's the time of year when those hay fields are full of grasses and clovers at the right stage of maturity to make the perfect cured hay. This forage will nourish and fill the bellies of cattle all winter long. Hay making has streamlined to large round hay bales picked up and loaded by large tractors onto big, heavy-duty trailers. Now all but a small percentage of hay is put into large bales. Some farmers still make square bales out of alfalfa, clovers, orchard grass and straw for small livestock farmers. I remember a time not too long ago of nothing but square bales.

When I was young summertime on our family operated dairy farm was dominated by hay season and gardening. Hay always took priority over everything else until it was completed. Having the hay necessary to get the cattle through the winter was very important. It is definitely easier now to procure hay from a variety of sources, or even have a crew come to your farm to cut, rake and bale your own pasture. This just wasn't done in those days, at least not economically. My dad was completely self-sufficient and I could never imagine him buying hay.

Making good hay is an art, just like most farm tasks. I knew it was a good crop of hay if the fescue was thick and high and bits of hop, red and ladino clover were interspersed throughout. It's ready to cut when the fescue is almost mature, but hasn't bloomed, and the clover hasn't bloomed too much, because the bloomed heads will just shatter and not stay with the hay. It's nice to get it cut at the perfect time; but with farming comes many unpredictable factors such as equipment breakdowns and weather. Before hay cutting would start, Dad would get the equipment out and start prepping it. All the sickles on the mower were sharpened and everything got greased before every use. I don't know all that he did, but I knew it was important in the process of getting it done right.

After the hay is cut, it is cured for a couple of days, depending on the weather. Cured hay smells so good, it has a sweet, green smell and is achieved by simply letting the cut hay dry and age. This is a very important process to be done before baling. If the hay is not cured and has too much moisture in it when baled, it can mold or even cause combustion (after being tightly stacked in the barn). The rows of cured hay are then raked into windrows that are forked into the baler to compact into a bale. My dad (and others from that “Grapes of Wrath” generation) was a special breed of man that had the patience and knowledge to figure out and make any machine do its intention. I remember him having to tweak the hay baler every year, and often throughout the season. Especially to make the bales tight and keep the knotting mechanism working correctly for the baling twine that ties around the bale to keep it together.

I remember long hot afternoons of sitting in the cab of the pick-up going down and around the rows of square bales when I was little. When I was a bit bigger I would roll the bales closer to the pick-up so that they would be easier for my brothers to pick up and put in the truck. My brothers worked hard to "buck" and stack the bales in the pick-up. I don't know how my mom and dad were able to do all that when my brothers and I were very young, but they did. I was fortunate to be the baby sister with two strong big brothers; so not as much was expected from me, but I did what I could to help until I was big enough to actually pick up and move a bale, or to be the truck driver.

The hay field can be a hot, dusty place on those sunny June days. Mom always had good refreshments, though. She would have ice water for us to drink after every load, and I remember cans of cold soda pop that never tasted so good. Ice cream sandwiches and twin pops really hit the spot! The days are long in the hay field, only interrupted by chores and milking-time.

Sherry Leverich Tucker
7/8/2011 4:04:19 PM

Sherri, it is neat to hear the echo of your memories as well...yes, I have to agree, a cold shower never felt better then after a day of hay hauling! Thank you for your comment :)

Sherri Christianson
7/8/2011 12:28:33 PM

Thanks for the great haying article. I was a proud stacker of square bales--the oldest of three and a girl and proud of my summer muscles from stacking the bales first on the wooden trailer and then into the hayloft off of the conveyor belt. Our ponies and my grandmother's cows ate that hay. It brought us altogether. We loved to take breaks to eat watermelon or drink lemonade or ice water in the shade. Haying season was the only time of year that this steamy hot shower girl enjoyed cool showers followed by an icy rinse. The ponies are long gone, my dad no longer hays--he's 82, but the equipment is still in his barn. I feel a little sad that my own sons won't have those haying memories, but is surely was a memorable part of my youth. Thanks again for bringing back these memories.

Sherry Leverich Tucker
7/1/2011 10:14:19 PM

Thanks, that brought back another memory for me, too - I remember being a little worried about rolling over a bale to find a snake sleeping under it...Yikes!

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters