Thursday, August 15, 2013

Field Views: HAYING

I got to be part of a hay crew this week. 

My friends are trying to keep me distracted and busy.

My job was to rake hay, after it had been cut, so it would dry quickly and the big baler could come to the field and bale it all up.

Its an important job, as the hay must be turned over several times in a 3 hour time period to insure dryness and the windrows must be spaced apart to allow the baler and tractor to straddle them while they pick up hay.

My chariot for this mission was an ancient Ford 5000 and an equally old John Deere rake.

There was a new sun hood to protect my fair Irish complexion and beautiful river bottom meadows to observe migratory ducks, swamp toads and red tailed hawks following my every move hoping for a uncovered mouse, snake or mole for lunch.

These fields are flat and rock-less. Not like the hilly, very steep roller-coaster type fields I have hayed in the past, praying that I didn't fall out of the tractor seat and tumble down the hill with the tractor rolling down behind me.

The downside of this area is that these pristine river bottom fields frequently flood and make the ground soggy for great lengths of time.

With all the rain we received last month, the ends of the rows were still very wet.

I had to be very careful about getting stuck in a hidden mud bogs as sometimes the mud is just under the surface of the field and you don't see it til you are up to your neck in it.

Making good windrows is an art.   I love to do it.

There were single engine plans overhead taking photos of all the fields along this Connecticut River Valley and the designs of the hay crops the farmers were making as we all rushed to get the hay in before the next rain comes in 36 hours.

I hope my "design" makes it to the local paper this week.

I tried to make a silhouette of my favorite cow.

I am my happiest when I am with my cows or on a tractor doing field work.

The old tractors are narrow and have minimal stuff.  Not even a coffee cup holder or radio.

The brakes work minimally too.   I love the old Fords.  Simple work horses of iron.

It wasn't long before the big baler came down to start baling.

At the same time the big trains went by pulling 100 box cars full of grain and salt on their way to Canada.

 This is a very agricultural area and I love living here.

The bales were piling up as I turned the windrows over in the second field.

 The skid steer and flat bed truck came down and the rolls of hay were loaded onto the flatbed.

 There is a steep hill that we must drive up to get back to the farm, so these rolls have to be stacked accurately so they do not fall or roll off on the trip back up to higher elevations.

The rolls are taken off the truck and then lined up so they can be wrapped in plastic to protect them during Vermont's harsh winters.

With all the bad weather this summer, there will be less hay to make and much less hay to buy so every farmer is struggling to get out on their fields to try to "make hay while the sun shines."

Anyone with livestock or horses who rely on purchasing their hay had better make sure they have reserved their allotment of needed hay early and have confirmation that there is enough to fill your order.

The wrapping machine is a very unusual piece of equipment that twirls the big bale around while the plastic wraps it.

Once it is wrapped it drops the bale off onto the ground, gently.

Then the skid steer comes back and picks all the wrapped rolls up and stacks them for the winter.

Its a big process from the very first cutting of the lush grass in the field,  all the way to the end with the stacking of the finished bales.  Expensive too, with fuel, repairs, labor, time, worrying and all the things that can go wrong and do go wrong.

Next time you see plastic wrapped bales, regard them as a small miracle.


  1. That looks like good hay, I would love to have some like that for my steers this winter. People seem to bale so much weeds and trash grass around here and it isn't much better than bedding. I started cutting my horse hay with a scythe and putting it up loose.

  2. It still looks very much like summer. Absolutely beautiful.