Monday, February 5, 2018

The Twice a Year Ritual of Making Hay

I have a friend that works with me in the concrete jungle and who just like me lives on a small farm, financially not viable for permanent farming, and loves to say that he will gladly sit on a tractor all day long and drive in circles if it makes enough money.

Well, sitting on a tractor the entire day and cutting grass can be boring, but it sure beats waddling in mud on a cold winter’s day working with animals.

The arrival

I don’t own haymaking equipment. It is not financially viable for me to lay out the capital on Lily Rose Ranch seeing that here in Kentucky grass is in surplus and hay is relatively cheap if you buy it straight from a farmer instead of from an agricultural store. At the same time the grass mixture on some of my pastures vary from tall fescue/clover mix while on others is it a prairie/switch grass mix. Although great for cattle, especially the prairie grass which is high in protein, neither mix is ideal for sheep. My sheep seems to not like fescue, not even when it stands green in the pasture. From a dry hay point of view, they seem to prefer an orchard grass/clover/alfalfa mix. Certainly softer, and tastier I suppose.

The Prairie grass and wild flowers pasture before moving

So twice a year I must get a farmer in to cut my pasture and bale. He uses his time; his equipment and gas and get food for his cattle and I get rid of the tall grass and the allergy problem that comes with tall grass. He gets it for free and leaves me 2 or 3 round bales from the fall cutting for winter food. That is more than enough for my few sheep and the 2 donkeys for winter. I supplement that with square bales of the orchard/clover/alfalfa mix I buy from farmers.

The process of mowing, raking and baling

During spring last year, I was struggling to find a farmer to come and cut. He promised to come but kept on extending his arrival and the grass was getting taller and taller, so I decided to use my own tractor and rotary cutter and cut it myself without making bales of hay. It also gave me the opportunity to cut deep in to the encroaching brush at some areas which was invading the pasture.

So, after three 8-hour days in the tractor seat I must admit it can get boring at times. And hot too. I do not have the luxury of an air-conditioned cab on my tractor. Seeing that I was just cutting and not doing any raking, baling and transporting the bales afterwards, I certainly will acknowledge my respect for farmers that do this kind of work 2 or 3 times a year on much larger farms than mine. Although you have to concentrate all the time the work can be mind-numbing after a while.

The departure.

 Last year, for the late summer/fall cutting, I asked a different farmer. I have used him in previous years and he knows the lay of my land well. He was more than willing to cut and prompt and seeing that his farm is close to mine, transporting the hay to his farm was a breeze.  

  The last of the hay leaving

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Morning After a Snowy Night

There are few things in nature so rewarding as getting up in the morning after a shroud of snow fell during the night. This morning was no exception on Lily Rose Ranch.


A poem about snow by Emily Dickinson
It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.
It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.
It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil
On stump and stack and stem, —
The summer’s empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.


Road through a snowy woods

The icing on a hay cake

Waiting to be fed

Cabin is a snowy woods

A shed at a frozen pond