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By 5 Acres and A Dream
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Homestead Haying

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Last week, the weather forecast promised perfect weather for haying. Good quality hay needs to be cut while the grasses are long, luscious, and green, but before it goes to seed. The exception is when we grow wheat or oats for hay. Then we let it form grain heads and cut it in the milk stage, before the seed can mature. This gives the benefit of both grain and hay from the same plant. 

After cutting, it needs enough time to dry thoroughly before being stored. Rain increases the risk of mold, so the forecast of a week of dry sunny weather meant this seasonal chore went to the top of the to-do list. Dan started Monday morning by scything it. 
Dan planted a deer forage mix last autumn. The forage
mixes are economical and grow things goats like too.

Even on sunny days, our challenge to drying hay is our heavy dew every morning. It often takes until noon before everything dries out. Dan turns it twice a day. In the morning he rakes it into windrows to let the ground dry off between the rows. Later, he turns the grass and spreads it out again until the next day. Happily, the weather cooperated by holding true to the forecast.
Monday through Friday were perfect: sunny, 70sF (low 20sC), and low humidity. Rain was in the forecast for early Saturday, so after Friday evening chores, we gathered in our hay crop.
First, it’s raked again into windrows and then raked into piles for picking up.

A wood hay rake really helps. Metal rake tines get caught on the stubble.

Dan raked and I packed it down into the box.

The box makes it easy to transport and . . .

easy to get into the hay loft.

We used to use tarps for this, but the box works much better.
Dan pushed and I pulled.

Tightly stuffed into the box, it took us three loads.

If I’m satisfied that it’s thoroughly dry, I’ll leave it in the bale-like shape the box makes. In this case, the thick oat stems weren’t quite dry enough for my satisfaction, so I spread it out and will monitor it and turn it, to make sure it’s dry enough and not producing heat.  

Feeding homegrown hay to our goats gives a wonderful sense of satisfaction. So far, we haven’t been able to produce enough for a full year, but every little bit helps. We may get a second cutting, but we’ll have to wait and see. Annuals like grains tend not to re-grow well after they’re cut. 
For the goats, our homegrown hay is a favorite. It’s the first thing they go for when it’s in the hay feeder. Plus, every bit of waste, both as dropped hay and digested as manure, goes back to nurture the soil. (Details on how we do this are in How To One-Straw Revolutionize Your Pasture). It’s one more step toward self-sustainability.


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    • Slimey

      Wow, you guys make me feel like growing doughnuts. :lol:

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