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Makin’ Hay

 

 

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The builder may have thought we were joking when we asked how soon we could put hay in the barn, but we weren’t kidding. Making hay is a bit of a throwback from days gone by, when humans lived at the mercy of whatever Mother Nature threw at them. If the extended weather forecast looked good and you cut your hay, it was pretty much guaranteed that sometime in the next 72 hours a freak storm would pop up out of nowhere. If that didn’t happen then the morning you started to bale the heat index would immediately rise to a sweltering inferno. In other words, seldom does the hay season come and go without a glitch; the machinery doesn’t break down, the skies don’t open up or your crew doesn’t land in the ER with heat stroke.

 

If you can get past the obstacles, there’s a  simple beauty in making hay. The tidy look of a fresh-cut field, the satisfaction of a perfectly stacked buckboard, the glorious smell of new bales in the hayloft. Make no mistake, it’s damn hard work. I like to tell people that after the nostalgia of the first load wears off, the rest of hay season is nothing more than monotonous, back-breaking  sweaty work. But this year there was cause for celebration that went beyond the thrill of having beaten Mother Nature once more. This year we put hay in the loft of a brand new barn, a barn we’ve talked, dreamed and fantasized about for fifteen years.

 

We’ve had two loads of hay sitting in our front yard for a week, just waiting for the roof to go on the barn. When the weather forecast went south we scrambled to find shelter for them. It’s hard to stuff a loaded truck and buckboard under an overhang or into a garage that’s meant to house cars. Every night we nervously watched the weather and every morning I tentatively asked the builder the same question: Is she ready for hay yet? Finally, mid day on Friday we got the OK, on a day when the forecast said late afternoon thunderstorms and we had a 5:30 wedding to attend.

 

That night the horrible heat wave we’ve been having broke, and on Saturday we woke to a beautiful, clear blue sky. We headed out early to borrow a hay elevator and by mid morning we were all hooked up and ready to unload our first load of hay. I got a bit teary as I watched the first bales chug up the conveyer belt; I haven’t stood in a hay loft I could call my own since I left home in my early 20′s. I grew up on a farm where making hay took on epic proportions, where dad used to tell his daughters that he didn’t much care who we were dating as long as we didn’t break up with them before we got the hay in the barn. Seriously, it was that big of a chore. But on the up side we had some great after-haying parties! My mother used to feed the entire work crew (lunch and dinner), then we’d head down back to the creek for a swim and a bonfire. Yes, by the third or fourth day it got a little old and even the lure of a great meal, a party and some extra pocket change didn’t entice some guys to keep coming back, but most of them hung in there for the duration. God bless ‘em! ;)

 

As the morning wore on our new barn filled up with hay. We made another trip back to the farm and brought home enough hay to keep our horses fed through the winter. It’s good, never-been-rained-on hay that will stay clean and dry and won’t go dusty with mold from sitting on pallets. For the first time since 1989 I know I’ll have enough hay to feed my horses without having to go looking for a source in the middle of winter, having to borrow from friends to “tide us over” until we can find more hay. It’s a great feeling, probably quite similar to that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you know you can put food on the table for your kids.

This morning I’m sore in places I don’t even want to think about, but having a barn full of hay makes the stiffness a bit more tolerable. Come March the heat, dust, blisters and the seemingly endless repetition of bend, lift, throw will be long forgotten when I start thinking about the next haying season and the sweet scent of freshly baled hay.

 

6 responses

  1. I share your fantasy, your barn is past beautiful and the blessing of hay stored!!! Amen, sister, this is a good day.

    June 24, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    • Thanks Anna! I still get that giddy feeling every time I look out the bedroom window! It’s not 100% done, but we couldn’t wait any longer. I suspect the builders will finish up next week or thereabout and I’ll try to get some better pictures then. Nothing beats the view from the loft of a barn you’ve dreamed about for over a decade! :)

      June 24, 2012 at 12:33 PM

  2. Gorgeous barn – so satisfying knowing your winter hay supply is tucked in safely and smelling so sweet. Will you have a party to christen the barn?

    June 24, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    • We probably won’t have a party per se. I’m not the party-throwing type. But a celebratory toast was made amongst good friends for sure! The folks who’ve helped us with hay over the years all know how much we’ve wanted this barn for hay storage, and they’re genuinely as happy as we are that we finally have it! Anyone who keeps livestock knows how important a good barn is and what a huge investment they are and they know the sacrifices that must be made if you don’t have one and if you decide to build one!

      June 25, 2012 at 7:24 AM

  3. Loved your “Makin Hay” post, brings back so many memories of my childhood and then all the years of having my own horses. After losing my last horse this past Sept., last winter was the first winter in 40 years I didn’t get hay into my barn, it was a bitter sweet winter, for the first fall I didn’t have to worry about getting my winter supply in but also the sadness of not hearing horses’ hoofs out weighs the “hay worry” every year. I remember those summers of baling, hauling and stacking hay on the farm, you are right, the gods know when hay season is here and bring the hottest days. Hay hauling and stacking always meant the mix of grass chaff, dust, dirt, and sweat covering us from head to foot. Later on my farm, I’d have loads of 500 bales delivered to my barn for my 6 horses, such satisfaction knowing I had excellent hay for those winter days; you are right, there is nothing so satisfying to horse owners than the sweet, fresh smell of “horse” hay (horses here get the best hay) stacked to the rafters in the barn. I loved sitting on the stacks of hay during the winter time listening to my horses eat their sweet feed then munching on their hay ration. Thanks for bringing those memories back–and love your new barn, would like to have a picture showing the finished look of it and with those stacks of hay showing from the loft. Did you have hay drops built in to serve each stall from the hay loft?

    June 25, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    • OK, well my first question Janet, is when are you getting another horse? I don’t know how things are in your neck of the woods, but in this area a good horse can be had for about $500. The auctions are full of throw-away horses that are being sacrificed in this bad economy. And I’m not talking about nags, but wonderful, well-maintained, useable horses and ponies. So I think you should find a horse and maybe a companion pony … something middle-age that you can enjoy … and get that barn back in use! ;) Now to answer your question: We have a hay drop, but not over the stalls because that means having to stack hay in a way that keeps the drop doors clear and that wastes valuable floor space. What we did was put a small hay drop at the far end of the barn, a few steps away from the stair landing. The hay will drop to the center isle below where it can be stacked against the wall and distributed from there. It’s not a big barn; only two stalls, so it’s not like you have to walk all that far to feed. As it stands, we don’t plan to move our horses over to this barn for some time. (We have a LOT more tree clearing and fencing to do first.) This barn is mostly for hay, tractor and tack storage right now, which means we’ll still have to move hay from this barn to the other via the truck every month or two. But that’s not a big deal. If we decide to keep our tack in the beautiful new tack room then we’ll just walk our horses over to tack them up when we want to ride. I know there’s still a lot more finishing work to do (sealing and whatnot) but I can’t wait to hang some of my horse and dog photos in the tack room and on the wall that goes up to the hay loft. Especially some pictures of Bean and Tia, who didn’t live long enough to see this dream barn come to fruition. (I still miss them so!) Glad this post brought back fond memories and thanks for sharing them with me!

      June 25, 2012 at 9:30 AM

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