Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Haying 101

A few posts back, "deep end of the loom" (love that name!) asked me to tell a bit more about the haying process. If you want my version, read on. If you'd like to read the official wikipedia version, click here.

Haying happens in three steps: cutting, raking and baling. This process takes several days, as the hay must be dry when baled. Moist hay molds and heats up and has even been known to spontaneously combust, burning down the barn. Gotta have dry hay.

This first photo is of our haybine. The haybine not only cuts the hay, it also crimps each piece of long grass in several places, to allow for faster drying. We usually cut hay in the early afternoon, when the dew is gone. When we're done, long row of cut grass lie waiting. The hay is allowed to dry for two to three days, depending on wind and sun conditions. Obviously, the more wind and sun the days hold, the quicker the hay will dry.

When we feel like the hay is nearly dry, we go out with the rake. There are different types of rakes (just as there are different versions of mowers and balers). This particular one cost us $7 at an auction, and has had many times the purchase price invested in repairs. A newer one with a different design and less structural problems is on our wish list.

The rake takes the long, parallel rows and rolls them over. Depending on the thickness of the hay, we sometimes roll two rows in toward each other to form one larger row. At this point, we're almost ready to bale.

By the way, it is "bale" and not "bail". Bailing is what you do when your boat is filling with water. Baling is forming something into a solid mass tied with string, wire, etc. Our vocabulary lesson is now done for the day.

There are two main types of balers: square and round. Square bales are actually rectangular (don't ask me, I didn't name them!). Square balers generally make bales small enough for a person to handle. These bales are formed by driving the tractor next to the rows of hay. The baler picks the rows up and packs them into bales made of vertical "flakes". The final step in this mechanized process is tying a couple of lengths of baler twine around the bale and spitting it out the back end of the machine. The bale reminds me of a loaf of sliced bread in that you can peel off one or several flakes to feed to your animals. Here's a photo of a square baler:

Round balers make huge bales shaped like cinnamon rolls. The hay is fed into the machine and the bale is formed by wrapping the hay around and around continuously until the bale is of a certain size. The twine or wrap is secured around the bale and it's spit out the back of the machine. These bales are so large that they must be handled one by one with a tractor. Here's a photo of a round baler:

Both baler photos were "borrowed", as we do not own a baler. Another thing for the wish list.

You may have noticed that I compared both types of hay bales to food items. Either that means that I'm familiar with food, and so use it in my word pictures, or it means I'm hungry. Probably both.

Speaking of food, the best part of haying is being done with the job and finally having supper! It is usually very hot at haying time, and so the food afterwards almost always includes either ice cream or sometimes a watermelon. And lots of liquid!

1 comment:

  1. That's so kewl, thanks for the lesson. Next time I'm in NC I'll know exactly how they did it!!


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