Ask any farmer or person with farm experience their thoughts about hay baling and they'll likely reply: "Terrible, worst thing ever, avoid." That's certainly what we heard at least in the days leading up to the event. The thing about hay is that it will always have to be baled and picked up on a hot, dry, sunny day. Otherwise it won't dry out and will mold before it can be used. So today was that hot sunny day that we were looking for. While most of the time-intensive work is done by one person on the tractor, it's the rounding up of the bales and stacking that is most loathed. That's what we did today. At this farm we don't have animals to feed so we use the hay mainly for mulching and killing weeds. A fun fact: hay comes from grasses while straw comes from grains. Straw is the by product after the grain has been removed. That is what strawbale houses are made of. We use hay here because it grows all over the open fields.
Here's how the process goes. Tall grass is mowed down in all the fields, grass is left to dry out, hay is then tetted to fluff it up and dry it out more, it is then raked into continuous lines, the baler is put on which sucks in hay and spits out bales all over the fields. Then comes the crew: one person drives slowly while others grab the bales and stack them on the trailer. This is interspersed with trips to the barn to unload the bales and stack them again. Overall we loaded and unloaded 5 times to pick up 245 bales, all in two hours. Hay has a mysterious way of getting everywhere and there's no worse time for that than when you're sweating and sticky. It will go down your shirt, your pants, socks, get in your gloves, your hair. It's relentless. But, this is nothing a little swimming can't fix. After baling, Josh and I jumped into the big pond to cool off and it was certainly cool. The massive lily take-over meant we had to swim through a patch of it but once past we were in open water. We didn't last long though. It gets deep very quickly and the exhaustion from the week magnified with every tread of water. It was worth it anyway and the sun did a good job of drying us off.
Broccoli in our garden
In other news, we finally planted our personal apprentice garden! Could have planned it a little better though. We have 8 tomato plants, 8 peanut plants, and 10 watermelons. Since these take up the majority of the plot, we're either going to be entirely overwhelmed or supremely disappointed. We have, however, thrown in a variety of other vegetables including bell peppers, herbs, broccoli, lettuce, beets, and brussel sprouts. Anything else we will get from the CSA's surplus. Not too worried about starving. We also threw in some beneficial flowers for fun: marigolds and sweet alyssums which bring in good insects to eat the bad insects. We've also heard marigolds repel rabbits. Keeping our fingers crossed. Off to slumber.
I apprenticed on a farm in southwest Virginia from April-October 2010. This blog contains all the anecdotes and observations from that adventure.
See more of my photos here