Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hay baling by Hand

I said in one of my last posts that I would talk about baling small acreage by hand. By small acreage I mean less than an acre. I have a neighbor/friend that doesn't have livestock anymore so she let me know that her former pastures were getting pretty tall and did I want the grass for hay. I told her absolutely yes. So she called when she bush-hogged and then the haying by hand got started. The first thing that needs to be done after the grass has been cut is to let it cure in the sun for 24 hours. After that the hay needs to be raked and turned into windrows. A windrow is simply a long row of hay that has been raked together. Two things to keep in mind when you are raking; 1) don't let the windrows get too thick with hay or they won't dry, and 2) make sure you are turning the grass or the bottom will not dry enough. Once the hay has been raked into windrows then it needs to cure in the sun another 24 hours. Mind you when I say 24 hours that is good strong hot sunshine. Depending on where you live and if the days are cloudy you might need a longer curing time. You just really have to play it by ear and sample your hay to make sure it is dry but not overly dried. Since we had several good days of strong hot sunshine 24 hours was great for us and cured the hay well without over curing it. Once the hay is cured the rake it into piles and find a square box the size you want. We used the bottom of one of those plastic doghouses. Lay your baling twine (doesn't everyone save their's?) longways in the box and start packing in your hay. Stand on it to pack it down good an tight. Now remember it won't be nearly as tight or well packed as a baling machine would get it. Once the box is filled with well packed hay, then you pull your twine as tight as you can and tie them. Now you have a square bale of hay that will stack relatively easily in the barn. If you are doing this on your own farm you can even skip the baling step and just stack the loose hay in the barn. That is what many of the old farms did. Some of them even stacked in the field and had such a tight stacking system that the hay would shed water when it rained. However, stacking wasn't an option for us since we had to transport the hay home. That is it. It is a simple process, but make no mistake it was hot work. I was exhausted after those three days of working that hard. It is a good thing to know how to do though because even a suburban backyard can be hayed this way to feed rabbits if things get tight. And believe me when I say things are getting tight. We got about 25 bales in the barn. So that is that much hay that we don't have to buy. We will probably get at least another crop before the end of summer so we will hay again. Blessings, Kat

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