And its beautiful to look on
How the hay-cleared meadow lies
How the sun pours down his welcome heat
Like gold from yonder skies
John Clare (1793-1864) – “Haymaking”
Welcome to our corner of the world in August! The second cut of hay is very important to a sheep owner. It is finer, not as stalky as the first cut, and the sheep prefer it. The eleven prima donnas here at River Farm practically demand it. Here’s how it went this year. First the hay was mowed on a nice dry, low humidity Friday.
Then, after the top layer dried in the sun, the tedder teds the hay, ideally several times during the day. This flips and tosses it about so different hay is exposed to the drying sun. I don’t know why that machine is called a tedder but the O.E.D. traces the usage back into the 1500s.
Then on Saturday, after another tedding, the hay was raked into rows so the baler can come along and gobble it up. The day goes from sun to shade back to sun several times with ominous cloud formations in the northwest where our weather comes from.
In late afternoon it is judged dry enough to bale. The baler gobbles the hay, squeezes it into a tight 40-pound bale, secures it with two pieces of baling twine (don’t ask me how it ties the knots), and tosses it back into the hay cart where the fresh air kids from Massachusetts stack it neatly.
Finally, the field is clean, the cart is full and pulled up next to the barn, and our much appreciated help from the city send it up the conveyor to the big haymow just as it starts to sprinkle a bit. The second cut of hay is safely in the barn. Always a good feeling!
As for that beautiful old barn itself, that’s a whole separate story. A bunch of stories, actually. To come . . .