Hayin' Time

So we’re back where we dropped off the blogging radar last year: It’s Hayin’ Time.

On a big, proper, grown up farm, we’re thinking this is probably no big deal; Just another chore on the calendar that requires a bit of forward planning, a few longer-than-normal days, and the dusting off of some purpose-built kit. Over the last fortnight, we’ve spent a bit of time considering the differences…you know, as we move through this off-again-on-again, hurry-up-and-wait process that ensures the animals have a taste of the Homestead over winter and our paddocks aren’t earmarked as fire hazards.

While not knowing for certain, we assume once Hayin’ Time starts on a real farm, it’s all on; The sheer size of the establishment would mean that once the crop had been cut, the stuff at the beginning would be ready to rake and, once raked, thereon ready to be baled.

Here on the Homestead it’s a bit different. We small-fry pretenders use all our paddocks all the time. Our over-indulged stock (I’m talking personally, here) having the run of the place, sheep to the left, goats to the right, and thus need to be carefully contained once the machines arrive or they might end up at the wrong end of the baler tied up with string (orange this year). The ewes and lambs are okay as they are easy to round up into the yards we fashioned after our first shearing debacle. Once in there, they can stay indefinitely without too much drama.

Neville, the resident ram, is another story as putting him in with the girls and tweens could result in lambs being born just as winter starts to bite. He can’t go in with the goats because Marilyn beats him up, and he can’t stay out in the field as big noises make him drop to the ground and hide his eyes. We don’t know if this is normal ram behaviour and we’re very much hoping this does not reflect on his ability to adhere to his Homestead Job Description but it did result in him having to batch it for the duration in The Princess’s hound’s Homestead house. Luckily, Kora and The Princess had royal duties to perform in The Kingdom of Melton (West) so there was no double booking and it turned out to be an adequate arrangement with Nev having plenty to say at Homestead mealtimes as his outlook included the human dining room. Meals have been eerily silent since normality returned.

Then there’s the goats. The only place capable of holding them efficiently is their old area which has since been turned into the potato and cucurbit garden. Now, before you start rolling your eyes, we had considered this in advance and had a pretty good plan in place. It involved covering the potato plants and packing the area with so many treats and toys that they wouldn’t get round to the pumpkin and courgette plants, which have never been top of their favourite food list.

And it would have worked, too…

Everything was going swimmingly. We received the call from our contractor the night before: He would be at our place between 8.30 and 10.30 on Sunday morning. As it has been incredibly dry, he was planning to do the lot in one foul swoop. It takes about half an hour to cut our three paddocks, a little less to rake them, and a little more to bale. If we were lucky, it would be all over by the time we left for our prebooked movie outing; If not, it’d be done and dusted by the time Elsa and Anna had sorted out their latest problem and sung a few songs.

Songs sung, Arendelle saved, show stolen by Olaf, and ice creams devoured we squinted at our phones to find the weather had decided to chuck a spanner in the works in the shape of a howling Nor Wester. No hay making for that day.

Back at the Homestead, it was all wine and roses. The ewes had barely noticed our absence, Nev was dozing in his cage, and, while there was evidence of goatie shenanigans, the garden was untouched. Hooray!

No sign of he Southerly as the back paddock is cut

Long story short, the Nor Westers abated long enough for us to get the paddocks cut two days later (with ten minutes notice to get the now reluctant stock into their various holding pens). Then a southerly blew in and it rained. It didn’t rain at The Bean Counter’s work 45 minutes down the road, nor at the Kingdom of Melton (West). It didn’t even rain at The Goat Herd’s work 5 minutes drive away. But on the Homestead, it pelted down. In the end, we let the goats out; they hate rain and there was no shelter in the garden.

The hay was finally baled late last week: 140 bales at final count, way down on last year’s 253; Everyone told us 2018/19 was a bumper year. It is now stowed away in the barn, a process made much easier because The Farmer and Princess were on hand and Farm Girl can now drive the ute leaving everyone else free to fetch and carry.

She’s even got backing sorted…and the obligatory elbow position!

The sheep, once released ran full-tilt around their paddock in one joyous, leaping, cantering bunch of baa-ing freedom and Nev spent the rest of his release day on his feet checking all was still in order in his domain despite the change in grass length. As for the goats, they’ve developed quite the taste for cucurbits.

Ah well, Hayin’ time happens but once a year.

13 thoughts on “Hayin' Time

  1. Doesn’t really matter how fancy the machinery gets or how hi tech the electronics get, making hay has certain weather requirements that are beyond human control. I’m fascinated that the plan was haymaking in one day. In these parts, we need at least 3 days of good dry weather, preferably 5. The usual routine is to cut on day 1, probably mid morning to mid afternoon, ted the next day (tedding is fluffing/turning over), at least once, sometimes twice if Hay Guy is trying to hurry the drying process. If he thinks rain is likely at this stage he’ll bring the macerator which picks up all the cut hay and crimps it (breaks the stalks) so that they’ll dry faster – it takes the quality of the hay down several notches, but not as badly as if it got wet. If everything is still dry on day 4 and he’s happy with the moisture read out on his gizmo, he’ll rake about mid day, and later that afternoon, 2 balers and 2 loaders will come and do their thing. If we’re enjoying fantastic hay making weather (rare), that will happen the day after raking. When I was a child/youth on the farm, there were no loaders and that happened the way you do it – and took MUCH longer. In those days I had Farm Girls job, and could barely reach the pedals. Love all the machinations required to get the livestock safely out of the way – that is so very small farm. I suppose when your situation was the normal way of farming hay making was done with men and scythes and so the animals could stll share the field if not that immediate corner. And now a well stocked hay shed, what a satisfactory feeling, like when you have rows and rows of canned garden produce in the larder.

    • I think the whole one day plan is pretty rare. Its just been so dry and incredibly windy. I love the jobs this lifestyle deems kids work – it’s real work with real job satisfaction. The whole livestock shuffling thing is a bit of a pain but fencing is expensive and we can’t quite make up our minds where the goat holding cell should be. But, yep, it’s job done for another year and the barn is full of stuff we grew…and that used to cost us up to $14 a bale in our other life.

      • looking through the pictures again, I realize your bales are the large squares – those must be quite a job to lift…how heavy are they? We’ve always had small squares (about 40 lb) – heavy enough in quantity, but individually pretty manageable.

      • No, ours are the smaller ones (called conventional here). Weigh about 25 kg. Thats the same as most of our feed bags so its all much of a muchness. Next size up is apparently equivalent of 10 conventional, then the rounds which are 12. You need a tractor for that kind of stuff and that isnt even on the list😊

  2. My back aches from reading. Mostly it is from the over 3000 bales I helped my parents put up (all small squares) a few years ago. It was the last year I did it as my poor body couldn’t take the constant action of lift, twist, set, knee it into place onto the trailer and the reverse/same into the barn. Now a memory, but it is a reminder of all the work that goes into the process.

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