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Posts from the ‘Haymaking’ Category

The Shimmering Fields

This year haymaking has not been as stressful as last year. And again. That’s because (oh joy) there has been some spectacularly fine weather. Having a summer at last has lifted everyone’s spirits and has also come just in time for those running holiday places. After four rubbish summers the tourists are making a come back.

It’s quite hard to find people who still do small bales – and have the machinery which will fit into our old style gateways. But after scanning the horizon with binoculars last summer we spotted a young guy doing just that. A short car drive, a tramp across a field and a conversation, then lo, our fields were cut that evening. This year he did everything…cutting, turning, baling…which made it simpler than rounding up the bevy of faithful neighbours who have always helped us out in the past.

It was achingly hot. The air was buzzing and the sky intense. The cows took shelter in their shed under the oak. I could feel the burn on my skin.

First the Cut

Hay Field being Cut

P drives the tractor

Cut Hay Field

Very Neat


Turning Comes Next

The cut grass is turned until it is dry, over a period of three to four days. It is usually turned once a day.

Tractor in Gateway

A Bit of a Squeeze

Tractor in Gateway

Just about fitted into Triangle Field

Turning Hay www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comTurning Hay

Curious Traditional English Herefords

What is going on?


Next comes rowing and baling. The turned hay is put into rows and then the baler comes along and sweeps it all up into it’s belly and the bales come out like sausages.

I never tire of this process.

Hay Baling www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comHay Baling

Traditional English Hereford in Hay Field

Are you lost?

Tractor Rowing

The Rowing Tractor driven by C

Hay Baler

Baler Swallows Grass

Hay Field

VERY Satisfying


Time to Collect the Bales.

We made 280 bales from the Triangle Field and half the Cow Field. I would like to point out here that I was not always swanning about with my camera!  Heaving was done. One evening our friends R & A (thanks!) came over at 8.30 and we got 100 in the shed before dark. 60 went to our neighbours A & P and the rest to our friends T & N. We still have one field to do.

Hay Bales

Collecting Hay Bales

Look at that sky…virtually unheard of

Collecting Haybales

S on top of the trailer – her first job as intern!


One More Field to Go

Hay Field

Path through long grass

I will miss this shimmering field when she’s gone


Oh, and this is the green/brown roof on the barn today – I’ve already tweeted this I was so excited by the bees.

brown roof


Thought Number 4 Help We Need to Make Hay Part 2

The sun brings out some butterflies at last, a Gatekeeper and a Ringlet. The Red Campion and the Foxgloves are going over now, the Knapweed and Wild Carrot beginning to look like they might flower. The jet stream is being pushed north for a spell so we can expect a few days of summer.

After some initial dithering on Tuesday we decide it’s time to act. However B’s tractor has blown a head gasket and is out of action. Aware that there is only a slim window of opportunity we scan the horizon and spot a crew making small bale hay across the valley so I drive there and ask if there is any chance of helping us out – looking at the forecast we know we only have until Sunday afternoon to get it in. This young guy P, along with a whole array of neighbouring farmers, neighbours and friends, really pull out all the stops to help us out this week. So much of the time, not just for us, for anyone who manages land, is spent toiling away alone. It’s an amazing thing when that solitary cycle is briefly broken. We even loll about on the trailer afterwards, drink squash and eat biscuits and talk about the price of cushions.

It’s hard not to resist obsessively checking the forecast but the sky is deep blue with a few non threatening cumulous gathering at the edges. The air is heavy with the sound of machines. Because of all the rain, the grass is thick and it’s taking ages to dry, even with being turned every day. I go out with a pitchfork to turn some of the big lumps which are still green underneath. I do one whole field edge where the grass has piled up in the shade of the trees and pull it to the barer patches in the sun. It is very hot work but strangely compelling. In my solitary endeavour I imagine how it must have been in the past, when hundreds of people would have been out in the fields trying to get the hay in, backs bent into the work, and occasionally like me now, resting on the handle of the pitchfork, taking in the spectacular view over the valley and moors, the buzzards wheeling high on the thermals.

All hands on deck

We have six people on the case after D bales it on Sunday afternoon, the little rectangular blocks of hay coming out of the back of the baler like sausages. The weather has turned and the dark clouds have multiplied but it stays dry apart from a few random drops. P and S stay around with their mighty trailer and we all pile the bales on and unload them at our concrete block shed across the road, getting to and fro on the back of the trailer. It reminds me of my childhood when we used to help the local farmer with the hay in the field next to our house. Then, when the trailer was piled as high as possible he would let us ride on top the bale grabber, hands tightly gripped onto the prongs while we grinned with glee when he manouvered it up and down.

The last thing we hear as we fall asleep around midnight is the big baler across the road still working, wrapping the huge round bales in plastic, doing it’s twisty twirly dance in the dark. I wake in the night and the rain has returned, pit pattering on the slates with its familiar tune.

cows getting a bit more friendly now

Thought Number 4 Please Help We Need to Make Hay Part 1

The Dark Sky

It is the wettest June since 1910, which is when records began. The grass is still standing in the fields, we are desperate to have it cut but we have to wait along with everybody else. I guess too that we will be at the end of the chain when it comes to mowing, turning and baling, given that we are dependent on others.

Docks and Thistles are thrusting their way through the grass at a great rate, the penalty for leaving it so long. L is tearing her hair out and has decamped to Manchester for the weekend (she leases a 165 acre organic biodynamic farm down the road). It really is relentless. I went into the sea of green with the intent of beheading some Creeping Thistles and seeding Docks, trying not to crush the trembling top heavy stems of the grasses – Crested Dogstail, Yorkshire Fog, Sweet Vernal, Sheep’s Bit, False Oat, Cock’s Foot – along with Sorrel and Clover. A Meadow Brown butterfly flits around in the damp air as I work.

Ok so it’s not a Snail but you get the idea what we’re dealing with…

At midnight I go to charge B’s buggy and I count 89 snails on the ground in the torchlight on the short journey between the house and the barn. There would have been 90 but it was the crunch underfoot which alerted me to to their abundance. A good year for the molluscs. I go to check the dahlias in the polytunnel and hear a pair of eery owls very close in the huge Sycamore at the bottom of the field.

I woke up the next morning to the sparrows chattering as usual in the holes we’ve made for them in the stonework. I wonder how big the swallow chicks are. We only have one nest this year, though this is an improvement on last year when they deserted us completely. As I wake up I realise it’s actually sunny. Hurrah! finally there is a break in the dismal days of rain – it’s moving east – and leaving dry weather. We begin to hope.

Swallow Fledgings getting ready for First Flight

Two Swallow Fledging with an Encouraging Parent

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