May 10, 2018

Growing More Hay

I showed you a picture of this year's first cutting of hay in my "Hay Loft!" post.

Cut wheat hay drying. The tree is an almond, planted in 2009.

It's one of two small unfenced areas near the road that we've designated for growing hay. When we bought the place these areas were lawn, but we're not lawn people and would rather put our ground to something productive. Now we get several cuttings of sudan grass here in the summer and grow wheat or wheat/oat hay here in winter. What I wanted to show you, though, is what it looks like at the back.

Small crabapple tree on the left. We planted it in 2010.

That leafy green mess of random shrubs and trees didn't used to be there. Originally it contained a few ornamentals, and I tried to grow a hedge of bush cherries there, but somehow the whole area grew out of control. I had overlooked how much until we were raking and hauling the hay. I asked Dan what he thought about trying to reclaim it so we can grow a little more hay. He agreed and we got to work.

The first step was to cut it all down. Much of it was goat-edible.

Next stumps were pulled. This clump is a crepe myrtle stump.

Then we raked out as many bits of roots as possible.

Lastly Dan smoothed it out with the scraper blade.

We gained a good 12 to 13 more feet for planting. In terms of large acreage that's just a wisp on the wind, but with our small acreage every little bit helps.

I added seaweed meal, hardwood ashes, and tiny amounts of borax &
copper sulfate to the soil. The wheat stubble will add organic matter.

We used to wish we had more land. We still wish it sometimes, but we know it would be more work to steward - to nurture and keep productive. We'd have to have larger equipment and more time to manage it. It's relatively easy to hand scythe the area pictured above, but if we had acres-worth of hay, hand scything would be a huge undertaking. Right now our land is mostly in quarter- to half-acre areas, which is manageable for us at our age with the small-scale and low-tech tools that we have. Even so, we only had to buy two rolls of hay this past winter, compared to the four or five we bought the winter before. Our goal is to grow all of our own hay, but if push comes to shove I can downsize our number of goats.

Besides expanding the plot I'm also happy that it looks much tidier. I suppose the moral of the story is to not let it get out of control in the first place, but with so much to do that's easier said than done! Let's just hope I can keep it that way.

Growing More Hay © May 2018 by Leigh 


Donna OShaughnessy said...

Well done you two! We are also not lawn people and I hate seeing farms with a couple acres of pristine lawn in the front. One could raise animals there. Our seven acres is mostly in pasture, but still have a fallen down old barn to remove for more growing land. Such a PROCESS isn't it?!?!

Goatldi said...

You made me think. The last lawn we had was eleven years ago in the second and last house in Fresno. I have to admit to missing it as I am a barefoot person and our 42 acres is not barefoot friendly. But I don't miss any other aspect of a lawn.

Good job and a heck of a lot of work!

Chris said...

Out of control, or as I like to put it; nature is clawing back your land, for it's jungle initiative. Such is our lot too, lol. It's sensible to let it take over, if you haven't got the time to organise it. I know you two have been pretty busy, which is why it hasn't made it to the "list", until now. Looks great though, and highly productive too, I hope.

Leigh said...

Donna, most of the area around us is just like that. Folks don't farm here, but a lot of people have several acres that they simply mow! Every Saturday they are out there on their riding lawn mowers keeping it trim. I ride past and think, "that ground could be feeding somebody!" It could be for grazing or growing something to eat! I think we would end world hunger if everyone on the planet grew even some of their own food.

Goatldi, yes, lawn is good for barefooting, that's true. Our place isn't barefoot friendly either. Too many sharp things to step on including bits of broken glass. I haven't gone barefoot in years.

Chris, the earth definitely knows how to reclaim it's own! But it's a lot of work to keep it looking neat and tidy. Or at least what I consider neat and tidy (I'm sure our neighbors have a different definition!)

Gorges Smythe said...

You're right about more acreage meaning more work. As I get older, I've had to get more realistic about what I can do.

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

That's great. We have enough land to grow and sell our popcorn, but we need the $$ for a tractor. We may have an option soon, so I am hoping for future growth here too.

Annie in Ocala said...

Great post! Hits home with me. I have 3 acres and had always wanted to buy the 6 acres next to it but now going it alone 3 is probably enough. And planting the quarter and third acre plots I'm doing more and more. I keep 6 does and a buck, a few chickens and pigs, and a horse and I'll never be able to self feed them all especially with the horse... But slowly getting the feed bill down and I figure with the little amount of grocerys I buy that spending on hay an seed is validated...

Ed said...

If I had my druthers, much of my lawn would be something other than lawn as well.

Up here, "rolls" of hay are called round bales.

Fiona said...

Our initial plan was at least 50 acres. God knew we were not young and pushed us into only being able to get a small place. 15 acres in this climate [South Central Ky.] is almost too big. We too marvel at the amount of useful land in lawn or CREP. This country could grow so much more good food to feed people but it seems lawn is the thing to have. Your use of each bit of your land is such a good example of what can be done👍

Debbie - Mountain Mama said...

Wow you cut your hay with a scythe? That's quite the workout, you must be in terrific shape! When my parents bought their country house back in 1980 Dad used a scythe to cut our 5 wasn't long until he invested in a proper mower!

Leigh said...

Gorges, it's true, the older one gets the more appealing small acreage becomes! Hopefully we've been working toward good manageability in the future.

Kristina, I have to tell you that finally getting a tractor made all the difference in the world! It's enabled us to do so much more than we could before. I hope your option for one works out!

Annie, thanks! We aren't growing all of our own animal feed yet either. It still remains a prime goal. If we had to, however, we could cut numbers and manage. On the other hand, I think that for us, the benefits make it worth it their expense for the time being.

Ed, actually, they are called round bales here too! I confess that I've taken to calling them "rolls" because it's one word quicker to say. :)

Fiona, you sound like us! I think learning how to manage what we've got, and manage it well, is what's really important.

Debbie, Dan has a scythe and a walk-behind sickle mower. He uses both. The sickle mower is faster, but he says the maintenance and babying it to keep it going make it almost not worth it. We try to keep our harvest plots small, and the one in this post is good for hand cutting. Larger areas are done over several days. Besides the cutting, the hay has to be turned to ensure even drying. Then the raking up and putting in the barn. We hope we can manage more this year than we have in the past, but it also depends on the weather!

Mrs Shoes said...

Great job reclaiming that fallow area - we've been doing that for the last decade (literally) on the 4Shoes because the entire quarter section had been left to rewild for 22 years prior to us coming on the scene. Seeing weeds and willows transformed into pasture or hayland is extrememly satisfying for us as well.
I have to know - what is that jobee you are using to pull stumps, and is it attached to your truck or a tractor? So you have a photo or 2 from another viewpoint? Mr Shoes would love something to pull stumps easier than his method - shovel & crowbar. ;-)

Annie in Ocala said...

Wednesday when I was getting hay they had 5# bags of sunn hemp seed. ($10.00) I bought one an tossed some in a pot and watered it... 24 hours later and germination happened... 48 hours now and some sprouts are an inch long.! Rain is in the forecast starting monday an I'm gonna plant couple patches an see what happens.

Leigh said...

Mrs. Shoes, it takes time, doesn't it? The stumps Dan pulled out were actually from shrubs with spreading root systems. He used his single bottom plow and sliced the soil around the stump, then hooked the roots with the plow and pulled it right out. That wouldn't work for stumps of older larger trees!

Annie, I wasn't familiar with sunn hemp and immediately had to look it up. Sounds like something that would work well in my part of the world too. Thanks! Glad to hear it germinated so quickly, that's always a good thing.

Ron Clobes said...

A timely post. I put new blades on the lawnmower and wanted to test it out so I went out on our pasture. I carved out a 2-acre patch that was thistles last year. I let them bloom and then cut them down just as the heads were going to seed. Didn't want to have the weed nazis ding me for growing noxious weeds. Figured I would try to mow it this year and hopefully keep the thistles down better. I always feel rebuked when I am out on the pasture. Last year, I realized what excellent forage thistles are for bumble bees and honey bees. This year, a little bird flitted around in the dwindling area that I was mowing and acted like its home was being destroyed. I also scared up a mama pheasant and narrowly avoided her clutch of eggs. I left a clump of grass for her in hopes that she would return and still have enough cover and not abandon the nest.

Leigh said...

Ron, I finally eradicated my thistles only to discover that they can be used to make plant rennet. Now I'm wishing one would grow back! Two acres is pretty extension for production, however, although obviously the bees and birds enjoy it!

Ron Clobes said...

I had to look that up. Something like this correct?

I have plenty of those too, but I was mowing a patch of Canada Thistle yesterday. The bull thistle is much easier to kill. You just let it bloom and then wack it down and pull off the flowers because there is enough energy in the stem to produce seed. I will jot down a reminder to dry down the flowers and send them your way.

Leigh said...

Ron, yes, although from my research it seems that other kinds of thistles will do the same. I'm just not sure exactly which types, but it would be worth an experiment. Seems better to harvest as a "weed" than to try and propagate!