April 19, 2020

Spring Hay Harvest

About a month ago, I showed you photos of how our pastures are coming along since we began our soil building efforts (See "Pasture Soil Building Update.") Another area we've been working to improve soil is in our hay growing areas. The methods are different, but we've seen hopeful results there too.

Winter hay mix of wheat, oats, winter peas, vetch, and clover.

For these, we've been using green manure, plant diversity, and old hay to build the soil. Cooperative weather helps! It isn't fence-to-fence consistent in terms of growth, but this is the best hay crop I think we've had so far.

What I really wanted to show you, however, is Dan's idea for getting the cut and dried hay into the hay loft. We've come a long way from our very first attempts. Remember this?

Photo from "Hay Loft!" May 2018. I snapped
it and then ran up to help pull the load in.

Here's how he does it now.

This is the last load, so it's only partially full,
but the box hoists easily with a full load too.

The box was the one our chest fridge came in, and it's perfect for this job! I fill the box, he hauls it up, and dumps it.

Of our three patches of hay we have two harvested and one more to go.

We could use the box to make our own bales if we wanted to! Sometimes, however, the hay is still not completely cured. This is mostly because the thicker stalks of the peas and vetch are slower to dry than the blades of grass. If rain is threatening, we bring in the hay, I spread it out on the hayloft floor, lightly salt it with Himalayan Pink salt, and turn it twice a day until completely dry.

The challenges of homesteading are never-ending, and the solutions are rarely one-size-fits-all. We start with what's available and experiment. Eventually, we figure things out!

Spring Hay Harvest © April 2020 by Leigh


Ed said...

I get a kick out of the use of Himalayan pink salt. We have some in a fancy bottle that someone gave us as a Christmas gift one year. Wouldn't go very far to drying out a hay crop.

Michelle said...

Looks like delicious hay; the goats should be well pleased!

Living Alone in Your 60's said...

Love the ladders and box idea. Great thinking.

Leigh said...

Ed, how funny! I really like it. I like knowing it has extra minerals, and I like the flavor. Pricing though! I get one-pound bags at Dollar Tree for $1 each. The exact same size and brand sells for between $5 and $10 on Amazon. For one pound! I've found 5-pound bags at Big Lots for $4, and in the hunting section at Walmart as deer salt, 10 pounds for $8.88.

Michelle, and it smells heavenly! Our goal is to grow and harvest all the hay we need, but we haven't been able to do that yet. So I ration the "good stuff." The girls get theirs in the evening and they'll stand by the hay feeder and watch me toss down hay. But they wait until I throw our homegrown hay down before digging in. :)

Frugal, and to think we tried all these complicated ways trying to figure it out. Simple is always best! ;)

Retired Knitter said...

Lucky animals that get to munch on that lovely stuff.

wyomingheart said...

What beautiful growth! I love the your ingenuity! Sounds like us, in that we always figure out a way to get the chore done as easily as possible....always open to try another way if possible! The most important thing to us is that we got the job at hand done, which give us a great boost in our self sustaining endeavors! We have had a freeze here on the ridge, and I was worried about your beautiful fields. We see a lot of damage to our crop, but hope that the under growth was protected by the taller grass kill. Time will tell. How’s your wheat? Great post, Leigh. Have a great day!

tpals said...

Innovation! There's nothing like a hayloft. When I was a kid that seemed to be the favorite place for the cats to have kittens.

Goatldi said...

love it!

Fiona said...

Great hay idea.Your hay mix looks really good. We will be cutting our winter rye cover crop for greenfeed in a week and will be putting it in our loft. Our big field will be cut and baled into small square bales in June. If we get three cuttings we will have extra hay but we don't count on it.
Living sustainably is an adventure but so worthwhile. God keep you safe and well.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

That is genius. I am totally stealing it if I get the opportunity.

Nancy In Boise said...

Wow that looks really great! Kudos to you and your husband for rebuilding the soil and starting from scratch

Leigh said...

RT, everybody appreciates good food. :)

Wyomingheart, thanks! It's very rewarding to figure out how to accomplish a task in a creative way. :)

No frost here, although we've gotten down in to the 30s several times in the last week. The wheat hangs in there! We usually harvest early in June.

Tpals, thanks! My cats love sleeping in the hay loft. :)

Goatldi, :)

Fiona, here's hoping for good hay crops and harvests! Yes, this kind of life is a challenge, but equally a joy. :)

TB, help yourself!

Nancy, I only wish we'd known then what we know now. Everything would be so much further along.

Cockeyed Jo said...

We haven't cut our orchard/clover/vetch grass yet. We always wait til it goes to seed for the first cutting. That way we seed once and it continues to producing. We do the same with the last cutting in the fall before we add compost and heavy mulch for the winter. We let the sun dry ours and keep turning the piles. If a severe shower (several inches of rain is predicted, we'll stack it teepee style in the barn until it's dry before we bale it. It takes up most of our 24x36 barn floor to do it this way, but no mold.

Leigh said...

Jo, sounds like you've got a good routine worked out. That's important to figure out.

Malatrope said...

I used the ladder ramp idea to move shingle packages up to my roof when I made my house. Instead of pulling with a rope, I made a pole out of 2x4s and pushed them up the ramp with my compact tractor. It worked great!

Leigh said...

Unknown, very clever! Packages of shingles are heavy! Isn't it amazing what one can do with a little imagination and a few basic items?

ND said...

Thought about a hay trolley?

Chris said...

Really glad to see the hay harvests still progressing. Because to build the barn, grow the pasture, cut the hay, haul it then store it - is a lot of work! To see it paying off, knowing your labours are adding security to your livestock, is just priceless.

Leigh said...

ND, thanks!

Chris, after years of not having one, it's such a relief to have a proper place to store our hay!