Hay season is in full swing here in east Tennessee and across the land. The grass that was allowed to grow to near waist-high, is being mowed and baled to feed the cows and horses in the winter months when grass is dormant. Fun fact: cows consume a lot of hay in the winter; a traditional farmers will stockpile about 3 round bales for each cow to make it through winter.
The first mow of the season is aptly called the “first mow”; it is the most nutrient-dense grass that will be mowed over the season. The hay fields in this area will get two, maybe three mows, depending on the weather. The grasses are mowed and allowed to dry. Then then baled in to either square (which are actually rectangles) and round bales. The key to factor in hay baling is sunshine. The grass must be dry when mowed and not get rained on before baling. A minimum of three days of sun is needed; you mow the first day and bale the third day. The saying goes make hay while the sun shines….
We’ve made a deal with a farmer down the road, he’s mowing our field, and do some brush hogging along the edges, where the brush is trying to take over. In return, he’ll keep the hay for his cattle. Since we don’t have any livestock that needs hay, or a tractor to cut it, this is a great arrangement. The field is maintained and we get the overgrown brush cut down. In the future, when we have a cow/goats/pigs and need hay, we’ll modify the arrangement to a 50/50 split where he (or some other tractor owner) mows and takes half the hay in payment. That’s a pretty common arrangement around here.
So farmer from down the road mowed on Wednesday after two days of good sun and light wind.
Eighteen small round bales, not bad. We let it go a tad too long before mowing so the field was bit difficult to cut and therefore everything is a bit shaggy looking. But, now we know, there’s an art to cutting the hay at just the right time.
I was recently in western Wisconsin for work. I did a lot of driving through rural areas and at one point passed an Amish farmer that was mowing with a pair of draught horses. I wanted desperately to stop and watch (and ask 100 questions), but I didn’t because I didn’t want to be rude. I’m fascinated by the low-impact practices of years past. I’ve scoured the internet but, so far do not know how long it takes to mow 12 acres with a horse team. Most of the horse powered farm sites that I’ve found have smaller hay fields.