More Hay Making with Racks

Right- windrows mown in the morning, Centre- Phil spreading hay mown the day before, Left-Hay racks

Right- windrows mown in the morning, Centre- Phil spreading hay mown the day before, Left-Hay racks

Since our last Introductory Scythe Course on 18th August we have been hay making again, although in a different fashion to earlier in the season. The weather has not been classic settled hay making weather. We have had bright sunny days alternating with cloudier days and the threat of showers. Instead of trying to get hay totally dry on the ground in these uncertain conditions, we have been using racks.

Every morning when it seems likely that there will be two days of reasonable weather, Phil has been cutting enough grass to fit onto two of our racks. This is spread in the late morning, then rowed up for the night. The hay is spread again the next day. By the evening of the second day it is usually dry enough to put up on to racks. (See this post for information on how to build a hay rack)

At any one point, there is several stages of hay on the field, as can be seen in the photo above. There is the mornings mowing, ready to spread; the mowing from the day before that will be spread then racked in the evening; and of course a growing army of filled racks! As necessary, we will start to empty the first racks we made and “leapfrog” them to the front ready to be re-filled.

Hay making in this fashion has a more relaxed feel to it. Including mowing, turning and racking it only takes up about two hours of every day. Most of this work is done by one person, although Phil and I usually make one rack each in the evening (and perhaps see who can create the best shaped top….). This is quite a contrast to the long days we worked earlier in the summer. It is a rhythm that we could sustain over a long period of time, and leaves much more time and energy for the myriad other jobs that a productive small holding demands. There is also less risk – should an un-anticipated shower fall, the volume of hay at risk of damage is relatively small.

It was satisfying to have got the bulk of the hay in during a couple of busy weeks, but also useful to know that we can make extra without too much strain, and that we have techniques that we can use should good haying weather fail to appear.