On Wednesday (25th June), Philip and two volunteers cut a section of hay knowing that the dry weather was unlikely to last long enough to fully cure the hay. This is the situation when we use hay racks.
Racks can be built with hay that it not dry enough to stack in the barn. The design gives sufficient airflow through the hay to allow it to carry on curing out in the field, while the shape protects the bulk of it from damage by rain.
Here is how we treated the grass, knowing rain was on the way.
The hay was cut in the morning then immediately spread to begin the drying process.
We were expecting showers Thursday afternoon so we anticipated having about a day and half to get the grass dry enough to rack and to build the racks themselves. While racks can be built with fairly wet hay, they work best with hay that has had as much drying as is feasible.
With this in mind, we turned the hay again about 3pm Wednesday afternoon to speed drying. We find it easiest to row the hay up with rakes…
…then re-spread the rows with a pitch fork.
We have found this method ensures that all the hay is thoroughly turned and it is reasonably quick if you are practised at using the tools.
Late on Wednesday evening the hay was significantly drier then when it had been cut in the morning. It was rowed up and left in rows overnight.
The hay was spread again Thursday morning once the dew had dried off. The weather front was arriving slower then expected, so we held off building racks until about 3pm to give the hay maximum drying time.
Once safely on racks we could relax and enjoy the coming rain, knowing that the hay was safe and that the garden and the rain water harvesting system really needed a watering.
There will be a post to follow about how we built the racks. If you are interested in learning more about how we make hay by hand and would like a chance to have a go at some of the techniques, we have a Hand Hay Making Workshop coming up soon.