Hand Haymaking 2014 – Rowing, Racking and Stacking

Due to a technical hitch, I haven’t been able to post for a number of days, so here is a rather long update on how the hay making has been progressing.

Tuesday 15th July

We built four racks in the evening, using about a third of the hay that was cut during the social mow on Sunday. Here I have raked up a ring of hay around a rack.all this hay...

Which all went on to create this:
hole underneath

My daughter is having fun crawling under the rack, nicely illustrating how there is a gap between the hay on the two sides. This allows air to circulate through the stack and aids the curing of the hay.

The hay is placed on so that the stems are aligned vertically, forming a thatch on the outside. The outer layers can be gently raked to encourage this, but if the hay is put on with reasonable care it is often not necessary. The outer layers will shed the rain, so minimising water penetration and preventing damage to the rest of the hay.
top of rack thatch
The remainder of the hay was rowed up into thick rows to minimise the surface area exposed to rain.

The rack that Phil is building is noticeably greener then the one behind that has been curing for a few days
The rack that Phil is building is noticeably greener then the one behind that has been curing for a few days
rows and racks
Racks and Rows at Dusk

Wednesday 16th August
The rain came as forecast, if anything earlier in the day then expected. There was nothing to be done with the hay, but no shortage of other work to get on with!

Thursday 17th August

It was blazing hot so Phil spread the remaining un-racked hay from Sunday. He also took the hay off two of the racks in this field and from two racks still out from when we were making hay in the Top Field in order to free up the racks should they be needed. The hay from these racks was spread for a final drying. This is not always necessary – we have often carted hay directly off the racks into the barn. However the racks on Mari Jones had not had long to cure fully, so needed an extra bit of drying, and the racks on the Top Field were quite wet on the outside from the previous days rain.

An emptied rack can be seen in the middle background, hay ready for carting in the forground
An emptied rack can be seen in the middle background, hay ready for carting in the forground

It was a long evening on Thursday! The sun had done it’s work, and most of the hay on the ground was dry enough to cart and stack in the barn, which we started on after supper.

One section of the hay left from Sunday was still not fully cured, so Phil built a rack from the majority of it while I put the children to bed. Then as darkness fell we piled the remaineder into haycocks to protect it from the forecast thunderstorms. The drier the hay is, the greater the damage caused by re-wetting. Haycocks have a much smaller surface area exposed to the rain then rows, so are better as a temporary protection for a crop. We generally prefer to use racks, as the design means they can be left out for long periods without damage and so can be left until we find the time to deal with them. Haycocks do not have the same air circulation through them and are sitting on the ground so need to be finished off at the earliest opportunity. Hay cocks, however, are much quicker to build and we were running out of time to fill more racks so it seemed like a good opportunity to experiment.

Friday 18th August

haycock after the rain

With most of the hay from the Social Mow dealt with, Phil started mowing again this morning. The hay cocks had survived the overnight thunder storms (which only produced 1.5mm of rain for us!) and were spread out to finish curing once the outsides were dry. Phil also spread the hay from his mornings mowings.

Rougher grass and bracken from around the margins of the field and from the bottom of the area cut on the social mow is be used to mulch the garden and perennial plantings.

A well loaded wheel barrow
A wheel barrow well loaded with mulch

The day finished off with a relatively light evenings work bringing in the now cured hay from the hay cocks. Despite having been exposed to two periods of rain, the hay smelled sweet.

Bringing in the hay from the hay cocks
Bringing in the hay from the hay cocks
Stacking the hay in the barn
Stacking the hay in the barn

Sat 19th August

Phil mowed a second patch of grass. Once the dew had dried off both this grass and that cut on Friday was spread. Another easy evening, with just these two patches of hay to row up.

Sunday 20th August

Phil mowed a third section of hay. He is in the background of the photo below, with the hay mowed on Friday and Saturday in the foreground. The white fence posts marks the division between the Friday and Saturday cuts.

mowing and two days before

Small amounts of daily mowing is our usual hay making pattern when we do not have large areas of grass cut from a workshop or event. A section is cut each morning and all the hay on the ground is worked once the dew has dried off. After a few days, hay will start being taken to the barn or racked from the back of the area being worked while more is being mowed at the front, leaving a relatively constant amount on the ground.