The bulk of the cutting on Cae Mari Jones has been done now. The major task at the moment is dismantling the racks and bringing in the hay when ever there is an opportunity. One dry day is usually enough to ensure any wet from the rain dries off the outside.
The racks have to be left for sufficient time for the hay on them to mature. The length of time depends on the dryness of the hay when it went on. If it was almost cured it can be as short as a few days, although of course the hay will sit safely on the rack for much longer then this.
Some of the racks we have made in the last week were with much greener hay, often having only received a day or two of turning and drying after cutting and perhaps even receiving a shower or two during that time. These racks will need to sit out for much longer to ensure the hay has time to cure properly.
We have had some really pleasing results from the racks this year. The hay is different to that cured on the ground. The outside is bleached and crackly. However the inside is dry but soft and pliable, and often a lovely blue-green colour. When the hay is put on fairly green it retains a large proportion of the nutritious leaf part of the grass, which is easily lost as “leaf shatter” in hay that is repeatedly handled and perhaps over-dried during curing on the ground.
We bring the hay in by packing it into dumpy sacks then dragging them to the barn. It is surprisingly efficient – a well filled rack is slightly less then two loads and the bags are not too hard to pull. We are lucky that the hay barn sits central to the hay fields, such that there is generally never more then about 150m to move the hay and often less.
We are of course aware of the invention of the wheel! And to that end we made a lovely bicycle wheeled hand cart last year, with one of it’s intended functions being during the hay harvest. However we need to add side rails to make it work with loose hay which otherwise will catch in the wheels. The trouble is there always seems to be more pressing things to do. I am sure we will get round to it one day, in the meantime used dumpy sacks are easy to come by!
The hand baler is back in the barn now and I have been baling up the rack hay as it comes in. This is making a neat stack next to the two loose hay stacks. The barn is also the space in which events and courses are held, so it is important that the hay does not take up too much space and it is useful that this stack is potentially moveable, should the need arise.