Make hay when the sun shines.
That common saying is a logical one too, except for those folks who bale at night or in damp conditions “to save the leaves.” Still, most hay is harvested on summer’s hottest and sunniest days. Hay is a cowboy’s crop, other than calves and colts, because livestock needs hay when housed out of pasture or grass becomes extinct.
We’re“too young” to have harvested hay with horse drawn equipment, so our experiences started with a small John Deere tractor, three-point sickle mower, rake and small square baler. It was the late ‘60s when we acquired the rig, and while we did some equipment driving, our duties were generally handling bales. We started on town patches.
Our big job, though, was baling 30 acres of rough Flint Hills pasture. Goal was 100 bales a day, and sometimes we’d make it. Mowing began early, with the rake started at noon and the baler rolled mid-afternoon. Bales were dropped on the ground; we followed, stacked them on the pickup, 36 to a load, and hauled the hay two miles for barn storage.
When our hay acreage grew, we had to put up several thousand bales annually. Plus, there was a town job and a handful of horses to ride daily. We were thrilled when big round balers came in the mid-‘70s. A horse customer and friend, Rosie bought one of the first in the country, and we hired her to put the hay up in big round bales for many
Actually, we were pioneers in big round bales. We immediately purchased one of the battery-operated big bale handling devices for our pickup. From when we got the handler at Harper, and it ran the battery down before we passed Wichita, that machine was a headache. However, we used the gizmo many years, and it saved lots of work and worry.
For 18 years, we’d still stack several hundred small squares in the 100-year-old barn loft. Don’t think that didn’t make an office boy, like us, complain more than a little. The system has changed now. Our boy swathes the grass, small square baling is done by our wife with an accumulator system, and the majority is put up custom in big round bales.
Folks who have a year round grazing program and don’t need any hay bales are our envy. We haven’t figured out a way for that to work, so we’ll continue to bale hay when the sun shines. Making hay, of one kind or another, is a lifelong project and has been definitely for over 20 centuries, as indicated in the Old Testament.
Thus is demonstrated in Proverbs 27:25, “The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself.” Likewise in Isaiah 15:6, “The grass faileth, there is no green thing.” Hay will always serve its place.