Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Pap

Appalachia Through My Eyes – It’s Hay Cutting Time

My life in appalachia its hay cutting time
It’s hay cutting time in Southern Appalachia. Over the last two weeks I’ve watched the hay mature and ripen in the field and thought how beautiful it was as I drove to and fro about my day.

Folks here usually get two cuttings of hay during the summer, if the weather shines down upon their fields in a good way they might get three cuttings.

When Pap was a boy they cut hay by hand. He told me they only cut hay once a summer in those days because it took so long to do the work by hand. As time went by and things advanced in the mountains of western NC Pap’s family used a cutting machine that was pulled by a team of horses to cut hay. Pap said when that happened they thought they had hit the big time. Cutting hay with a machine and horses was easier and it was so much faster than cutting by hand.

A rake behind a horse was used to pile the hay and pitchforks were used to throw it on the back of a wagon. If you were lucky enough to have a big barn, Pap said you stored the hay in the loft.

Folks that didn’t have a barn, would cut a small tree, four or five inches thick, and cut the limbs down to where they were short and stubby. The tree was placed in the ground and the hay was thrown around it into a pile of sorts. Pap said the hay actually lasted pretty good with the tree method, not as good as inside a barn, but good enough to provide for the animals.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    May 27, 2016 at 8:22 am

    I was at Biltmore on Wednesday, and hay was being cut all over the estate. Standing inside the Loggia on the back of the mansion, the smell of drying hay was so strong that guest were wondering what that sweet smell was. Don’t forget the “smell”.

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    May 26, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    I remember hay cutting up the road from us at the Hannah’s and then across the road at Mr. Morgan’s.
    I remember once a storm was coming, and the Hannah’s got theirs in. Then their father and twin teenage boys came down the road with their tractor and wagon, and helped Mr. Morgan get his in before the rain came. It was amazing to watch them working so fast.
    Prayers everyone has a safe happy weekend ahead.
    Remember the reason for the holiday too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 26, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    There are a couple of fields of winter wheat that are almost ready to harvest nearby here. One is in sight of my house.
    When Dusty was just a toddler I used to point out the different crops in the fields when we were out driving around. “Is that wheat?” he would say. “No that is soybeans.” I would reply. Then he would make me sing the song “America the Beautiful” with slightly altered lyrics.
    O beautiful for spacious skies,
    For amber waves of soybeans,
    For purple mountain majesties
    Above the fruited soybeans!
    It seems silly but it made him cackle. Would that it took only a silly song to make them happy after they are grown.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Anderson
    May 26, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Tipper, had to send my computer away for repairs so I haven’t been following Blind Pig during that time. So sorry about your Pap, I didn’t know until yesterday. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Love your picture of the hay in the field. Lots of that here in Kentucky and I always think how beautiful it is.
    Best to you and your family

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    May 26, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    I remember cutting the hay with a horse drawn mowing machine, next came turning the hay with a pitchfork, we then raked the hay with a horse drawn rake and hauled it to the edge of the field where we stacked it. Later on we built a large barn where we stacked the loose hay, this was hot dusty work and required the fighting with the wasps which had built their nests under the tin roof. Later I used to hire out to load and haul baled hay and stack it in the barn lofts. I’ve heard that many folks want to outlaw the round bales since livestock can’t get a square meal any more (Just joshing). Thinking back to how hard we worked on the farm by hand I feel that those who talk of the “Good Old Days” either had more modern equipment than we did or they are suffering from loss of memory. The best part of haying was hitting the Little Tennessee River at the end of the day to cool off and scrub with a bar of Ivory Soap which we would lather up with then throw upstream, duck under to rinse then catch the Ivory as it floated back by us. I learned to drive a truck we borrowed from a neighbor, in the hay fields at ten years of age hauling the loose hay to the stack.

  • Reply
    Cullen in Clyde
    May 26, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    Spent a little time helping folks bale & load square bales; just enough to learn that’s one job I didn’t want to do for a living.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 26, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Hay bales make great forts. Hollowed out haystacks make good teepees, too.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    May 26, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Tipper, your picture and post brought back so many wonderful memories. I have always loved haying time. Many years ago I used to help rake and stack the hay (we didn’t have a tractor) and I remember how sticky and hot it got. As soon as we finished we all went to the river to cool off. That icy Pigeon River would cool us off and wash the sweat, dirt, and hay off of us. In later years, we usually contracted with a farmer who had too much hay to use and we would pick up the small bales and put them on a truck to take to our barn. That was such a wonderful feeling, to have a barn full of hay and know that you would have feed all winter for your animals. The barn was a great place to get away from everyone and daydream. This time of year I always drive with my car windows down hoping to smell some freshly cut hay.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Just yesterday and the day before, me and Whisky watched a neighbor cutting hay and making round bales. He had several and cut right up to my garden spot. That brought back many memories when I was just a boy.
    Me and my brother Harold, use to play on Haystacks our neighbor at Topton fixed. We always had our 4 fiests with us and them boogers would climb up to the top with us and eat Choc Cows. (Chocolate covered ice creams.) After the hay was cut, that made an excellent place for a bunch of us boys to play Cow Pasture Football. Such memories from the Good Ole Days…Ken

  • Reply
    Sallie R Swor
    May 26, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    I can still hear the sound of the old horse-drawn mower my dad used. He cut corn by hand with a corn knife and shocked his corn, then picked off the ears and shocked the fodder. I have seen pictures of the haystacks with poles on his parents’ farm. I’ve been told that if it was stacked right the hay would be kept dry. At least once I “helped” gather hay with a pitchfork. He had built an extension that had flat boards that hung over the edge of the wagon to haul more loose hay than just the wagon would hold. I often remember the lesson of stacking the hay on the edges before stacking the center so more loose hay could be piled on. If it was stacked high in the center first, the hay on the edges would slide off. That method has come in handy for things other than hay over the years. I was fortunate not to have to work in the hay fields as my male relatives but did get to play with cousins in their barn loft building mazes and tunnels with baled hay.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    May 26, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    interesting bit about using the tree…..

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 26, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Miss Cindy – It’s called a haystack. It’s where you find needles.

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    May 26, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Ive cut alot of tobacco with a tobacco knife,but that is a totally different thing.Never had to do any large cuttings with a scy.Dad always told me you had to have a rhythm to be good with a scy.
    Seen lots of haystacks in E.KY. when I was a boy,but never built one.I tried to climb one once,never made it to the top.Scattered hay all over the place.I got a good scolding from my papaw.
    In my mind’s eye I can still fields of haystacks and fields of fodder shocks.It makes a pretty picture.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Yes, I noticed this week that the hay was being cut and gathered. Although I was brought up in the city, as I age I find that I am fascinated by the use of equipment to cut, to gather, roll into rounds, and then loading them onto a truck. It is amazing to watch the process. The tree method was a creative method of preservation. I enjoyed today’s lesson, because that is what this posting was for me.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 9:12 am

    We did everything with horses mules and/or oxen until I left home. Then Dad bought a tractor. When we got down to only one horse Dad pulled the mower and rake with his pickup with me riding them.
    I’ve loaded loose hay and the rectangular bales. I’ve also stacked it in the barn lot and fenced it off until winter came. The round bales came along many years after I left farm work.
    I have my grandfather’s wheat scythe without the cradle. I still use it to cut weeds.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    May 26, 2016 at 8:50 am

    I was just talking to my son about this. He is 11. I told him that when I turned 12, my Dad put me to work in the fields bailing hay and stacking it in barns.
    I bucked a lot of hay as a kid for all the neighbors in the county. I bought my own school clothes with that money and felt pretty important.
    I’m starting to sound old.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 8:49 am

    I’m holding my breath and counting my last few bales of last year’s hay every day, hoping they’ll hold out til first cut here. This would be way early for haying here, but with such a slow Spring, there isn’t even much growth yet. Just thinking about scrambling for hay starts my head aching, and there’s not a thing I can do about it so I’m going to stop now! 😉

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 26, 2016 at 8:33 am

    That is a very nice picture but it makes me sad I don’t live in the mountains.
    Brings back memories. Dad cut hay with the horse-drawn mowing machine some and also using the tractor and mowing machine. We had no baler and put it up loose in the barn loft. Dad tossed it up and my brother and I moved it to the back of the loft. It was rather miserable sweaty, itchy work: hot summer sun on a tin roof; dust, pollen and leaf bits in our nose, mouth and eyes and down our necks.
    But …… the good part was sleeping on the fresh-cut hay, especially if there was rain on the tin roof. For several summers we slept in the barn loft as much or more than in the house. And we never were bothered by the big black snake that hung out in the barn catching mice. Or by the mice either come to think of it.
    The Bible speaks of mowing hay. Evidentally the Israelis got multiple cuttings, one of which was called “the king’s mowing”.
    There is a native fern called “hay-scented” that is rather common throughout the Appalachians. It lives up to its name. I wonder if it would keep its smell if dried. It could make an interesting pillow and take me back to my sleeping in the loft.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 26, 2016 at 8:31 am

    As I look at your picture and my grandfathers “long scythe”, I can’t imagine the time it would take to cut/mow it by hand. Even if you were wealthy enough to own a horse/mule drawn mower, a “scythe” was used to open up the field. My Dad said the scythe would kill you or make a strong-arm man out of you! They had a large farm, but only grew (on the less hilly fields) what they needed for winter feed for the mules and (milk) cows! Their money crop was tobacco.
    The NIFA stated that in 1954,for the first time the number of tractors on farms exceed the number of mules and horses…..I don’t think this held true in the mountains of Appalachia. My grandparents were still using mules then to pull sleds, wagons (for corn/hay), plows, etc.
    Thanks Tipper.
    PS..I used to have a “sympathy itch” just watching my husband load those baled blocks on the truck on a hot day…ewww… miserable mix hay n’ sweat…. Even with a long sleeved shirt…not to mention watery red eyes from dusty dry hay!

  • Reply
    Denise Duckett Mauck
    May 26, 2016 at 8:30 am

    When I was young, I used to swear my Granny’s neighbor waited until he heard I had arrived for my annual two week stay before he started cutting his hay! I know I was guaranteed two weeks of sneezing and runny noses every year. I was so allergic to fresh cut hay but I still sat on the porch and watch him cut and bale all of it up with that old tractor.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Farmers and Ranchers have been dancing between the rain drops (very unusual problem in these parts) to get the hay cut, baled, and out of the fields. Our neighbor just told us that for the first time ever, on his first cut he got enough hay from his field to get his cattle through the entire winter!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 26, 2016 at 7:53 am

    They have just started the baling of the hay this week in Brevard, NC. My wife loves seeing the big, round bales in the fields. When I was small, bales were rectangular, tied with hemp cord by a mechanical baler behind a tractor and loaded by hand into the bed of a truck. The loading was hard work. The round bales they use now could never be loaded by hand – must weigh several hundred pounds each.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 26, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Tip, I’ve been watching the hay process this year as you have. I’m not sure why my attention has been drawn to it more this than usual. I agree, the hay ripe in the fields is beautiful. I watched the cutting process. It is all machines now with the big round bales picked up with a fork lift like attachment to the tractor.
    I remember when it was the smaller square bales that had to be loaded by hand. I also remember the hay processed by hand and a pitchfork.
    I also remember the hay piled on a stick/tree in the field. Was that called a shock of hay? Hay was big business then to feed the animals and it was hard work.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 5:40 am

    It’s fascinating for me to read about how folks everywhere do things differently…and how farming varies so much from one area to another! Jim is finishing up 1st cutting hay today unless it rains. (it had better not!!) We usually get 5 cutting here. I’m so glad it’s not done by hand any more. The “old timers” had to work soooo hard!

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