Appalachia Heritage

Making Hay While The Sun Shines

Over the past week, I’ve noticed folks working up their second cutting of hay. Getting in that last little bit to feed their stock over the winter.

In my area, if there are three cuttings of hay during the summer, farmers are very pleased. This summer and last summer, folks were lucky if they got two cuttings-many only got one.

Our mountain holler is nestled behind a 2500 acre cattle farm. Each summer I love to see and smell the hay as it lies in the field ready to be bailed. Growing up, local boys were always hoping to get hired in the hay fields to make extra money. That was back in the days of square bales. Now that most farmers have switched over to round bales I don’t see any teenagers helping out.

When Pap was growing up-hay was a necessity-something you had to have for your stock to survive the winter. In his earliest memories they cut hay by hand. He said they only cut once a summer-because it took all summer for a man to cut a whole field of hay by hand.

Later on, Pap’s family used a cutting machine that was pulled by a team of horses to cut hay. They also used a rake pulled behind the horses to pile the hay. Then using pitchforks the hay was thrown 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. If not-folks would cut a small tree, 4 or 5 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. As it was needed, hay was taken to the horses and cows.

I’m no hay expert-but I remember buying square bales for a dollar a piece when The Deer Hunter and I had horses back in the day. Last summer they were selling for $10.00 a bale around here-due to the drought. A huge difference in price.

I can’t help but think of the stark contrast of a farmer cutting hay by hand to sustain his family’s animals through the winter and someone like me paying for hay to feed horses we only used for pleasure.

Tipper

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    June 1, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I have had fun bucking hay bales and playing in the hay loft as well, making tunnels through the bales. When the farmer went to round bails we would push three or four together and play king on the mountain.
    My wife’s uncle talked a lot about bailing hay and traveling with his uncle by wagon to help cut hay with a horse-drawn hay cutter, putting it into windrows, and then piling it on the wagons to be put into the hay loft. He said his job was to spread it out in the loft. He got so hot he nearly passed out, turned white he said.
    Now my kids enjoy what I call hay bail hopping. When the round bails are pushed close enough together we jump from one to the other.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    October 8, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Living in the big harsh city, I only get to see hay bales at the Plow and Hearth. Always gotta put my face in them though and breathe deeply. Love that smell, it’s so fresh and earthy.
    My grandmom used to use hay twists to start her wood burning cook stove. I think that’s why I love the smell of wood smoke so much.
    When I go to the Wegman’s grocery store in Hunt Valley I always stand by the baker’s oven. The smell of the wood burning is my favorite even before the smell of fresh baked bread. xxoo

  • Reply
    Egghead
    October 3, 2008 at 1:05 am

    I can’t imagine how hard it would be to cut a field by hand. My family used an old tractor that pulled a mower, then a rake and finally a baler. They were the old fashioned square kind and we all bucked them onto a hay wagon and then stacked them in our barn. We only had one hay cutting per summer….not a long enough season for two without a sprinkler system. That my father could not afford.

  • Reply
    Molli
    October 2, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    I grew up bailing hay…love the smell. We had a John Deere “kick” baler. It would make a square bale, tie it with the twine and “kick” it into the wagon. My job was to open the back of the wagon and put the bales on the conveyor up to the hay loft. I’ve still got strong arms from all that hard work. I loved it!!
    Love the blog too and the music!!

  • Reply
    wkf
    October 2, 2008 at 6:45 am

    I paid 700.00 for 10 round bales
    for my horses this winter. (Now, they were delivered for that price, as well.) The stupid thing is I thought I got a deal. Last year was scary for horse owners, not to mention Hay growers.

  • Reply
    Mary
    October 1, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Tipper,
    I love the fragrance of freshly mown hay. Yes, I also remember haystacks. Grandpa never had a mower and baler when I was young. We stacked the hay in the mow and the excess was piled into a haystack. We also had straw stacks.
    As kids we loved to hide in the hay and straw stacks and we would get scolded for making a mess of the hay/straw. It was so much fun and we continued to do it even with the scoldings.
    Thanks for the memories, my friend.
    Blessings,
    Mary

  • Reply
    GaFarmWomanPam
    October 1, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Hey Tipper. I guess my hay story is we just finished baling hay this weekend. (I see we have the same title).
    Your pictures are beautiful with the mountains in the background. I also see your grass is greener on the other side.lol.. you know, we still haven’t had much rain around here yet???
    Maybe soon. None in the forecast here for at least another week.
    Have a great day.
    Pam

  • Reply
    Stacey
    October 1, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I love your pictures of the hay fields!
    I do have a hay story.
    We raise cows & hay & do use the big round bales. I drive the pickup & trailer while my husband loads & unloads it with the Bobcat.
    Apparently I parked to close to the stack & a bale came off & landed on the side of the pickup making a very large dent. of coarse he thought it was my fault & I thought it was his.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    October 1, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Morning Tipper! I can smell the hay as you write. Am living the life of a farmer vicariously through your post, although I can imagine how back breaking the work. Thank you for sharing, Tipper.
    When we were young, my parents often took us to the country in New Jersey or New York around this time of year to pick pumpkins and go on hayrides. Much fun!
    Have a wonderful day! :))

  • Reply
    Becky
    October 1, 2008 at 9:27 am

    I tried to pick up a small round bale up once. Have you ever tried that? Impossible!
    My 17 yr. old friend calls the round bales, cinnamon buns.

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    September 30, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    I’ve heard my mother tell about my grandfather (her father-in-law to be) mowing hay,(not with a tractor but using mules), and one of her cousins stepped in front of the blade(?) and almost lost her foot. My mother remembers most how scared and frightened my grandfather was that he had “come nigh cutting off Francis’s foot.”
    I remember when we first moved to “the farm” and a neighbor stopped and told us that they had seen smoke comin’ out of the barn. Talk about rushing to the barn….science lesson learned immediately. Hay was too green when it was cut/baled. Lesson learned.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    September 30, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    well i used to work at farm and tractor and sold lots of bale equipment and hay . i love the smell of fresh hay ! goofy , huh? i love this time of year! thanks for sharing your story.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    September 30, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    I love the photos, Tipper. The hay is up around us, the last of it this weekend. I wanted to take photos too but kept leaving my camera behind.
    Our fields are so steep that when I used to drive the truck across them (in low-low 4-wheel drive) it could slip a little downhill while moving forward. The trick was to go just fast enough to keep it moving forward and not slip. the second trick was to stack the hay so that it didn’t all fall off. Of course, if I had to reverse direction, the stacked hay would all be weighted to the wrong side–so we had to plan the route around the field very carefully. I’m glad we don’t do hay anymore. Now my neighbor bales it, and that very steep section we just brushhog. It’s not worth dying over.

  • Reply
    finnishwahine
    September 30, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    i truly feel retarded, i didnt realize the girls were twins, duh…i love their fort (that’s what we called them when we were little, gosh, the fun we had…..) and they are rockheads!! me and mark are both major bigtime rockheads and trainbrains. we lust for a truly huge rock, well, actually a boulder to be planted in our front yard. lord knows there is an over abundance of them around here. we would just need to hire a flatbed semi with a crane…aka…loggin truck and some guys to help us place it just right. we have dug up really kool chunks of quartz crystals out of the garden…big as half a basket ball and way heavy. this here is mining country. the stuff they use for the roads is beautiful, i have mark stop so i can look at the roads…rainbows in asphalt. rock on 🙂

  • Reply
    RazorFamilyFarms.com
    September 30, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    When I had my horses while living in Virginia, good hay cost about $3.75 a square bale. Good hay meaning alfalfa. I would buy timothy for about $3.00/bale and also get some alfalfa. My total hay bill for the winter was less than what we pay monthly for gas. Things have changed drastically in such a short time!
    Love this post!
    Blessings!
    Lacy

  • Reply
    Michelle
    September 30, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I have no hay stories, but I sure do love the smell. 🙂 Land sprinkled with round hay bales is really pretty.

  • Reply
    Valarie Lea
    September 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    That first picture is awesome!
    One time my husband and his friends, when they were teenagers, rolled a haybail into the middle of the road to block their teacher from getting to school. They were bad boys 🙂

  • Reply
    Louise
    September 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    No hay stories. I was a farm-girl wannabe. Had a lot of friends haul hay, though.
    That first picture is spectacular. Very, VERY good capture of the sun on the field. The golden light is beautiful.

  • Reply
    threecollie
    September 30, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    The past few summers it has been hard to get more than one or two cuttings here…too much rain in our case….nice post.

  • Reply
    Paula
    September 30, 2008 at 10:24 am

    I grew-up working in the hay fields, not for money, but just because you always helped your neighbors out. This was during the time of the square bales that you “bucked” up onto the trailer. Before they were ready to bring in, we had to go out and turn the bales now and again so that they dried all the way through and no moisture would stay in there to combuste and burn down the barn. We lived in rattlesnake country, so when you turned a bale, you had to turn it towards you, that way if there was a snake under there, the bale was between you and the snake.
    Of course, my favorite part was when I got to drive the tractor. I still love tractors!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    September 30, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Tipper: I enjoyed you hay stories. I’ve noticed that the farmers are even wrapping the hay in white plastic to store the round bales. I like to see the hay in the round bales in the fields. I remember the hay rides of my youth. You always seem to bring back so many memories of youth. I can’t even imagine the farmer cutting a field by hand.

  • Reply
    TennZen
    September 30, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Gracious, I can remember my days as a teenager, baling hay. I got some muscle in my arms from tossing those square bales up on the wagon. We’d have to wear long sleeves and long pants (in the middle of summer) to keep from being eaten alive by the bugs but we’d still be covered in chigger bites by the end of the day.

  • Reply
    Janet
    September 29, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    We don’t bail hay, but many of the small farmers up and down our road do. Sometimes our neighbor bails hay on the lot in front of our house. It’s not unusual to have a line of cars behind a tractor traveling down the main road. Most of the farmers do the large round bails here also.

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    September 29, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    No hay stories here! But I love hearing yours 🙂 It is amazing what a difference can be made in machinery in a short time span.

  • Reply
    christina
    September 29, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    I remember playing on the HUGE hay bales in my Granpa’s barn. What fun we had!

  • Reply
    The Tile Lady-Marie
    September 29, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Excellent post! I learned a lot about hay in this piece, and was astounded that the price has increased so much–I suppose the new technology has to be paid for! Doing it by hand though had to be absolutely back-breaking! I can remember my brother helping to load hay when he was a teen back in Alabama. That’s how teenage boys got their muscles! Hard work, not pressing weights! 🙂

  • Reply
    Em
    September 29, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    My only hay story is from watching the musical “Oklahoma!” – after the wedding when they’re up on top of the haystack (I guess now I know how they were made!). One of my all-time favorite movies. I hope hay isn’t $10.00 a bale now… I will need to get some soon for when my hens start laying.

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson
    September 29, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    I love the bails. I have seen them wrapped in plastic so that they look like giant marshmallows, and that is fun! Nothing beats the smell of fresh mown hay, either. We see it here and the great lorries about to topple under their loads of hay. Great story, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Diane ( Crafty Passions)
    September 29, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    No hay stories but I sure enjoyed yours!
    Well now that’s not true , my brother once helped my uncle cut hay with a tractor ( were city kids ok) well if there wasen’t a hornets nest in the field my brother to this day is deathly allergic to stings, he looked like the pumpkin man that day, it was scary.
    Diane

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