Over the last week or so I’ve noticed people cutting their first haying of the year.
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.
Yesterday I was talking with a lady who grew up in the lower part of the county. She said her daddy cut hay with a scythe when she was a child. After it was cut it had to be raked and tossed to ensure it was dry. After the hay had dried it had to be carried to the barn. Oftentimes, her job was to pile hay around the stick (like Pap described) to form the hay pile. Sometimes her daddy told her she carried more in the house than she left in the pile—because she liked to slide down the sides.