Appalachia Gardening Pap

Time to Cut Hay


Folks in my area have just completed their first cutting of hay. They usually get two cuttings of hay during the summer, and if the weather shines down upon their fields in a good way they might even get three cuttings.

Putting up hay has changed a lot since I was a girl. I remember Whitmire cutting hay on his large cattle farm that borders Wilson Holler. He’d hire local boys to help him and you could see them hot, sweaty, and I’m sure itchy as they threw the square bales onto the back of a slow moving truck. These days its all the large round bales that have to be moved with a tractor.

Jump farther back in time and you can see an even more drastic change in hay cutting time.

When Pap was a boy they cut hay by hand. He told me they only cut hay once a summer in those days. 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 or mule 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 or needed more hay than the barn would hold, 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.

Over the weekend I had the good fortune of talking to one of Pap’s old friends Bass Hyatt. Bass grew up in Brasstown and went to school with Pap at the old Odgen School. His family has been in the cattle business for generations.

Bass told me when he was just a boy the hay had to be replanted each year. The type of spreading creeping grass we have today hadn’t been introduced in this area so the fields had to be harred and the seed put in the ground each spring. That was an extra burden placed on top of the whole cut it by hand part. Bass said “My daddy taught me to pile the hay in a tall stack and I did it enough that I got pretty good at doing it.”


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  • Reply
    Don Byers
    July 24, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    My Grandpa Nick Byers was killed in farming accident riding on a horse drawn hayrake.

  • Reply
    Neva [Wyatt} Slocum
    June 22, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Growing up we usually had a milk cow or two, so we didn’t need as much hay as the farmers. My Dad was a ‘gypo’ logger. meaning that he worked for himself. A very small business. Any hay we needed we would get from the neighbors. What fun as kids to play in their barn. There was a large rope hanging from the center roof and we would swing from one loft into the one filled with loose hay. Parents today would say it is too dangerous.
    But what fun.

  • Reply
    June 19, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    I remember tunneling back into the hay and building secret hiding places.
    The man next door to us made little home brew from time to time. He would bury it in the hay loft in the wintertime and it would work off just fine. It stayed warm waybackupinunder the hay even when it was brutal cold outside.
    No I didn’t drink none of it! I was too young! But, we didn’t know the legal age that at that time. Was 13 too young? One thing for sure, I didn’t drink and drive. Couldn’t! Nobody had a car! Couldn’t drink and walk either because when I drank I couldn’t walk. I could drive a sled though. I just had to flip the lines and old Kate would take us home. Giddy Up, old girl!!

    PS: Parts of this are true!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 19, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Tipper, The post by Pinnacle Creek touched a subject I wonder if you have ever posted about; calling elder women ‘Aunt’ and elder men ‘Uncle’ as a courtesy title. I just did catch the tail end of that. There was an old man at the church where I grew up everyone called “Uncle Gilson”. It was certainly a courtesy title, since no-one there was his niece or nephew. And I vaguely recall hearing that form of address used for others. I have often puzzled as to why that tradition arose and also why it died out.

  • Reply
    June 19, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    Reminds me of an expression I heard all my life: “Gotta make hay while the sun shines!” Mama said that quite frequently and we were no where near a farm.

  • Reply
    June 19, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Whenever we are out driving I’m always on the look out for old farm equipment, especially, anything to do with hay bailing – Dad especially like to stop, look, and reminisce when we find some. His stories are much like the ones already submitted.
    Around here, although we are getting a smattering of showers yesterday and today, it came too late for the corn to fill out so we are more likely to see farmers turning their cattle into their corn fields or bailing their corn fields. The hay was bailed a couple of months ago.

  • Reply
    June 19, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Yep, I was one of those local boys, the largest hay field we ever hauled had about 350 bale, and hot wouldn’t even get close. There are still a few that square bale, especially if they have horses, seen some yesterday going home, brought back memories.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 19, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    I love Pap’s stories of life when he was a boy, and all the other commenters who shared their stories with us. But like the Horse-Soldier of old, times have passed into History, and we’re left with the memories. Today on large farms, they use International Harvesters, and some are air conditioned. Time goes on. …Ken

  • Reply
    June 19, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Another post that makes me wish I had paid attention growing up. Grandpa took some of us down to help a neighbor we all called Uncle Welch. It was popular back in those days to refer to older really special men as Uncle. This may have just been a family thing, but was done on a regular basis. We spent the day tying some type of grain Uncle Welch had gone through and cut with a scythe. I absolutely loved it, and remember working extremely hard to assist. My reward was raving compliments from a very milky eyed elderly man. Makes me think way back to a sweet man who probably could have been helped with modern day cataract surgery. I have googled, but I still have no idea what we were tying up and lining up to dry. He probably only had a plow horse and a milk cow, so this was only a small project in the forties.

  • Reply
    Flat Albert
    June 19, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Hay-Hay-Hay! It’s Flat Albert!
    Some of the fields around here are ready to be cut the second time already. It’s been a good year so far for all the crops but when the fields produce in abundance the price drops and the farmers make less money when labor is factored in.
    Around here the farmers that still have machinery to produce square bales advertise the fact. There are signs along the road that say “Hay for Sale-Square Bales”. There is a niche market for square bales. Landscapers and and construction contractors use them for erosion control. Decorators use them in the fall for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Outdoor events use them as seats.
    Some of the hay fields around here can’t bale using those round balers. It’s too steep! Not so steep that that the machinery don’t work but you see we often have minor earthquakes that cause the bales to start rolling and they all end up in a pile at the lower end of the field.
    Actually I made up the last paragraph but the rest of it is true.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    June 19, 2018 at 8:38 am

    Tipper, I remember what a feeling of accomplishment and security came from filling your barn with hay. Mostly we had square bales, but I do remember some loose hay in the barn loft. The barn loft was a wonderful place to play when I was a child. Listening to the rain on the tin roof was a special pleasure. The barn and the animals who lived there are a part of so many of my memories. When I drive by a fresh cut field of hay today I always roll down my car window and smell that delightful smell of grass curing in the sun.

    • Reply
      Virginia Malone
      June 19, 2018 at 3:25 pm

      That reminds me of when i was a young girl. My oldest brother and i used to play tag on the poles up in the loft of the barn ,our dad built with his own two hands. It’s a wonder we didnt break our necks. I love those days and miss them very much.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 19, 2018 at 8:05 am

    I remember the horse-drawn mower and rake. We put it up loose in the barn loft. My brother and I were up there with Dad on the truck. It was hot and dusty work and we breathed a lot of plant crumbs. Us two dreaded haying time. But when you are raised on a farmstead you just accept the weather and work as it comes.

    Now an old horse-drawn mower or rake is rustic decor. Does that mean I am a genuine antique person? All I know is I am increasingly out of step ….

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 19, 2018 at 7:59 am

    I learned to drive a tractor when I was about 12. I drove and my boy cousins threw the bales on the wagon. When we got back to the barn the boys had to put the bakes in the hayloft. I remember the boys being hot and itchy and squirting each other with the hose. I think my uncle paid us twenty five cents a day and we thought we were rich. I still love the smell of new mown hay. Brings back lots of good memories.

  • Reply
    Nathan Beck
    June 19, 2018 at 7:54 am

    This is a little change of subject. I remember as a small boy going to visit at G-Ma’s and G-Pa’s. At the time they lived in a real old house that had wooden shutters and no glass nor screens. G-Pa always kept the yard free of grass and the yard was swept daily of any leaves from the trees and had a picket fence around it. I recall the thrill of setting on the window sill to eat meals in the summertime and while I don’t recall the subjects the many conversations the family had.
    My mother was the second of 13 children so it was quiet a large group most times. As you can imagine we were poor folks and G-pa was a farmer. As he used to say, I had to raise my field hands. Out of the thirteen none ever broke the law nor went to jail. He and G-ma were strict but raised them with love. As of this writing only the two youngest are still living and are nearing 80 if not already. I know I am 74 and I love the old memories. By the way this was in the Florida panhandle and was loaded with flying biting insects but we coped by using smudge pots and sleeping on pallets on the porches. Dad was a carpenter and we lived a little better as we had screens.
    Water was from a pump in the yard and buckets. In the winter it was called running water. We filled the bucket and ran back to the house to keep warm.
    As a teen and pre-teen I worked for a local truck farmer picking peas tomatoes and such to get a little but what I got went to help feed our little family as Dad worked hard but the economy was such that his pay didn’t go far.

    • Reply
      June 19, 2018 at 9:30 am

      Nathan-thank you for sharing your memories with us 🙂

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 19, 2018 at 7:47 am

    As a youngster growing up at Needmore my Dad would hire someone or borrow a friend’s tractor or some time a neighbor with a mule and his mule drawn mower to cut the hay. If the weather stayed fair we would borrow the mule or a horse to pull a rake to windrow the hay then haul it to the edge of the field where we had erected a stack pole surrounded by limbs to keep the hay off the ground, we would then stack the hay packing it tightly so it would turn the rain. If it happened to rain before we were able to stack the hay we would have to use pitchforks and turn the hay by hand to allow it to dry prior to stacking. Later we built a larger barn with a loft large enough to hold the hay, we would then haul the hay and with one person throwing the hay into one end one the loft and one or two packing the hay tightly into the loft while fighting the wasps who had decided this was a fine place to build their nests and raise their young. This was a job which required a lot of hard physical labor with a lot of sweat equity involved. This proves that we who speak of the ‘Good Old Days’ have selective memories which kindly forget much of and the amount of physical labor we performed in haying and this doesn’t even mention the raising of corn, cane and gardens to feed six individuals and several milk cows, numerous hogs, often a horse and flocks of chickens.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 19, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Tip, I love to see the cut hay down in the fields and then the big round bails of golden hay a few days later. It’s a view of the past almost gone. Most all the fields use the big round bales but there is one field going into town on Martins Creek Road that still uses the old smaller rectangular bales. Looking at the comparison of the round bales compared to the rectangular bales you can see how much more hay is in the round bales. I look at the field of rectangular bales and its a look at the past. There are so many of them in comparison to the round ones.
    I remember the older hay stacks. My grand parents always kept two or three milk cows. Their barn was not very big and most of the hay was kept out in the field stacked around a pole as you described it. They called them shocks or ricks of hay. Life sure required a lot of manual labor to keep a farm with animals going!

  • Reply
    June 19, 2018 at 6:23 am

    I remember well those days of walking beside the wagon and loading hay bales at our neighbor Mr O’Neal’s farm. It was hot and itchy work. After loading the wagon we would take it to the barn and put the bales in the loft. It was hard work but as a teenager (we didn’t have the word teenager back then) we wanted to earn a little money during the Summer. We were also rewarded with a good meal prepared by Mrs O’Neal.

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