I think I’ve finally recovered from last weekend. As predicted, they were the hottest days of the year so far, with humidity that felt too much like monsoon season in the desert southwest. For two days (Saturday and Monday) we sweated in a field, dodged barn swallows and wasps and worked on our tans and our muscles as we harvested the first cutting of hay this summer. We know it will all be worth it come winter. Heck, when we’re using this hay in the middle of a frigid cold night we’ll be thinking pleasantly back to the heat of these days. It’s all relative, isn’t it? Although we often speak of dreading the hay harvest, the truth is we have many good memories we wouldn’t trade. It’s a time when a group of people who like each other works together and accomplishes a goal. At the end, we cool off in air conditioning, cook some burgers and tell tall tales about harvest days of years past. We drive home in the cool of the evening with the windows down. We experience the pleasure of washing off all that dirt in a refreshing shower back at the house and slipping into a clean bed under cool sheets to ease our aching muscles when we finally go horizontal for the night. In the end, it’s all good.
Here’s a brand new short video of how we use machines to harvest these square hay bales. It’s about 2 minutes long, with text narration. This will either bring back memories or show you something maybe you’ve never seen before.
Oh and this year we found a live snake in a bale! I was about to grab a bale to send up the hay elevator in the barn when I noticed something wiggling. It was a small snake but the incident reminded me to always wear gloves.
Tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far and you know what that means? Time to harvest hay. You’ve probably read about our hay harvesting escapades before. The overwhelming theme is how hot it is when we’re doing it. You can pretty much pick the hottest, most humid and miserable day of the year and that’s when the hay is coming in. Here’s a handy chart you can use to predict the likelihood of the hay being ready based on temperature:
I’m speaking specifically of square bales. We don’t use a lot of them this time of year but they’re a staple in winter when the horses spend more time inside the barn. Our own barn can only hold about 80 bales but there is a barn in the hay field that can probably hold 1,000 or more. That’s where we’ll be tomorrow, pulling square bales from the field into a hay wagon and then transferring them to a loft in the big barn. There we’ll battle stifling heat, wasps, dive-bombing barn swallows and the occasional snake to store up hay for the winter. It’s worth it. We have a deal with our provider that gives us discounted pricing in exchange for help harvesting. Some icy cold winter day we’ll look back in envy of this warm day I dread as I type this.
I think I’m recycling this video but just in case you don’t know what square bale harvesting looks like, here’s a short video from a few years ago.
Do you help harvest hay where you live? Does this chart relate to your experience as well?
We hear a lot of people talk about “bombproof” horses, especially when advertising one for sale. While on vacation recently in New Orleans I captured this short video of what I think of when I hear that term. I’m afraid my horses would react differently to all of these distractions! Kudos to the trainers of the New Orleans police horses!
One of these days I’m going to keep track of the hay twine we go through and weigh it. We put out around two large round bales of hay a week for our four horses and end up with a handful of twine like you see in this picture. The big round bales where we live are usually secured with a plastic poly twine like this and the smaller square bales use a biodegradable sisal fiber (from an agave plant). Every square bale of hay we open gives us two more pieces, about 16 feet total. I could throw it away but I can’t help but thinking there is a good use for all this leftover twine. In our old forum discussion about uses for hay bale string, we got some great suggestions, especially from user shellz9 who quoted an article by Amy K. Habak called “30 Hay Twine Uses”. Here are a few that caught my eye:
Replacing missing horse blanket straps
As hanger loops for horse tools like hoof scrapers and brushes
For temporary fence repair (we use it for this a lot)
As a quick temporary lead rope
Dora Renee Wilkerson, a visitor to our horse blog, has another great use for hay twine – rugs. Dora makes really nice looking, useful and durable rugs by knitting the discarded hay twine:
We ignored the advice from our farm friends about buying a two wheel drive tractor for our small horse farm. To this day, they still tell us it’s a waste of money but we think otherwise. Our east Tennessee land gets pretty muddy and it only takes a little bit of rain to make it slick. If we planned on using this tractor any time other than when it was completely dry, we would have been out of luck with 2wd. 4wd isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity where we live and our 4WD Kubota with locking rear differential is serving us well. Here’s a short video (1:24 minutes) showing some examples of why we needed a 4wd tractor:
When it rains, it pours here in East Tennessee. To make winters even less pleasant, the frequent rain (January is our second rainiest month) is causing us work and making the lives of our horses a little less fun. Even though it was warm Sunday when I shot this little video, I decided to let the horses in to dry off and they seemed to appreciate it. I can’t wait until we have a few dry days to move some dirt. We knew we had some new drainage issues but the big rain storm Sunday made it seem a lot worse. I made this quick 2 minute, 26 second video to show you how muddy our place is right now. Now with voice overs! LOL. Once you get past the first few dizzy seconds, the rest of the video is pretty smooth.
So does your barn and pasture look like this right now, too?
Hey, it hasn’t been a month yet. I forgot I shot this 21 second video wishing you a Merry Christmas and I don’t want it to go to waste. Mikki found some horse reindeer ears on sale. Turns out the lights work on only one of them but they’re still cute. Our poor horses put up with the brief humiliation. The “ears” affix to their halters. No horses were harmed in the making of this video. We hope you had a great Christmas and that 2010 will be an awesome year for you and the horses you love.