Roy and farm-hand Zeb put up hay by hand this year. This required mowing, raking, and stacking the hay in the fields. Although last year Roy cut all our hay with a hand scythe, this year we advanced to a tractor-powered 1950’s sickle-bar mower. This allows much, much faster cutting then a single man alone, although with the noise, cost, and maintenance of complicated equipment.
The sickle-bar mower was a ‘deal’, which meant it took many hours and several weeks of rebuilding for it to function at all. After only a few rows of the first field had been cut, the tractor clutch broke with a dramatic crack, stranding the equipment in the field. Roy managed to baby the tractor back to the barn, but then decided to fix another non-functioning tractor we have, rather than take this one apart just to discover what was wrong. Another week, $130 in parts, and only two smashed fingers later, a very beat-up 1970s Ford tractor was attached to the mower. With this, Zeb and Roy managed to cut the grass they had planned, although the steering failed by the end and the tractor wandered about the field despite Roy’s strong language.
Rather than baling the hay in compact, rectangular bales which requires expensive equipment, Roy and Zeb built large haystacks in the middle of each field. It’s hard work, but it looks beautiful in the fields. (See photo) We will be able to feed the sheep from the stored hay through the dry season and beyond, when nothing is growing in the fields.