Gone are the days of cutting hay with a scythe or a sickle, pitchforking the hay into piles then into horse powered balers, the bales then manhandled onto wagons, & then wrangled into the deadly hot haymow.
When Scott first began harvesting hay on our homestead (which I believe is longer than 15 years, but not yet 20), we relied on the help of (& youth of) of his folks & the modern conveniences of machinery. Even then, we still had to manhandle haybales onto the wagons & wrangle them into the haymow. Over the years, we have all gotten older & wiser as Scott & I have bartered, traded, &/or bought better equipment to make the harvest easier when we no longer have to rely so heavily on the help of his folks. Every year, we have hope that this is the year we can trust Kaycee to drive a tractor, the bobcat, or farm truck to help out. Just not quite yet. So dad is still in charge of the bobcat while Scott & I have figured out our own routine.
Our homestead hay season is now in high gear. Every year like clock work, as Kaycee's birthday quickly approaches, we know that the harvest is about to begin. Even though every March we tell ourselves to start getting ready to have the ideal season, it seldom comes to fruition & our checklist doesn't get done until the very last minute.
The "getting ready" checklist (if I were ever to make one... oh yeah, I guess I just did):
Stock up on supplies, parts, Lestoil, sunscreen, & MREs (meals ready to eat);
Start up the tractors & equipment to check they are in working order;
Fuel up tractors then replenish the reserves;
Make sure all hydraulics are operational & add oil;
Grease up any moving parts;
Replace any broken rake teeth (then buy more because there's never enough);
Clear the baler of any winter rodent nests;
Organize the hay barn to make room for this year's hay; and
Ensure sure the parts store & tire repair shop are on speed dial.
As we flip the calendar to the month of May, Scott begins his daily check of the 10 day weather forecast while drinking his morning coffee. We must be ready to roll as soon as there is a 4 day stretch of 40% or less chance of rain and 80+ degree temperatures. I tell you what, that 4 day stretch of perfect conditions is always a moving target. Just when you think there's a good window to be in the field tomorrow, Scott now sees in the 4 day forecast of a 70% chance of rain on day 2. Amazing that meteorologists can't predict weather much better than they could 50 years ago; just as well to rely on the Farmer's Almanac. We'll have to wait for the next window. Drat!
Finally, a 4 day window arrives with high hopes that the 30% chance of rain doesn't worsen as the days progress. Fortunately for me on day 1, as Scott doesn't trust me with the White and the mower, I get out of that day's task. Day 2 is the cure day where nothing gets touched. Days 1 or 2 are usually my last minute errands across multiple counties for more supplies or parts. Day 3 is my raking day -- or the day I call "getting my summer tan on". Day 4 is baling day (if it doesn't get completed on day 3). Here again, Scott is on the White and, this time the round baler, so I get out of doing that too. I drive the farm truck & trailer across the fields for dad to load hay with the bobcat & to unload the hay in the barns. Later in the summer when we get 2 or 3 more harvests, hay is put into small, square bales. That involves me gathering the square bales with the accumulator so they can be loaded onto the trailer & into the barn.
Whew, sounds like a lot. It is. However, it is just 12 days out of the whole summer... allowing plenty of time to sit on a tractor under the hot Indiana sun admiring how our ancestors did it without modern technology. By the time the 3rd harvest of the season rolls around, we have it orchestrated & perfected.
'Til next time folks!