Contributed by Farmstead Assistant, Sara Miller, with assistance from Historic Buildings and Grounds Manager, Scott Schotz.
Hay is an important part of just about any livestock animal’s diet. This roughage provides certain nutrients that concentrate feeds do not. Jack and Flynn certainly love their hay and eat a ton of it! We are so excited to be growing and harvesting our own grass hay this year to feed our growing boys.
The farmstead at BNHV is interpreted circa 1900-1925, so we harvested our first cutting of hay in a manner which was representative of this time period. Doing hay like that is very labor intensive, but at the same time extremely rewarding! Additionally, hay does not recognize days of the week or holidays. It is a very weather dependent crop. You must have several dry days in a row after cutting to allow the hay to dry before storing it. With the abundance of rainy days so far this season, it has been difficult to cut and harvest. Therefore, when we saw a streak of dry, sunny days we took advantage. Even if that meant that Scott and I were haying on the Fourth of July. What better way to celebrate our Founding Fathers than to do what they would have been doing on their own farms themselves?
Roughly 20 years ago a Farmall Super A with a sickle bar mower was donated to the museum. Knowing that this would be perfect for haying, we took it out of storage and with a couple of repairs got it up and running.
The sickle bar mower was a great haying invention in the eyes of many farmers, including Scott and myself, for it drops the grass in a manner which allows it to dry better. Prior to the mower hay would be cut using a scythe and an additional step of raking the grass out in order to dry would be needed in the hay making process.
After letting our hay dry out in the field for two days, we raked it into two rows. The first row we raked by hand using handmade hay rakes, and the second row we raked using an old dump rake which belonged to the original farmer who owned the property BNHV now sits on. The dump rake was found in a hedgerow and was dragged out by Scott Schotz. Finding it to be in working order, we put it to good use during our hay making
The hay was then pitched by hand into Scott’s two antique steel wheeled wagons. Six full wagon loads of hay were brought to the new barn to be loaded into the hayloft using our newly restored hay trolley system.
Jack and Flynn have already tried their homegrown hay and approve wholeheartedly!
Up next is baling hay with our 1919 IHC hay press! This promises to be quite an exciting event and is set to take place on Saturday July 22, so mark your calendars and make sure to head on out to BNHV to check it out! If you miss it however, fear not for that, along with the restoration story of the hay trolley mentioned in this blog, will be the topic of next month’s blog.