If you have an acre or two of meadow but not the machinery or neighbors to hay it, you can easily put up sufficient provender to feed a small flock of ewes or goats through the winter. All you need is an Austrian-style scythe, hand hay rake and hay fork to get it all done.
Daunting as it may sound, our ancestors routinely made hay by hand and put away many tons of it for winter feeding. You can too if you’re ready to trade in that gym membership for some real work. In the past few years, I’ve put up close to 5 tons a season using this easy going approach.
In the mornings, when the dew is still on the grass, sharpen your scythe and mow as much as you can in about an hour. Once you get the hang of it, your efforts will yield lovely swaths of mowed forage. Let the swaths dry for a day or two in the sun. Turn them with a wooden hay rake if the hay isn’t drying evenly.
When dry, rake the hay into piles and pitch it into the back of your pickup or onto a wagon or tarp and haul or drag it back to the barn where you can pile it out of the weather.
Once you get the process going, you can scythe in the morning, rake and haul the hay that’s ready in the evening and turn any swaths that need turning. Keep at it for a month and you'll find that your stack is sufficiently large to keep the animals going through the winter months and you just might need a shorter belt.
Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The how to make hay tips above appeared in Episode 21, “Hay Fever.”
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.