July is here, bringing hot weather and a number of rain-free days in a row. That means it's hay making time! For us. it's as much a normal part of July 4th weekends as picnics and fireworks. We've been fortunate to have a stretch of dry weather, so we have been able to spread the work out over several days. At this point, we've filled one side of the barn up and are working on filling the other mow. Although the weather is 90 + degrees today, we're going to try and push to get the rest of the field in. Even though there is only a slight chance of rain, the longer the hay lies in the field, the more it gets bleached by the sun. So we're in for a long hot day, but hay making is one of the most crucial farm activities for us. The amount and quality of the hay we put in determines how many animals we are able to support over the winter months. Doing it ourselves is not only a significant cost saver over buying hay, we also know what quality we're feeding and that the hay is organically grown. We are also able to complete the entire process with our horses, using no tractors or motorized equipment. We use the horses to cut hay, rake it, and pull the wagon across the fields to pick it up. Instead of running a baler, we put it away loose. Dan uses a pitchfork to load it while I walk back and forth packing it down for a nicely balanced load. Both jobs are physically demanding. Unloading is the easy part, as we have a hay claw on a trolley that lifts large amounts of hay, that carries it along a track and drops it in the mow. If you'd like to see more, we have pictures and descriptions on our website at http://pleasantvalleyfarm.weebly.com/hay-making.html. This picture shows our mares, Dolly & Dixie, with a nearly full wagon load of loose hay.
Although this stretch of dry weather means we need to irrigate the garden and the creek is running low, it did give us the rare opportunity to take a day off yesterday and enjoy a rare summer holiday. Since we were confident that the mowed hay wouldn't be rained on, we had time to relax and have a cookout here. July 4th is all about freedom and independence, and without our farmers, this country wouldn't be self sufficient. So it made me smile as we sat down to our meal, to see how much of it we'd produced ourselves. The steaks were grass fed beef from a cow who was standing in our pasture just a week or two ago. The potato salad made great use of new potatoes dug from the garden just hours before, and was flavored with homemade mustard and dill from the herb garden. I made deviled eggs as well with eggs I'd hand collected from my chickens. A truly enjoyable meal, and I feel so fortunate that eating fresh from the garden isn't an isolated experience. I'm frequently able to make an entire meal using just what we make or grow ourselves.
We hope you & your family had a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend too!