It has been very, very hot in our part of the Redoubt. It is the hottest part of the year. Part of our small “farmstead” i.e. El Hacienda Norte is hay or “grass” as the locals call it. I believe the hay we have is Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata). It appears to grow well in full sun. It appears that the previous owners used approximately 2 acres as orchardgrass, year after year. One decent thing is they let a couple of horses just graze on the grass. Thus the field got some natural fertilization. When anyone does anything “better” we should encourage them, not say “it is not enough.” They also appeared to provide the horses supplemental food, most likely an alfalfa / hay mix.
Since we have moved into El Hacienda Norte farmstead, we had not actually managed the hay field. We have a lot going on, and I do not have the equipment to cut it down. In our local area, they seem to cut hay twice and sometimes three times per year. They call this “cuttings.” Orchardgrass hay seems very tolerate of multiple cuttings. We basically had no idea what to do with the hay and thus did nothing.
We apparently missed the time when people regularly perform the “first cutting” and just let the hay continue to grow, and we did not do a good enough job keeping the hay watered thus it had dried out. Around August is the time of the “second cutting.” I spoke with a friendly farmer neighbor and eventually we struck a deal that he would cut and bale the hay field that was very dry and sell the hay. He claimed that since it was dried out, he was selling it for $2 a bale. Hay is often sold by the ton. Our land produced 17 bales of hay at nearly 3 /4th of a ton. The bales would normally be 70 pounds apiece, but ours came in weighing around 50 pounds because we didn’t keep it irrigated.
The neighbor used an older Case International Square Baler 8550. This was pulled behind his older Case International 5120 tractor. Case International changed its name to Case IH. It started as an independent American company but is now controlled by the Italian Fiat company. The 5120 is an older tractor as it still says Case International. It seemed to work very well, and the farmer knew exactly how to work his equipment. I also like to see the old timers work at night with a lot of lights on his tractor to escape the heat.
The Case International Square Baler produced…well square bales of hay. It had a string contraption that wrapped the bales. It was a remarkable piece of technology when you read about pre-industrial farming, and they claim that it would take you, plus nine kids and friendly neighbors working together to hay a large field. Now one old man can do that work.
We are going to have to figure out what we need to do with the hay field. Growing hay year-after-year and selling it is not what we want to do. Selling hay to people is you selling the nutrients in your soil to other people to feed it to their animals. The issue is that you get money, but nothing back for your soil. Normally grass (or hay) feeds the herbivore, and the herbivore gives back “natural fertilizer” in the form of waste. This is a good symbiotic relationship. When you sell the hay, there is nothing “feeding” the soil. Thus the guys around here add stuff to their fields. People call these “inputs.” They fertilize the field with artificial fertilizers, and one guy is like “test your pH level to see if you need to add pulverized limestone to your field. PH levels measure how “acidic” your soil is. Of course my neighbors seem to control weeds with artificial chemicals. All of these “inputs” cost money, year after year. Thus the money you get for your hay may not really go that far. I am not a big fan of this system.
Let me know below in the comments if you have any suggestions on what we do with our back 2-acre hay field.