Not Making Hay

This summer, for the first time in many summers, I did not cut, rake, bale or stack any hay. We made no hay this year.

Instead, we sold our hay equipment and will buy our hay from now on.

That may seem like a step back from self-reliance and sustainability, and in a sense it is.  But I became convinced that we should focus on reducing our need for hay and buy what little hay we need.  So we reduced our herd size and set aside a paddock in which to stockpile forage for the harshest winter months. And my rough guess is that what we got for the hay equipment is enough to buy us the hay we need for 15-20 years. And I no longer have to worry about maintenance, expensive repairs or burning down our barn.

It feels weird to look out at the fields that I would’ve hayed, and see them waist deep in grass and vegetation instead.

Cherie often tells me we should work smarter, not harder.  Maybe this is a good step in that direction.

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35 comments on “Not Making Hay

  1. I am sure your decision is also a lot less stressful with having to work around the weather with making hay.
    Have a super day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

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    • Bill says:

      I actually enjoyed the work of making hay. And for us it was always a family affair, which was fun. But I always stressed about the weather, and worried that it might have been too wet when I put it in the barn. I will definitely not miss that stress.

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  2. Aggie says:

    I assume you have a hay source that has not been treated with Grazon – what a blessing. It’s not available in our area.

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    • Bill says:

      I’d never heard of Grazon. Had to Google it. I don’t think anyone around here uses it. We’re fortunate to have a good climate for growing grass and I’m never out to get the highest quality hay (aka “horse hay”).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. DM says:

    Sounds like a wise decision. Along the same lines (sort of) is my desire @ times to own my own lift at work. They run from $20,000 to $45,000 for just a used one. Several of my peers locally have their own lift. I on the other hand, rent one when I need it for $750 a week. I use one only 3 or 4 times a year. Financially I can’t justify owning (not to mention repairs, plus I would need a trailer, bigger truck to tow, or hire someone to transport…, yet it’s still tempting. Boys and their toys 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      I hear ya brother. I fret every year about wanting my own stock trailer, which I would use one or two days a year. My neighbor has one and is happy to loan it to me (just as I am happy to help him out when I have a chance). Even though I really want one of my own, it makes no sense to go buy one. But yes, I’m very tempted.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. BeeHappee says:

    Bill, how much hay do you use up? You have no large cattle? In the 183 acres, do you feel like some pastures ‘go to waste’ so to speak if not hayed? On the good side, in VA you probably have quite short non-grazing season?
    With all the deer damage, at least you can get a break from haying this summer.. I am still thinking of that deer damage. Hugs to you guys.
    How does hay get approved as ‘organic’?
    Sorry for all silly questions. Just curious..

    Since my grandparents on both sides were 90% self-sustaining (they did buy some salt,sugar, sometimes bread and some clothes at the store), but their life was hard and they did not wish such life on their children or grandchildren. I often think of the right balance one may find between buying things and making things. When you need to buy twenty things to make just one, makes more sense to just buy the one…

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    • Bill says:

      We use about 200 “square bales” a year. We don’t have cattle–just goats and a horse. Nothing goes to waste here. We mow the fields and the nutrients go back into the soil to keep in healthy. If we took the hay away we would eventually have to replace those nutrients with fertilizer, and we’d rather not do that. Here we can supply pasture year round if we manage it properly, needing hay only on the days there is heavy snow on the ground (and those are rare).

      Liked by 2 people

  5. shoreacres says:

    Well, think of it this way. If there weren’t people to buy your produce, that would be the end of your business. If there weren’t people to buy hay, hay farmers would be a little short of change to buy whatever they need.

    You do remind us from time to time that interdependence is the key. At least, I think I recall that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      That’s exactly right. Farmers who depend on income from selling hay therefore depend upon people buying it. My personality makes me reluctant to buy anything we can produce for ourselves, but we use so little hay that the cost of the equipment couldn’t be justified (and I don’t have the time to try to put it up the real old-fashioned way).

      It’s interesting that we spend a lot of our time encouraging people to plant gardens and grow their own food. Some of our best customers have taken our advice and now don’t buy nearly as much food from us as they used to. We joke that we hope to work ourselves out of business. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Laura says:

    We’ve made some of the same decisions. I’ve realized that you can’t do everything and have to find a balance. You seem to be doing it well.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m pretty sure we’re not doing it as well as we’re able, but we’re trying. Taking hay off of our summer to-do list is a good thing. We need to edit some other things out too. Right now we’re trying to do so many things in the summer that it’s preventing us from doing them as well as we like.

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  7. bobraxton says:

    smart – my two brothers have about 100 acres, a small field of which was suitable for haying. For some years a relative (nephew) brought in equipment and took the hay. Don’t know if they even do that any more. It is not an active farm, just historic family legacy (maternal side).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I used to get some hay from a neighbors fields, who just appreciated me mowing it. Another neighbor let me cut his hay on shares (he and I would split the hay).

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  8. Bill, time is money as they say. Trade offs are a part of business. The extra work, storage, and machinery cost is some times not the best way to go. I think you’re doing the right thing in cutting back in one area to give more time to another. Being totally self suffient is not feisable but you already know that.

    Yesterday, I was informed that the power company will be replacing all the power lines that run in front of my Terra Nova Gardens property and will want a 34 foot easement for use of the machinery. That would be all of the most developed garden property. I’m not sure of all the details just yet. It’s not that they want to buy the land but they just want to use it for replacing the power poles. Urban farming challenges not only come from weather, plant disease, wildlife, and bugs but from utility companies as well, it seems. (Big sigh) Every gardener big or small has unigue challenges that either make them more determined or breaks their spirit. I’m not one to be broken so easily.

    Have the best market garden/non haying day that you can.

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    • avwalters says:

      Often those easements do not preclude the owner’s use of the land for gardening. In the event that they need access, they will drive over your garden, but that access is infrequent. Here’s a good argument for annuals, and vegetables, to minimize any access losses. So, read the fine print and then wait until they replace the lines, and then you can garden away to your heart’s content!

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    • Bill says:

      Sorry about that Dave. I hope they don’t interfere with the great work you’re doing.

      Depreciation is a very real expense but it’s easy to overlook it. Getting rid of that expensive equipment was the right decision of us.

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  9. Work smarter, not harder. I like that philosophy. Needs change and it’s good to re-evaluate from time to time. Enjoy your hay-free day. 🙂

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  10. daphnegould says:

    I wonder is there anyone that would hay your field for you for a portion of the harvest? I think that would be the best of both worlds.

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    • smcasson says:

      Probably so. My neighbor does that for me, but I have no use for hay so he keeps all of it.
      It’s not often that a property owner wants good hay ground to go fallow, but perhaps Bill does.
      I wondered what you will do with the hay ground, Bill?

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      • Bill says:

        I will mow the fields in the fall, but not hay them, at least for a while. Taking away the hay depletes the soil of fertility requiring the eventual use of fertilizer.

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    • Bill says:

      Yes and that is an option. But it’s best not to take hay off of a field that isn’t being used for pasture. By continually removing the nutrients (hay) the soil will eventually become depleted, requiring the use of fertilizer. A lot of sustainable farmers are now preferring to preserve their soil fertility by importing nutrients (hay) off of someone else’s farm instead.

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  11. rhondajean says:

    Hi Bill. I’m with Cherie – smarter, not harder. We also have to be mindful of times and conditions changing and being flexible enough to respond effectively to that change. Looks like you’ve done that.

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  12. EllaDee says:

    How you know when you make the right decision, is when it feels right, even a sense of relief at moving on from an outdated situation. And that’s what appears to be the case here.

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    • Bill says:

      I’ll admit that I’m still a little apprehensive. What if there is a hay shortage? Why should I pay for something we can make here? Etc… But I’m fairly confident it was the right thing to do.

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  13. Steve says:

    You may have read Gaining Ground by Forrest Pritchard. Young guy trying to save his family farm reached the same conclusion re hay. It’s a decent read:

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16056246-gaining-ground

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    • Bill says:

      I did read that book, and in fact it was a motivating factor for me, along with a friend who is a sustainable cattle farmer who did the same thing. Honestly I’d forgotten that the book was a prompt for me. I think I put our hay equipment on Craigslist the week after finishing that book.

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    • Selka says:

      I was just looking to see if anyone had already mentioned that:)

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      • Bill says:

        We made the decision to sell the equipment right after I finished that book (we’d been considering it for a while). It took quite a while to get it sold. I cut hay another season in the meantime. I’d forgotten that the book was a prompt until Steve left this comment.

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  14. Joanna says:

    We went down the route of buying the equipment for hay-making but that was for two reasons. The first is we have what used to be a ski hill in Soviet times, so think nursery ski slopes and you get an idea of how steep it is, secondly around here they produce massive hay bales that then need a tractor to move them and because of the terrain where we keep our animals would mean breaking a bale up and then shifting it bit by bit. We make our own small round bales – it takes longer but means we have manageable sized bales in winter. We also store ours in a neighbour’s barn, so not got the extra expense of somewhere to put the hay at the moment.

    To take your theme though, we have decided to work smarter and haven’t stressed about cutting any more hay because we have enough. The only issue regarding mowing hay fields though, is that sometimes it is better to remove the vegetation because a flower rich meadow actually needs a reduced fertility to survive – good for bees 🙂 Less hay yield but a better environment for other species

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    • Bill says:

      One of the reasons I liked making our own hay is that we made the old square bales, while almost everyone here now is making round bales. Now I’ll probably have to adjust to using more round bales (and I’ll need to buy spears for my tractor–a very small expense compared to hay equipment).

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