Posts Tagged With: hay

Better Make Hay

You’ve heard the expression, “better make hay while the sun still shines?”  It falls in the same category as “shake a leg” or “get a move on.”  And while I have no idea how shaking your leg helps get any work done, “better make hay” isn’t just a saying for us.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

Baling hay tends to get put on the back burner because there aren’t many cows on our row-crop farm.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

The tractor on the left pulls the mower, which does what any mower does.  Behind that is a tractor pulling the red and yellow rake.  The rake pulls the cut grass into rows, ready for the baler.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

The tractor drives over the rows of grass and the baler sucks them up, winding the grass around and around until the bale is big enough.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

Then you open the baler and the hay rolls out.  (Funny story, round bales roll.  You have to be careful opening a baler on a hill.  There’s a surprising amount of physics in farming.)

All this, of course, depends on any number of things– most importantly the weather.

Fresh cut grass has water in it which evaporates as the grass dries to hay.  Baling dry hay is very important because wet hay will continue to “cure” after it’s baled and the steam inside a wet bale can actually cause the whole thing to smolder and smolder until your hay bale goes up in flames.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

We rely a lot on the National Weather Service when we cut hay.  We need a minimum of two sunny days in a row, one for the grass to dry and another to do the baling.  But since no one can predict the future we often see rows of hay like the photos–wet.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

This hay was cut with a 0% chance of rain, only to experience several inches and a hail storm.  At this point all you can do is hope it stops raining and the hay can dry out again.

And when you’ve got a sunny day, well, better shake a leg.

Categories: Animals, Farming | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Taking Care of the Land, Another Approach

These pictures aren’t of our fields.  You’ve seen photos of Daddy and Anna repairing soil on terraces.  I’ve shared our rye grass project.  But this isn’t something we do on our farm; these pics are of a neighbor’s field.

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You likely know that terraces are mounds of dirt shaped like the hill designed to stop soil from washing down a field and into streams.  You can see in the photographs how this farmer is actually growing hay in strips where the terraces are– right in the middle of his corn field!

Another way farmers are taking care of the land.  {}

The hay is actually bromegrass, which means our friend had to buy the seed and plant it where he wanted it to grow.  Bromegrass grows well in drought–making this farmer look smart at the moment!  It also has a strong root system that makes it a good choice to hold the soil in place for erosion control.

Another way farmers are taking care of the land.  {}

By doing this, the farmer gets hay for his cattle to eat in the winter and protects the land at the same time!

Categories: Science, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Straw or Hay?

Last week I showed you boys picking up straw bales in the wheat field, but do you know what straw is?  Or how it is different from hay?  Before we begin, take a moment to create a hypothesis.  That crazy word actually means “educated guess.”  It is not a wild a crazy guess.  For example, it would be a bit silly for you to guess that straw bales are moon dust and hay is fairy dust.  Definitely not right.  But you do know a few things you could use to base your guess on.  You know it probably has to do with farming.  Yes, that is broad, but it would certainly eliminate moon and fairy dust.  You know straw has to do with a wheat field too.  That narrows it down a lot.  And you might know a few things I haven’t told you, like who eats hay or how your neighbor uses straw.  Now, using that information try to create an educated guess about what hay and straw are.

Write it down in your science journal.  Even if the answer is different from your guess you can still learn things from your guess.




Straw is the stalk of the wheat.  The combine can cut the wheat close to the ground, sucking in lots of stalk, separating it from the grain, and spitting in out in rows behind the combine.   Then the stalks can be gathered up and pressed tight into bales by a machine like the one in the picture above.  This machine wraps a plastic rope around the bales, holding them together.


Hay, on the other hand, is cut grass.  And often not just any old grass, but certain types of grass, like alfalfa.  Farmers cut the grass when it is a few feet tall with a special mower.  The grass dries, becoming hay.  A tool called a rake is pulled behind the tractor and the grass is moved into neat rows.  Now the baler can scoop up the hay, just like it does straw, pressing it tight and wrapping it with twine.

Straw and Hay are also used for different purposes.  Since animals eat grass all summer, farmers feed them hay in the winter.  Using special grass like alfalfa helps keep cows, horses, sheep and goats healthy when the grass isn’t growing.  Straw is often used on construction sites to keep the dirt from washing away and to keep the lawn wet as new grass grows.  Have you seen it on the sides of a new highway project or in a newly constructed neighborhood?  Straw is also often used a bedding for animals to sleep on and you might lay straw in the rows of your garden to keep weeds from growing.

Compare this answer with the guess you wrote down in your journal.  How do they compare?  Did you learn anything new?

Categories: Science | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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