Saturday, July 24, 2010

Haying is upon us.

Something I thought I knew what to expect, was how they would put up hay. But just like everything else in Montana, there is a new twist to a familiar concept. In our case the sheer amount of time it takes to put up hay. Though I will admit we were thoroughly warned I still did not anticipate what the reality of what hay season would entail.

I'll begin with what we are used to. First of all in MI there are typically two cuttings for grass hay and three for alfalfa. Though since we were horse people we usually liked to put up 1st cutting grass, some second cutting if we could afford it and at least about a hundred bales of 1st or 2nd cutting alfalfa (for my old gelding who needed the extra boost). To do all this required about a week in early June, followed by another week at the end of July. Kyle and his dad usually took care of it. Sometimes I had to drive a truck or return wagons. But really not that big of deal. The scorching heat, humidity, and threat of storms were always the enemy with at least one of the three wreaking havoc on the season. But, it was survivable.

So, to the present, in MT, it is a one-shot-all-or-nothin' deal. One cutting that begins in July. And because of the unique weather challenges presented this year a little off schedule. So, like I said one-shot. Only one cutting is available here, sometimes if they have a good spring I am told you can get two off the alfalfa fields. But that probably is not going to happen this year.

Kyle is out the door around 9:30-10am to begin mowing hay and rarely gets home until 10pm. They use mostly "sickle mowers or swathers around here.

A sickle mower is an attachment on the tractor that has two blades that move back and forth in a scissor like fashion, or like a pair of hair clippers if you will to cut the meadow grass down. A swather is a unique piece of equipment and is used mostly on the alfalfa, it looks kind alike a small combine without the storage bin, and has a mouth like a vacuum cleaner with a bunch of spinning blades inside to cut the hay (Sorry for the lack of technical terms, I am not an equipment girl.)

The hay is then raked into windrows and then the majority is round baled. and put in stacks. corralled by high fences to keep the deer and elk out.

For this ranch haying is a team effort with the neighbors the Mannix's. The Mannix family has been ranching around here for almost forever. They are a really neat family. Anyway, to make up the hay crew there are the mower's (Kyle being one of them) followed by the rakers and last but not least the bailling crew. The Mannix brothers lead this three ring circus. Though I will say they have it going pretty smoothly. When starting this Kyle wasn't sure he would like haying with the neighbors. It felt to him like he wouldn't be in enough control over what happened with our ranches hay. With so many acres to put up between both places how were they going to do it? You certainly couldn't expect to work on hay this many weeks in row and get it done without something happening to it. So, there was some apprehension. But, just like everything else we have learned out here is that it is almost always the polar opposite of MI. Turns out you can get a lot of hay put up this way over this many weeks. The hay on this ranch did get one ten minute shower, but not enough to cause significant damage. And though Kyle doesn't have control, he cannot deny the efficiency of working on hay this way. Less equipment needs to be owned by a single ranch and there is the added benefit of access to a whole lot of help. Working in this assembly line fashion may seem a little out there at first, but you cannot deny the finished product.

Kyle is also enjoying working with some new faces. It is good for him to see how other ranches do things. The lessons and confidence builders are enormously beneficial.

So, in short this has been another great learning experience.
Of course now Kyle wants to know how to run the rake and balers. I don't think he can ever get enough.

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