Bursting with the natural high of being able to take a job off the list, we made hay, yes, while the sun shone, and most importantly, while the rain held off! The contractors were available, and the weather sunny, so a tractor arrived with a rotary mower, and within no time the two fields were cut. 

Due to the rain being so recent, and still forecast, we decided to make haylage rather than hay, which means the grass is cut and then baled only a few days later. The wrap is made of plastic, which of course is a big problem, but it does have many benefits. As the hay is being wrapped with moisture still in the grass (around 40-60% compared to 20% for hay), the film keeps the air/oxygen out, creating an anaerobic environment which stops the hay from going mouldy and rotting. The naturally occurring bacteria that like to grow in anaerobic conditions start to grow. This is the start of fermentation, which will preserve the forage in a way similar to sauerkraut.  

Haylage has none of the dust that hay does, has a higher nutritional value, and the animals definitely prefer it – perhaps comparable for us eating toast with butter rather than dry toast! For us, the only downside is the cows will need more straw through the winter – haylage makes for runnier cow pats. You do indeed learn something new every day! 

While baling happened, seagulls, a buzzard, a red kite and a kestrel all flew low above the field, looking for food. 

It was a good harvest – 140 bales! This is the upside. The ‘downside’, if we can call it that, was that Sunday was spent taking them to the barn, ready for feeding in the winter. 

It has continued to rain, pretty much for the last fortnight, and we aren’t complaining. When the sun comes out, it is warm enough to continue to allow and encourage the pasture to grow, and the fields drink it up. Two fields in particular; Field 7 which has been grazed and then recently topped, and another, Field 8, that has been harvested for haylage, looked very brown with all the dry grass stems. With a week of heavy showers and a full day’s rain, they start to transform into fields of green again. Long may the rain showers last. 

The day before the local Horse Show was due to be held on the farm it rained non-stop all day.  If the ground got too soft after the rain, the horses’ hooves and the horse boxes would make a mess of the fields. Saturday morning started bright and sunny, and the ground has been so parched, that a day’s rain is not enough to turn the fields muddy! The weather forecast is for showers, and despite an enormously heavy and thundery rainstorm at lunchtime, the day was well attended by folk who just love to ride. It was really a perfect example of how when all moving parts work together, success is to be found; The moving parts being a little lateral thinking about where to park up the horse boxes, a very strong ‘drying’ wind, and less rain on the day of the show. We went from a potential wash-out, to a very successful show! It was lovely to be able to host them, and for everyone to seem to enjoy themselves so much.  

In our ongoing excitement with unexpected visitors to the house, this time it was not a sparrow hawk, but a fledgling blue tit. It needed a few minutes to recover before it was able to fly away into the hedge and safety. The swallows continue to keep us company around the house, and swifts and martins have been spotted swooping and diving low over the fields, feasting on the insects. It does feel as it there are more insects in the air this year than of late. Let’s hope so. 

Haymaking by John Clare 

‘Tis haytime and the red-complexioned sun 
Was scarcely up ere blackbirds had begun
Along the meadow hedges here and there 
To sing loud songs to the sweet-smelling air 
Where breath of flowers and grass and happy cow 
Fling o’er one’s senses streams of fragrance now 
while in some pleasant nook the swain and maid 
Lean o’er their rakes and loiter in the shade 
Or bend a minute o’er the bridge and throw 
Crumbs in their leisure to the fish below 
—Hark at that happy shout—and song between 
‘Tis pleasure’s birthday in her meadow scene. 
What joy seems half so rich from pleasure won 
As the loud laugh of maidens in the sun?

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