Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hay Day


I have a ritual on Sunday mornings. It’s the day we get hay. I am so grateful to be able to do it, and I enjoy the experience no matter what the weather. Since we moved here, there has been too much hay drama. Coming from California, where the Bermuda grass is always cheap, beautiful and available, I was stunned to discover that buying hay for my horses in New England was a big problem.

We arrived here several years ago in June. I began making inquiries among my neighbors about where they bought hay. What I learned is that most people fill their barns once a year in September or October, and that’s it. So, the farmers who sell hay run out quickly, and what’s available is very expensive. My neighbor, who owns a big hunter/jumper barn down the road, roared into my driveway in her truck one morning shortly after we moved here. “Get in!” she called to me as I was doing my barn chores in my pajamas, “The hay man’s here!” We tore down the road to her place, where a big truck was unloading about three hundred bales of hay on a conveyor going up into her loft. It looked like straw, but the farmer assured me that it was first cut. That’s all there is right now, I was told.

I brought home six bales, and my horses looked at me like I was crazy. It was the beginning of my long search for good second cutting hay. I’d find it and then, the guy who sold it to me would disappear or not be able to get any more. For almost two years, before the current hay crisis even began, I struggled to find anything decent. My girls are fussy, and if they don’t like it, they just trample it and poop on it. Since I’m only feeding two horses, which is about a bale a day, I am willing to buy the best. It can’t have alfalfa in it or they get higher than kites. They like the soft, green stuff with strands as wide as ribbons. If it’s up to their high standards, it smells delicious and looks like I could make a salad out of it.

At long last, I have developed an on-going relationship with an honest hay dealer. On Sunday mornings, he sells the best forage he can find out of his huge barn on his farm about forty minutes away from here. It’s a beautiful drive in the country. I join the line of pick-up trucks and assorted vehicles waiting to load up. Many of the people have been coming to his barn for over thirty years. There’s a genuinely friendly atmosphere. Sometimes, he’s got vegetables or fruit to sell. He’s restored his farm to its original footprint, and as his neighbors grow older, he grows hay on their land to give them income and a much needed tax break. He’s a good man. I’m always glad to spend part of my Sunday going out there, even if it’s snowing lightly like it was this morning. Driving home, I give thanks for having healthy food for my horses at a reasonable price. It’s probably a bit like what most people feel when they go to church, only as usual, my rituals seem to occur in a barn.

I know it’s really hard for a lot of people who need hay right now because of the drought. I expect it will get harder here too soon. I’ve got some Aborigine friends in Australia who know a tried and true rain dance. Maybe they will teach it to me. At the very least, I’ll be praying for rain this Spring. I hope you do too.

19 comments:

Dawn said...

Hi, I found your blog accidentally and I love it! Your horses are beautiful and I can't wait until the day that my husband and I can live a little like you are now!

Susan Sonnen said...

I am delighted to have run across your blog! I'll be keeping up with you. I'm a city girl who wouldn't know what to do with herself on a farm, but reading things such as this blog fills a little piece of me that longs for that peace and earthiness.

I will pray for rain.

Andrea said...

ahhh it has been a while since I have ridden. too long really.
one day I will be back and where you are now.
sigh
I even kept my saddles cause I dont want that dream to die.

Debra Kay said...

Always praying for rain. I've always wanted a horse, and since moving back to Oklahoma I've even bought a saddle, but the hay/grain prices have me worried.

Trée said...

I'll do a rain dance. How could I not after such a heartfelt post. :-)

Transylvanian horseman said...

I feel far more comfortable with a full hay barn. If I had just a couple of horses, and a good cash flow, I'd want two years hay stored. Enough to weather a bad year. I reckon that, as the craze for biofuels increases, hay will become harder to find. Maybe it's time to make a deal with some hay-making Amish, if there are any near you?

billie said...

We stored more hay this year than we ever have, b/c our local organic hay grower only got one cutting this year.

I've seen a lot of local horse people band together during this tough time, and it's been heartening to experience.

We're getting more rain already, but yes, let's all do rain dancing for hay fields everywhere!

I never knew until we had horses how excited I would get over beautiful hay.

Mana said...

I also found your blog accidentally! Your horses are beautiful, and you couldn't have found a better name for that girl with a white seven on the forehead! I'm from Spain, and we're all praying here for rain too.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I agree with Transylvanian Horseman, I would feel better with as much hay as I could store. Making sure I have enough hay to feed my five horses over the winter is a secure feeling. If I had to buy hay week by week I would tend to get nervous about finding the quality I wanted at the right prices. My goal is to someday have enough storage space to house as much hay as I can get my hands on each season. He is also right,due to the craze for biofuels there will be less and less farmers growing hay. And you never know what kind of weather will affect the crops each year. However,the man you buy your hay from each week sounds like a great guy, especially the part about him helping out his neighbors.

Callie said...

I usually have my Farmer deliver, but often there I times,especially in the summer that we go to his farm and self-serve. I love it! And, by the way, I've just tagged you for a "meme". Stop by my blog for the rules and have fun!

Princess B said...

It's my lifelong dream to one day adopt two horses, so I would love to be in your shoes!
I wonder which NE state you reside...I would love to visit some day (and even bring you some quality hay!). I know someday I'll have to move farther away from Boston to be able to afford a decent amount of land to house horses, but it is my dream, and one I earnestly hope to accomplish.

Yours are beautiful! I will pray for rain once this snow business is over--LOL!

Island Rambles Blog said...

I love your blog..very beautiful pictures...we have too much rain here...you can have some!! but I know it is so important to find a good hay provider. We grow several varieties here on the island. keep blogging. cheers.

Victoria Cummings said...

I agree that I would buy 400-500 bales of hay in the Fall, if I had a place to store that much. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, I can't. So, I can keep about 25 bales here and I store another 100-200 at my neighbor's barn. It's not ideal, but it's the best I can do for now :-(

Jackie said...

In these days with the hay crisis and slaughter issues, and news of neglect, it's nice to hear from someone who has been able to make it work. We need reminded sometimes that though there may be crisis in some places, there isn't crisis everywhere. And it gives us hope.

I just found your blog for the first time and I really enjoy it!

Lizzie's Insomnia said...

Hi,
Lovely pictures, here in Australia hay this past winter was sooo expensive. I will explore your blog in more depth when have a little more time. Kind Regards, Elizabeth

the7msn said...

bqtqeHay stress...it's right up there with finding-a-good-farrier stress! After much research and arranging and rearranging this year, I was able to find a grower who 1) had excellent quality Tiffany Teff Grass - a relatively new strain of grass hay comparable in nutritional value to Timothy 2) would deliver a load of 300 60-pound bales to me...and I live 231 miles from his farm and 11.4 miles down a long dirt road 3) who sold it to me at $6 per bale including delivery. I fear I've used up all my good hay karma for the rest of my life! My horses and burros love the stuff. I'll be wishing that all you horsekeepers out there can find similar deals.

Cloverlone said...

Reading about hay... yes down here in Virginia we have the same problem now. Last two years I filled my barn in the fall but this last year I just couldn't even find that much hay! It's end of Jan now and each day I have a days worth of hay in the barn, I'm thankful. That used to be the end of the world for me. It's a funny thing just having faith that it will somehow be ok. I have 11 horses to feed. I found 600lb bales of timothy about 20 minutes from here. Unloading them I get an allergy attack and this time turned into a cold but still thankful!! The horses love it and so every 2 days I'm off to fetch that wonderful bale of hay. As farmers we share a different view of the world. :)

Cheers to great hay!

><>kailee<> said...

i randmly came across your blog and read your post. i enjoyed reading your post on your horses. I have 6 horses and it is so hard to find hay around here and we are constantly on thelookout for more. We're all hoping for a better next year and i'll be praying right along with you for a good crop! God bless ya!

kiwi........... said...

My heart goes out to you and your horses,I truley wish you the very best.I have been around the world via my computer and it appears every one is having problems one way or the other especially involving animals which is my priority at present.I remember many years ago a woman donated millions$$ for a cat shelter that shelter only lasted a few years and that I thought would be the end of donating to the care of our loving animals,but not true;a relative donated her property worth a bundle also for a shelter for cats,it never took place; when she died she had no family,so the land is now owned and run by the state.Thanks for your beautiful web site,your horses are beautiful.God bless and good luck.