Haying Season, Part Two: Haystacks
After the crops are seeded, but before harvest, farmers cut hay. In the years before 1950, most haying was done with horses and, according to historian Pat Myers, if farmers didn't haul their hay to storage in barns then they needed a fair bit of skill to make haystacks out in the fields.
Farmers built their stacks very carefully shaping them rather like loaves of bread so they would shed water. There were also many devices designed to help the farmers build haystacks. Contraptions called slides built of logs or boards could be placed against the stack then the hay could be pushed right up to the top.
Members of the haying crew could be building the stack while other members would be going back and forth from the field getting loads of hay.
Another system, called the "overshot" stacker, resembled a catapult. Here, hay was loaded onto the fork of the stacker and then pulleys and cables raised the fork to the top of the stack. A frame placed against the stack provided leverage.
In both these systems the devices could be moved along as the stack grew, making for a long, continuous stack.
For those early farmers who preferred to store their hay indoors, they needed ropes and pulleys and large forks to lift hay into the loft but, whatever a farmer's preference, hay season brought lots of hard work.
Every member of the farm family had a job to do in haying season. Everybody pitched in. People drove the mowers, the dumped rakes, the weeps, pitched hay into wagons or onto stack and built the stacks.
Haying was hot, it was dry, it was dusty, and there were lots of mosquitoes that made it miserable for the horses and the people. It was hot, arduous work. It could also be very frustrating - the mowers clogged, the dump rakes could refuse to dump (or dump too quickly!) and mechanical troubles always added to the time pressures.
If farmers had more hay than they required for their own animals, they could sell it on the hay market or hire contractors to specially press bales for hauling to town.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.