Learning Things the Hard Way


First of all, Happy Summer Solstice!!! It’s my favorite day of the year. The sun stays with us longer than any other day, and it’s been an absolutely BEAUTIFUL one out here today. I hope you’ve been able to enjoy yours. If not yet, then get out there and enjoy the beautiful evening!

As for us here at LeadQuine and Wicked Walnut Farms, we will be doing hay tonight.

Last summer, we had our 7-acre field seeded with a pasture mix. Our intention at the time was to let it grow, fence it in, and create a nice, large pasture area for our herd to graze. I had bucolic scenes in my head of the horses lazily nibbling, butterflies floating around, and pretty wild flowers everywhere. Much like what you see in the picture above.

When you seed a new field, it’s not a good idea to put animals on it for at least a few months because they will destroy the root system before it really has a chance to grow. So since we planted this field in June last year, we figured we’d wait until this spring just to be safe.

The previous owners of this property were organic farmers, and used lots of thistles to try and control the pests from eating their crops. So this field was riddled with thistles. The farmer who planted it for us warned us about letting those thistles go to seed, or we’d have them running wild all over the farm. So we started mowing.

We mowed that whole damned 7-acre pasture religiously through summer and fall last year. At a couple different points, people would tell us we should let it grow out and see if we could bale some grass hay off of it. By the end of the fall, we were so mow-weary that we had halfway talked ourselves into it.

This spring, it started to grow and we decided we wouldn’t mow it. We went back and forth for a couple of weeks about whether to fence it off for pasture, or try and have a farmer cut and bale it as grass hay for us. The more time passed, the more it made sense to see if we could have it baled. We found a young local farmer willing to do it for a price we all thought was generously fair, and we waited.

Typical yield from an established field is about 100 bales per acre. That’s what Google says, as do locals around us who have been doing this a while. We could see our field was a little on the thin side, but we had every expectation of getting 500-600 bales from our 7-acre plot. We even had plans of selling the excess hay and making the farm a little money.

When it was all said and done, we got 150 large square bales from this field.

To make matters worse, the hay was not completely dry when it was baled. We knew it that first night as we struggled with 60-70 pound bales we could barely hoist into the trailer as we pulled it out of the field. By this past Monday, one week after stacking it in our barn, we could see the mold starting to grow.

For all my fellow city slickers out there, this means we can not feed it to our horses. Moldy hay is okay for sheep and cows, but not for horses or goats. The money we spent having this field baled and the work we put into getting it stacked in the barn was all for naught. We can’t use it.

So we’ll be spending our Summer Solstice getting hay from one of the farmers we bought it from last year, and stacking it in our barn. We’ll be posting our moldy hay for sale for cows or sheep, and hoping we can recuperate at least some of the money we spent. And starting Friday, we’re going to go ahead and build that damned fence.

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