Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Stacks of hay

One of the "milestones" that defines our year is getting in sufficient hay to last our livestock through the winter.

We started feeding the livestock in early September. Because we didn't have any hay left over in the barn from last winter, we bought a few small bales from a neighbor to tide us over until we could get our winter hay in.

Even while these small bales were still stacked on the truck, the hens found nesting spots among them.

In fact, when we finally offloaded the remainder of the bales from the truck, we had a disgruntled hen wondering what happened to her best laying spot.

We keep hearing rumors that we're in for a hard winter. Whether these rumors will prove true or not won't be known until next spring, of course. But meanwhile, we will follow the rule we set up for ourselves when we first moved to Idaho in 2003: to prepare as if we would be snowed in for three months at a time. While this might seem extreme, in fact this mindset served us admirably during two exceptionally harsh winters (2005/2006, and 2006/2007).

So -- time for hay. We found a screamin' good deal on bluegrass. At $60/ton, we could afford 30 tons, more than enough for our needs. A neighbor who owed us some favors agreed to transport the hay for us, six tons at a time.

We cleaned out the barn in anticipation of delivery.

This same neighbor also agreed to stack the hay in the barn. (His massive tractor can handle the weight of the bales; our tractor is juuuuust a bit too lightweight.)

First few bales.

But in the middle of things, our neighbor noticed he was missing some critical lug nuts from one of the wheels on his tractor...

...so things ground to a halt until new ones could be obtained.

But at last the barn was full.

All except one corner, which we kept clear.

This corner is reserved for a winter project, namely the building of a heavily-insulated "cool room" in which we can fit our 1500-gallon water tank.

I commented to our truck-driving neighbor the feeling of security a barn-full of hay gave me, and he instantly agreed (he has horses). "Hay and firewood," he said. "If I've got those in place, I feel set for winter."

Needless to say, the beasties agree. About the hay, that is.


  1. Wow! Great to see hay for the winter! I just love preparing! Wise of ya'll to prepare like ya be snowed in for 3 months. Love following your blog! Encouraged, Emmy

  2. Having a full barn, a winter's supply of wood and a well-stocked cellar is a good feeling!

  3. I can remember my father giving a huge sigh of relief when the hay had been put away for the winter. I often wondered how he managed to be successful without the 24 hr weather and the crimping that the farmers now have that causes the hay to dry much faster. Here in Texas they bale after just 2 days. Back in he day in Illinois it took about 1 week of good weather to get the hay in. I now know why he was so happy when that chore was done.

  4. I had a thought on your water tank room. We had a tank house back on the Illinois farm that had probably a 3000 gal wood tank inside. The walls were sealed inside and out with a toung and groove siding that were insulated with corn husks. It was always about 40 or 50 degrees inside even on winter days when it was -20 degrees outside. The big secret was a high south facing window that allowed the winter sun to shine on the dark wood of the tank which was a huge heat sink battery. I can not remember how your barn is situated but a 4 or 6 ft window to allow sunlight in during the winter would be a big plus.

  5. Great neighbors are your biggest asset!

  6. If you plan to use your manure as fertilizer, are you sure the hay comes from a source that did not use herbicides? We lost a 20 by 40 garden bed to tainted hay/straw used as mulch . The herbicide is said to not hurt grazing animals but it does go right through and taint the 'output'. It takes years to degrade to where it does not harm broadleaf plants.