But every year some of the hay is also collected loose on a wagon, as it would have been 100 years ago.
Last Wednesday, Farmer Rob and the Howell Farm interns partook in the annual tradition of stacking hay on a wagon as it came off the hayloader—an escalator-like contraption, pulled by draft horses, that picks up the hay from the ground and lifts it onto the back of the wagon, to then be dispersed evenly by a worker waiting with a pitchfork.
Intern Alex reports that “It’s definitely tougher than baling hay.” The hay comes off the loader so fast that it’s often necessary to stop the horses to allow the man or woman with a pitchfork time to catch up.
The process of making hay starts a few days before collection. On the previous Saturday, the hay was cut, and then it was raked on both Tuesday and Wednesday, creating straight rows that make loading easier. Moving the hay around also helps it dry.
One wagon worth of loose hay was collected, enough to feed the oxen for a few months this winter. Farmer Rob reports that it is “pretty nice hay.”
The last part of the process will take place this Saturday, when the hay is lifted into the top of the ox barn using a giant claw on a pulley, with the hoisting rope pulled by either the oxen or some draft horses.