Friday, May 29, 2009

Old-fashioned haying

The neighbors probably think we've lost our minds. Of course, they probably think that a lot more than I realize. A lawn mower has not touched our lawn this spring. The grass on our front yard is knee-high now, so Mike has started using his scythe to cut it. The girls and I then pick it up and use it for the goat's night-time feed while they're in the barn. When we have extra, we roll it up and tie it in a bundle (using old baling twine) to save for winter feed. This works quite well with long blades of grass. Probably wouldn't work so well if you were trying to do alfalfa.

I was using a child's plastic sled to take the hay to the barn initially, but I quickly realized that its small size meant a lot of trips between the yard and the barn. Last week, I bought a "garden cart." When I saw it, with its wire bottom and side, I immediately saw the potential for a little hay wagon. I brought it home, and after Mike assembled it, he bent some welded wire into a rectangle and put it inside the cart so that we could put about 3-4 times as much hay into it before having to make a trip to the barn.

Behind the cart in this picture, you can see the grass on the left has been cut and is ready to be picked up.

In case you didn't notice my Twitter update a couple days ago, I also must issue this warning -- a scythe is VERY sharp, and it is quite possible to cut yourself. Mike sliced off the tip of his middle finger a few days ago when sharpening the blade on his scythe. "And you thought non-motorized toys would be safer," he said with a smile.

For more on why we're trying to get hay from every corner of our property, check out this post from last year.


Lisa French said...

So how do you know if what you are feeding them is nutritious enough? I've been reading books on grass-fed livestock trying to figure it all out, and it seems I'd need a horticulture degree to make sense of it!!!! Do you grow special grass or just yard grass? How do you know when it's time to cut, like 1st cutting, 2nd, etc?

I love the self-sufficiency of it!


melanie said...

What an awesome job! Tell me - that cart is excellent - where did you find that?

Deborah said...

Lisa, You can drive yourself crazy when you start getting into the technicalities of goat nutrition! Bottom line -- are they thriving? If yes, you're good. I should write about the copper deficiency problem we had a couple years ago. Even when you're feeding "complete feed," it might not be complete for your property. We had goats aborting and giving birth to dead kids, and vets refused to even consider a nutritional deficiency.

Cutting -- let it get as high as possible, but cut it before it goes to seed. Once it goes to seed, a lot of the nutrition has gone into the seeds. It's also not good for the grass to let it go to seed.

Melanie, the cart came from Home Depot. "Some assmembly required" was about a one-hour job, and my husband said half of that time was spent looking for the tools. :)

Lisa French said...

That makes sense - about the thriving. The hardest, yet best, part of the small homesteading life style for me - the waiting for the results of what you are doing. While everything else in the world is so 'instant results' oriented, growing animals and crops is usually not. Sometimes I overkill with information before starting a project and thus delay it because I'm too intimidated at that point. I guess if all else fails and they weren't thriving in the middle of winter, I just buy some hay. I've got to quit making this so hard, lol.

Thanks for your patience with questions!


Lisa @ Life with 4! said...

We always dump our cut grass clippings into our goat pasture and she loves it. We only have 1 goat and she seems to be thriving just fine on regular grass and a little bit of basic alfalfa grains.

Tammy said...

I used to do quite of bit of that before my old horse died. I would store it in my barn in a big stack and feed it during the winter. She enjoyed it. I actually enjoyed doing it, even though it's pretty hard work. It just felt 'right'. I used my grandpa's old sycthe. I would love to have some sort of small system to cut/bale hay off my little acreage (like something that worked off a lawn tractor). I think I could put up quite a bit of hay for the sheep before turning them onto new pastures. I'm facing the mowing grass issue here--the wastefulness of it. I've been pasturing the 'ornamental-lawn' areas more heavily, but it's hard to get past the mowed/trimmed just so mentality.
Enjoyed this post.

Deborah said...

I hear you, Tammy! I have to keep telling myself that it's okay NOT to have a manicured lawn. I've been having little arguments in my head daily ... The lawn looks so pretty when it's cut with a mower ... Says who? ... Define "pretty!" ... What's more important? Society's random definition of pretty or the environment? ... and on and on ... I never said this was easy.

Steph said...

Oh, I totally get it!


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