Tools of the Haymaker's Trade

Summer 2000:

Heading to the hayfields becomes a daily chore in summer.




   Not a line of power poles: a line of hay poles.



First the hay is cut along the ground with a handmade sickle.



A 'shick-shick' sound fills the hillsides as they stop every few strokes to reapply an edge to their blade.






After the hay lies on the ground for a few days, it must be raked to expose the underside for drying.

Being dry is the key to preserving hay -- a wet stack will rot from the inside, or ferment, causing enough heat to catch the stack on fire. But a properly dried stack can last many years outside.









Once the hay has dried, the farmer prepares the space for his stack by putting down branches. They will give the bottom of the stack just enough air circulation to keep from rotting next to the ground.





   Then they begin piling the grass or clover on.



The man passes hay up and the woman tromps it down.



They keep piling...






...and piling...



... and piling.


  The afternoon wears through. 

But before she can come down, they need to 'comb' the stack with their rakes. This is vital to insure rain runs down the stack and doesn't soak in.



He continues combing right to the ground, and scoops up every scrap of excess to put on the next stack or take home to their milking cow.


Vasile fashions a wreath to lay on the tip of the haystack to keep the top from getting blown apart.







The last step is the most dangerous. They must extricate the wife from her high perch. If all goes well, she slides into his arms.    







Hay is the lifeblood for these farmers. Their cows and horses have an appetite that must be satisfied three times a day.




Once the haystack is brought out of the 'wild,' it's re-stacked inside their hay houses behind their barns. From here, they can feed their animals during patches of wet or frozen weather when they can't get out to their fields.


Go to Taking Down a Haystack




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