The astute reader has probably realised that the DailyOxford isn’t daily right now. That’s because we’ve been super-busy with the whole haymaking business. Every year, on the Labour Day long weekend (which this year fell on the weekend of October 20 & 21), we shut up the three large paddocks at the rear of the property so the grass can grow.

Usually, we cut hay in these three paddocks but we thought this year we’d see if we could sell the hay in a paddock or two. This was our first year using a hay contractor. Normally, a local farmer we know comes in and does the hay. But the farmer seems to have disappeared – literally – we haven’t seen him for over six months and he hasn’t even visited his cow that grazes with us. Guess that cow is ours now!

So we thought okay we’ll use a hay contractor this time. We asked two contractors to visit us, see the paddocks and then quote. We know we have very good pasture since we have grazed horses, cows, sheep and goats and regularly harrow. The contractor we eventually went with asked to purchase the hay from two paddocks. He wanted medium-sized bales.

This year, we felt we didn’t need quite as much hay so we nominated 500 bales, which would come off one of the three large paddocks and a front paddock that we’ve never used for hay before. We ended up with 420 bales but that’s more than enough for our needs, so we’re happy.

It’s a stressful time because of the weather. Once the hay is cut (or dropped as they say), it needs to dry out in the sun for around four days to eliminate moisture. If you bale too soon, you could end up with a nasty hay barn fire. So you pray to the Hay Gods for sunny, balmy weather – oh and no horrid Nor’west winds that will blow your hay into neighbouring properties. The last haymaking session was January this year, which was later than usual due to the inclement weather.

The hay contractor rang the day before I actually thought he’d cut the day. The weather report was predicting four days of sun but, the day he cut the hay, rain was possible in the evening. He didn’t feel it would happen due to all sorts of mysterious New Zealand rural farming reasons that I’m yet to understand. And, in fact, he was right. We had four days of beautiful HOT days with minimal winds.

He then arrived on a Sunday to bale up (they work hard these contractors) and the hard work really began. El Hubs and I, along with our friend Stephanie, started to gather all the bales in a trailer and cart back to stack in the hay barn. Back-breaking work at the best of times but with 32ºC (89.6ºF) temperatures and the sun’s rays like laser beams, it was torture. El Hubs thought he had heat stroke and my hayfever worsened.

We enlisted the help of a burly young 16 year old local boy who came and helped pick up and stack the hay. It took us two days to finish and, whilst we working like bees, the hay contractor’s own balers arrived to bale medium-sized bales in the two back paddocks. I’ve never seen such huge machinery. Two massive machines were slowly making their way up both paddocks – one was fluffing up the hay and the other was producing the bales.

Our contractor advised us to put aside some greenish-looking bales as he felt they needed to dry out more. He also advised us on how to stack hay really well. We thought we were pretty good at it but he showed us a better way.

Thank goodness this haymaking business is over and done with for another year – and before Christmas too. The last haymaking season wasn’t great for some people around here. We were lucky as we had four days of sun but many people’s hay was rained on whilst it was drying out in the paddock. If it’s then baled before being turned and sufficiently dried out, the excess moisture can cause bales in a hay barn to spontaneously combust due to internal generation of heat inside the bales. I also know a few people whose hay suffered damage from hail we had.

So we’re very thankful that our new hay contractor seems to be super-efficient and knowledgeable! Another year……