"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

No More Hay

We are out of hay. We still have a need for hay - it will be another month before it dries out enough that I can put the animals out on the pasture. At least. This year I tried to keep the heavy hooves off the pasture all winter long - the horses went into the sacrifice area in late October or early November and they haven't been out since (except for a few sunny winter days that I brought them out onto the front lawn). Since we were in Mexico last year and the horses were boarded out, the pasture got a nice little rest. There were only three goats on 2.5 acres - well within the carrying capacity of the land. I wanted to extend that rest and generally start treating my pasture better.

My husband kind of messed up my pasture plans by insisting on a cow against my better judgement (Imaginary Cows). A calf is not as heavy as a horse, but a good deal heavier than a goat, and plenty heavy enough to damage wet pasture. Even so, keeping the two horses off the pasture all winter ought to go a long way towards resting the land.

But it also means we use more hay. Even in the dead of winter, around here there is always green grass to be found, except for a few weeks when the ground is actually frozen hard. Animals out on the pasture will graze. In the sacrifice area, we have to feed 100% hay all winter long, and it adds up.

The best time to buy hay, of course, is during haying time. If you are willing and able to jump in your truck and go pick up bales right behind the baler, you can often get first cut local hay for as low as $3 a bale. Better quality for $4. But this year we had no truck during haying season. An elderly farmer friend of ours saved some twenty five bales for me at cutting time prices until I could find a vehicle, but he is no longer able to help toss hay, being something over 77 years old. My husband was gone (for some reason, I can't remember why now) and I had to do it myself. Now, a healthy 40 year old woman ought to be able to toss 25 bales of hay and then stack them in her own barn without too much trouble. Each bale weighed between forty and fifty pounds. It's hard work, but it ought to be doable.

I, however, am a gimp. At that time, I had very recently blown my anterior cruciate ligament (collateral ligament?) and was barely able to walk. Rowan was pressed into service and between the two of us we managed to collect, transport, and stack the hay but it was one big bitch to do it. I took a lot of ibuprofen that night. That twenty-five bales had to feed two horses and four goats - three of them pregnant. It lasted until early January, if I remember right. About three months.

When we were nearly out of hay, I searched Craigslist and found a source of local, well-priced hay. Sadly, a small local dairy is going out of business and selling off the barn full of hay - having already sold off the calves. Homero and I went out and brought back another twenty bales. We figured that if twenty-five bales had lasted us three months, another twenty ought to last the rest of the way until spring.

But no. As it turned out this year, we had terrible, bone-chilling cold snaps and heavy snow and ice that lasted for weeks. I just read that this february is either the coldest on record in Bellingham or the fourth coldest, depending on how you measure (average daily lows or average daily highs). Also, the hay we bought - while green and good smelling - was for some reason very light. Each bale only weighed in the neighborhood of thirty pounds. I guess it was quite a bit dryer than the hay we bought earlier in the season. The animals went through it at an amazing speed - and today, we are out.

Forty-five bales in nearly five months isn't really so bad. It's only a little over two bales a week. And a total of $250. That does not, of course, amount to what it costs to feed the animals over the winter. Oh no! We also have to buy grain for the pregnant goats, chicken food for the chickens, and alfalfa pellets for the poor half-paralyzed calf that can't eat regular hay very well (for an explanation, see Rosie Pony Update (And Notes on the Cow)). If I figure the same rate of feed - two bales a week - we only need another dozen bales to get us through to the time I can put the animals on pasture.

However, I am once again without a vehicle. Sigh. We have one working vehicle and Homero took it to work. Tomorrow I can get some hay. Today I'm tiding them over with greens from the Gleaner's Pantry and stale bread. For one day, it won't kill anybody.