Earlier in the day on Sunday a friend called and asked if she and some visiting guests could come out and say, “Hi.” I said I would have to start raking at 2:30 PM but I could visit with them before I got started. Once at the ranch and standing in my kitchen, one of the visiting guests asked me, “So, why is it that you have to rake at 2:30 PM? Is there some special reason why you rake at 2:30 PM?”
I smiled and said, “We’re waiting for the heat of the day to dry the hay. It needs to be nice and dry before we rake and bale it.” I then went on to tell her that Jr., our friend and previous owner of the ranch, had told us the best way to tell whether or not the hay is perfectly dry. He said to gather up a handful of grass and twist it with your hands. If it breaks after three twists it’s ready to bale.
About 2:30 PM Pete and I went out and picked up a handful of hay and twisted three times. The hay broke away and I climbed into the Challenger tractor to begin my afternoon of raking the hay meadow. Hay season was underway at the Kurtz Ranch.
Our hay this year is tall and thick. The challenge this year, as it seems to be every year, is to negotiate the monsoon rains that arrive mid-summer. Yesterday, while picking up a special nut for the round bale spike, I asked the parts employee at Tri-State Equipment, a John Deere dealer in Craig, Colorado, how he thought hay season was going for local ranchers. “Well, it’s not going too well from what I hear. Sounds like there’s going to be a lot of cow hay,” which meant the majority of hay that’s been cut has been rained on. When hay is rained on it loses a portion of its nutritive value. This is particularly true of grass hay which is used primarily for horse feed.
We felt relieved and satisfied when Pete was able to bale up what hay was down before it rained earlier this week. The bales will likely represent some of the best hay we'll harvest this season and offer a visible sense of satisfaction in the richly colored green bales now stored in the hayshed.