Last summer I didn’t get around to hacking down the Johnson Grass growing along the barn, in the pasture, and in the yard behind the barn. So every once in a while, when the tops towered over the pony, I got out the scythe and laid some down. Then a day or two later, I turned it, then came back with the wheel barrow, fork, and a ball of garden (sisal) twine. Gather a bundle on top of the wheel barrow, stretch a span of twine around and snug it tight, and call it a “bale” (though it looks more like a ragged bundle with a string around the middle). I stacked it in the barn “for now”, on some boards I have been saving, and I think there are some extension cords and air hoses under there, too.
I figured, hey, I can flip a bundle, er, bale, over the fence to the pony every day or two, and we can eak out the winter that way.
The last month when the first frost was due, I looked behind the barn and there was all this half-grown Johnson grass just waiting to lose most of it’s nutrients when the frost hit. So the day before the frost I scythed a bunch. I am not getting younger, I don’t do physical stuff all that often, and I get tired, so a “bunch” isn’t like taking down a 20 acre hay meadow. More like about 20 or 25 minutes of huffing and puffing.
I had read about hay stacks, and you you need to do them correctly to keep the hay from spoiling before you can use it. And I looked. A neighbor claimed he played in haystacks a lot as a boy, but never learned to build one. I found an online story where a guy build a frame using four “uprights” leaning to the center where they were bolted together, a frame build about the ground and bolted to the uprights, and used a plastic tarp over the hay instead of doing the traditional haystack building. This story intended to add to the stack over the season, which you don’t do with a traditional hay stack.
I have a hay ring. This is a round steel ring a couple of feet high with eight loops that make eight openings for horses to get to the hay. You roll the thing on edge up to a round hay bale (5×6 foot, nominal), cut the strings/net from the bale, and drop the ring around the bale. The point is to keep the horses from pulling the bale apart and trampling much of the bale instead of eating it.
I have a hay ring, and some used boards. I set two 2×6 boards, on edge, between feeding spots, so the boards are parallel and maybe 5 feet apart. I laid four 2×4 boards crosswise on the 2×6′s to nearly touch the edges of the ring. And I forked that downed, dried Johnson grass onto my new “hay stack”. It turns out that “a bunch” of Johnson grass, when I am scything, doesn’t make that much of a stack on an 8′ diameter. Maybe 6′ high in the middle of the mound (remember, the bottom is already 2′ up off the ground). I tied a plastic tarp over it, using cotton sash cord to tie to the hoops of the hay ring.
The tarp fell.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the cords, which had been at the top of the hoops, were now near the bottom (nearly level with the bottom boards). The mound looked a little flatter, and was definitely shorter. And the pony? Showed a bit less rib than before The Great Haystack Improvisation.
Last weekend I untied part of the tarp, and plumped down three of the bundles, er, bales, from the barn in the middle of the stack. Well, middle, right. Johnson grass gets to be six to eight foot tall, and in casually stacked, ragged bundles I gathered, they stick out both ends. So the bundles were plumper in the middle of the stack/hay ring, but were right there at the edges. Anyway, I cut the baling twine, er, garden twine, retied the tarp, and the pony has been munching right along. It was empty today, and I put out two more bales. Er, bundles.
I put up hay a bunch at a time, and the grass is usually growing by late February/into March, so I don’t need *all* that much more hay. But the five-ten bundles I gathered each haying exercise makes big stacks in the barn. And the bales I have fed so far make a noticeable dent.
Small square grass hay bales are going for $8.50 each, now, if you can find any. There isn’t much here, and most of the time the price is much higher. The round grass hay bales that sold for $25-40 last year have sold for $135-150, and can be tough to find.
So I am glad the pony is doing OK with the Johnson grass, I am pleased that the tarp hasn’t blown to pieces in the wind, and seems to adjust it’s tie-downs as the pile gets smaller, and I am surprised that the Hackney pony doesn’t mind munching hay from under the flappy blue tarp.
I would have fretted myself a treat if I had planned this to come together this well.