Hay: growing it. Cutting it. Baling it. Buying it. Swapping stuff for it. We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about hay, which is only natural, given that it's what keeps our animals from keeling over and carking it in winter. Until we can supply enough ourselves, we'll never feel really secure.
This year, we're looking at swapping some of our lambs for half of our neighbour's hay and we'll cut and bale the grass in the orchard as we usually do.
We started our first cut towards the end of November. Wielding the scythe was hot, hard work and I was dreading the prospect of spending three or four days doing little else. Then the farming gods took pity and sent us an angel in the form of Pierre, the French backpacker. We gave him a ride into Blenheim one afternoon and he, in turn, came back a couple of weeks later and stayed at Muntanui for eight days. Not only did he cook us an amazing three-course meal and improve my French, he also helped Farmer Wan to complete the scything and then stuck around to assist with building The Machine.
You might recall that last year, we played around with the idea of making mini-bales and haysacks, neither of which was very practical or sustainable. The Machine, however, is different. It produces decent-sized bales (still not as big as standards, though) and the design allows for a satisfactory degree of compression. Although it was designed for baling pine straw, it still works well for hay. There's a picture and instructions for use at http://essmextension.tamu.edu/pinestraw/baling.html and the plans can be downloaded from here.
The plans didn't stipulate the length of the twine slots, so Farmer Wan adjusted them to suit: 360mm long by 40mm wide. He also had to replace the lever, which snapped (due to his unearthly masculine strength and power -- the man's a demi-god, I tell you) while he was compressing a bale, .
This solution is still time-consuming but it's definitely better than anything else we've tried so far and it will suffice for the small amount of hay our orchard produces. Next year, we'll have to look at other options because Farmer Wan's just sowed a new hay paddock. More on that another time.
Posted by Farmer Nik
Happy New Year! 2013 was a cracker of a year at Muntanui and we're hoping this one will be even better. I think it will be -- if we're able to overcome our biggest challenge yet.
In 2014, the last of our savings will run out. Without that financial backstop, we're facing the very real prospect of being broke. Impecunious. Fiscally challenged. Impoverished. Indigent. Penniless. Insolvent. Poor.
A little scary, I'll admit.
It's easy to play around at farming and being sustainable when you know that if it all goes belly-up, you're covered. Sell a few eggs here, flog off a couple of plants there, make your own bread from scratch and feel virtuous and proud that you're living the dream.
And we are living our dream, no doubt about that. We're as happy as tiger worms in a bathtub full of additive-free cow shit. We just have to work out how to make it pay more. So, before our impending penury forces Farmer Wan to do anything desperate (like this or this), we'll get creative. We'll ruthlessly cut our expenses (all future visitors to Muntanui: please bring alcohol and lots of it), we'll barter and we'll make the most of hitherto-unexploited opportunities. We've put together a couple of cunning plans and we'll share them with you, in good time.
Meanwhile, here are some pretty pictures taken around the garden in early December, back before it started raining and didn't stop.
Posted by Farmer Nik
About Ewan and Niki
Scottish mechanical engineer with a deep and abiding passion for good food. Outstanding cook. Builder of lots of stuff. Cattle whisperer. Connoisseur of beer. A lover rather than a fighter.
Kiwi writer and broadcaster who hates cabbage, even though she knows it's good for her. Chook wrangler. Grower of food and flowers. Maker of fine preserves. Lover of dancing and wine. Definitely a fighter.