Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Flower rich hay meadows

"The flower-rich hay meadow is a masterpiece of the pastoral art. Like the great cathedrals, its construction has taken over a century or more. Like them it is a handiwork of generations of unknown crafts people - the shepherds and stockmen who grazed the autumn growth, knowing exactly when to bring on the animals and when to take them off again; the scythesmen who laboured in the summer heat to harvest the sunlight locked up in the sugars of fresh, green leaves; the army of women who raked and turned the drying foliage, finally pitching it high on to the harvest wagon." - Graham Harvey, The forgiveness of nature, the story of grass (2001).

Last week we finished cutting hay in “La Castañarina”, the largest part of the farm that we manage specifically for flora and fauna diversity. “La Castañarina” is divided into two parts, the lower part, which is cut for hay in early summer and then grazed in late autumn and the upper part which is grazed twice a year; in early summer and late autumn.

Most of the hay we have cut this year has been cut by hand using a scythe. Both Hugh and Sebastian were keen on using a scythe as it is more sustainable and the traditional form of cutting hay in this area. (Last year we cut the hay using a strimmer fitted with a special blade for hay cutting)
As you are dependent on good weather for drying the hay it is necessary to cut it when you think there is going to be a period of good weather for drying, with no risk of rain which may spoil the hay. This means there is often a lot of hay to be cut in a short period of time, or put another way a lot of hard work when it is normally very hot. Cutting by hand takes longer so that’s even more work. There is a local saying; “La hierba no sabe ni siesta o fiesta” which translates as hay doesn’t know parties or naps and means when its hay time you have just got to get on and do it.. A really big thank you to both Hugh and Sebastian for doing such a good job this year and cutting it with a scythe.

In Castañarina rather than making a hay stack we bale the hay as we can get a tractor into the meadow. So once the grass has been cut it is left to dry and turned a few times. Then it is raked into long strips ready for the tractor to bale it. Donisio from the next village bales our straw. He works about 18 hours a day when straw has to be baled as all the small farmers want their hay baled at the same time, that is when the hay is dry and before any chance of rain.

After the hay has all been baled Juanra our neighbor came with his small tractor and helped take all the bales to our stable ready for the winter. It’s a lovely feeling when all the hay is in the stable and the hardest job on the farm has come to an end for another year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The forgiveness of nature, the story of grass by Graham Harvey is an amazing book just as it is to cut the hay itself!

Bob my grandad gave that book to me a few years back!



Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.