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   Haymaking

 

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SNOW SUNDAY

On the farm, straw is used for bedding. Animals will occasionally eat it but it provides little nourishment. It has been a tradition at Hainault Forest Country Park to harvest some of the grassland area to provide hay to help feed the cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs during the winter months when the grass is dormant. During the week over 400 bales of hay were harvested. I went along to help and find out more about haymaking.......

The grass in the meadow near the Romford Road entrance was allowed to grow, flower and seed. The field was inspected and any common ragwort pulled up. Dried ragwort is poisonous to the farm stock. Scott Davidson, contracted to cut and bale the hay, is no stranger to Redbridge.

Scott's home was in Fullwell Avenue and he was educated at Fairlop School. His grandfather Mr Simmons ran the sweetshop in Fencepiece Road opposite the school. Scott has worked many times in the borough and harvested the last crop on Claybury Farm before the site was sold.

The grass was cut and left laying in rows on Monday 26th July. Any rain at this time will delay the process. A reasonable period of sunny weather in the last week in July  was forecast.

On Wednesday 28th July, the hay is turned. Turning the hay helps with the drying process. It is then rowed up ready for baling. The timing of baling is very critical.

 The hay must be dry and the forecast good for harvesting. The condition of the hay is inspected at 5pm on Thursday 29th July by Andy and Scott. If it is brittle the baling commences. If the hay bends it needs further drying. Two further hours of drying are needed for baling rather than risk an overnight thunderstorm. The sun and breeze will help.

The dried hay is collected into the baler. Any dampness in the hay now would cause the bales to rot and possibly heat up. They would be unsuitable for use.

The baler packs the hay tight in bales and the bales are tied with two loops of baling twine. The bales are collected into eights and deposited in the field ready for collection as baling continues. This process is automatic.

Scott estimates 80 bales will be produced from the first few rows and while these are loaded onto the trailer he will continue to bale a further 200. These can safely be left overnight and collected the following morning.

Vic joins Andy to help load the trailer. Careful stacking of the trailer is important to ensure bales don't fall off during transporting. The bales are unloaded into the barn while Scott continues baling. By 9.30pm the first batch of bales are in the barn.

Friday morning 30th July Babalola and Mick help Andy to stack the trailer. The remainder of the field behind is still to be cut and baled later.

Babalola unloads the bales from the trailer and into the barn. Lifting the bales is heavy and very dusty work in the hot sunshine.

Paul and Andy load up the bales on pallets, to keep the bales dry and off the floor.