In which we prepare a fine winter salad

A mix of summer grasses, to be cut and baled. A bit of summer sunshine for the Ladies to eat all winter long.

What makes a great salad? My favorite salads have a mixture of lots of different things. Crispy, crunchy, bitter, sweet, salty, vinegary and colorful.  The greater the variety of plants & greens, the better.

One type of salad you probably haven’t thought much of is hay. You know, the hay is for horses kind of hay. And, just as I like in my salad, the Ladies appreciate a variety of greens in theirs too.  They like it tender and young, not tough, bitter or stemmy with delicate leaves intact. It must be toasty dry and free of mold. Some farmers make their hay fermented, a bit like a sauerkraut or kimchi.

If you eat meat, drink milk, eat cheese or yogurt, quality hay is important to you too. We say we want grass-fed meat and dairy, but in most places in the US, grass grows on average 8 months of the year.  Unfortunately, the animals eat for all 12. So, stocking the pantry for the frozen, grass-free months is necessary.

Hate to think of it, but today's lush grass is a fleeting pleasure...

You probably zoned out during the barely reported news of GM alfalfa being approved for general use by the USDA.  I know, I know, another food related brouhaha (yawn) but this isn’t people food, so I don’t have to worry about it, right?

Not to be Chicken Little here, but GM alfalfa poses a very real threat to our organic farmers and our indigenous varieties of alfalfa. Read more  about the possible outcomes here (it won’t take long, I promise).

Sure enough, that lush, lovely green grass will give way to this..

If you drive through rural Pennsylvania and many other places this week, you’ll see fields full of tractors mowing, fluffing and baling hay, tidy rows of mown grass, wagons full of square bales, huge buns like shredded wheat staggered through fields, or the latest, long white plastic wrapped tubes placed along the edges of fields.

Hay weeks are one of the most stressful weeks for any farmer. Gauging the weather, the equipment, the help, and beating the dew make a world of difference affecting the rest of the farm year.  It’s not a good feeling to feed your livestock bad hay all winter, worse yet to have no hay at all.

Making hay is a dirty, exhausting, stressful job done outside during the hottest days of summer.  But it’s also a supremely satisfying day when the loft is neatly stacked with sweet-smelling bales of fragrant hay and you go to bed that night knowing that you’ve saved a bit of summer sunshine for the dark winter days to come.

The Ladies like that….

Hay is one of the most important crops to a small livestock farm.
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