Putting up the winter’s hay

Calculating how much hay I’ll need to get the flock through winter is something I am still unsure about, especially now that I have four more sheep to think about.

I over-bought last year, but a good bit of that hay was ruined by the pigeons who had moved into the rafters summer before last. Their noxious droppings made many bales usable only for bedding, a waste of expensive and nutritious hay meant for the sheep.

The lovely windows that allow sunlight to stream into the barn, also bleached dry the hay in the center of the hayloft, and my fussy sheep would not touch it. So, more expensive hay for bedding.

Managing the farm on my own, with a body reflecting 60+ years worth of aches and pains, I didn’t get around to covering the bales with tarps…actually, by the time I’d thought to do so it was too late already. But, I didn’t want to make that mistake again this winter.

By the time our friend Taylor brought this years’ hay, I was ready with tarps and a plan. I was also grateful that he’d divided the order into four manageable deliveries; last year he showed up on a steaming hot September afternoon with an enormous truck and more hay than I thought would fit into the hayloft – one efficient delivery, by his reckoning. It was a nightmare. We labored hour upon hour to get everything off the truck and stacked up, sticky with sweat and hay, each wishing that there more bodies than just the two of us to get the job done.

This year, we were also blessed with sunny and cool delivery days in which work. It was, frankly, a lovely task. The pigeons have finally been evicted for good, and all the hay is tarped against the inevitable sunlight and dust. It’s a pleasure to see all of it at the ready for winter’s use, ready to feed my beloved sheep and get them through another upstate New York winter.

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