Haymaking is the biggest and most important job of the summer. We need to make enough hay to support the animals (two pregnant cows, one working horse, at least 10 rabbits and probably a few sheep too) right through the winter, and in Norway that means november until april! -though last winter was especially long, and the animals didn’t start grazing full-time until well into may. As you can imagine, that’s alot of hay! Last year the hay loft was completely full, and this year we hope to make more, and store some of it in a small, old hay barn down on the field, which has just recieved some TLC in the form of a new floor. It is the only one that has survived over 40 years of neglect- there were two others that have completely collapsed and are slowly being reclaimed by nature.
We have been haymaking for a week now, and are making steady progress. We have had three fantastic woofers here, so there are five of us working most days. We also have a family come just for a couple of days, which was lovely. To cut the grass we are using an old two wheeled tractor from the 50s- a machine i had never come across before! It’s the only machinery that it is actually possible to use, on our steep and rocky meadow. In the coming years we hope to cut the whole field with scythes, but at the moment it is covered in thick tussocks which are almost impossible to remove by hand and the mower can slice straight through them. On the very steep parts we have to scythe it anyway, which is challenging to say the least. In Norway the traditional method of drying hay is to hang it up on hay racks. This was developed in response to the relatively cool and wet summers here. The hay racks were originally made entirely of wood but in the 1800s they started using steel wire strung between tall wooden poles. This is the method we have chosen also. Long spruce poles are rammed into the ground about 1.5m apart in a long line, and wire is strung tightly between each pole at about knee height. We hang the grass on the wire before starting another row above it. Usually we do 5 rows on a hayrack, and when it’s finished it looks like a beautiful green wall. Hanging the hay up in this way helps it to dry, as the air can get to it, and also protects it from rain damage. It is only the very top layer that gets wet, as the rain can so easily run off the sides.
We had brilliant weather for the first few days and some of the hay was almost dry on the second day, but you can’t bring it in until it is absolutely dry. So we had to wait and now we’ve had several rainy days. The weather forcast keeps pushing the sun further away, so all we can do is hope for the best. Meanwhile we make hay in the rain!
All around the farm, the succession of the flowers marches on, along with my amazement and joy! Nature is always full of surprises and gifts. Besides just raw beauty i have come across useful plants like chamomile and caraway, and have started drying them as well as nettle and blackcurrant leaves for tea. From the garden we are picking salad everyday, and just started on the first snowpeas too! The cabbages are being rapidly devoured by caterpillars, and everything is just shooting up. It’s strange to think that everything is just getting going, and it’s already mid-july! The nights are growing dark, a slow reminder that summer won’t last forever.
New life has also come to us in the form of five tiny kittens! I realised Gersemi was pregnant about a month ago and i’ve been waiting patiently ever since, watching her grow larger and larger. To our surprise she allowed us to be present at the birth, which was an amazing experience for me and two woofers who watched with empathy and admiration. They are now five days old, and have already grown so much! We will maybe keep one or two but the rest we will give away- so if anyone wants them, they’re free to a good home!
Until last week we hadn’t seen the cows for almost a month. One day we were coming back from town and spotted a group of heiffers in the forest. We got out of the car to take a closer look, and soon saw Auðhumbla lying among the others. Hornfagr was nowhere to be seen. We knew we had to get her back to the farm somehow, as we plan to inseminate her in August. There was no chance of getting her up there on her own, so we thought- lets just take the lot! So we quckly got a bucket of grains and coaxed them all onto the road, and one of us led them up while the rest herded them from behind. It worked perfectly. We drove them all the way up to the farm and managed to get Auðhumbla into the gate. Victory! We were so glad to have her back, but it was sad to see the herd leave without her, and watch her calling after them. She is somewhat lonely, and often ‘moo’s at her own reflection in the window. I am hoping Hornfagr will hear her call and come back soon!