Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Little (Golden) Light on the Subject: Alfalfa

A note:  I took most of the photos below at the golden hour in the evening and at sunrise of another day. Much of the work for the alfalfa crop is done in the evenings and the mornings. It helps keep the leaves on the alfalfa, which increases nutrients for the cattle who will eventually eat it. It also makes for some pretty photos! Right now, my blog header (also posted above) is a photo I took in the evening last July. It's one of my all-time favorite alfalfa photos.

There's no question: Wheat Harvest gets top billing around here. But it's not our only harvest. Last week, we were in the midst of another kind of harvest on the County Line - harvesting alfalfa hay.
This was the second cutting of alfalfa this summer.  We don't swath the entire alfalfa crop at once. Instead, the guys swath just part of it at a time. That spreads out the risk somewhat. For example, we put down 85 acres just as wheat harvest ended. Then, 2 inches of rain fell on it before it could be baled. But the 130 acres of alfalfa swathed last week got baled without any rain, which preserves the quality. (We did have a breakdown with the baler tractor, which delayed the last of the baling for a day. But we only got sprinkles on the remaining hay. Randy got it baled Sunday morning - and still made it to church for Sunday School and to do the children's sermon!)
Last Friday, before the sun came up,  Ricky raked two of the windrows together.This speeds the baling process.
Here's a better photo series of the raking process (from the County Line archives).
Randy followed behind in the baler, making big round bales of alfalfa hay.

Sunspots and the rounded bales mimicked the fireball of the sun as it slipped above the horizon.

 By the time the sun was fully up, the guys had moved to another field.
As each field was completed, Cierra moved the bales to the end of the field. That gets it off the field so that the alfalfa can grow back.
This year, we will likely get only three cuttings, rather than the four we sometimes get. Since wheat harvest stretched out so long, we didn't get the alfalfa cut as quickly. However, we likely wouldn't have been able to cut it anyway because of the rain, which slowed down wheat harvest in the first place. Still, the rain has provided good, lush alfalfa. We got more than 400 bales from this second cutting of alfalfa. Right now, we are only 100 bales short of our 2015 total crop, which we should surpass with the third cutting.

"Don't count your bales before they're stacked."
That would be the equivalent of "don't count your chickens before they're hatched," I suppose.
Photo from from the County Line archives. It was taken from the combine for a bird's-eye view!
We will feed the bales to our cattle during the winter. If we have extra bales, we will sell them to feedlots or another buyer.

For a blog post with even more details and photos about hay harvest on the County Line, go to Making Hay When the Sun Shines.

Randy also baled some crabgrass. It was kind of like "leftovers" from wheat harvest. Because it was so wet during and after harvest, we weren't able to work ground promptly. All the rain caused the crabgrass to grow. He decided to  swath and bale the crabgrass and he'll also feed it to cows this winter.


  1. Wonderful photos Kim. I can almost smell that freshly cut alfalfa!

    1. Thanks, Lynda. I'm sure it's really familiar to you!