Nothing really says summer like ice cream, hay season and cow shows. Weather in western Washington is such that we usually get our first cutting of hay by 4th of July. School was out around June 23rd or so every year, so it was just about time for Grandpa to start cutting hay. There's nothing I love more than the smell of fresh cut grass/hay. As a kid, it was 10 weeks of no school, lots of time at the farm with the show cows, fun times showing our cows at the county fair at the end of July and of course, putting in hay.
|Tedding the back field on our property|
This is the tedder. It kicks up the hay to help dry it out. The rake is what puts the hay into windrows.
I've talked about how we all (including farm folks) need to watch out for equipment on the roads during planting and harvest seasons in the spring and fall, but hay season also brings farm equipment onto the roads. Sometimes, you just can't avoid a main highway.
I talk about hay season, but what exactly goes into making hay? My brother was nice enough to do a guest post for me a few years ago, so here's what he has to say about one of our favorite times of year:
|My brother with one of his tractors|
What months are considered “hay season”?
This depends on the weather. In some parts of the country, hay season can start in April or May. Around here, it typically starts in June or July. It could be earlier if the weather is good and it’s not raining the entire spring. Hay season usually goes until September.
How do you know when grass hay is ready to be cut?
In our area, good hay-making weather can be hard to come by. If we get a window of good weather, we cut hay. Besides good weather, we also need to know what stage the grass is in. We don’t want it to be over ripe and want to cut it before the grass starts producing seed. Ideally in the early stages of seed development. Feed value decreases when the plant spends more energy on seed production and takes energy away from the stem.
How many cuttings do you typically get per year?
This depends on when we get our first cutting. Some years it may be in May, other years in July. This is significantly impacted by the weather. For the various cuttings, we do a mix between grass silage, hay and pasturing cows on the field.
What are the steps involved in making hay?
There is a lot involved in making hay. First, you have to make sure that the ground is dry enough. Muddy ground won’t make good hay.
Once the ground is ready and the grass hay is at the right stage to be cut, the first thing we do is mow it. We use a large mower that we attach to the tractor. After it is mowed, we touch it as minimally as possible for a little while to reduce color damage.
If there are clumps in the hay, we ted it. This helps dry the hay out, fluffs it up and improves the consistency. Ideally, we would just ted it once the day before we rake it.
Raking the field moves the hay into windrows to prepare it to be baled. If it’s dry enough, we bale hay the same day it is raked.
|Baling hay (small square bales)|
We bale small square bales and manually load them onto trailers to take to the barn.
|Two of his buddies helping load hay|
|A full load of hay ready to be unloaded|
Just like other plants, grass needs to be fertilized. We spread cow manure on the fields as fertilizer between cuttings. This recycles valuable nutrients and helps the plant and soil thrive. It also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
Now that we've talked all about how we make hay on our farm, let's eat some ice cream!
Cherry Berry Ice Cream
Makes about about 1/2 gallon
- 2.5 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. corn starch
- 1 small box cherry jello mix
- 4 oz blueberry jam (homemade or store bought)
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
- 2 cups fresh or frozen red tart cherries
- Red food coloring
- Blue food coloring
- Vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Freeze ice cream maker base for about a day prior to making this recipe
- Combine milk, heavy whipping cream, sugar, jello mix, blueberry jam in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until jam, sugar and other ingredients are a consistent texture. (About 5-10 minutes). Add a few drops of red and blue food coloring so the mixture is a shade of purple.
- In another bowl, combine corn starch, 1/4 cup milk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and mix until smooth
- Slowly add corn starch mixture into the rest of the ice cream mixture in the sauce pan. Stir consistently. It should thicken up a bit after adding the corn starch.
- Remove from heat
- Add ice cubes and water to a large bowl. Pour the ice cream mixture into another bowl and submerge the bottom of that bowl in the ice water. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour after it cools.
- After that hour, take the ice cream maker base out of the freezer. Plug in the machine and add the cooled ice cream mixture. Let the machine churn for about 45 minutes (or as directed by your ice cream maker instructions) until the ice cream has a soft serve consistency.
- Remove the ice cream from ice cream maker and store in another container in the freezer until hardened throughout.
- Top with more cherries and blueberries if you'd like