I'm just crawling out of the far side of haying. It engulfed us at the beginning of the month and went for eight straight days, all blended together in a mass. This is the first day off I've had in weeks.
We would get up later than usual and be ready to work at 9:30 rather than 8:00. This was not a concession to the workers, but simply an understanding that the hay needed time for the dew to burn off. We spent several days mowing hay, after a few breakdowns and a mule runaway the first day. This involves one manager driving the mower, and everyone else "bumping" the cut grass...using pitchforks to comb the wet cut grass away from the standing grass at the margins, so it wouldn't clog the blades on the next pass. This took a few days.
As the hay slowly dried (it's arid here, but not quite as hot as usual...mid-eighties), we transitioned into raking. We had to add a step because the hay was slow to dry, which meant walking through the pasture and airstrip and turning the hay by hand, as the top layer would often dry into a thick mat and insulate the wet bottom layer. All the interns and a few additional scholars took turns driving the rake with the mule team, which is great fun. Anyone who wasn't driving walked between the windrows and raked up the loose strands.
Raking the hay into windrows not only condenses the hay, but raises it up off the ground and allows the wind to blow through it, drying it even more. After drying like this for a day, we walked through it with pitchforks and pitched it into shocks, which also took a few days. Finally, we hitched the mules up to the hay cart, pitched the hay into the cart, and brought it back to the barn, where we put it up on the stack with the elaborate mule-powered pulley mechanism I've described before, then thatched it into a perfectly square stack.
It was a moist spring, and so we put up 15 loads of hay this year. That ties the record for most loads, and we also broke the record for most loads in a single day (7.5). We would work until lunch, then take a break in the heat of the day until about 2 or 3. Then we'd work until dinner, stop to eat, and then go back and make hay until dark. Whenever we weren't working or eating, I just laid on the bed and let the heat and exhaustion bleed out of my body. I slept badly.
But we did a great job. And the haying is done. Now we enter the second half of the summer.