The roof fell off

I love this time of year. It’s time to put up some hay.
The cows have been on pasture grazing for almost a month, and everything has been growing great with the moisture we got from the rains and all that snow melting right into the ground instead of running off. The pounds of milk in the tank keep rising as the quality and amount of feed in the pastures goes up. It even rained this morning after a couple concerningly dry weeks. There’s only one thing currently marring my otherwise rosy view of the world.
One of our chopper boxes has most of its roof missing.  
Yes, I have known it was missing for a while. Either snow or wind or a combination of the two caused its final demise this winter, and I figured we’d get around to fixing it a bit sooner than right before we start hay. However, like many jobs that aren’t immediately necessary, it got put off a bit longer than ideal in favor of getting other things fixed, moved or cleaned up.
The Discbine needed a bit more service than usual, and the mowing tractor had an oil leak that turned into a bigger project than expected especially since the starter died while I had it in the shop so that had to get rebuilt as well. Very convenient timing for a starter to fail versus sitting in a field 8 miles from home, but it added to the repair time either way. My neighbor recently took all the roofs off his boxes when they bought a self-propelled chopper, so hopefully he can find where they stashed the metal, and we’ll have the box in working order by tomorrow.
My favorite part of making hay is cutting it. It’s fun to see how all the different parts of fields grow and the differences from field to field. We have rolling ground around here. There are not many places you can unhook a wagon without it rolling away. For some cuttings, the low areas yield really well and the tops of the hills are thin and short; other times, it’s the opposite because we get too much moisture.
The types and percentages of different species thriving vary from area to area. I don’t plant particular species in particular areas because the fields vary so much that it would be a ton of work planting 2 acres in a couple spots with this mix then 5 acres with another mix and so on, but it would be really neat if that were possible. Maybe someday prescription planting of hay will be a thing.
We plant a very diverse mixture of seeds when we reseed hay fields. The mix consists of a couple varieties each of alfalfa and red clover, chicory, five to six different grasses and a cover crop, usually barley and peas. For the first year, we get a nice crop of small grains and then usually a crop of mostly weeds – which often surprises me with its palatability and quality – and then a nice third crop when the alfalfa and clover come in without the weeds. For the next couple years, the field is primarily alfalfa and red clover with some grasses, and by years four through six, the field becomes more grass than legumes and very dense. The last couple years, we have been letting fields go a couple years longer than usual before plowing and replanting. We are probably going to plow up one field after the first crop this year to fix a bunch of rough patches from pocket gophers and tile repairs, but other than that, the fields all made it through winter really well.
I better get down to the barn to get a roof on that wagon so we can get chopping hay. Until next time, keep living the dream. Don’t forget to glance back often while cutting. It’s embarrassing to leave strips in the field because something broke 500 feet ago.
    Tim Zweber farms with his wife, Emily, their three children and his parents, Jon and Lisa, near Elko, Minnesota.


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