I thought it would be a good idea to explain some of the activities that we get up to over here in Slovakia and this the first of many I hope.
In preparation for the winter we have to cut and dry hay to feed our sheep as they will be inside our barn from mid November to late April during which time they will also have their lambs, we hope!
In my last blog I put a couple of photos of the flower meadows that surround us and on the 16th June we started to cut them for hay.
At 0500 in the morning we go out to cut because the grass is heavy with a dew which makes cutting much easier and it is still cool till the sun gets higher.
We cut the first two fields with scythes and the first day out there each year reminds us that it is hard work, but you soon get into the swing of it, I will not bore you with the intricacies of how to scythe as there are more experts out there than you can imagine and they would be telling me how it is done properly, that much I am sure of.
We have been using old scythes for a few years given to us by Marias father and they were fine but this year we decided to splash out on new ones, they came from Austria who seem to make some of the best scythes available, made by a company called Fux Scythes and you can look at the website here http://www.schroeckenfux.at/index.php/en .
I use a 80cm blade and Maria uses a 65cm, we both have different snaths (handles), Maria is trying out one from Fux and I am still using the old Slovak one although I have ordered the Fux model as Maria assures me it is comfortable to use and makes you keep your back straight which is a bonus I can assure you, the photos will show what I mean.
Once we have cut the field we will leave the grass in the lines for most of that day to start the drying procedure, over the next 3 or 4 days we will spread the grass about until it is reasonably dry, this season our first two fields dried quickly because of high temperatures and strong winds so we were able to put it straight into our shed.
Most times it will not dry so well and we will put it into a haystack using a piece of pine taken from the top of a tree which is known as an ostrva, it is a traditional way to dry hay, any rain will just run off the outer layer and the inner will gradually dry, the tools we use are also traditional, wooden rakes and forks, they are so easy to use.
This year we also purchased a mower unit by Vari that fits on out existing rotavator chassis which is a Robix, it makes it easier for us to cut some of the fields that are very uneven and have not been cut by hand for a few years, it does a very neat job and leaves the grass in tidy lines, you will see that all the grass is then put on ostrva’s, I may add that it takes several years and lots of hay to perfect the construction of these stacks, too tight and it will not dry, too loose and it will blow away in the wind, we seem to be getting the knack at last and do not get too many adverse comments from the old boys who watch us with interest.
Once we have enough hay in our store we will give the rest away to our friends who do us favours at other times, we wait for a nice warm sunny day and then strip the stacks and spread the hay out to give it a final drying. The pictures show our friend Jaro with his horse and cart which we load up and then off it goes to his barn and that is another seasonal chore over for this year.
It is very satisfying to scythe a field and as a bonus you get fairly fit over a couple of weeks…..