Mulch Hay Thrill

I’m so excited. Through Craigslist I found a farmer over in Lewis who wanted to dump some moldy round bales of hay.

I have always yearned for mulch hay to rot into and improve my soil, which is sour rocky sand. Hay will break down into much needed organic matter and meanwhile will carry pounds and pounds of hay seed — which, if I had to buy it, would cost me $125 per bag.

However the cost, even for spoiled hay, has always been prohibitive. With the price of good hay soaring, mulch hay has been $2-$3 for small squares. Big round bales generally cost $25-$40 in this area, and mulch ones $15 to $20. And then there’s the delivery. I don’t live in a farming community. Almost everything I need has to come from an hour away.

I began dickering with this young farmer around the time of my knee surgery. He offered the round bales to me for $6 apiece, which is an excellent deal. However I only had $300 left in my farm fund and I wasn’t sure I should spend it this way. I wrote that I’d have to consult with my husband. Then I went in for surgery. During my silence he dropped the price again. Then again.

When the Vicodin haze cleared, I found he was willing to bring over a hundred round bales to me for a bit less than $3 apiece.

I feel a little bad for the farmer as I think he is barely clearing his fuel expenses for baling this hay last summer and delivering it to me now. However I remind myself that recouping his costs is a good thing, and he is also clearing his fields of an eyesore. He told me he hays 500 acres. No wonder he has bales left over at the end of the season.

The farmer, Todd, is a nice young man with a broad white smile in a sunburned face. He would like to become my regular hay supplier. He was eager to undercut Rick, my erratic but charming hay man, by fifty cents a bale. I told him I’d have to think about that. I owe some loyalty to Rick.

In the meantime I am very excited to see all this future fertility moving onto my farm. The more grazing I can create here, the less I will have to buy in from elsewhere.

Todd drove around the back acres slowly while his helpers pushed the rotting bales over the side of the hay wagon.

Todd says that since he can’t start haying his own fields until 10:30 in the morning (waiting for dew to dry), he will bring one load to me early every day until all the bales are here. I expect that by the end my entire eight-acre back field will be dotted with rotting round bales.

My plan is to mow the weeds and then figure out a way to unroll each bale so I can spread it. Todd thought this was a great idea though he understood that I would be working alone and without a tractor. His grin flashed. “That’ll keep you busy!”

So many projects, so little time! But I am deeply thrilled, and impatient for my knee to heal.

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5 Responses to Mulch Hay Thrill

  1. Beth says:

    I’m curious about this procedure; I leave first cut hay laying on the field for the same reason but it isn’t so thickly laid that I worry about smothering the undergrowth. How do you spread these bales around? Or does that even matter with the sparsity of your growth? Enquiring minds want to know!

  2. tricia says:

    Wonderful score!!!! Oh the improvement you will see once you get them unrolled. They do unroll but old ones not as easily as fresh ones. I wonder how much to hire his helpers to unroll them? Or have a hay unrolling party- a great workout for them climbers and skiers you know!

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Hi Beth and Tricia! It’s so great to have someone understand my feelings. One friend said to me in puzzlement, “You are excited about ROTTED HAY?” LOL

      I have never really tried to unroll round bales — they are not common up here — and have been told by numerous people I respect that it can’t be done. I agree with Tricia — as long as the bales are not super-tight and compacted, or conversely, completely rotted to pieces, it probably can be. It just makes sense to me that something that is spooled can be unspooled.

      I don’t think I know enough people who want to plunge their arms in slimy rotted hay to do the hay party, Tricia, but the picture in my mind of that merry shindig is priceless! 🙂

      I have an idea about using my steel pry-bar as an axle of sorts and somehow hitching each bale to my truck. I think I will try building a frame for the axle out of scrap 2x4s. We shall see how this project goes.

      Beth, the problem of the hay being “too thick” is one I’ve considered but I’m not worrying about for now.The only thing that might be smothered on my place is weeds. Between the weeds my back “pasture” is so lunar and bare that I think even four inches of hay can’t hurt it. It will break down eventually. If I do get concerned I will go out with my pitchfork, though the prospect of pitchforking the remains of 110 giant bales makes my shoulders ache just to contemplate! 😮

  3. Missy says:

    Oh, wow, what a treasure! I think your “Ralph Moody” problem solving skills sound wonderful – pierce them through with an “axle” and unwind them. The last round bale I had could definitely have been unrolled. They are heavy though. I wouldn’t worry too much about the hay being too thick… after it’s all been snowed on next winter it wont matter will it? Could there possibly be any seed in the hay? Alternately, can you get some hens out in the pasture to scratch through the hay? They are amazing little distributors. Perhaps build a chicken tractor into an old trailer or something so you can move them around. At night you can lock them in to keep them safe. Just another job… that’s no bother, right?

  4. tricia says:

    Don’t worry at all about it being thick. Once you unroll it, it will start rotting faster. We put down old bales of hay at our old place, right over clay. The regular bale size. We put it down by the wafer. Shake a wafer out to loosen it a bit then it was put down. So probably 3 inches thick or so. We had BEAUTIFUl grass by the next summer. It was so full of seed heads- good seed too!

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