A Dusting

The new year has brought several days of bitter cold temperatures and it seems a constant dusting of snow to South Dakota. It’s been beautiful but almost too cold to get out and fully appreciate it all.  The kids have tried with all their might to stay out longer than 10 minutes to sled and play but it’s been days of running between heated homes and vehicles. Cabin fever has indeed settled in over this winter’s break.












The herd has stayed very close to the shelter belt through it all.











And the dogs find warmth among the straw bales if they’re out for very long.







































You don’t harvest hay, I’ve learned.

Raking Hay

Raking Hay

You put up hay.

Many of you already know this. But I didn’t. Not until recently. In fact, I had never really thought about it, because I’ve lived within city/small town limits in one way or another until this year.

Until I had horses, hay wasn’t a part of my everyday life. I’ve never had to know necessarily the process of how it got from the field to our alley. It’s kind of like the whole issue of people eating but having no idea where, other than the store, their food comes from. You need hay? Go to the hay store, right? Just kidding. I wasn’t that naive. But the entire process of how it was cut, raked and ‘put up’, I didn’t need to know.


It’s almost too late in the year here in South Dakota to be haying.  There is a heavy dew on the ground each morning anymore and hay needs to be put up at a certain moisture level. If it’s too wet or the moisture level is too high, it gets moldy when baled. Worse yet, it can actually start on fire.

(So can the underbelly of a hot vehicle out in a dry field when trying to fix broken down equipment. We may or may not know from experience this past week.)

Regardless, the Cowboy, his brother and dad wanted one last cutting before winter this year.

Raking Hay2

It had been quite awhile since they had cut their own hay. Typically, the Cowboy would trade it out for horseshoeing and the trade ended up being pretty fair. That was, until last year when the price of a round bale went from around $60 to $180. The drought across a good stretch of the country had much of the hay grown in the northern states going south, driving prices up.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the process: The grass grows. Whatever kind you’ve got or want; Alfalfa. Prairie Grass. Timothy. Bermuda grass. You wait until it grows tall, it gets cut, lays on the ground and you wait for it to dry/dehydrate. The sun and wind are responsible essentially for taking out all the moisture. Once it’s in the right state, the grass/hay gets raked into windrows (another new term to me) with a piece of machinery called a ‘rake’.


Hay Rake. Photo – Courtesy pottedfrog.wordpress.com

The hay then needs to sit again anywhere from one to five days without any rain getting on it. If it’s dry enough, it gets baled into whatever your preference might be. Round bales, little square bales, big square bales, haystacks .. “but not many people do those anymore,” the Cowboy says to me.

Alfalfa, he adds, you want to leave a little bit moisture content so the leaves stay on it. He tells me, that’s where all the nutrients come from.

“The problem is, this time of year it doesn’t get warm enough to dehydrate it so that’s where we’re running into problems right now. You might have to rake it two or three times to get it dry enough. If it gets moldy, they’ll eat it if they have to, but otherwise the horses get sick.”

His dad just called to check on the status of where things are at .. the Cowboy tells him he hopes it’s dry enough. But he’s off to rake again one more time today in an effort to get the hay put up before the first snowflakes of the season. Forecast for this weekend…


I love the snow.

And the flakes that came down much of the day outside many of our windows were beautiful … and long overdue for a crisp January day in the Midwest.

The Cowboy says in response to my excitement, with a smirk, “It’s beautiful .. but it sure makes for a long, kind of miserable day of work.”

South Dakota morning

It snowed some overnight in eastern South Dakota as well.  And, its just cold.  As I wrote this, he wasn’t all that fired up about being out in it today shoeing and had one more appointment to go.  The Cowboy, by the way, is a farrier, most of the time.  His other professional affiliations, like lifelong pretty awesome team roper from what I’ve seen and ever heard as well as being part of the sales force for a rodeo industry product (not sure what else to call it) we can talk about some other time.  Because it’ll take some explanation.

Today, he played the role of farrier and dad.

While I love the snow, love being out playing in the snow (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, ice skating, whatever .. you get it) and love watching the snow, even driving in it sometimes (although doing donuts in a Prius isn’t quite as cool or as possible as some of my beater cars growing up)… I can’t imagine having to be out a good chunk of the day, working in it.

Dress warmly, I think to myself.

Fresh snowfall

The Cowboy and I see each other pretty often for living 7 hours apart.  6 1/2 if you drive a little faster.  He is on his way back to what I’d like to now call his second home.  Ours.  This time tomorrow.

And in the forecast, as he’s scheduled to shoe for a barn here on Thursday…. is more snow.