….a familiar old phrase, which only now makes sense to me, as an adult, living on land where we do grow hay!!!
Since it takes several days to cut, flip, dry, and bale- “making hay” is ALL dependent on the weather!! Bales for horses, whether round or square – need to be completely dry before and when baled. Moldy hay is not good for horses, altho’ cows, with their different digestive system, don’t mind mold at all!!!
We have salted hay bales , in case some were damp, to draw out the moisture. Sometimes this works, sometimes not.
Which leads me to the random subject of this post (!)- salt hay.
I recently came across a vintage photo of some men harvesting “salt hay” on LI.
Altho’ I grew up on Long Island, in NY, I had never heard of this. Of course, I was a kid in suburbia, with no ties to farming, so why would I know? All I knew of LI, was what I learned in school – LI was about potatoes and fish, Jones Beach,and finding wampum on the beach!!! Of course, there was much more to LI, but that was all that stuck in this child’s mind.
In doing a little research, salt hay grows along the shore. Also known as thatch grass or salt meadow grass, Spartina alternifloria is something I have probably always seen and never really noticed.
The root system of these grasses takes in water from the ground it is attached to, and can reduce the amount of salt in that water which is then expelled through the leaves.
While regular hay is harvested 2 or ( if you are lucky) 3 times during the growing season, salt hay is harvested in the fall and winter. It was used for thatched roofs and animal bedding, and I guess as livestock food when needed..
Unlike our hay, where cutting depends on growth and the weather, salt marsh hay, cut by hand and scythe, was cut depending on the moon and the tides. Here is a detailed link, describing harvesting salt marsh hay in the “olden days”!
I have 2 vintage scythes, like the ones pictured above – and can truly appreciate the amount of work that went into harvesting these grasses!!! I would NOT want to do it!!!
Today, salt hay is considered very good to use as mulch in organic gardens. There are no weed seeds to germinate, like in regular grass hay. We have used some of the spoiled hay we grow, as a mulch – and won’t do that again!!!! The seeds from the grasses in our hay were sprouting everywhere we did not want them to in the vegetable garden!!!LOL
Here is a photo by painter Frederick Kost, on LI – and a link to some more of his photos on harvesting salt hay. (There is also a pretty amusing 1902 newspaper article here about Kost- Limit of Laziness.)
So, for a weed seed free mulch for the garden, salt hay seems the way to go! I learn something new every day…….