In which I ponder hay, because I've never served it with condiments!

We got some hay last weekend. The local hay crop, which is usually yellow, slimy, and only rarely mown and baled without rain, is actually suitable for horses this year.

Usually we have to truck all our hay in from the Dry Side of the mountains. Hay farmers over there don't grow hay as much as they grow Freakin' Amazin' Square Green Leaf Candy for Horses. It's not cheap, but horses will eat every single stick of it, and generally the nutrition of Eastern Washington Hay is far better than the best stuff we grow here.

Of course, the weather rarely wrecks Dry Side hay. Sigh. It must be nice.

This year, though, in the region where a single cutting of "horse-suitable hay" is considered a good year, our Swampland farmers have gotten two and sometimes even three cuttings of hay from their fields already, and some are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of a fourth cutting. Me, I wouldn't bet on that fourth cutting, but the second and third cuts look amazingly good.

Since Hana likes to eat but is prone to roundness, I prefer to get hay that is a little less Freakin' Amazin' when I can get it. Local hay fits her needs perfectly.

I buy hay all over the county. Whenever I can afford a ton, I spend a few minutes with Craigslist and a few more minutes on the telephone, and then I throw a bunch of ropes in the truck and head out to buy hay. I wish I were prosperous enough to just roll up to some field or other with my empty truck and trailer and pick up three tons of premium hay at a time, but I'm not...and bouncing a check to a hay farmer is the worst possible karma. So instead, I wait for payday and shop around.

This last batch of hay came with something extra: salt.

What the....?

The farmer (who has clearly been growing hay since Noah unloaded the first two bushels of grass seed from the ark) nodded wisely at me. "It draws out the extra moisture from the bales," he said. "Keeps down the chance of spontaneous combustion."

Salt does that?

I was skeptical. However, this hay was some of the nicest I've seen out of Swampland fields in years, and his price was low, and he helped Willy and me stack it on the truck and tie it down. The salted hay is now stacked neatly in the neighbor's barn.

(Did I mention how nice my neighbors are? They offered to house hay for us, right behind the gigantic fish. But that's another story....)

I'm not a librarian-by-trade for nothing, so when I got back to electricity from the hay barn, I started looking for information about salted hay.

And, whaddya know?

It's traditional to scatter salt on hay bales to draw out moisture and reduce the danger of spontaneous hay combustion. According to the most authoritative article I located, the practice works, but not very well. It certainly does no harm, anyhow.

As long as the mares don't start demanding pepper and ketchup on their hay to go with the salt, I think it will be fine.


  1. i had heard of salted hay but never actually seen it.

    i just got a bunch more hay, and the farmer said the freshest stuff was in back, because it is still too fresh to feed. huh!? that doesn't sound good. so i went up there with two thermometers (one fahrenheit, one celsius) and started sticking them into bales as far as i could reach. they all didn't register hot, so i feel safer.

    man, getting insurance for a barn that contains hay was a trick! everyone wanted to insure us, until they heard we would actually have hay in the barn, in the hay loft, for the horse. i guess most of their customers have their plastic wrap rolls out in the yard.

    still wish we could have got our own hay that we watched grow. oh well.

    prices are super low for some reason on hay, 2.50 per small bale, and farmers always deliver and stack for you. well, the two i have met so far. ours comes in a horse trailer and he carries each bale up our ladder. i try to help, and i am sure to say thank you a lot! it's like gas stations in oregon. watch them do the work, and show gratitude when they're done.


  2. I had heard of it too, but I can't remember whose blog. I used to get the best hay from the guy across the road, but now he's taken to selling the entire cut to people in the middle of the state. We only got 2 round bales from the last cut. I either need to sweet-talk him into saving us some or find another source.

  3. Glad you found some locally! (Though you're still more than welcome to come over to visit E-burg anytime.)

    They must be cutting straight grass or alfalfa mix? That's the only thing I can think of that would already have three cuttings--timothy here in the valley won't be ready for a second cutting 'til September.

    And two string bales?!? They must weigh like a feather! (Ours are like 110-120 lbs.)

    As for the salt--I add salt to everybody's grain through the winter, to make sure they're drinking enough....Maybe salted hay would do the same?

    trangl = a cherub in training

  4. Cool fish!!! Do share THAT story.

    I bought a couple bales of Washington grown Timnothy earlier this year. Now, we are down in Texas, not too far from Dallas. This hay dealer buys large truck loads. These were the 3 wire bales, nice hay, good quality...and because of shipping, she got $30 a BALE. Glad I only needed some for feeding at some distance rides I was heading to.

  5. LYTHA: I can see why insurance might be a big trick...hay in the barn IS dangerous. In a former life I was married to a volunteer fireman in a rural district, and he always said that hay fires are the WORST.

    LEAH FRY: I've heard Dry Side farmers say that they used to get Really Big Bucks selling the top-quality timothy hay (like the stuff TXTRIGGER got) to Far Away Places (like Texas) or Big Events (like the Olympics, when they were held in Atlanta, GA). The cost of fuel last year hosed that arrangement down some, apparently.

    EVENSONG: Maybe next time I've got some money I'll make the trek to Eburg...that timothy hay y'all grow is just lovely. The stuff here is straight orchard grass, that's why it grows so quickly. They got the first cutting in April (a miracle) because we had some sunshine in March.

    TXTRIGGER: Alas, we missed the local powwow that the gigantic fish presides over because we were frantically building fence that weekend. You can walk inside the fish (coho salmon, I believe) and view a beautiful painted mural. Very cool. Our neighbors are part of the powwow, so sometimes the fish lives here!

    frypec : a type of panfish, best served with salt!

  6. Hay is fascinating. When we had the hay in our paddocks cut here in New Zealand, it felt like suddenly the paddocks had become a playground. Beautiful!


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