Where the Land Meets the Sky

Etienne White

I have terrible case of Hay-Fever. Yes, in October! This is a special type that those in the farming community can occasionally suffer from in the fall. Some years are bad, others less so; it all depends on the preceding season. 
Spring was so wet, and so late to arrive, with that dastardly late frost, too. Summer was also unusually wet. Friends of mine who are aronia berry farmers saw a complete loss on their crop this year. Another family I know will have an extremely low yield from their orchard this year. Everywhere you ask, round these parts, farmers had a tough year with the weather.
So, as my veggie farmer friends put their garden beds to sleep for the winter, and stack tools in the barn to rest until next spring, our farm is just beginning to amp up the activities again. Free-ranging sheep, on lush pastures all summer long, qualifies me for the title of either “lazy farmer” or “well-rested farmer.” Going into the cold months ahead takes some preparation, of which resting is an essential part, I’d proffer!
Other preparatory activities I’ve been undertaking include hand-shoveling manure out of my barn and laying recycled pallets on the clean cement floor, making a little elevated nest area for the receipt of lots of lovely small bales of sweet-smelling, sunshine-holding hay.
Which brings me to my affliction. Due to those aforementioned rainy seasons, there is a distinct shortage of hay this year. Last year I was able to buy all of my hay from one farmer, just down the road from me. This year I’ll probably only get a third of what I need from this Hay-Friend.
So I find myself frantically and feverishly on the look out for more; all the “usual” places quickly told me the same story. And when you look farther afield, it’s repeats there, too: There’s plenty of extra bedding available (hay that was rained on at some point in the process) but precious little of the truly great, green-gold.
Traditionally hay prices go up in January and February, sometimes significantly. It’s a sort of unspoken etiquette; if you failed to plan and predict properly what you’ll need for the winter, it’s fair game for you to be charged more. Unless you’re on super-amicable terms with your Hay-Friends. It’s also down to supply and demand; by January hay is in short supply so the “demander” can expect to pay more for it.
This fall, some hay sellers are already charging January prices. It’s reasonable, because many farmers have much less hay on hand than they had hoped to have, and their own bills still need paying no matter what. I am so lucky to have been able to, so far, find 75 percent of the hay I need. I’m already indebted to the farmers that are helping me by offering a reasonable price, including delivery. 
But the Hay-Fever is still there, coursing through my veins, awakening me at 3 a.m. If/when I source that final 25 percent, I shall declare myself fully cured!

Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She works at the intersection of marketing and sustainability, leading efforts to create mass consumer behavior change, for the greater good of both people and planet

1 Comment
  1. I hear you as I was just talking to a friend and I said everything is still so green are you going to be able to get another cutting…… I got a long and technical reply but the answer was no. I also talked to my brother in CO who has sometimes made the trip here to buy hay – but not this year. I will be crossing my fingers for all of you – this has been one crazy year.