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Haying Season


Haying season was serious business in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This undated picture from the turn of the last century shows a break in the action on the Dean farm in South Canaan. The men have already cut the hay and it has been dried for a day or two before being raked into windrows for more drying.

It was then raked into shocks all over the field in preparation for forking it by hand onto a hay wagon and transporting it to the hay mow in the barn. To get as much loose hay as possible on the wagon, children and women would sometimes walk from the front to the back of the wagon over and over again, packing down the grass. As the hay got deeper, the walking became more arduous.

With the hay four feet or more deep, the wagon was taken to the barn. By the late 1800s, grapple-style hay forks had come into use to pick up jaws full of hay off the wagon bed. A horse would be used to draw the fork full of hay up to the mow where it was released in the middle of the floor. Men would then have to fork it evenly over the floor of the mow where the weight of each successive layer compressed the one laid down before. Eventually, the hay was as tightly packed as if it had been baled.

The farmer used sharp knives to cut chunks out of the hay to feed out during the winter.