There are different ways of cutting the grass (and storing it when dried) and this is where the dilemmas come; deciding what is the most appropriate method of cutting the grass and how best to store it.
You need to take into consideration that only a small part of our farm is suitable for tractor use, most of the farm is on a steep slope and some fields have a many small rocky out crops. Hay harvest needs to be done whilst there is good dry weather and you never know how long the good weather is going to last. So once you have started you want to get it done as fast as possible in the case the weather changes, (the hay will most probably spoil if it gets too wet.) In choosing a cutting method we also take into consideration how sustainable the chosen method is, its environmental impacts, and the culture and tradition behind hay harvesting.
This year we used three different methods for cutting our hay, they were a hand held scissor mower, a strimmer fitted with a hay cutting blade and a scythe. The method we used in each area depended principally on the terrain.
Andres’s father came to cut our largest flattest field with his scissor mower. The machine (over 15 years old) is very well suited to moderate slopes, and it is by far the fastest way of cutting. One person goes in front to check the grass being cut doesn’t clog up the machine, one person guides the machine and one person goes behind clearing the grass which has been cut from the grass to be cut. It uses a relatively small amount of petrol for the amount of hay it cuts. This enabled us to get a large area cut at the beginning of the good weather period and start the drying process as soon as possible.
Hugh cutting with a scythe
Jaunra moving 300kgs of dried hay in one journey this year
When you start to think about the different possible ways of cutting, transporting and storeing hay it’s a good point to reflect on appropriate technology.
Appropriate technology (AT) is technology that is designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social and economical aspects of the community it is intended for. With these goals in mind, AT typically requires fewer resources, is easier to maintain, and has a lower overall cost and less of an impact on the environment compared to industrialized practices. The term is usually used to describe simple technologies suitable for use in developing nations or less developed rural areas of industrialized nations. It is also often used by communities more interested in a sustainable lively hood. Appropriate technology usually prefers labor intensive solutions over capital intensive ones.
The term intermediate technology (coined by E. F. Schumacher) is similar to appropriate technology. It refers specifically to tools and technology that are significantly more effective and expensive than traditional methods, but still an order of magnitude (one tenth) cheaper than developed world technology.
Tiggy (one of our cats) inspecting the hay
So what’s the appropriate technology for us to use to cut hay?