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Austrian Haymaking

The photos below illustrate the traditional haymaking system most prevalent in Austria, and possibly in many other mountainous regions of Europe. Its virtue lies in that a single post can be stuck in a hole (made with a steel bar) on a slope so steep one can barely walk. Much of the hay in the Alps came from such terrain. Racks or tripods (unless built uneven in order to compensate) would tip over.

Each of these “posts” (with approximately 50-60cm sticks through them) held considerably less hay than our racks, but enabled much greener hay to be put up off the ground for further curing. This is essentially a one-day system:

Mow between daybreak and breakfast. Spread the freshly mown grass–with the scythe–as you walk back to the starting point of another row. By noon, rake it into narrow and relatively thin windrows. Turn over with a rake two or three more times in the course of the afternoon. Before evening, put it up on the posts with two people working together as follows:First insert two cross pieces in the holes drilled through the post, forming a horizontal X. Forkfuls are then thrown upon them simultaneously from both side. More cross pieces are inserted as the team adds more hay. To finish, one large symmetrical forkful is “prepared” on the ground and laid upon the pointed tip of the post as a cap. The procedure goes relatively fast.

 

I guessed the moisture content of those stacks in the photos to be at well over 40%. Our instructor, an office worker at Schroeckenfux who was born on a farm, assured me that they were just right.

 


May 2005