A California Hay Field

A Central California Hay field - A previous Photo of the Week

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Cut and baled hay awaiting pickup in the fields of Central California

Hay bales dotting the hills of Central California

Photo by Linda Tanner ("goingslo") - link to original
8 Jun 2012


You might think that with summer coming on and the weather heating up that all the selections for Photo of the Week would be beach or beach-related.

We'll certainly have pictures of the beach in weeks to come, but for now this beautiful shot really tells the story of what is happening now in Central California.

This photo of the week was taken on San Bernardo Creek Road. This little-known road is off Highway 1 in the stretch between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo.

As I have mentioned in other places on this site, the fact that agriculture in all its forms is so important here shapes the cycle and rhythms of daily life.

The production of hay is certainly one of those things where nature dictates what happens and when.

Farmers and ranchers may be many things, but being a procrastinator is definitely not one of them. If a crop is to be successful, the timing of events is crucial.

I won't bore you with all the details that are involved in making hay, but none of the steps involved can be either sped up or delayed. Thumbnail photo of baled hay in a California hay field
Just one tidbit of information here - the bales need to sit in the field for a period of time so that they "cure". If the farmer picks them up too early and stacks them (the stacks of bales are 10' high and can weigh up to 4 tons) the hay will spontaneously combust and the stack catch fire!

Making hay is a risky business here basically because it is "dry farming". That doesn't mean that no water is involved, but it does mean that any water the crop gets comes from the winter rains. And that is never a sure bet.

But it is the best means of taking the growth from the winter rains and preserving the maximum amount of nutrition for the animals for the coming year.

If you are from overseas or from another part of the US, you'll notice that most of the farmers here use the traditional rectangular bales instead of the large round bales which are now common elsewhere.

I have seen a few places here in Central California where someone uses the round, but it is very uncommon.

It has to do with the fact that much of the hay is produced in one place and used elsewhere or sold commercially. The smaller bales are easy for one person to handle and the stacks can easily be transported. Not so with the round ones. The rounds are usually wrapped to protect them from the weather and stored and used in the fields where they are produced.

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Hay bales everywhere