Hay In, Muck Out
We flex our muscles and our resolve: there’s hay to get in and a goat house to muck out. It’s a good time for both to happen as the summer calendar threatens to flip-over into February. But both on the same day?
The last day of January and there’s two years’ accumulation of poo, wee, and hay: the fresh hay that June spreads everyday over the entire floor area whenever the rotation dictates that the goats will be using that shed. Next January it’ll be the turn of the shed the goats use when in paddocks the other side of the shelterbelt that serves as a dividing line down the middle of the goat herd’s home range.
Loosened and broken into chunks by my fork, the compacted, layered floor of muck, 20 cm deep, is scooped up by June’s spade and plonked into a large green ‘Gubba’ garden waste bag before being off-loaded onto the trailer deck. We’ve managed to avoid needing to come back for a second load by mounding it up in the middle so that it won’t spill over the sides.
It’s been a hard slog, but nothing like usual for June, who in past years has singlehandedly got the job done. This year, with my help, we’ve finished mucking out by midday. And I get a few brownie points when I promise that in future, I’ll help out with mucking out!
Back at the house, we make a start on getting it into an empty compost bin, wetting it down with a garden hose as we go. Broken down to quite an extent while still in the goat house, the microorganisms will work fast now it’s a moist, airy heap of separated layers and it won’t take long to turn it into friable compost.
June keeps at it while I go in to make sardines on toast for lunch (June’s on dinner). By the time she comes in for the meal, half the load’s in the compost bin. But that’s also when I get the call from Chris: he’s got good quality meadow hay for us and it’ll be in bales by afternoon.
So much for winding down to day’s end. Sixty bales, that’s three round trips of 20 kilometres to a paddock on the outskirts of Fairlie.
I look for an out by asking Chris how much to get them delivered: “$7.50.” I ask him to hold the line because I need to check with June.
“That’s an extra 150 dollars! No – we’ll go and get them.” I thought she’d say that!
The prospect of several hours of work ahead of us, and rain in the offing for later in the day, we engaged the services of ASAP: setting new speed records for eating lunch and offloading muck from a trailer. Glasses of cold water gulped down and full water bottles in the car, at least we’d stay well-hydrated as we sweated it out through the heat and exertion of the afternoon.
Tightly packed bales, sweet smelling, dry enough and with a fair share of blue-green succulence – easier to handle than last year’s: those bales were lengthy, heavy, brittle, awkward to lift above waist height, and with bitty cascades that burrowed into eyes, hair and under clothing.
June puts meadow hay in two categories: ‘Like Lollies’ and ‘Not Like Lollies’.
She’ll say of last year’s batch: “It’s ‘Not Like Lollies’, if it had been ‘Like Lollies’ the goats would have eaten it all in one go.” There are 15 bales of “Not Like Lollies’ left. It’ll be a while before the goats sample the fresh stuff but June reckons it’ll be ‘Like Lollies’.
We squeezed 46 bales of ‘lollies’ into the hay shed, having first moved the 15 bales of ‘not lollies’ to the front section of the shed to be fed out first: barely room to move when June and the goats add to the squeeze at milking time. The final 14 bales got stored in the old garage down the drive, behind ‘The Little Guy’ (our teardrop camper trailer) – handy for feeding out to the buck and his mate.
With all this going on, dinner plans had changed from homemade to takeaway. Just gone six, we sat down in the lounge to eat fish and chips and watch the news. The rain clouds were moving in but getting that last load under cover would have to wait. By half eight we were all done, if not dusted, and the rain held off till gone nine.
Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do. Hay in, muck out. And neither of us so stuffed that we didn’t think it had been worth it. Happy to keep to once a year though!
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.