Notes from Windward: #56

Haulin' Hay While The Weather Holds

3 1/2 tons of hay
headin' home
Folks, be they two-legged or four, have to eat. Part of the ritual of putting up adequate stores for the winter months involves hauling hay to feed the goats and sheep until the new grass comes in the spring. We can either do the haulin' before winter sets in, or afterwards; having struggled through snowbound and icy roads to do the latter, I can personally attest that the former is better. "Towing" a couple of tons of hay down an icy mountain grade is the sort of job that adds considerably to one's stress level.

The reason we've been undertaking this most arduous of winter tasks has to do with a lack of adequate storage. This need was especially challenging since we not only have to keep the hay protected from the ravages of the weather, we also have to keep it "safe" from the four-leggers. Considering the intellectual capacity and physical agility that goats can bring to bear on gaining access to anywhere they want to go, keeping 10 tons of quality forage safe and secure from a hungry herd is no simple task.

Steve tosses hay down to Bob2
It may seem somewhat contradictory, but self-reliance is only actually possible to any substantial and sustainable degree when and if you become part of a network of self-reliant individuals. One such contact that's very important to us is our relationship with a farmer who lives some 20 miles west of Windward.

Steve manages a couple hundred acres of hay and wheat, and we rely on him for our alfalfa and straw. He likes to work with local farmers, rather than sell all his hay to the big dairies, and we're grateful for his advice and guidance. He's farmed this area for half a century, and represents an important resource that we respect deeply. Steve's both an inspiration and a challenge; everyone has days when they aren't going to feel very "enthusiastic" about loading and hauling tons of hay, but it's hard to slow down when you're in danger of being passed up by an 80 year-old. Steve's attitude towards farming is that if he won the lottery tomorrow, he'd probably just keep farming until the money was gone.

Pitt overlook
The halfway point on our journey home is the Klickitat-Appleton grade, a steep six mile gravel stretch which constitutes a very good argument for hauling hay before winter sets in and the roads become slick and unreliable. After eight years of this, we're fairly comfortable about driving the high road in good weather, but this drop is one to give pause to even the most complacent.

One of the joys of life at Windward is that we're constantly refreshed by the incredible beauty of where we live, and the Pitt overlook is a prime example. As you can imagine, this spot was a favorite launching site during the haydays of hang gliding. During last winter's flood, when the highway along the river was washed out, this was how we got in and out of Klickitat.

Looking north
toward Klickitat
As we make the turn at the overlook, in the distance you can see the sleepy hamlet of Klickitat (affectionately called "Klickerville" in order to distinguish the unincorporated community of Klickitat from the county of the same name.) If you're having trouble seeing the "town" down there in the gorge, that's mostly because there isn't much to see. It seems that we're often rounding this point in the journey home just about "dark thirty", and I'm always taken with the beauty of the evening lights down along the river.

Walt unloading
the hay trailer
Once the journey back to Windward is complete, there's still the task of unloading and storing the newly acquired forage. One reason this is tiring work is because bringing home 4 tons of hay really means lifting and hauling some 20 tons. At the very least, we have to lift each bale four times, and often it's closer to five before it's neatly tucked away in whatever secure cranny we're using. This time, we have the luxury of one of the new storage containers to keep our valuable hay safe and sound no matter what winter throws our way. Not even our most talented goat (Emma Rose) has figured out how to open up a sealed shipping container.

The bales get real heavy right about this point
Once the hay trailer arrives, you'd think it was the Wells Fargo Wagon coming to town. I don't know if it's the concept of all that much food in one place, or the chance to check out the flavor and bouquet of the latest crop, but as soon as we get back with hay, Bob2 and I become very popular. Unloading a hundred and thirty bales is enough of a task without having to wade through a flock of critters to do it. One solution is to toss a couple of bales off to the side, and let the herd worry on them while we unload the rest. Neither sheep nor goats have upper front teeth, so they can't really do a whole lot to rip open a bale that's securely fastened with two passes of baling wire, but trying seems to keep them occupied enough that they stay out of our hair.

The sheep worrying at a bale of hay
Our goal is to get a dozen tons of hay stored away before winter settles in, and with this load, we're almost at the 10 ton mark. We're not yet where we want to be, but we're further along than we've ever gotten before. Each winter it seems like surely by next winter we'll have most everything in place and ready before the snow comes. Each winter still finds us short of where we want and need to be, but this year, we feel we've made substantial progress. Undoubtedly, this winter will have it's surprises (and most won't be the nice kind), but with that much forage tucked away, at least we know our critters will have enough to eat.

Index for Notes Issue # 56 ---- The Windward Home Page