Friday, June 24, 2016

It's Hay Season Again by Paty Jager

Haying in the 19th Century took muscle and tenacity.

We just finished an early first cutting of alfalfa hay here in SE Oregon. While I help my husband cut the hay with a swather and we use a loader and trailer to pick up the 800 pound 3'  x 4' x 8', I am thankful I live in this century and not the 19th century.

Meadow grass here
In my soon to be released book, Brody: Letters of Fate, my heroine helps with the haying. In this area back in the 1800's they hayed the meadows. She drives two horses and rides the mowing machine as they cut the meadow grass. Then when it's time to stack she runs the stacker and helps out on the top of the stack. She has sore muscles, a bruised bottom, and blisters. Which goes to prove how hard life was back then. But everyone pitched in.

To write the haying scenes I watched Youtube videos of haying with horse drawn equipment, read sites on what hay equipment worked best where, and I picked my dad's brain. He grew up in Nebraska on a large cattle ranch where his mom, my grandmother, cooked for the hired hands and his dad was one of the hands. He told me they hayed with horses and mules and put up the large hay stacks.

From the websites I browsed I discovered there were several different horse drawn mowers. The first one having been made in England around 1845. The mower took off in the U.S. in the1860's after the Civil War when manufacturing took off. As one would figure some of the first and best models were made by John Deere, Jerome Case, and Cyrus McCormick, well-known names even today in farm equipment. The horse drawn mower had a wicked-looking sickle bar that had sharp metal plates that moved back and forth, powered by the wheels turning, as two horses or mules pulled it through the field. The horses pulled the mower from the front but were driven on the first round on the outside of the crop while the sickle bar cut the outside round. Then they horse walked on the cut round and the bar laying out to the side of the machine cut another swath of grass. The sickle bar had a lever that would raise the bar at the end of the row and let the bar down when they wanted to cut. This lever required some strength to raise and lower the bar. I make note of this in my book.
Horse drawn mower at Sod House Ranch

After the hay has dried and cured, they came along with horse drawn "buck" or "dump" rakes. The tines on the rakes were curved. The drivers of the rakes, worked in a row, pulling and turning the hay before dumping it forming long rows in the fields for the "beaver slide" or "sweep rake" to come along and gather.

The sweep rake was wide with long timbers sticking out in front of it to collect the windrows of hay.  The horses are harnessed behind this piece of equipment and push it rather than pull. When the sweep had a full load, the hay was pushed to the stacker. The person running a sweep had to physically lift the the sweep with levers. Another hard job.
Sweep rake at Sod House Ranch

The stacker could be used either to build a large stack in a field or to fill a barn. The sweep or buck rake shoved the hay onto the platform or tines of the stacker. They would push it up, back up, and shove the hay on farther, before the horses backed all the way up and turned and headed to the field. Once the hay was pushed onto the stacker, horses that are harnessed to the pulleys of the stacker are moved forward, drawing the tines or platform of hay up and over onto the growing hay stack. The person working the horses at the stacker has the easiest job.

People were also needed on top of the stack to move the hay around making the stack solid and then to put the last loads cut ends up like a roof over the top of the stack.

As many times in my life as I've wished I'd been born in the 1800's and been a pioneer, I don't think I would have liked putting up hay with horses. This is why I write western historical romance, I can live vicariously through my heroines and not have to actually endure that life.

Blurb for Brody: Letters of Fate 

A letter from a grandfather he’s never met has Brody Yates escorted across the country to work on a ranch rather than entering prison. But his arrival in Oregon proves prison may have been the lesser of two evils. A revenge driven criminal, the high desert, and his grandfather’s beautiful ward may prove more dangerous than anything he’d faced on the New York docks.

Lilah Wells is committed to helping others: the judge who’d taken her in years ago, the neighboring children, and the ranch residents, which now includes the judge’s handsome wayward grandson. And it all gets more complicated when her heart starts ruling her actions. 

You may pre-order this book at the special pre-order price of $2.99. When it publishes on July 16th the price will be $4.99. 
Amazon /Apple / Nook

The photos of the sweep rake and mower were taken at the Sod House Ranch part of the Peter French cattle empire in Harney County in the 1800's. You can find out more about the cattleman and his operation at my post here. I researched Peter French for my first Letters of Fate book, Davis.

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance.  This is what reviewers says about her Letters of Fate Series: “What a refreshing and well written love story of fate and hope! Very well written but sometimes sizzling love scenes!”

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.



  1. Oh Patty what a great article. I too yearn for the 1800's but the older I get your idea of living the adventure vicariously surely makes the most sense. Just got my yearly hay allotment and really glad it came on a flatbed truck with two young men to unload it!

    1. Thanks Gini, It is fun to watch others do the heavy lifting. Thank you for commenting and stopping by.

  2. I'm very happy I don't live in the era in which I'd be required to help sweep hay...or whatever. But my grandfather did...he had a big wagon and mules named Kit and Jude. I was very small and was only enraptured with those big animals. Thanks for the research and the photos. I'm a visual person...I must see something to understand it.

    1. Hi Celia,
      I forgot to add that most used mules on the mower because they walked fasted and the machine worked better. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Those farmers had a rough life. My granddad was a farmer in Nebraska. I imagine his life wasn't easy either. It does make those shiny machines out in the fields look mighty nice.

    1. Paisley, I agree. It was a hard life and why they were lucky to live past 60. My husband loves tractors and it is rare he comes home from a farm auction without an old one he plans to restore. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Well, here's an article about things of which I know nothing. Even with grand, modern equipment I would just sit there like a imbecile without knowing what on Earth to do. But, Ohmagosh, to have had to do this field work with such rudimentary equipment would have been impossible for me.
    I want to wish you every success with your book, Brody: Letters of Fate, Paty.


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