Making Hay

August Hay 2003  photograph by Alex Hawley

August Hay 2003 photograph by Alex Hawley

Its Hay season here in farm country. From mid-August through September, the tall prairie grass is cut, raked, then baled to provide livestock feed through the winter. In this area, it’s the sweet, tall, highly nutritious Bluestem grass of the Kansas Flint Hills that’s being harvested.

Compressing the cut grass into a large tightly wound shape serves to preserve the grass’ nutritional value. The outer layer decays a couple inches but serves to insulate the rest of the bale. Thus, the grass holds up far longer than it would if cut and left loose.

It’s only been in my adult lifetime that the large round bales came in to use. Previously, hay was bales into small square bales of about thirty-five pounds each. A lot of physical labor was used to move the bales from bailing machine to feed. Now, weighing a thousand pounds per bale, they are impossible for humans to handle so machinery is a must. In one way it’s a shame that our youth don’t have such a body developing activity anymore. But as one who has thrown a bale or two, I don’t miss the old bales a bit.

The large round baling machine itself is a Kansas invention. Mr. Lyle Yost, founder of Hesston Corp. in Hesston, Kansas was the inventor and brought them to the market in the early 1970s. Now they are the standard of the world.

“August Hay 2003” was taken early in my Large Format experience using 4×5 Kodak Tri-X film. The print was made on Forte Polywamtone fiber base paper.

  1. Thanks for sharing, Alex. Another good one.
    Positive mention of the Flint Hills always gets my attention! Thanks!
    So happy it brought me to your site again.

    Our 22 county Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. promotes visits to the Kansas Flint Hills – the website is:

    Best wishes!
    Dr. Bill 😉
    Personal Blog:

  2. Yeah Alex, there is nothing like a ‘wet’ small bale of hay – seemed like they always cut it and got it baled just in time for dark, so they were always picked up late in the day. They are getting another cutting down here about now, and can’t explain what there is about hay in a field that makes you want to pull out the camera, but there really is something about those rolls of hay.

    • Diane Maher
    • October 20th, 2008

    Tootsie Rolls! Okay, that’s what I think of when I see them in a field. I don’t think I’ve ever photographed one with LF, but have with smaller formats.

    • Alex Hawley
    • October 21st, 2008

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone. Diane, I’m like Mike. Nothing worse than wet bales to throw. “Tootsie Rolls” is sure a different way of looking at them, for me that is!

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