Abominable straw-man?

11/20/2008 at 4:17 pm (home)

This strange creature was sighted on our property this afternoon.

Has anyone ever seen anything like it before?


Turns out it was just me hauling a load of straw to the hay shed.

makinghayWhile working this afternoon I also had some thoughts I’d like to share with you.

I was cutting the straw with the scythe. For those of you non-farm types that might find the blog it is not hay, it is straw. Straw is dead grass that has no nutritional value at all. Hay is cut when the grass is still young and it will retain its food value in storage for quite some time. It doesn’t matter to us, because we’re using the straw to cover our compost so that it doesn’t stink and attract all manner of unwanted animals.

Anyway, so I was cutting the straw and letting it lie. And it’s very windy here today and I got to the end of a pass and noticed that the wind was blowing the straw all over. So I started brain-storming, “how in the world was I going to carry this stuff to the shed before it all blows away.”

I think it’s real funny how a modern Babylonian will always think of the most difficult (read-mechanized or expensive) way of doing a thing.

Last year when we were cutting the grass I used a gas trimmer I’d bought at a yard sale. I used it for a while till I could stand it no longer. Then I borrowed the neighbor’s riding mower to do the rest. We had a truck at the time, so we forked all the straw into the back of the truck, drove the truck closer to the hay shed and forked the straw into the shed.

We cut just about the entire back half of our acre and it filled the shed.

So then today, I’m standing there with my straw blowing away and I’m wondering how I can move it into the shed without having to move it all fork by fork. And the first thing that comes to mind is how I wished I had one of those nice carts like Lehman’s sells. But they are more than $300 and what’s more, I don’t have one and the straw is blowing away now.

But then I remembered!

John Seymour in his book The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it describes a way to carry a large amount of straw or hay with only a rope.

You tie a loop in one end of your rope. Lay the rope on the ground. Fork or rake the straw onto the rope. Pick up the two ends of the rope, threading the free end through the loop. Cinch it tight and throw it over your shoulder. Viola! Human hay hauler!

It’s really quite amazing the things you can learn.

But it really saddens me too. How long would have it taken me to figure this out on my own? I probably wouldn’t have. Talking about the Babylonian mindset again, the way my mind thinks I wouldn’t have thought to try that.

But I’m saddened because I know that there are hundreds upon thousands of similar little tips and tricks that were second nature to our forebears but we would never think of.

People are loathe to try the old-fashioned way of doing things because it is more labor. But there’s two problems with that. The first is that we try to do manual labor as if we were machines. The second is that we don’t know how to do the manual labor right in the first place.

How many of you have tried to saw wood with a hand saw? Did you lubricate the blade? I find that sawing with a handsaw is much much easier if you apply a bit of grease or wax to the blade. I learned that tip from paying attention the last time I read Huckleberry Finn. How great is that?

How many other tips and tricks have been lost because no one ever thought it was worth recording? Then everyone quit doing it that way because “progress” came along and don’t you know machines are better? And now no one remembers.

Anyway, I’ll quit rambling for now. See y’all later!



  1. Ginny said,

    Oh, what a nifty idea for moving the straw! I am going to have to remember that! As for cutting wood with a saw, yes, and my beloved insists on oiling the saw blade. I think I will give wax a try, too. Thanks!

    By the way, the video was really nifty. LOL!

  2. Ginny said,

    P. S. I am famous in my local area for using the word “nifty”, if you were wondering. LOL! ;-)

  3. Ginny said,

    Hey, last night, while picking up spilled straw to take to the chicken coop, I tried your method. I used the bailing string that was laying on the ground and it worked really well. I didn’t have a huge load, but it was easier to carry than trying to balance an untied load of loose straw in my hands while walking through the icy wind. I just put the string out straight, raked the straw onto it, picked up the two ends into one hand, and away I went. Thanks!

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