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we seldom have faults of that sort to complain of. The great danger is, in stacking the hay too green, or a little damp; in which case, if the rick be large, as fifty or sixty loads, the chance of its taking fire, or consuming without flame inwardly, is very great.
I never remember such a burst of rustic mirth as occurred one day—I think it was in the first summer I spent at the farm-when I said the hay was so dry, I was afraid it would take fire. I had heard of hay-stacks burning of themselves, and could not conceive that it could be when they were at all wet. My ignorance was made more amusing to them, and painful to me, by a good deal of conceited positiveness on my part, which would not for a long time give way to the repeated assurances of others, who had had fifty years' experience. Those husbandmen could not, of course, ex
plain to me, that a chemical action, called fermentation, takes place when herbage is laid together in a mass, and that this effect is generally greater or less, in proportion to the degree of moisture present in the heap. This fermentation creates a sort of inflammable gas, or air, which, if produced in too great quantity, exceeds the due degree of heat, and at length consumes the fermenting body. The process of fermentation is required to a certain extent, to make good hay in the stack—or, as they say, it must have a heat. As it warms, it settles and subsides so much, that the rick appears in a few days scarcely half the height which it was when first set up. Sometimes it settles on one side; and occasionally, if managed by unskilful hands, it will topple fairly over, and require complete rebuilding. This is a vexatious occurrence to those concerned,
when perhaps, great exertions are requisite to do the work of this busy season once.
Whilst we are about the stack, we may as well see it thatched, lest wet should come. The heating and settling having taken place, so as to render it safe to house in the stack, persons, whose business it is, are employed for this purpose. The roof being formed, or topped-up to a sufficient height, with any inferior sort of hay, the thatcher and his yelmer go to work. Having prepared pegs and rods of split hazel, for pinning and binding down their work, the yelmer gets his straw in a heap, and splashes it pretty liberally with water. He then forms it into small lengthy bundles with his hands, and with such art, that these bundles shall frequently be longer than the straws of which they are composed, by being drawn out at each end. The thatcher
then mounts his ladder; and, being supplied with these bundles, or yelms, as fast as he needs them, he bends each double near the end, and twists it into a sort of knot; then, beginning at the eaves, he tucks this part of the bundle so far into the hay, as to detain it there, the ends of the straw hanging out. Having placed an even row of these, he inserts another row just over them, the ends of each new row lying half over the row which went before. Thus the straws lie' one over another, like the hairs on a cat's back, up to the very ridge, which is, afterwards, either bound down close, or made with a stiff edging of straw in an upright position. The whole is firmly secured by long, bent, and notched pegs, driven far into the stack. The edges and eaves are afterwards clipped straight with proper shears.