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When the stack has been well set up, the sides properly pulled (that is, the outside loose hay drawn out, so as to shew a flat firm surface), when the thatching has been accomplished by a clever hand, and all litters cleared away, the hay-rick is no mean specimen of executive skill or practical cleverness. This will stand uninjured, and do the farmer credit and service, after two or three seasons have passed over; whereas, when slovenly careless hands have done every thing wrong, instead of right, the heap looks like a dunghill, and probably becomes one, from the rain soaking through the ill-managed, half-finished roof.
HAY-BINDING AND SELLING.
POOR farmers, who want money before it is advantageously to be had, seldom let their produce remain long in the rick-yard, or barn. They often send it to market, and lose by it, because they cannot wait a few months for better terms.
Farms near London have the readiest opportunities for this sort of proceeding. The markets there ensure a certain sale for agricultural goods, provided the sellers will consent to the selling price, which, when the market is full, is often very low.
Hay is a commodity equally familiar to our London and country readers, loaded in carts
or waggons for the buyer. We will proceed to the rick-yard, and see them slicing away the stack.
A part of the thatch having been removed from one corner, the cutter pulls out a quantity of the inferior hay, which formed the stack towards the roof; and, taking it down in a bundle, sprinkles it with water until it is very wet. His object is to make bands, or hay-ropes, to tie up his trusses with. This operation is a curious and dexterous one. A boy holds a sort of winch, made of a string-bow, one end of which he turns in a socket of wood against his chest, by a swift motion of the hand. The other end of the bow has a sort of hook, over which the man doubles a small bundle of the wetted hay. As this is turned round, it is twisted in his hand, and would form a
rope only a few inches long, if he did not briskly supply the receding end with fresh parcels of hay from the heap. The boy steps backward, as the band lengthens; and when at the distance of about three yards, it is detached, and another is as speedily prepared. Seventy-two of these bands-that being the number for a load of hay-have been made thus, by a man and boy, in twenty minutes; but half an hour is not too much for the work.
And now the cutter takes up his knife, consisting of a broad blade, about two feet long, with a handle standing square with the upper end. He thrusts this in where his cut begins, and, sawing it up and down, soon detaches a square corner. He then strikes into the parcel detached, a large two-tined fork, of which the prongs are about a foot long, and, thrusting
his hand in at about the same distance down the side, he brings off a squarish, flattish, and compact bundle of the hay; the external rough parts having been previously removed. This bundle is laid across two of the bands, which are then brought round, and twisted into a tight knot, with considerable strength and exertion. Hay-binders can usually guess within a pound the weight of a truss, which should be, if cut before Michaelmas, sixty pounds, if after, fifty-six pounds. But they do not trust to guessing. Steel-yards are always used, hooked on the shaft of a hayfork, which two men support on their shoulders; and the weight must be accurately adjusted, or it will not be admitted to the
Thirty-six trusses constitute what is called a load of hay in the south and eastern parts