First of the second crop silage is being led in as I write this. We sell all of our first crop to the farmer and friend opposite. Second crop we keep for ourselves but always do it in two halves as it is a lot of grass to have down in case the weather turns bad.
It has more or less stayed dry since the grass was cut - yesterday it rained all day but only slightly, never enough to wet the footpaths and road, and with the breeze it dried as fast as it fell. Today it has been a blue sky day with a stiff breeze and very cold - only 11 degrees.
By this morning the farmer decided the grass was ready. He no longer does it himself after cutting. He gets in sub-contractors and they came at lunchtime. During the afternoon they have completely transformed the grass lying in the fields - they have rowed it, baled it and wrapped it and now the farmer is leading it into the silage clamp and when that is full the rest will go into the back of the shed, leaving room for straw in front. Before he put the silage into the clamp area he put rat poison down. At present the rat population is out in the fields enjoying the leavings from the wheat and barley fields, but once it turns colder they will come on to the farms and make their way to the back of silage heaps and nibble away at the plastic covering. So the farmer (and all the other farmers round here) get in first. We can't allow the rat population to get a foothold.
Sometimes, when I write about silage some of my American readers are puzzled about what it is exactly. The farmer says the best way to think of it is as pickled grass. In the old days, when my father in law began farming getting on for ninety years ago, silage was far in the future. The only grass crop was hay and that was usually one crop a year up here in the Dales. It had to be an exceptional year for the farmers to get two crops of hay. This feed had to be eked out with chopped root crops and cattle cake, which they bought in slabs. And all the cutting and chopping was done by hand.
Of course in those days the Dales farms were relatively small and milking herds consisted of maybe twenty or thirty cows. Farm incomes had to be filled out with keeping poultry and selling the eggs, keeping turkeys and geese for the Christmas table, and keeping a pig which would at the very least keep the family in meat for a large part of the winter.
Now, with much bigger farms, many more cattle, and the need for more feed, the invention of silage has really been a godsend. What our forefathers would think to the ease of farming these days I can't imagine.
So here are the photographs I took today (with varying degrees of success) - mainly for the benefit of American readers as I am sure every Brit has seen silaging many times over the years.