Too wet to make hay

GILFORD — Jeff Keyser, the shepherd at Ramblin' Vewe Farm on Morrill Street, says that an extended spell of wet weather, marked by afternoon thundershowers and nightly rainfall, has shut down his haymaking operations for the near future.
''We were able to do 900 bales last week but that's way behind where we usually are at this time of year,'' says Keyser.
''We took a chance cut one field Monday hoping we'd get a break in the weather, but that didn't work out. Now it's lost all of its nutritional value and we'll just make some mulch hay out of it,'' says Keyser.
Normally by the Fourth of July, Ramblin' Vewe has put away all of the hay it will need for the winter, some 2,000 bales.
But this year haymaking operations are going to have to wait, maybe until after the Fourth given that the long-range forecast calls thundershowers on a daily basis for the next five or six days.
Keyser says that the optimum time for making hay is mid to late June, when the grasses are at their nutritional peak and have lots of green leaves. After that time the stalks become more dense and woody, introducing a ''crunch'' factor that makes the hay less appetizing as well as less nutritious.
''Last year, which was a dry June and it was really good for making hay. We got 5,600 bales in our first crop and sold a lot of it right out of the field,'' says Keyser.
The farm has been in operation since 1987 and maintains a flock of registered purebred Suffolk and Targhee sheep, selected to meet the standards of their respective breeds as well as to produce high quality meat, wool and breeding stock replacements for the local and New England market.
Forty acres of hay are cut twice annually producing approximately 7500 bales of hay, 2000 of which are consumed on the farm. The balance is sold to neighboring farms.
Keyser says that he also hays other locations, including Prescott Farm in Laconia and the fields at the Lyman property in Gilford.
''I did 200 bales at Prescott Farm but the rains started and I had to leave some in the field. We need a break in the rain to get back out in he fields and four days of good weather,'' says Keyser.
He says that the fields are so wet right now that when he can get into them he may only be able to mow the higher areas because the low-lying parts may still be muddy.
He said that the weather has affected more than just haying. He's also way behind on planting the garden that he grows on a plot of land in Belmont.
''I'm only halfway done and still have to plant potatoes. The turkeys got my corn so I have to replant that. But it will get done, one way or another, just like it always does,'' says Keyser.

Hay which was mowed on Monday sits in a field at Rambin' Vewe Farm on Morrill Street in Gilford. Because it could not be baled in time, the hay has now lost its nutritional value and is good only for mulch hay. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)