Medium red clover is at its best for cutting for
hay when in full bloom, and when a few of the heads which first bloomed
are beginning to turn brown; that is to say, in the later rather than in
the earlier stage
of full bloom. If cut sooner, the curing of the crop is tedious. If cut later the stalks lose in palatability. But when the weather is showery it may be better to defer cutting even for several days after the clover has reached the proper stage for harvesting, as the injury from rain while the crop is being cured may be greater than the injury from overmaturity in the same before it is mown. When curing the crop, the aim should be to preserve to the greatest extent practicable the loss of the leaves. To accomplish such a result, the clover ought to be protected as far as possible from exposure to dew or rain, and also from excessive exposure to sunshine. Dew injures more or less the color of the hay and detracts from its palatability. Rain intensifies such injury in proportion as the crop being harvested is exposed to it. It also washes out certain substances, which, when present, affect favorably its aroma. The injury from such exposure increases with the interval between cutting and storing the crop. Exposure to successive showers may so seriously injure the hay as to render it almost valueless for feeding. After the mown clover has been exposed in the swath to the sunlight beyond a certain time, it turns brown, and if exposed thus long enough the aroma will be lost. The aim should be, therefore, to cure the clover to the greatest extent practicable by the aid of the wind rather than by that of the sun. The method of procedure to be followed is in outline as given below: Mow as far as possible when the meadow is not wet with rain or dew. Mow in the afternoon rather than the forenoon, as the injury from dew the night following will be less. Stir with the tedder as soon as the clover has wilted somewhat. The tedder should be used once, twice or oftener as the circumstances may require. The heavier the crop and the less drying the weather, the more the tedding that should be given. Sometimes tedding once, and in nearly all instances twice, will be sufficient. The hay should then be raked. It is ready for being raked as soon as the work can be done easily and in an efficient manner. When clover is not dry enough for being raked, the draught on the rake will be unnecessarily heavy, the dumping of the hay will be laborious, and it does not rake as clean as it would if the hay were in a fit condition for being raked. The aim should be to have the crop put up in heaps, usually called cocks, but sometimes called coils, before the second night arrives after the mowing of the clover; and in order to accomplish this, it may be necessary to work on until the shades of evening are drawing near. When there is a reasonable certainty that the weather shall continue dry, it is quite practicable to cure clover in the winrow, but in showery weather to attempt to do so would mean ruin to the clover. In no form does it take injury so quickly from rain as in the winrow, and when rain saturates it, much labor is involved in spreading it out again. Nor is it possible to make hay quite so good in quantity when clover is cured in the winrow, as the surface exposed to the sunshine is much greater than when it is mixed with timothy or some other grass that purpose, nevertheless, to cure it thus, especially when it is mixed with timothy or some other grass that cures more easily and readily than clover. It may also be taken up with the hay-loader when cured thus, which very much facilitates easy storing. But when it is to be lifted with the hay-loader, the winrows should be made small rather than large. When the clover is to be put up into cocks, these should be small rather than large, if quick curing is desired. In making these, skilled labor counts for much. The cocks are simply little miniature stacks. The part next to the ground has less diameter than the center of the cock. As each forkful is put on after the first, the fork is turned over so that the hay spreads out over the surface of the heap as it is being deposited. Smaller forkfuls are put on as the top is being reached. The center is kept highest when making the cock. Each one may be made to contain about 100 pounds and upward of cured hay, but in some instances they should not contain more than half the amount to facilitate drying. When the heap has become large enough, the inverted fork should be made to draw down on every side the loose portions, which in turn are put upon the top of the cock. Such trimming is an important aid to the shedding of rain. An expert hand will put up one of these cocks of hay in less time than it takes to read about how it is done. A light rain will not very much injure a crop of clover after it has been put up into cocks, but a soaking rain will probably penetrate them to the bottom. To guard against this, in localities where the rainfall may be considerable in harvest time, hay caps are frequently used. These may be made from a good quality of unbleached muslin or strong cotton, or they may be obtained from some of those who deal in tent awnings and stack covers. When of good quality and well cared for they should last for 10 to 20 years. Care should be taken in putting them on lest the wind which frequently precedes a thunder storm should blow them away. The pins used at the corners of the caps should be carefully and firmly inserted in the hay or the ground, or the caps should have sufficiently heavy weights attached to them at the corners to prevent their lifting with the wind. In putting up the hay the size of the cocks should be adjusted to the size of the covers used. One person should apply the covers as quickly as two will put up the hay. When clover hay is put up into cocks, it undergoes what is termed the heating process; that is, it becomes warm in the center of the heaps up to a certain point, after which the heat gradually leaves it. The heat thus generated is proportionate to the size of the cocks and the amount of moisture in the clover. The sweating process usually covers two or three days, after which the hay is ready for being stored. When clover is cured in the winrow, it does not go through the sweating process to the same extent as when cured in the cock; hence, it is liable to sweat in the mow, and to such an extent as to induce mold, if it has been stored away with moisture in it beyond a certain degree. If a wisp of clover is taken from the least cured portion of the winrow or cock, and twisted between the hands, it is considered ready for being stored if no liquid is discernible. If overcured, when thus twisted it will break asunder. A skilled workman can also judge fairly well of the degree of the curing by the weight when lifted with the fork. Under some conditions, it may be advisable to open out the cocks two or three hours before drawing them, that the hot sunshine may remove undue moisture. When this is done, if the cocks are taken down in distinct forkfuls, as it were, each being given a place distinct from the others, the lifting of these will be much easier than if the clover in each cock had been strewn carelessly over the ground. The lowest forkful in the cock should be turned over, since the hay in it will have imbibed more or less of dampness from the ground. But in some instances the weather for harvesting is so favorable that the precaution is unnecessary of thus opening out the cocks or even of making them at all.
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