Making a hay stack – part one

In our previous blog entry, the hay had been brought from the field by horse and cart and taken to where the rick was to be built. This was still the method used at Knapp Farm, Market Lavington in World War Two, when land girl, Pat Wilmott, led Blossom the horse back to the farm after she had done this hay hauling.

Sybil Perry, in her memories of 1927-1932, told us that ‘making a hay-rick was a very important and skilled job as the finished rick had to maintain its correct shape, and it had to be constructed so that its centre would not overheat, as compacted hay gets hot in the middle of the rick, just as a compost heap heats up deep in the centre. Overheating could occur too, if the hay was cut while too green. The interior was tested for heat with a “rick-iron”, – a long metal probe with a barbed point, which was thrust deep into the rick, left for a few minutes and then withdrawn with a tuft of hay in the barbs. Very occasionally, if a rick seemed to be in danger of overheating, it was partly unmade to allow it to cool, but usually the rick makers knew their job.’

Sybil wrote that to start making the rick ‘an area which was to be the base of the rick was covered with hay, more spread on top of that layer and so on, with the men making the rick spreading it as evenly as possible layer by layer. When the rick got too high for the men doing the pitching to reach, an elevator had to be used.’

Our 1915 postcard shows soldiers assisting the haymakers on Salisbury Plain with an elevator in use. We will share Sybil’s description of how this worked and how the hay ricks were completed next time.

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