Hey! “Hay is for horses/Straw is cheaper/Grass is free/Be a farmer and grow all three!” My sons grew up hearing me say that — a way of reminding them to be more polite when getting someone’s attention. “Don’t holler, ‘Hey!’”
Driving up the Mazama corridor during the summer offers an excellent opportunity to see the hay growing process. Alfalfa and grass fields abound on both sides of the highway. When the first cutting is ready, it’s a bit of a crapshoot to pick the right time to mow it. If the weather unexpectedly turns wet, a freshly mown field may develop rot and mold after being baled — not the kind of feed one wants to give the animals.
A successful harvest of high-quality hay is a thing of beauty with an, oh, so luscious smell. Bales come in all sizes — large squares or rectangles, gigantic round rolled up bales, or small rectangular bales. Weight varies from a 40-pound small bale to a large round bale weighing up to 1,700 pounds. You aren’t going to buck that bale by hand.
The farmers who grow hay find themselves in a period of intense activity on the farm while harvest proceeds. When the weather is favorable, not a minute is lost gathering the hay. Hence the saying, “Make hay while the sun shines.”
If you are in the horse business, a good supply of nutritious hay is a must. Horses are eating machines, always behaving as if they are starving. All winter long, it is a marvel to watch the dozens of horses at Early Winters Outfitting on Highway 20 strung along their hay line in the snow.
When the “Horse Rides Open” sandwich board is on the road at Early Winters, you know that people who have a yearning to ride a horse are pulling in to do just that. Aaron Lee and Judy Burkhart have years of experience taking beginners as well as experienced riders on jaunts as short as an hour up to all day trips. Tried and true trail horses provide a safe ride.
This year, with COVID-19, the season was delayed. However, Judy said that it is “picking up.” Masks are required during the mounting, adjusting and tutorial time when the wranglers are directly speaking with the guests. Once on the way, riders may de-mask. They reportedly are thrilled to be out in the beautiful Methow valley breathing fresh air.
Early Winters employs at least three young wranglers who look after the horses and take good care to make sure the guests have a great experience. When I asked one of the wranglers, McKenzie, how the riders do when they cross the Methow River, she responded with a smile that the horses, of course, are sure-footed and well trained, but one guest did ask if the horses were “waterproof.”
Early Winters also offers leatherwork and repairs — anything from belts and purses to chinks and saddles. This year the ranch has five new babies out of their Percheron stud. Judy says that the mellow nature of the Percheron breed produces colts that are easily handled from early on and become excellent solid trail horses.
Get out and enjoy a ride at Early Winters! (website: http://www.earlywintersoutfitting.com).
Jason and Valerie Paulsen informed me that recently they visited former Edelweiss residents Linda and Larry McWhirter in their new home in Gig Harbor. Known for their beautiful gardens, the Paulsens were amazed by the new garden landscape they have cultivated in Gig Harbor. McWhirters send their greetings to all the friends they left behind here in the Methow.