From seed to harvest
Sir, – Frank McNally (An Irishman’s Diary, Julyb 7th) recreates memories of long, hot haymaking summers of my youth. The “square” baler was indeed a major engineering advance.
It brings to mind a whole range of haymaking implements and terminology that preceded the baler. I’m sure many readers will recall the mowing bar, swarths, whetstone-sharpened blades, the tedder, the turner, the windrower, the hayrake, the haycock, the haystack, the buckrake, the hayrick in the haggard, the hayshed, and the hay knife to cut the hay from the rick or the shed to feed the livestock.
But most of all it evokes the sweet smell of new-mown hay that filled the air throughout the countryside. Thanks Frank. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The words “stook” and “stack” had nothing to do with haymaking. The words were used to describe the process whereby grain crops were harvested.
Sheaves of barley, wheat or oats were stooked, ie three or four sheaves were stood together with the seed heads exposed to the weather for a week or two to further mature.
A number of stooks were then moved to a point where they were “stacked” on the stubble. The sheaves were placed to form a circle which was two sheaves long in diameter with the seed heads at the centre of the circle.
This was repeated to form a cylindrical base of about three to four feet in height.The diameter of the circles was then reduced gradually producing a conical top which was then finished with four sheaves the cut ends of which faced skywards.These were bound tightly with a straw rope or binder twine.
The stack was not only a beautiful golden symmetrical structure but more importantly it also had the ability to resist the rain and autumnal gales to which they were invariably exposed. – Yours, etc,