Something typical Slovenian, which you will not find in any other country in this way, are the wooden hay racks. You really see them everywhere. There are also one of the first things you will notice when you first enter the country. Traditionally, many Slovenians were farmers and therefore had cattle. That is why it was necessary to dry grass so that people had hay to feed the cattle.
The hay racks, called »kozolec«, are made of thick, square posts of oak. The upright pillars have square holes in which the crossbars are placed. Nowadays you can also see that the upright pillars are made of concrete. On top, a narrow roof is made to stop the direct rain. The racks are long and narrow, usually single, but there are also double ones.
The double racks are called “toplar” and some are really beautifully crafted. These toplars were not only intended to dry hay but also immediately served as storage for the hay.
When the grass is cut, it is normally sun-dried on the field by leaving it there for a few days and turning it over several times. When it has dried sufficiently, it is placed on the hay wagon and then immediately goes up the hayloft or into the shed. This used to be done by hand, with pitchforks. Nowadays farmers have an automated hay wagon that automatically pulls the hay onto the wagon. But when the weather was bad and the hay could not dry in the field because rain was predicted, for example, it was dried in a hay rack.
As a child, Bine always had to help mow and collect hay, along with his brothers. His parents still did everything by hand. Mowing was also done by hand, with a scythe. I have tried it once but it is more difficult than it looks.
When we just met, I also helped with haymaking for a day. That too was not easy! Especially because it is often very hot in the hay season. I was sweating like crazy and the hay and dust stuck to my body. It was, however, very nice to experience it once and see how the hay was put in the racks. Bine’s father was literally »hanging« on the rack, and Bine and his mother were using the pitchforks to lift up the hay so his dad could stuff it into the rack. They started at the bottom and then worked their way up. He then moved up a meter and continued until the rack was full or there was no more hay left. In the meantime, I rake the remaining hay together in piles with a large, special, wooden hay rake, called »Grablje«. No hay should be left because that would be a waste! You can still see this when the hay wagon is collecting the hay from the field. There are always a few people (usually the wife and daughter or so) walking behind the wagon to rake the remaining hay together and throw it on the wagon manually.
Bine has also often hung in a hay rack when his father had other work or got tired. He clamped his legs around a crossbar, leaving both hands free to handle the hay and push it into the rack. There are also special chairs that you hang on the rack to stand on, but you don’t see those very often anymore and mostly as decoration.
I keep finding it a beautiful sight, all those old hay racks all over the fields. Although racks are also increasingly being broken down because they are no longer used much and are falling into disrepair. If you cannot or do not want to dry the hay in the field, it is turned into plastic bales with a special machine. This grass/hay then remains somewhat moist and is fed to the livestock in winter. You can also see those bales everywhere. Here too, people are progressing. I hope many racks remain for a long time! But if that is not the case, then at least there are still a lot of »mini hay racks« seen as decoration in gardens or as an advertising sign for, for example, a restaurant or company :).