The proverb was recorded by John Heywood in 1546: “Whan the sunne shinth make hay.” It appears to be of English Tudor origin. The phrase was used in a non-farming context in 1673 in Richard Head’s Canting Academy: “She … was resolv’d … to make Hay whilest the Sun shin’d.”
It takes several days to make hay once the crop has grown mature. Most important, there should be no rain during that time. First, it must be cut and allowed to dry in the warm sun. Next, it must be gathered in a way that makes it easy to store until it is fed to livestock. Stacking in the field was a common practice. Several people were needed to tend a large field. The stack shape was designed to shed water. Claude Monet painted many beautiful scenes with haystacks in them. This is one of my favorites.
Claude Monet | Haystacks (Midday)…
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