Makin’ hay

OK, so there I was, strolling leisurely through the Tyrolean countryside in Austria on a beautiful sunny day, when out pops a bit of striking agricultural heritage.

“Hello,” thought I, “this could be a little something for the ol’ blog back home.”

And so it proves. Ladies and gentlemen, meine Damen und Herren, meet the Stannger, here demonstrated with and without hay.

Demonstration of Stannger: hay-drying poles in North Tyrol, Austria, July 2014
Demonstration of Stannger: hay-drying poles in North Tyrol, Austria, July 2014

As you can see, it’s a simple bit of kit: a wooden pole of around 2m, tapered at each end, with 3-4 cross pieces inserted at different angles. A nearby information board helpfully explains how these are driven into pre-made holes in the ground (created by “Stannger irons”), and the cross-braces laden with hay, plus a final hay “cap” on top. Thus, the gathered hay is left to dry – rain running clean off the outer surface. While industrial drying methods have largely replaced the Stannger, the Tyrol is a region clearly proud of its traditions, and you can still see a few of these devices in active use around the countryside.

Given the apparent simplicity and effectiveness of Stannger, one could imagine a long history behind them, which naturally leads me to wonder: could something like this show up in excavation, at a site with good waterlogged preservation of wood? And if a piece of Stannger did show up, would we necessarily recognize it? Might it not appear more like, say, a fragment of ladder? Off the top of my head, the best typological distinction of Stannger seems to be the jaunty angles at which the cross-braces are set, which would be odd (to say the least) in your average ladder.

I leave you with that thought, and with a fence of traditional type from the same Tyrolean village – included here purely for aesthetic reasons!

A traditionally-built fence in North Tyrol, Austria, July 2014.
A traditionally-built fence in North Tyrol, Austria, July 2014.


6 Replies on “Makin’ hay

  1. how strange, I am sure I saw one of these on the way into Oxford yesterday by train, coincidence or not? I love Lillian Beckwith’s fictionalised accounts of haymaking in Hebrides, presumably the Stannger relies on slightly gentler winds.

  2. In most of Britain, any fence with much age to it will have started converting itself into a hedge. Does that rule work in the Tyrol? Would having a naturally coniferous vegetation (judging by your photos) make a difference?

    1. A very good question to which I’m afraid I have no answer – except to note that the landscapes I saw were not particularly well endowed with hedgerows.

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