Hay was cut from green grass with a scythe, laid in parallel windrows on the ground, dried and turned with hand-held or horse-drawn rakes after a few days of sunshine, raked by hand or horse-drawn sleds into “cobs” or “cocks” or head-high stacks in the field for further drying, then carted to the farmyard or barn where they were made into more durable ricks or stacks out of the weather’s way.
Grain crops were cut with scythe or sickle when the plants had already turned from green to gold; the fallen plants were immediately bundled into a sheaf, tied with a few straw stalks; then six to eight sheaves were leaned against each other to form a reasonably weather-proof stook or shook, which stood in the field until the sheaves were carted off to compose larger even more rain-resistant stacks, grain-ends in, cut-stalks out, either in a barn or left out in the fields.
Hay in Art -Missed stacks and mistakes: distinguishing between hay and straw and other heaps.
In the fall of 1890, Claude Monet arranged to have the wheatstacks near his home left out over the winter. By the following summer he had painted them at least thirty times, at different times throughout the seasons. Wheatstacks was Monet's first series and the first in which he concentrated on a single subject, differentiating pictures only by color, touch, , and lighting and weather conditions. He said, "For me a landscape hardly exists at all as a landscape, because its appearance is constantly changing; but it lives by virtue of its surroundings, the air and the light which vary continually."
After beginning outdoors, Monet reworked each painting in his studio to create the color harmonies that unify each canvas. The pinks in the sky echo the snow's reflections, and the blues of the wheatstacks' shadows are found in the wintry light shining on the stacks, in the houses' roofs, and in the snowy earth. With raised, broken brushstrokes, Monet captured nuances of light and created a solid, geometric structure that prevents the surface from simply melting into blobs. The wheatstacks are solid forms, and, while the outlying houses are indecipherable close-up, they are clear from a distance.