I've heard this saying since I was a child but until we bought the farm I never really understood what it means. Making hay takes time and sunshine. It's not a quick process. It's not a process that can be organized whenever the mood strikes. Making hay is determined by nature.
The first step of making hay is, essentially, growing grass. Really long grass. Once the grass has grown, the process requires several rain free days. In other words, sunshine. The first day is dedicated to cutting the hay down. After the hay has been cut, the hay must be fluffed. You can use a rake or a tedder to fluff the hay. Once the hay has had some drying time it must be raked and then left to dry a bit more. Day three is normally the earliest day on which hay may be baled. Baling the hay and getting it into a dry storage area is the final step of making hay.
The danger of not making hay while the sunshine is, obviously, rain. During any step of the hay making process rain is a disaster. It robs the hay of it's nutritional value and turns a vital crop into garbage.
This weekend we've been making hay. So have our neighbors. The large farm near us is on their second cutting. We are on our first. They have been working from dawn until dusk filling hay wagon after hay wagon with square bales. Rolling giant rounds of hay into a row at the edge of their fields. Our hay has been raked but we'll need to have one more day of sunshine to get the baling done. We are hoping that the sunshine holds for just one more day so we can finish making hay.