The difference between hay and straw and why you should know

Actually, you don’t need to know the difference between hay and straw, and I’m hoping you think they’re interchangeable. That way you won’t notice the glaring mistakes in the ARC of My Unfair Godmother.

So call me a city girl—I’ve never dealt with either plants, and when I was putting my own spin on the story of Rumpelstiltskin I called the straw hay half the time. I even had a couple characters wonder what the horses would eat if all the straw in the kingdom were turned into gold.

About half of you are laughing right now because you know horses don’t eat straw. Now that I’ve done a little research, I know that pretty much nothing eats straw because it has no nutritional value. This is probably why people in the Middle Ages used it to stuff mattresses and for bedding in the barn. (I did know that much.)

In my defense, Rogert’s Fourth Edition Thesaurus lists straw under the food category and there’s that scripture in Isaiah about the millennium that says the lion will eat straw like the ox—which I suppose is a translation error since there’s that no-nutritional-value problem which makes straw unappealing to animals. (Although my children seem to love foods with no nutritional value.)

I’ve had two people read My Unfair Godmother and one of them told me about the straw/hay problem. I emailed my editor and told her about the issue. I thought she was going to fix it before the manuscript went to ARCs, but no, I just an ARC and the straw is hay half the time.


I hate looking like an idiot.

Anyway, this whole blog is just a preamble to tell you that next week I’m going to give away an ARC. But you have to pretend you don’t know the difference between straw and hay.


  1. nikkebirde
    August 23, 2010 at 1:52 am

    What difference? ::wink wink::

  2. Candace
    August 23, 2010 at 4:15 am

    *sigh* I suppose I can’t enter again. But I didn’t know anything about straw and probably wouldn’t have ever noticed until you just pointed it out. 🙂

  3. Stacey
    August 23, 2010 at 8:17 am

    I plead the 5th. 😉

  4. brendajean
    August 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Really? I doubt a horse or cow would know the difference. They chew on their own cud for heaven’s sake! (I can’t wait to read you book)!!!!!!! You will always be intelligent to me:)

  5. Janette Rallison
    August 23, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Candace, I’m trying to remember why you can’t enter. Do you live in some remote spot of the world where it would cost me four times as much as the book is worth to send it to you?

  6. Terry Deighton
    August 23, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Every year, our church has a hay scramble for the kids. I’m usually in charge, and my husband picks up the straw. (Okay, he taught me the difference when we first started this twenty-five years ago. He’s a farm boy.) This year, we sent our daughter to get the stuff, and we told her maybe fifteen times to get straw, not hay, because it’s cleaner, and fewer allergy problems arise. The difference between straw and hay can be important sometimes.

  7. Erin Edwards
    August 23, 2010 at 10:20 am

    And people think that if you write fantasy you don’t need to do research. 😉 Which I know you do, but you have to quit researching sometime or the book never gets written!

    I was surprised when you referred to your editor as a “she” when I thought your editor was “the bow-tied one” not the “bow-headed one” but I checked my copy of MY FAIR GODMOTHER and, sure enough, you have a different editor for that one from your other books.

  8. Valerie Ipson
    August 23, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    What the hay? Hay isn’t straw?

  9. Janette Rallison
    August 23, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    The problem with research is that you have to know what you don’t know so that you’ll research it. If you think you know something and you’re wrong, you never research it to find out–and speaking of things I thought I knew–apparently Richard the Lion Heart wasn’t killed on a crusade, like I always thought. He was killed while invading France. (At least I knew it was from an arrow wound that got infected.) So yeah, that’s another thing I got wrong in the ARC that makes me look like an idiot.

    Note to self: Research everything!

  10. Janette Rallison
    August 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    The bow-tied one works for Putnam, Emily works for Walker. And now I have another editor at Feiwel and Friends. What can I say,I believe in spreading myself thin.

    (Sleeping? Showering? Luxuries I clearly don’t need.)

  11. Candace
    August 23, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Um, I don’t think I live anywhere where it would cost you extra.
    I won last time. 🙂 I’m the girl that bribed the random number generator. 🙂
    But that’s ok, someone else can win this ARC and then become my best friend and let me borrow it. 🙂

  12. Janette Rallison
    August 23, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Ah, yes–here we have a clear demonstration of Janette’s amazing ability to forget things that happened two weeks ago. Of course I rememeber you, Candace. The Random Number Generator keeps asking for that chocolate you promised. But who knows, RNG might just choose you again. It is, after all, a different book. And we already know the RNG can be bribed.

  13. Candace
    August 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    The chocolate is in the mail, I promise. 🙂

  14. tamir
    August 24, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    I was seriously thinking last Friday while driving past lots of hay….What is hay really? Well…doesn’t look like you actually answered that question, but I thought it was funny you brought up the hay/straw thing. Am I just ignorant…what is hay? Well, I would not have laughed at you while reading the book…

  15. tamir
    August 24, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Oh…and I just thought… “Turkey in the straw…turkey in the hay…” You can laugh at them if you want to. So misleading.

  16. Heather B. Moore
    August 25, 2010 at 9:46 am

    So now I know where to go for my hay/straw dilemmas.

  17. Elle Strauss
    August 26, 2010 at 11:35 am

    So, what do we have to do to enter? And is Canada okay?

  18. Janette Rallison
    August 26, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I have yet to decide what you’ll have to do to enter. (Sing my praises, perhaps? Name a child after me? Little things.) I’ll let you know in the next blog.

    And Canada is fine.

  19. Ann
    September 4, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    As a freshman in college I made the same mistake in a short story for a creative writing class. The prof was so delighted in pointing out my mistake that he totally overlooked my story….arggghhh! Never take a creative writing class from an unpublished wannabe writer. 🙂

  20. Julie Wright
    September 14, 2010 at 6:50 am

    I love you! This is hilarious and priceless, and before I moved to the sticks, I didn’t know the difference either.

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