Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hay Day #3

Well, as promised here is the conclusion of our hay series. Putting in hay is a three step process. First, cutting the hay and next letting they hay dry. The last day of the process really has two big steps - raking and baling.

We bale hay from four different fields. Two of the fields are on our property and the others are up the road and belong to some friends. They don't use the hay, so if we're willing to bale it we can have it.

Before the baling took place this is what the hay loft looked like. We store the hay here for the winter and feed the cows in that area below. (If you look closely you can see a cow nose down there on the right.)

The first step of the day is raking the hay into rows. This starts in the mid-morning, once the dew has dried. Farmer John's Dad mans the tractor for the day. They attach this rake to the tractor and off he goes.

There are little tines on the rake that lift the hay and lay in in a row. Here is one of our fields raked and ready for baling.

While the hay in being raked, Farmer John gets the baler ready to go. I have to say that this baler is probably the most amazing piece of equipment on the farm. It has the ability to scoop up hay, compact it into bales, then knot and cut twine around the bales. It's fascinating to watch, and these photos really don't do it justice.

If you were sitting on the tractor and turned around, this is the view of the baler. The pick-up turns and pull the hay toward the auger. The auger pushes it into the bale chamber.

Here's the back of the baler. Farmer John is standing next to the bale chamber. The plunger compacts the hay in the chamber then the most awe-inspiring part of the process happens.

This is the knotter mechanism. It's one part engineering and two parts black magic. I used to think there were little men in the baler frantically tying knots around the bales, but it's really these little stainless-steel fingers. Farmer John is convinced that even the engineers that designed it don't know how it works.

After the knots are tied and the twine is cut, the bales come out at the back of the baler. This is Farmer John's Dad riding into battle against the heat and forage.The bales drop from the baler one by one and are spread throughout the field. It is my job to stack them in groups to make loading the bales more efficient.
The bales are packed soundly onto the back of the pick-up for transport back to the barn. Once back at the barn the crew unloads the bales from the truck. Farmer John got a new toy this year, a hay elevator. This wonderful contraption works as a conveyor moving the hay from the pick-up bed to the top of the loft. Before the elevator, the hay had to be thrown from the truck to the top of the loft.
The baler counts the bales as it ties them. Here is our total from day three.
Here is the barn after three days of putting in hay. Lots of hard, sweaty work went into filling the barn. Farmer John and I can't do this on our own and are very grateful for all the extra workers that come to help us.
There are few feelings as satisfying as looking into the loft and seeing all that hay. It's a whole winters' worth of feed that we harvested for our livestock. Our total number of bales now stands at 976.


  1. Mollie...
    You are writing a book! This post is wonderful and truly fascinating. Perhaps it is because I have spent time on the Jennings Brae Bank Farm, but this "history of hay" is very touching. I remember learning about the invention of machines...combine, thresher, etc. Now I have a much greater appreciation for the guys who convinced the little men to live in those contraptions!
    Congrats to you, Farmer John, the tractor driver, etc. for filling the loft.

  2. PS
    I am proud to be a Luddite! And i know what it means!

  3. What a charming summer story from the Jennings Brae Bank Farm. Hard work with great results. Your herd will be happy during the cold months. Here comes August...I'll be checking the blog for more news from West Virginia.

  4. I loved your description of the baling process, especially the part engineering and two parts black magic! How amazing what can be done!

  5. Mollie reading this was like taking a walk with Pap and Dad right before we'd trudge to the field and end-over-end the bales until they hefted them onto the back of the old hay truck. The one thing you and John have that they didn't, other than the elevator, is that they had children twisting and turning nobs every-which-way on the baylor. I'm pretty sure it was a different one, but very similar. Pap would have to re-tune everything before starting because all year long, as we played in the barn, we'd turn the nobs in all directions! This is just as Mom said, "A Farm Book of the Ages!" Love it!


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