Baling hay

The dew fell heavily yesterday and I was going to have to keep myself busy until mid-morning. I checked the oil and coolant and then refueled the 1520. I then turned my attentions to the baler and immediately realized that I was running low on twine. Although it was only 8 AM my anxiety level was mounting and a trip to the feed store was not in the planned schedule of events. I hopped in the truck and drove to town to pick up 20,0000 feet of twine. I was, at first, offered two orphaned rolls at a reduced price. Once back in the truck I realized that these rolls had been put on special  because the leaders which identify the beginning and end of the roll were no where to be found. There is a name for rolls like this … garbage. My level of anxiety bumped up a bit at the thought of the near disaster and exchanged the bad rolls for two good ones. I got home and began the hunt for the baler’s thirty-five grease zerks (what a great word … zerk … the term for this endearing little fitting is derived from the name of its inventor, Oscar U. Zerk) which needed attention. Half way through that process I had exhausted the partial tubes of grease in each of my grease guns and so, with ever-mounting anxiety, it was off to the auto-supply store. Upon my return I finished greasing and then hooked the baler to the 1520. Just then Joanna showed up and asked for her marching orders … double ’em up, I said. And so she did. I gave her a head start and within a half hour I was making bales. Five hours later we were done. No breakdowns, no accidents, and very fine weather. We made 29 – 4 x 5′ round bales each weighing around 750 pounds. Evening chores were waiting. I offered to take Joanna to dinner but she reminded me that homemade tacos were our typical celebration dinner at haying so, tacos it was. They were some of the very best tacos I had had in some time. The picture on the left shows the 605C at work. If you look closely you can see hay yet to be made on the left [If you study this image (and compare it to that posted two days ago) you will notice that the windrows have been doubled.] and completed bales on the right. Although the machine is a first-generation round baler it makes bales … and those are the very same words used by its previous owner when describing the one thing it had in its favor … it makes bales. I like the 605C because it’s old school. No electronics, no sensors, no computers, just rollers, belts, lots and lots of bearings, a bit of hydraulics, and quite a lot of personality for good measure. Before Joanna went in for her well deserved shower we, along with our equipment and a single bale, posed for a portrait. Click either of the images below for somewhat larger views.

24 thoughts on “Baling hay

    • Thanks for your understanding … I’m glad you ‘get it,’ few do! Now that the hay is stacked in the barn and out of the weather it can rain … rain … rain. Well, it had better stop raining in August so we can harvest our second cut off the field. Your dedication to and interest in things going on here at the farm are appreciated. D

  1. A job well done you two! When you say Joanna is going through and doubling up the rows – does this mean by hand, moving half of all your hay? That sounds like an incredible amount of work. Nice, Joanna! At least you don’t have to stack any bales today … talk about a work out, phew! Your narration of the past few days events was so fun to read, Thanks! Looking forward to the video 🙂 After thinking about it some more and looking at the photos again, it’s dawning on me now that the implement that makes the first set of rows is most likely what she drives to double them up, yeah? Just couldn’t picture one little person shoveling all that hay, but she’s pretty tough.

    • Hey Mitzi … I’ve been soooo bad about replying to this comment AND to your email of a bit ago. Please forgive me – there’s just been lots going on here at the Farm. To answer the question about turning the hay. Once the hay is cut it dries a bit and is then turned the next day with the rake … this flips the windrows so the side that was down is now up … and it can dry. If all goes well, and the dew isn’t too heavy the next morning – you can begin to bale. Because the implement we use to cut the hay is smaller than one’s that the ‘big boys’ have, our windrows are kind of small. Because the baler works better with very large windrows it is Joanna’s job to take pairs of rows and combine them into one. She does this with the rake just before I bale … she simply ‘sweeps’ one row right on top of an adjacent row and … presto … you’ve got a double-sized row that the baler deals with much more easily than it can deal with singles. Thanks so much for your continued dedication to and interest in what’s going on at the farm. I promise to respond to your email shortly … promises, promises. I’m so glad that everything is well with you and Josh and that you both continue to thrive. D

  2. What a day! I hear you about the anxiety. The level of uncertainty involved in the job is extremely high; as are the stakes. Glad it worked out in the end. Be nice to the machine now and put it away nicely cleaned and greased – she’ll reward you again the next time :>) In the farms near my house the bales have to be wrapped in white plastic. They look like GIANT marshmallows just waiting to be roasted on a bonfire! It’s so nice to be rolling into the summer, isn’t it!

    • Thanks Maurice. Thanks for recognizing the source of my anxiety. Few understand that most all of our feed for the year results from this singular effort. If we mess up … or the weather turns for the worst … or we have a major equipment malfunction … we’re sunk! Once the hay is down it needs to be baled, for better or worse – it’s a very tense few days and boy am I glad it’s over for this year. We will make a second cut in August and those (smaller, square) bales will be for the horses. The wrapped bales you mention are called haylage. Farmers cut the hay and bale it before it dries (the hay retains 50-60% of its moisture). These bales are then wrapped in plastic to seal the bale and produce a fermentation chamber! Because the hay inside is still moist the bacterial populations can grow … aerobic colonies work first and use up all the air … once all the air is gone anerobic fermentation converts some of the sugars into acids … pH drops from around 7 down to 4 or 5 at which point all bacterial growth stops and the hay can be stored for long periods of time this way. The stuff inside has a pleasant, sweet, smell that I like very much. It’s a smell that reminds me of cows! Making haylage has the advantage that the hay doesn’t need to be dry to bale. Haylage is typically fed to cows. Sheep do much better on dry hay. Thanks for your interest. D

      • Thanks for that! It’s fascinating. I figured that the hay would turn to a hideous rotten slop but you’ve explained it nicely. Now, I’m thinking … “fermentation” and “cow feed.” No wonder cows always seem so pleasant, so happy. They’re pished on the fermented hay! Cow whiskey! Worth a try, I wonder?

        • I’ve mentioned that I think haylage smells great … the cows love it. I think, however, that I’d eat dry grass hay, with a bit of vinaigrette, before I ate a mouthful of haylage. D

  3. I run the orange nylon twine. This baler has no problems with it. Local dealer also sells the double roll, which is very convenient.

    • Hey John … are you running a 605C? How do you like it? I find mine to be a challenge! Everything is quite a bit easier when the windrows are quite large (usually doubled, sometimes tripled). Starting a bale and keeping it even are two of the things I always have to keep an eye on. I too usually use the orange twine – my local supplier recently moved to some blue material which seems a bit thicker. Oh yeah, and that’s the other thing that is tricky with the 605C … wrapping, and making sure you’ve got the twine properly distributed to hold the bale tight. Anyway … thanks for check in a the farm. Check back again, I’m thinking of posting a video of making a bale that I made last year – we’ll see how it goes. D

  4. Sounds like a very good day’s work to me, and those bales are a beautiful sight. I guess you had some energy left after the bicycle trip. I am in awe!

  5. I was also thinking, ‘what? no breakdowns? what kind of day was that?’ but then I read further and realized you stopped one before the first problem had a chance to happen (29 seems a safe number to end on). 🙂 My husband and I have enjoyed this series of posts so much!

    • Ha! I live in fear of breakdown. Very few places carry parts for the baler and most that do are salvage yards. Our weather windows are so narrow that if anything should have a major failure we’re in BIG trouble. If the hay should be rained on once it has dried its value as feed goes way down. It’s a real concern of mine. We can deal with minor things … but I lay awake at night worry about major disasters! I spent yesterday putting the bales out of the weather – all is well until next year. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed these posts … I have enjoyed putting them together. I’m thinking of posting a video I made last year while baling – stay tuned. D

      • We know all about salvage yard parts. We often contemplated buying another old baler from farm auction sales (i.e. the piece of machinery parked in the bushes and neglected until the farmer retires) so we could strip it for parts. We had grass alfalfa mix on about 150 acres. Usually over 400 bales. The stress is very familiar. My husband was having sympathy pains for you all week.

        • Hey M … sorry for the delay in getting back. And, please thank your husband for sending psychic vibrations of support my way … received and very much appreciated. I’m glad the two of you understand the worry associated with the process. Few understand that all the ‘eggs’ are in one ‘basket’ and if something goes wrong … well, there goes our supply of feed for the year. You know … no matter how much you watch the weather, it can change in an instant. No matter how much you prepare, something cam break. There’s just so much that can go wrong that is out of one’s control. Anyway, it’s done and all’s well that ends well … right! Thanks again for your understanding and support. D

  6. Sounds like anxiety got the better of you for a while … and then you found your stride again 🙂 reading this post began to raise my own anxiety levels until I found that you had successfully got everything working! Congratulations on a great hay making week 🙂

    • I was just getting set to reply and saw your email address … ‘infernalmachines’? You’ve got to explain that one! I was just about to say ‘I don’t know why I get so worked up when making hay,’ but that would have been telling a falsehood. I worry about mechanical breakdown. Our weather windows are usually so narrow that anything that slows us down can be a disaster. If the hay should get rained on once it’s dry it can be ruined. Mechanical fixes on equipment that is so old is never easy and often takes days or even weeks. When you depend on a crop to feed your animals over-winter, one gets worked up in anticipation of breakdowns. I staked the bales yesterday in the barn and I’m so glad we got through another year AOK. Thanks much for continuing to be such a dedicated follower Seonaid. D

        • Hey Seonaid … sorry for taking so long to get back to you. As you know, we’ve been busy! Once the hay is in we have to trim the fields to get ready for the second cutting of hay which will be in August. This first cut which we just completed will be fed to the sheep and the second goes to the horses. First cut hay is sometimes coarse and can be a bit stemmy … there’s plenty of green leaves though and the sheep eat this up like candy. The horses are though to please though and second cut hay is more to their liking. The forage taken in August is much leafier, tender, and delicious (with a bit of dressing, I’ve been tempted to eat it myself!). Thanks for your continued interest and support. D

    • Joker! I live in fear of a breakdown. There are only a few places in the country where one can get parts for the 605C, the most reliable place being a salvage yard! If something breaks I’m in REAL trouble. And, you know, nothing is quick … repairs take either 2 hours, a day, or a week! When we’re on such a tight schedule any sort of problem is potentially disastrous. But, you know all that. I stacked the bales in the lean-to yesterday … I’m so relieved! D

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