If you are thinking of a farm that is spread out over a flat valley with acres and acres making up a single field, you would not be thinking of my farm. On my farm, one would be hard pressed to find any flat ground larger than a few feet across. There are no square corners or straight fence lines that aren’t curved around swampy areas, slides and meandering river banks. And the county road bi-sects the farm. Our fields are small tucked-in spots around the river and it takes a lot of time to move each piece of equipment as they are needed into the field.
There is always a slow motion parade of equipment as we move from one field to the next.
Mike has just taken this piece of equipment up to the far hay field after driving up the county road. He has to follow the path through the forest and across the old log landing by the railroad grade before getting to the hay field. Once he is done with this piece of equipment it will need to be moved out of the hayfield to make room for the rake to be brought in to form the dried hay into windrows for the baler.
Once the snow/slush/mud gets to be too deep for the Gator to travel from the house to the barn across the river or from the barn to the outdoor feeders, the tractor is used. We secure a plywood topped pallet to the forks of the front loader creating a solid base. Bales are stacked on the pallet and someone (me) gets the opportunity to ride on the bales out to the feeders. Continue reading
While the barn is used for hay storage and feeding for the yearling bulls, the empty half of the barn is used for bundling firewood.
Each use creates its own kind of mess and it is only about 10 feet between the two so we make an effort to keep the hay mess and the wood mess cleaned up as much as possible no matter which area we are working in.
It was a very stormy day and everyone was happy to be out of the weather. As we were working in the wood, Butler the dog was inspecting part of the haystack in search of vermin that like to move in this time of year, but he would always peek around the corner to make sure we were still working on the crib of wood that needed to be bundled. Both dog and barn were doing double duty on this winter day.
The fields are done, all the hay has been picked up and is now undercover in one of the three barns. Now it is time to clean the equipment before putting it away for another year.
It is a very messy business cleaning the equipment and when we are done it is impossible to tell where the dirt ends and the person begins. The fine dust clings to every square inch of the equipment and to us as we clean them.
During the cleaning process the sky kept getting darker and darker. The billowing clouds were an ominous sign that we could get a good rain.
We had to really hustle to get all the equipment cleaned and tucked back into the storage side of the barn. It seemed like once we were completed with all the pieces, the clouds began to dissipate and within a couple of hours, the sky was clear and bright again.
Now that the fields are done, a good summer rain shower would be a good thing. But for this day, the chance for moisture is gone.
It’s all hands on deck as we get down to the final hay field. This year has been a challenge with the breakdown of one tractor, a deadline to get the far field completed before the county road is used as a bypass for the highway and threatening rain every time we start baling.
We had to pick up bales as quickly as they were being punched out of the baler and since the tractor was already being used for the baling it could not be used on the stacker. The Big Red Beast was used quite a bit this year which meant that hand stacking in the barn kept us all busy for many hours through the season.
The crop this year is only about half of the volume we baled last year. This is not a complaint, last year was a stellar year and we could not hope to come close to having that level of production each year.
Our elder tractor, the one that we have used a lot over the last 30 plus years is going strong. This rig is doing many tasks this hay season.
We switch from mower, to fluffer, to rake, to baler sometimes several times throughout the day.
After this hay season is over, Old Reliable is going to get a spa day. A complete cleaning, lube and a check of all belts and fluids is on tap, this hard working rig will be in need of a little TLC for all the extra work.
Jackson the farm dog loves to ride the bales. When the Gator is loaded with five bales, he likes to fit into the niche of the two on the second layer.
It is a good vantage point as he scours the landscape for squirrels, chipmunks, birds and coyotes. The added benefit of the hay bales give him good back end support as he rubs those itchy spots.
Now if I could only get him trained to feed the hay bales in flakes off the Gator we would have a much easier time feeding the cows.