by Ken Gies of Fort Plain, NY
The limiting factor when harvesting hay on my small farm has always been loading the hay. Last year, when my third child outgrew my farm, I had only one body left to help hand load my six acres of hay. This year, even that one body was occasionally unavailable. I had started prototyping a mini hayloader to complement my haying efforts with my mini horses and now the crunch was on.
I used what junk I had on hand, old bicycle sprockets and chains, a half rotted swather canvas, pieces of bed frames and one section of hay inverter belting. The result followed conventional hayloader design with the inverter belting serving as a pickup reel, and the swather belting as the elevator carrier and the whole unit trailing the wagon. It was narrow, drew too heavily, and tended to roll the hay like a log. However, it provided a good education in building my own rollers and frame which sped up my second try.
For my second attempt I bought an eighteen foot long, four foot wide hay inverter belt, and almost five hundred nylon teeth. I built a pan under the belting attempting to use the one belt as both a pickup and an elevator in a trailing unit. I based this on the design of the hayloader pictured in Lynn Miller’s book, Haying With Horses, at the top of page 333. However, the inverter teeth were not shaped to drag the hay beneath them and it simply bunched the hay at the bottom of the belt like my first one did.
I was sitting on a 5 gallon bucket staring at the hayloader. I had a significant amount of time and money invested. My wife, the great motivating influence in my life, walked up and asked what I was thinking. I was thinking about dropping the whole project and I told her so. She told me that it had better work since I had spent so much money and time on it already. She doesn’t talk that way very often so I figured I had better come up with a solution.
Now, one thing I have learned over the years is that the best way to solve a problem is to do something else for a while. Some of my best thinking takes place forking manure, so I headed to the corral to clean out the leavings from the previous few days. I thought about that inverter belt and how it was made to be used. Fling a forkful of manure. Then I had a flashback to a picture in a previous SFJ of a Pottinger hay packing wagon of some sort. Fling another forkful. It had a pickup on the front and the hay compartment on the back…. Fling. An inverter belt picks hay up from the front and carries it to the rear…. FLING! I finished cleaning the corral and hurried back to the hayloader.
Over the next few hours I moved the tow hitch from the high side of the hayloader to the low side to reverse the direction of travel. I removed the belt and turned it 180 degrees to change the way the teeth faced. That was faster than turning all the teeth one at a time. Then I removed the pan from under the belting and mounted a piece of roofing tin on top to hold the hay against the teeth. Finally I mounted a cable to serve as a temporary draw point for the wagon. IT WORKED! The sun shone more brightly and my marriage was saved!
Now that the drama was over, and a genuine success in hand, I felt the compulsion to tell someone about it. Who better than the SFJ readers! So, since I hinted at the hayloader project in The Embarrassingly Late Spring edition of the SFJ, I had all the motivation I needed.
When I first dreamed up the idea of a mini hayloader, I wanted to come up with something that worked and was built with current off-the-shelf components. I have achieved both of those goals.
Spotlight On: How-To & Plans
Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.
This guide to hedge-trimming comes from The Pruning Answer Book by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan. Q: What’s the correct way to shear a formal hedge? A: The amount of shearing depends upon the specific plant and whether the hedge is formal or informal. You’ll need to trim an informal hedge only once or twice a year, although more vigorous growers, such as privet and ninebark, may need additional clippings.
The first wire we tried was a small gauge steel wire which was not terribly satisfactory with horses. Half the time they wouldn’t see it and would charge on through. And the other half of the time they would remember getting shocked by something they hadn’t seen there and would refuse to come through when we were standing there with gate wide open. We realized that visibility was an important consideration when working with horses.
Here it was like a beehive with too many fuzzy cheeked teen-agers who couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to be of much help. But work was being accomplished; bents, end walls and partitions were being assembled like magic and raised into place with well-coordinated, effortless ease and precision. No tempers were flaring, no egomaniacs were trying to steal the show, and there was not the usual ten percent doing ninety percent of the work.
She has one more gift to give: Chicken Pie.
When horses were the main source of power on every farm, in the British Isles it was the tip-cart, rather than the wagon which was the most common vehicle, and for anyone farming with horses, it is still an extremely useful and versatile piece of equipment. The farm cart was used all over the country, indeed in some places wagons were scarcely used at all, and many small farms in other areas only used carts.
Below is a short piece from Starting Your Farm, by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller. Click the links below to see Chapter One of Starting Your Farm and to view the book in our online bookstore. “You may have purchased a farm with a fantastic set of old barns and sheds. You, on […]
The basic needs that we are addressing here are as follows: To create a sunny, airy (not drafty), dry, convenient, accessible place to bring in our cow or cows, with or without calves, to be comfortably and easily secured for milking and other purposes such as vet checks, AI breeding, etc. where both you and your cow feel secure and content. A place that is functional, clean, warm and inviting in every way.
While the low down delivery wagon is an improvement, the objectionable features are increased. But with all those objections the low down wagons increase every year. Their convenience outweighs all other objections. They are handy for country delivery and are fitted up inside to suit either grocers, bakers, butchers or milk delivery, or a combination of the four.
It took several incarnations to come up with a satisfactory design for the bottom heated greenhouse bench. In the final version we used two 55 gallon drums welded end-to-end for the firebox and a salvaged piece of 12” stainless steel chimney for the horizontal flue. We learned the hard way that a large firebox and flue are necessary to dissipate the intense heat into the surrounding air chamber and to minimize heat stress on these components.
Long ago when grain was handled mostly by hand, the crop was cut slightly green so seed did not shatter or shake loose too easily. That crop was then gathered into ‘bundles’ or ‘sheafs’ and tied sometimes using a handful of the same grain for the cording. These sheafs were then gathered together, heads up, and leaned upon one another to form drying shocks inviting warm breezes to pass through. In old England, the field workers took great pride in their work and distinctive sheaf knots were designed and employed.
Good barn doors, ones that will last a lifetime of opening, sliding and swinging in the wind, require careful design and construction. In 1946 the Starline Co., a barn building firm from the midwestern US, compiled a book of barn plans. These two diagrams were in that book and presented excellent information.
This is the story of a harrow on a budget. I saw plans on the Tillers International website for building an adjustable spike tooth harrow. I modified the plans somewhat to suit the materials I had available and built a functional farm tool for eighteen dollars. The manufactured equivalent would have cost at least $300.
Let’s assume the beginning ‘farmer’ has absolutely nothing. Nothing but a will to farm and a reasonably normal body. The very first thing you must do is search out a farmer, preferably a farmer who farms close to the way that you want to farm. You must watch him, ask questions, do as you are told and learn everything you can. Very shortly you will be on your own and you will find that the more you learn now, the better you will be when you have only yourself to rely on.
Earn money by gathering weeds
One of the challenges I constantly face using draft ponies is finding appropriately sized equipment. Mya is a Shetland-Welsh cross, standing at 11.2 hands. Most manure spreaders are big and heavy and require a team of horses. I needed something small and light and preferably wheeled to minimize impact to the land. My husband and I looked around our budding small farm for something light, wheeled, cheap, and available, and we quickly noticed our Vermont-style garden cart.
How to remove the wheels of a No. 9 McCormick Deering Mower, an excerpt from The Horsedrawn Mower Book.