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: People
Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…
You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big…
A livery stable, for the benefit of those who never heard of one, was an establishment which catered to horses. It boarded them, doctored them, and bred them, whenever any of these services were required. It also furnished “rigs” — a horse and buggy or perhaps a team, for anyone who wished to ride, rather than walk, about the town or countryside. It was a popular service for traveling men who came into town on the railway train and wanted to call on customers in cross-road communities.
Ten years ago I answered a classified ad and went to a small western Oregon farm to look at some young laying hens that were for sale. That visit to Buck and Mary Rickett’s place made a quiet impression on me that has lasted to this day. On that first visit in ’71 my eager new farmer’s eye and ear absorbed as much as possible of what seemed like an unusual successful, small operation. I asked what must have seemed like an endless stream of questions on that early visit.
I believe that there exist many great practicing teachers, some of who deliberately set out to become one and others who may have never graduated from college but are none-the-less excellent and capable teachers. I would hazard a guess that many readers of Small Farmer’s Journal know more than one teacher who falls within this latter category. My grandfather, and artist and author Eric Sloane, were two such teachers.
Watching Wayne’s sure hands it was easy for me to forget that this is a 91 year old man. There was strength, economy, elegance and thrift in his every stroke.
I’ve got two teams of Belgians that power all the things on the farm. I don’t have a tractor, I don’t have a truck or anything like that. Everything must be done by them. I have two buggy horses that I use for transportation. I have a one-seater buggy for when I’m going into work or into town by myself and then I have a two-seater one for when I’m with the kids.
We received word of a new environmental film, Kombit: The Cooperative, about deforestation in Haiti — and an international effort to combat it by supporting small farmers on the island.
I am certainly not the most able of dairymen, nor the most skilled among vegetable growers, and by no means am I to be counted amongst the ranks of the master teamsters of draft horses. If there is anything remarkable about my story it is that someone could know so little about farming as I did when I started out and still manage to make a good life of it.
One of the most striking aspects of this development is the strength and confidence that comes from this communal way of living. While it is impressive to build a barn in a day it seems even more impressive to imagine building four barns or six, and all the rest of the needs of a community. For these young Amish families the vision of a shared agricultural community is strong, and clear.
As the seasons slip by at a centuries-old Dutch estate, an 85-year-old pruning master and the owner work on cultivating crops in the kitchen garden. To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness, the old man explains in this calm, observational documentary. The pruning master still works every day. It would be easier if he were only 60 and young.
I came to sheep farming from a background in the arts – with a passion for spinning and weaving. When we were able to leave our house in town to buy our small farm, a former dairy operation, I had no idea that the desire to have a couple of fiber animals would turn into full time shepherding. I had discovered Icelandic sheep, and was completely enamored of their beauty, their hardiness and their intelligence.
One weekend I attended a Biodynamic meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm in Dorena, Oregon, in the Row River Valley, just east of Cottage Grove. I always enjoy seeing other food growing operations, as this is such an infinitely broad subject, there is always much to learn from others’ experiences. At this farm, draft horses are used for much of the work.
Who is growing food in the high desert? How can you find it? And how can you contribute to creating a vibrant local food community in Central Oregon? Find out here! By consuming more Central Oregon grown food we keep money in our region, support local businesses, and have delicious, fresh food to eat.
UC Santa Cruz is thrilled to welcome applications to the 50th Anniversary year of the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture. The 39 apprentices each year arrive from all regions of the US and abroad, and represent a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, and interests. We have a range of course fee waivers available to support participation in the Apprenticeship.
I couldn’t have been happier to collaborate with The National Young Farmers Coaltion again when they called up about being involved in their Bootstrap Blog Series. In 2013, all of their bloggers were young and beginning lady dairy farmers, and they invited us on board to consult and collaborate in the production of videos of each farmer contributor to the blog series.
This is a poem from Paul Hunter’s book Ripening.
Mayfield Farm is a small family owned and operated mixed farm situated at 1150 m above sea level on the eastern edge of the Great Dividing Range in northern New South Wales, Australia. Siblings, Sandra and Ian Bannerman, purchased the 350 acre property in October, 2013, and have converted it from a conventionally operated farm to one that is run on organic principles. Additional workers on the farm include Janette, Ian’s wife, and Jessica, Ian’s daughter.