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!