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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

Fences of hay in Nordfjord, Norway 2009. The fences have horizontal wires strung about 8 inches apart and the hay is put on loosely, straight after being cut. In Norway they have some summers which they call a ‘green winter’ when it never gets very hot and dry. The hay dries by the wind blowing through and only the top gets wet when it rains.

by William Castle of Shropshire, UK

Hay on Tripods

For my neighbours, my way of making hay must seem a bit peculiar, not only because much of it is done with a horse, but also at any time I might have hay in a loose stack and some being baled, with some drying on the ground, some on tripods, and occasionally some in cocks. The reason for this variety of methods is partially because I use a horse, but also I sometimes need to be away from home during the hay making season, and in the unsettled weather conditions of the last few years it is useful to be able to make hay when the weather is not ideal.

To start with, however, I made hay on the ground by the usual method, turning it once a day with the horse, and getting a contractor to mow and bale it. Even when making hay on the ground, certainly in Britain there is a divergence of opinion about how and when to turn it. In one camp are those more traditionally minded folk who like to leave it untouched in the swath for a day or two, saying that it is damaged less by rain if it has not been moved first. This method probably has some validity when using side delivery rakes and spider wheel turners which invert the swath, leaving the leaves all tucked under away from the sun, but with the now ubiquitous rotary tedders, which thoroughly pull the rows apart and spread them horizontally, the already partly dried leaves are still exposed to the sun and so could become too dry before the stems have lost their moisture. In the other camp there are those who move the hay immediately, going through the hay sometimes two or three times a day to get it dry as quickly as possible. Leaving the issue of leaf loss in legumes aside, there have been studies which do show that the best quality grass hay is made by making it quickly. Even if the hay does get rained on in the early stages, having it drier by moving it before the rain comes still means that it is fit to carry sooner and is therefore of better quality.

My own method lies between these extremes, to suit the machinery and the time I have. To start with I tended to let the hay lie in the swath until the day following mowing. Once the dew had gone I then turned it with the side delivery rake, turning two swaths separately onto dry ground to expose the damp bottom of the grass to the air. Once I had a tedder, I usually went through the hay straight after turning, as this is the time when the grass takes the least damage from being tedded, especially if there is clover in the mix. On subsequent days turning it once a day was often enough to get it sufficiently dry to bale by the fourth day, when I put two rows into one for baling.

In recent years, coinciding with the arrival of my horse drawn mower, the weather has also become less settled, so if the forecast is for a good spell of weather I will mow a few rounds around the field in the evening and cut the rest of the field the following morning, and then turn and ted it the same day. On the following day it will usually get turned and tedded again, and then on the third day it might only need to be turned. Depending on the weather and the thickness of the crop, the hay will be ready to be carried on the third or fourth day.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

Putting mixed species of grass on the wire in Norway.

In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods, and in 2009 when we only had one three-day spell of dry weather between the middle of June and the end of August, all of the hay was made on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked. The disadvantages are the time it takes to load the hay onto the tripods, the initial cost and time to make the tripods, and as I found out, learning how to do it.

Between the 1930s and 1950s the use of tripods became quite popular in Britain, largely due to the efforts of the Scots agriculturalist, Captain Alexander Proctor. His method was described by Newman Turner in his book ‘Fertility Farming’ under the chapter ‘Weatherproof Harvesting’, where he explains the process but concludes by saying that ‘expert instruction [is] essential to success.’ However finding expert instruction nowadays proved impossible, and I have only managed to talk to two people who used tripods in their youth. The first worked on the Wirral near Liverpool, and all he could remember was that when Mr. Proctor visited and showed them how to load the tripods, they had marvellous hay, but when they tried it again the following year the hay was no good. My other informant, Ron Creasey*, worked in the dry eastern part of Yorkshire where they used tripods for hay and for peas, but these ‘tripods’ actually had four legs and did not have any air vents at the corners, and in his experience the hay was not put onto the tripods until about half dry.

My haymaking with tripods has therefore been experimental, with snippets of information gleaned from books, and more recently a study done in the 1950s by the National Institute of Agricultural Engineers. My first experiment was at the bottom of our garden before we moved in, and having no choice about when to do it, I cut the hay with a scythe in the drizzle, threw it about with a fork and built the three tripods the next day when the grass was still damp to the touch. After a fortnight the tops were fine, but the lower half of each tripod had gone mouldy. After a dozen years of practice my results are much better, and one year I made some hay which was cut one dry sunny morning, then tedded immediately afterwards, though the ground was so wet that water was running round the inside of the tedder wheels. The hay was then put on tripods in the afternoon where it was rained and drizzled on for two weeks, until the next sunny day when I threw it on the ground in the morning and baled it in the afternoon.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

Tripods

There are two basic conditions for making hay successfully on tripods, the tripods must be built properly, and the grass must be dry enough when it is put on the tripod.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

[Fig 1] Plywood formers for the air vent.

If the grass is cut by mid morning and tedded immediately afterwards, on a hot sunny day the grass will be dry enough for the tripods to be started by late afternoon, and this stage can also be reached on a warm, lightly overcast but breezy day. However, if the grass has been rained on the night before, or if it is a cloudy day without much wind the hay may not be dry enough to load onto the tripods until the following day. The study by the National Institute of Agricultural Engineers showed that the hay is dry enough to load onto the tripods with a moisture content of 55%, though they suspect that with a skilled tripod builder 60% moisture is not too much. My experience is that the grass should not feel damp on the surface. If there are any damp lumps these can be put on the very top of the tripod, where they help weigh down the top and help it to settle.

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Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

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from issue:

Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

Apple Cider Autumns Nectar

Apple Cider, Autumn’s Nectar

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While autumn’s beauty is food for our souls, autumn’s harvest provides food for our tables. Along with the many hours and days of canning and freezing our garden produce, harvest time also means apple cider making for our family. We have been making apple cider, or sweet cider as it is commonly called, for six years. Beginning slowly, the demand for our juice has resulted in a production of over six hundred gallons this year.

Ginseng Culture

Ginseng Culture

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmer’s Bulletin No. 1184 Issued 1921, Revised 1941 — The evident preference of the Chinese for the wild root and the unsatisfactory state of the general market for cultivated ginseng have caused grave doubts as to the future prospects of the industry. These doubts will probably be realized unless growers should strive for quality of product and not for quantity of production, as has been the all too common practice in the past.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

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Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Marketable Cover Crops

Marketable Cover Crops

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Our cover crops have to provide the benefits of smothering weeds, improving soil structure, and replenishing organic matter. They also have to produce some income. For these purposes, we use turnips, mustard and lettuce within our plant successions. I broadcast these seeds thickly on areas where cover crops are necessary and let them do their work.

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

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After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

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The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I have tried to select perfect ears based on the open-pollinated seed corn standards of the past. I learned these standards from old agricultural texts. The chosen ears of Reid’s average from 9 to 10.5 inches long and have smooth, well-formed grains in straight rows. I try to select ears with grains that extend to the end of the cob.

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

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.

Bamboo A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

Bamboo: A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

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The bamboos are gaining increased attention as an alternative crop with multiple uses and benefits: 1) domestic use around the farm (e.g., vegetable stakes, trellis poles, shade laths); 2) commercial production for use in construction, food, and the arts (e.g., concrete reinforcement, fishing poles, furniture, crafts, edible bamboo shoots, musical instruments); and 3) ornamental, landscape, and conservation uses (e.g., specimen plants, screens, hedges, riparian buffer zone).

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

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We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

Onion Culture

Onion Culture

The essential requirements of a soil upon which to grow onions profitably are a high state of fertility, good mechanical condition, properties – that is, if it contains sufficient sand and humus to be easily worked, is retentive of moisture and fertilizers, and is capable of drainage – all other requirements can be met.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

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The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT