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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 4
Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

Taking a load to stack.

by William Castle of Shropshire, UK

Getting It In

Over the last few years of making hay, the mowing, turning and making tripods has settled into a fairly comfortable pattern, but the process of getting it all together for the winter is still developing.

In the beginning I did what everyone else around here does and got it baled, sometimes by a contractor or a neighbour, and sometimes I borrowed a tractor and baler. In some ways I liked having someone else to do this job because it took the pressure off doing it myself, especially if you are worried about someone else’s baler breaking down, but being reliant on someone else who probably wants to bale their own hay does add a further stress to getting the hay in. With hay made on tripods this urgency was not there, because the hay would not spoil on the tripod, and I could often bale when no-one else was baling, driving the baler from tripod to tripod and forking the hay into the pick-up reel.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

My wife Liz driving Molly as a three year old, gathering bales.

Bales do obviously have some advantages, putting the hay into useful sized lumps which are easy to handle, load and stack, but they also have disadvantages. Besides the cost of baling and not being able to guarantee access to a baler when I wanted it, the Dutch barn I rented was over a mile away, so clearing the field with a horse was slow. For a few years I thought about stacking loose hay, but when all of my hay was on the ground in the midst of haymaking I chose the easy way out and continued putting it all into bales. My reticence was mostly fear of the unknown, having never had the opportunity to be present when a hay stack was being built, but one year I decided to try one small stack, following the instructions in Lynn Miller’s book ‘Haying with Horses’.

The success of this first stack encouraged me to do more, and now most of my hay is stacked loose. The stacks are not usually very big as it is rare for me to have more than an acre or two ready at the same time. When all the hay is forked onto the stack with pitch forks the small stack has some advantages, especially when relying on my children or other inexperienced people to fork the hay, but the smaller stack does have a greater surface area exposed to the weather compared with a larger stack. Another disadvantage of very small stacks is that they can easily become unstable. I now think that 10 feet is the absolute minimum diameter, because otherwise when the stack gets up a bit it is like standing on a jelly, and I have had the top of a small stack slide off, taking me with it. This is most disheartening, not to say potentially dangerous, and a good reason never to leave forks, ladders, bricks etc. around the bottom of a stack. If I was going to make a stack smaller than 10 feet in diameter, I would now probably build it around a post.

With only five or six years’ experience I am far from being an expert stacker, but for anyone with less experience, this is how I do it. For the base I usually use pallets and bits of wood to keep the bottom away from the damp ground. Then I first put some hay in the middle, walking round and round in a circle working towards the outside, making sure the outside forms a good round circle. At this stage the person on the load needs to curtail their enthusiasm to fork the hay down quickly, so the stacker has time to make the base of the stack solid and round. Then as the stack goes up, as Lynn describes, it is essential to make a good solid wall round the outside. I always put the hay down in big forkfuls and then stand on the lump I have just stacked. This compresses the hay and you can feel how solid it is under your feet. If I have one of the children forking small forkfuls, I put a few together before putting them in place and walking forward a pace. At the same time as keeping the walls solid it is also important to keep the centre high, so that any rain will run outwards. If you are getting stacker loads landing on the middle of the stack, the centre probably gets compressed enough and looks after itself, but in my case I need to walk round the middle, stacking forkfuls in place ahead of me to avoid the centre becoming slack, so it does not sink lower than the outside as the hay settles. When stacking the outside it is tempting to bring the sides in rather than keeping them vertical, especially on the side furthest from the load on a bigger stack or when you are working alone and having to reach for the hay. To help keep the sides upright next year I am going to put four posts in the ground to give me a guide. On all except the smallest stacks it is an advantage to have someone else on the stack to put the hay beside you so you only need to rotate each forkful a quarter turn round your body, allowing you to concentrate on the stack rather than reaching for the hay. Keeping the centre high is perhaps harder with a helper, as they compress the hay where they are standing, so it is a good practice to send them to stand quietly at the edge for a minute or two while you put an extra forkful where they were standing and then stack more in the centre to keep it high. When I get down off the stack to get another load, I usually walk round the stack to see how even and round it is. If it sticks out beyond the circle in one place, raking a bit out of the sides with a fork can help, but if there is not enough anywhere, you can’t add hay to gain width.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

Small stack in midwinter, half having been cut with a hay knife.

Once you are ready to draw in the sides to form the roof, keeping the circle even is perhaps more important, as it is at this point where any slackness in the build will allow water to penetrate. The greater mistake is to bring in the sides too quickly, because as the hay settles, the extra weight in the middle tends to push the centre down so the top becomes flatter. This is why in each course [layer] the centre should now be kept even higher relative to the edges. Continuing to work in circles, your helper will eventually not have enough room to stand, so should get down off the stack. As the top is reached only three or four forkfuls will complete the course. This is when the person on the load needs to slow down again and you still need to place the forkfuls carefully, one big well-made forkful completing the very top. A ladder carefully leant up against the stack is then essential, even on a small stack, not only because you might land on something if you were to slide down, but in the process you can unbalance the stack.

Once the stack is complete, I usually rake down the sides with a fork to tidy any loose bits, then throw two ropes over the top and tie a brick at each end. This prevents the top getting blown off in the first few weeks until the hay settles. Once the top has knitted together, if the stack has been built correctly the rain is shed off the top with only a minimum of wastage. Even with a small stack this wastage need be no more than 5%, and sometimes, depending on the year and what you are feeding you might be able to feed it all. For me, the time spent stacking loose hay in the field is almost saved by not having to take bales a mile away to the barn, and having the stack in the field where the hay will be fed saves more time in winter.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

The Bamfords No. 6 hayloader behind a flatbed wagon with ropes down each side.

Gathering loose hay with a single horse, however, is significantly slower than collecting bales. When I make hay on tripods, because the hay has already been gathered together, forking hay onto the flat bed wagon is fairly straightforward, as the hay has settled on the tripods so is easy to fork off in good sized forkfuls. With cocks, the hay has also settled so is easy to fork onto a load, but both these methods require an additional stage of hand work compared with gathering hay from the swath. To speed up loading I have used a hay loader, but found that although one horse can pull it, it is too much to pull slowly enough for the comfort of man and horse. I do sometimes use it behind a tractor, with hay ladders at each end of the vehicle, and because the wagon is narrow, three ropes tied end to end along on each side.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

The buckrake ready to gather hay.

Still on the search for a better way to gather hay with one horse, after rereading Ken Giles’ article on his trailed offset buckrake for a single horse [SFJ Winter 04] I decided to try making one. My buckrake is similar to his, but having studied the different American two horse buckrakes where the pull from the horses lifts the basket, I wondered if I could incorporate a lifting mechanism on a single horse machine. Looking at pictures in past SFJs, I decided to use two features from some horse drawn big bale movers, a braked axle and a sliding drawbar to lift the basket. The drawbar on my buckrake is a square tube which slides inside another square tube. When the rake is down in the gathering position, the drawbar is in its shortest position, held in place by a spring loaded catch. Once the basket is full, I stop the horse, pull a lever which lifts this catch and put my left foot on the brake pedal to keep the buckrake still. I then make the horse go forward and as the hitch cart goes forward, the drawbar is drawn forward inside the bigger tube. The rear of the drawbar is connected to a lever, and as this lever is pulled forwards, the other end of the lever which is connected to the top of the basket is pulled backwards, so lifting the basket. Once the rear of the drawbar reaches the end of its travel, another spring loaded catch holds it in place, keeping the basket in the raised position. As I hear this catch click into position, I take my foot off the brake pedal and we head for the stack.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

The spring catch on the buckrake drawbar.

To lower the basket, I stop the horse, put my left foot on the brake pedal, my right foot on the pedal to release the rear catch and back the horse a step. The drawbar then slides back, and the front catch clicks into position again. Continuing to back up with the brake off, the hay slides off the basket. When using the buckrake, the hitch cart shafts are offset to one side as when tedding hay, so the horse and hitch cart are not running over any hay and the drawbar of the buckrake is directly behind the horse. An improvement would be to have a pair of wheels and shafts rather than the hitch cart. Of all my attempts at metal fabrication, this mechanism probably gives me the greatest satisfaction, because it works pretty well, but there are some important downsides of the buckrake. First of all, it isn’t very quick taking relatively small amounts of hay to the stack and there also is a lot of backing and messing about for the horse when gathering hay, because after a while the hay starts to ball up and roll under the tines, so you have to back up and gather some more and have this happen again before going to pick up both lumps and taking them to the stack. Also if the ground is uneven the tines can dig into the ground, though up to now I have been quick enough to stop before a tine has broken. Once I get to the stack, the hay is obviously left on the ground, so without any mechanical stacker it all needs to be forked up to the height of the stack, whereas on a wagon it is already part of the way up.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

The back of the buckrake. The diagonal piece of steel pivots in the middle, and pulls the basket backwards as the other end which is attached to the sliding drawbar is drawn forward. The catch which holds the drawbar in place bends up at the front to form the foot pedal.

The gathering of hay at the moment is the weak part of my system, and most years I use a mixture of methods. When I use tripods, forking the hay onto the vehicle and stacking it loose is the obvious next step, but when the hay is in the windrow the rest of the family prefer bales rather than borrowing a tractor and using the hay loader. The situation is soon set to change, as I intend to put up a barn with a hay track, though I will have to get the trolley from the States as they weren’t used in Britain. As to a better method of picking up the hay, after visiting the European equivalent of Horse Progress Days in Germany three years ago and seeing the Poettinger self loading forage wagon which had been converted to ground drive, I am wondering about making a similar machine using a pick up reel from a baler, but that will perhaps be a story for another time.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

Spotlight On: Livestock

Feeding Elk Winter Work for the Belgians

Feeding Elk: Winter Work for the Belgians

by:
from issue:

Doug Strike of rural Sublette County is spending his second winter feeding wild elk in nearby Bondurant, Wyoming. Strike is supplementing his logging income as well as helping his team of Belgian draft horses to keep in shape for the coming season. From May to the end of November he uses his horses to skid logs out of the mountains of western Wyoming. I found the use of Doug’s beautiful Belgian team an exciting example of appropriate technology.

Interpreting Your Horse's Body Language

Interpreting Your Horse’s Body Language

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from issue:

The person who works closely with horses usually develops an intuitive feel for their well-being, and is able to sense when one of them is sick, by picking up the subtle clues from the horse’s body language. A good rider can tell when his mount is having an off day, just by small differences in how the horse travels or carries himself, or responds to things happening around him. And when at rest, in stall or pasture, the horse can also give you clues as to his mental and physical state.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

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Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 1

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The practical everyday working of horses and mules in harness has always been at the heart of what the Small Farmer’s Journal is about. And like the Journal, a good horse powered farm keeps the horses at the center: the working nucleus of the farm. All the tractive effort for the pulling of machines, hauling in of crops, hauling out of manures, harvesting and planting is done as much as is practicable with the horses.

Black Pigs and Speckled Beans

Black Pigs & Speckled Beans

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from issue:

As country pigs go the Large Blacks are superb. They are true grazing pigs, thriving on grass and respectful of fences. Protected from sunburn by their dark skin and hair they are tolerant of heat and cold and do well even in rugged conditions. Having retained valuable instincts, the sows are naturally careful, dedicated, and able mothers. The boars I’ve seen are friendly and docile.

Chicken

How To Cure Chicken Roup: Then and Now

How To Cure The Common (Chicken) Cold

Ask A Teamster Round Pen Training

Ask A Teamster: Round Pen Training

When we ask a horse to follow us in the round pen we can help him succeed by varying things a bit – changing direction and speed frequently, stopping periodically to reward him with a rub (“a rub” or two, not 100), picking up a foot, playing with his tail/ears/mouth, etc. In other words, working at desensitizing or sensitizing him by simulating things he will experience in the future (trimming and shoeing, crupper, bridle over the ears, bit, etc.).

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

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from issue:

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.

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

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from issue:

We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

The Big Hitch

The Big Hitch

In 1925 Slim Moorehouse drove a hitch of 36 Percheron Horses pulling 10 grain wagons loaded with 1477 bushesl of wheat through the Calgary Stampede Parade. It is out intention to honor a man who was a great horseman and a world record holder. The hitch, horses and wagons, was 350 feet in length and he was the only driver.

Calves that Don't Breathe at Birth

Calves that Don’t Breathe at Birth

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Heart rate is one way to tell if the calf is in respiratory distress, since it drops as the body is deprived of oxygen. Normal heart rate in a newborn calf is 100 to 120 beats per minute. Place your hand over the lower left side of the ribcage, just behind and above the elbow of his front leg. If heart rate has dropped as low as 40, the calf ’s condition is critical; he needs to start breathing immediately.

Ask A Teamster Tongue Length

Ask A Teamster: Tongue Length

My forecart pole is set up for draft horses. My husband thinks we should cut the pole off to permanently make it fit better to these smaller horses. What would be your opinion? Like your husband, my preference would be a shorter tongue for a small team like your Fjords. The dynamics and efficiency of draft are better if we have our horse(s) close to the load. A shorter tongue will also reduce the overall length of your outfit, thereby giving you better maneuverability and turning dynamics.

Ask A Teamster Driving

Ask A Teamster: Driving

I have been questioned (even criticized) about my slow, gentle, repetitious approach “taking too much time” and all the little steps being unnecessary when one can simply “hitch ‘em tied back to a well-broke horse they can’t drag around, and just let ‘em figure it out on their own.” I try to give horses the same consideration I would like if someone was teaching me how to do something new and strange.

Types and Breeds of Poultry

From Dusty Shelves: A 1924 article on chicken breeds.

Logging with Oxen in New Hampshire

Logging with Oxen in New Hampshire

by:
from issue:

I hear time and time again at the outset of each workshop, “I don’t know anything about working oxen.” And I say, “There is no more fun than being a beginner.” Myself and the staff get great pleasure in sharing our knowledge of working steers and oxen. For as long as there are those interested in working cattle, the men I mentioned early in this article will not be forgotten. I believe there will always be cattle worked on small farms and in the woods.

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

You are probably thinking why would I want to dry up a doe? If the plan is to rebreed the doe, then she will need time to rebuild her stamina. Milk production takes energy. Kid production takes energy, too. If the plan is to have a fresh goat in March, then toward the end of October start to dry her up. The first thing to do is cut back on her grain. Grain fuels milk production.

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