For the last ten years, I have made hay mostly with a single horse. This has not necessarily been out of choice, as at one time I had hoped to be farming on a larger scale with more horses. Anyway, it does little good to dwell on ‘what if ’. The reality is that I am able to make hay, and through making and modifying machinery, I probably have a better understanding of hay making and the mechanics of draught.
When starting a new side rake, turn the reel by hand to be sure it revolves freely and the teeth do not strike the stripper bars. Then throw the rake in gear and turn the wheel by hand to see that the tooth bars and gears run free. Breakage of parts, which causes serious delay and additional expense, can be avoided by taking these precautions before entering the field.
The horse drawn mowing machine is a marvel of engineering. Imagine a pair of horses turning the energy of their walking into a reciprocal cutting motion able to drop acres of forage at a time without ever burning a drop of fossil fuel. And then consider that the forage being cut will fuel the horses that will in turn cut next year’s crop. What a beautiful concept! Since I’ve been mowing some everyday I’ve had lots of time to think about the workings of these marvelous machines.
Having unpacked the rake, place wheels on rake head temporarily, being sure to grease the axle. Connect thill frame to rake head; bolt trip lever bracket in place on beam and connect trip rods. See that the trip lever works freely. Secure wheels on axles, with washer R134 and cotter.
Hitching to the rake. Rake is designed to work with pole thirty-one inches or shafts forty-two inches from the ground, measuring underneath at front end. Only at this height are best results obtained. Oftentimes a rake does not do satisfactory work because the neckyoke holds the pole too high or too low, usually too low. If pole or shafts sag in the middle, remove, turn pole over and rebolt to rake. Keep pole bolts tight.
The true ‘Jackson Fork’ is arguably the single most iconic product invented by Byron Jackson, of early 1900’s San Francisco – but it was by no means the only important innovation/product Jackson engineered. As these old cuts testify, he designed many devices and systems for forage handling. Some, like the Threshing Outfits, were geared for handling large volumes of grain crop.
Within true horse-power circles, where natural partnerships with working animals are embraced and cherished, the family unit is paramount. Tools are being designed today so that a husband and wife with two to four work animals can see their work done. Scale is a defining aspect, going forward and backward. It is liberating and it is enlivening. Elegant even. And for us, we see the evidence both from afar and up close. Now to focus on what 25 years has taught us.