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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

TMAHK Tripod Haymaking

TMAHK Tripod Haymaking

The Milk and Human Kindness: What I’ve Learned of Tri-Pod Haymaking

by Suzanne Lupien of Thetford Center, VT

My Thoughts and Experiences with Tripod Haymaking

Over the past year this publication has printed descriptions of two farmers’ forays into tripod haymaking and I’d like to add my own: the result of many years of study and thought, and periodic practice.

I have no doubt that when the time comes we are going to need to know how to make hay this way, whether it be this Proctor Tripod method, or the French rack method illustrated in André Voisin’s great book “Grass Productivity” or the Scandinavian “Swedish Rider” method of tightly strung wire “fences” for hay to dry on. Each method has its pros and cons, and it’s my belief that the “Swedish Riders” is the easiest to learn and the Proctor Method may be the most difficult.

I can’t give you exact dates but I believe that Alexander Proctor, a Scot, had his method perfected and his business in operation between the two World Wars, but in any case Newman Turner and Friend Sykes, two legendary English farmers were immersed in the Proctor Method just after the 2nd World War. Proctor did print a little informational booklet about his method, but it was not a how-to booklet. He sold the tripods and trestles to you and sent out a representative from the company to teach you how to set them up and fork hay onto them properly, stating most emphatically that it could not be mastered without his instruction. That made a big impression on me! Newman Turner’s book “Fertility Farming” devotes a chapter to the Proctor method with murky yet illuminating photographs and in Friend Sykes book “Humus and the Farmer” you see magnificent fields of oats tripoded. Friend Sykes had 2,000 sets of tripods.

I am not an expert by any means. I wish I were! I have built quite a few sets of tripods and trestles by pouring over the photos in “Fertility Farming” and as I have found that size of the tripod and correct proportions of the parts have a major effect on the success of the stack, I want to share this with you in the hope that it will contribute, in turn, to your own trials and mastery. Effective practice of this method is going to make it possible for folks to keep a cow, or a horse, someday when baling hay is no longer possible.

1) A twelve to eighteen hour window of dry weather is needed to mow the hay and ted it once.

2) The hay needs to be long stemmed

TMAHK Tripod Haymaking

3) Proctor’s tripods are ideal in heft and proportion, a critically important point for practicality, functionality, and durability. In the field as well as in storage. When erected the legs of the tripods need to splay just right, to stand very securely and still maintain an attitude of verticality. The height and splay are essential to carry the load of hay and to provide the correct skeleton for building the hollow, vertical sided haystack for successful curing. Stability through heavy winds is a factor, especially in Great Britain. Sheer verticality is an equally important factor to shed rain. Bear in mind that curing time may require three weeks. Newman Turner writes that he regularly moved his cured tripods with a rear tractor sweep to a central location for stationary baling or direct feeding. This information adds more understanding of how stout these tripods should be. Poles 7’ long and 3” in diameter must be about right; debarked, smooth poles; uniform.

TMAHK Tripod Haymaking

4) The trestles’ function is to establish air channels into the hollow core of the stack during forking up the stack, and then to be easily removed when the stack is complete and carried forward to the next naked set of tripods to build the next haystack. Proctor’s tripods are made of wooden slats, 1”x2” and 2”x2” for the uprights, with diagonal bracing; overall dimensions something like 2’ high and 2 1/2’ long: probably hinged at the top rather than wired together. My guess is that the middle upright acted as a guide for the finished thickness of the hay wall.

5) The wire on the Proctor tripod skirted the tripod in two places in addition to the wire which bound the poles together at the very top. It must be heavy gauge, yet malleable. I drilled holes in my poles for the wire to pass through so I could ensure proper placement of the wires.

According to Turner, and Sykes, and Proctor this method is weatherproof. With the 12-18 hour window of clear weather to mow and ted and build the stack, no amount of rain subsequent to this would injure the stack; and that over a period of about three weeks the hay would be cured. Period. The key to the method is in proper set up of the tripods and how the hay is placed on the tripods. The wires keep the hay off the ground and provide a structure to keep the hay from sliding downward. Lightly forking the hay to create as much air space in the hay itself, while maintaining a hollow core and a vertical sided stack are the key ingredients to building a stack that will cure and not mold. The trestles are not part of the haystack. They are only there to create air channels and help to build uniformly thick walls of hay. You will remove them, as I said earlier, as soon as the stack is built. Do not let the hay settle below the tops of the poles, or water will collect there and ruin your hay. The top of the stack needs a good forkful to get a convex shape. I heartily agree with Newman Turner. There is no better hay than properly made tripoded hay!

In my next article I will write on butter making A-Z, tending your cow’s hooves, building a medieval covered hay storage structure, and more!

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

Retrofitting a Fireplace with a Woodstove

How to Retrofit a Fireplace with a Woodstove

Because the venting requirements for a wood stove are different than for a fireplace you need to retrofit a stainless steel chimney liner. A liner provides the draft necessary to ensure that the stove will operate safely and efficiently.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

Old Man Farming

Spinning Ladders

You die off by passing away. You live on by passing on. I want to pass the culture of my life on slowly, over the ripening time of my best years.

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

How to Store Vegetables

Potatoes may be safely stored in bits on a well drained spot. Spread a layer of straw for the floor. Pile the potatoes in a long, rather than a round pile. Cover the pile with straw or hay a foot deep.

Posts

Driving Fence Posts By Hand

Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose.

One Seed To Another: The New Small Farming

One Seed to Another

One Seed to Another is staggering and bracing in its truths and relevance. This is straight talk from a man whose every breath is poetry and whose heartbeat is directly plugged into farming as right livelihood.

The Horsedrawn Mower Book

Removing the Wheels from a McCormick Deering No. 9 Mower

How to remove the wheels of a No. 9 McCormick Deering Mower, an excerpt from The Horsedrawn Mower Book.

Dont Eat the Seed Corn

Don’t Eat the Seed Corn: Strategies & Prospects for Human Survival

by:
from issue:

Gary Paul Nabhan’s book “WHERE OUR FOOD COMES FROM: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine” (Island Press, 2009) is a weighty tome, freighted with implications. But as befits its subject it is also portable and travels well, a deft exploration of two trips around the world, that of the author following in the footsteps of a long-gone mentor he never met, the Russian pioneer botanist and geneticist Nikolay Vavilov (1887-1943).

Livestock Guardians

Introducing Your Guard Dog To New Livestock And Other Dogs

When you introduce new animals to an established herd or flock, you should observe your dog’s reactions and behavior for a few days. Since he will be curious anyway, it is a good idea to introduce him to the new animals while he is leashed or to place the new animals in a nearby area.

Timing the Bounce

Timing the Bounce: Resilient Agriculture Meets Climate Change

by:
from issue:

In her new book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate, Laura Lengnick assumes a dispassionate, businesslike tone and sets about exploring the farming strategies of twenty-seven award-winning farmers in six regions of the continental United States. Her approach gets well past denial and business-as-usual, to see what can be done, which strategies are being tried, and how well they are working.

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.

Honoring Our Teachers

Honoring Our Teachers

by:
from issue:

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.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

Old Man Farming

Old Man Farming

Long after his physical capacities have dwindled to pain and stiffening, what drives the solitary old man to continue bringing in the handful of Guernsey cows to milk?

Barbed Wire History and Varieties

Book Excerpt: The invention of barb wire was the most important event in the solution of the fence problem. The question of providing fencing material had become serious, even in the timbered portions of the country, while the great prairie region was almost wholly without resource, save the slow and expensive process of hedging. At this juncture came barb wire, which was at once seen to make a cheap, effective, and durable fence, rapidly built and easily moved.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

An Introduction To Grasslands Farming

From Dusty Shelves: A World War II era article on grassland farming.

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