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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: Crops & Soil

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Concerning the Bioextensive Market Garden

One of our goals when we first started farming here was to develop the farm as a self-contained nutrient system. Unlike the almost complete recycling of nutrients which can take place on a livestock operation, we are always amazed – even a little disturbed – to see how many tons of fertility and organic matter leave the market garden each year with so little returned to the good earth.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Asparagus in Holland

Asparagus in Holland

by:
from issue:

The asparagus culture in Holland is for the majority white asparagus, grown in ridges. This piece of land used to be the headland of the field. The soil was therefore compact, and a big tractor came with a spader, loosening the soil. After that I used the horse for the lighter harrowing and scuffle work to prevent soil compaction. This land lies high for Dutch standards and has a low ground water level, that is why asparagus can grow there, which can root 3 foot deep over the years.

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Carrots & Beets – The Roots of Our Garden

by:
from issue:

Carrots and beets are some of the vegetables that are easy to kill with kindness. They’re little gluttons for space and nutrients, and must be handled with an iron fist to make them grow straight and strong. Give the buggers no slack at all! Your motto should be – “If in doubt, yank it out!” I pinch out a finger full (maybe 3/4” wide) and skip a finger width. Pinch and skip, pinch and skip, working with existing gaps and rooting out particularly thick clumps.

An Introduction Into Plant Polyculture

An excerpt from What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden
Companion Planting for Beginners

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

by:
from issue:

Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

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.

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.

Mullein Indigenous Friend to All

Mullein: Indigenous Friend to All

by:
from issue:

Mullein is a hardy native, soft and sturdy requiring no extra effort to thrive on your part. Whether you care to make your own medicines or not, consider mullein’s value to bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, who are needing nectar and nourishment that is toxin free and safe to consume. In this case, all you have to do is… nothing. What could be simpler?

Apple Cider Autumns Nectar

Apple Cider, Autumn’s Nectar

by:
from issue:

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.

Farm Manure

Farm Manure

Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Lost Apples

Lost Apples

The mindboggling agricultural plant and animal diversity, at the beginning of the twentieth century, should have been a treasure trove which mankind worked tirelessy to maintain. Such has not been the case. Alas, much has been lost, perhaps forever. Here are images and information on a handful of apple varieties from a valuable hundred year old text in our library.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

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