Sunday, November 24, 2013

The rest of our hay

We needed more hay for our critters. Since we had so many calves born this year, we wanted to have about 25 tons of hay in the barn (since we feed through mid-May) and were short by about ten tons.

Our next-door neighbor had baled timothy (an excellent feed grass) and had more than he needed for his horses, so earlier this month we bought ten tons from him. The bales are 650 lbs each. The problem was moving them. We needed the weather to cooperate.

We've had some early snowfalls and then a warming spell that melted everything off and turn the ground to absolute mud. Not good conditions for moving heavy amounts of hay.

But this past week the weather cooperated at last. It's been bitterly cold (10F in the mornings) and beautifully sunny. Daytime temps haven't gone above freezing, so the ground is now rock-solid and perfect for moving hay. Perfect, but cold.

It's the kind of weather where the critters will take any and all opportunities to just stand in the sun, absorbing the rays like little solar cells.

In the days preceding Moving Day for Hay, Don spent a lot of time cleaning the barn. He had tools and equipment scattered all over from building the awning, as well as miscellaneous other detritus that somehow always manages to find its way into any covered space. The last thing to do was rake up all the loose hay on the barn floor.

I use this loose hay to pad Matilda's pen after I clean it, so I didn't want to just put it on the compost pile. I ended up heaping it in the pen where little Amy spends the night (I separate Amy from her mama overnight so I can milk in the morning), which not only offers her extra insulation, but keeps Matilda from pooping in it. The chickens immediately came over to see if there was anything interesting in the hay. (There wasn't.)

It was so cold out (12F) that I finally got out some handwarmers for Don, which he slipped into his gloves and at least made the conditions more tolerable.

After the barn was clean, Don borrowed another neighbor's tractor and went next door to hitch up a trailer. Steve (the neighbor who sold us the hay) used his tractor to load ten bales at a time onto the trailer. Don temporarily took down the fence between our properties, and pretty soon came chugging back, carefully towing the trailer with the hay.

Steve followed on his tractor, to which he had put on forklift attachments, and unloaded the bales.

This requires more skill than it seems. He had to slip the forklift blades beneath the top bale, but without sliding them through the strings of the lower bale. Many times he caught the lower strings and so had to pull out and try it again.

Then as soon as the bale was on the tines, he had to tip the tines so the bale slid closer to the bucket. This not only keeps the bale from falling off, but it also doesn't over-tip the tractor. (Steve had a blade attachment on the back of the tractor for extra weight, but with a light tractor like this, over-tipping is always a possibility when moving heavy bales.)

Then he stacked each bale neatly in the barn.

It was wonderful to see the hay piling up.

Don and Steve repeated this process three times, for a total of thirty bales, just a bit under ten tons.

By the end of the hay moving (which took about three hours) both men were seriously cold, even though the temperature had moved up to a balmy 25F. The handwarmers (I gave a pair to Steve as well) helped a lot and at least made working conditions bearable.

We're now Officially Set for winter. Whoo-hoo! (Thanks to all those who pointed out the typo, LOL!)


  1. I am glad that you now have the hay under your roof. I remember that when you're small amount of hay put up was discussed you told us that you had purchased 10 ton's but must be very nice to see it in your barn. I also have to comment about your tractor neighbors, They are real jewels to allow you to borrow their tractor like they do. Is your Ford beyond hope or would it just be too expensive to have it repaired? When are you going to start selling mugs for Christmas?

  2. I love to watch my husband pile hay into our barn. He's done it for decades and can unload and stack very fast. It is indeed an art form! Good for you all for getting so much done. I too think we are in for a COLD winter. Here in Illinois below 10 F last might.

  3. How's the hay prices?.... Here in southern Missouri this year (farmers) there's an abundant supply (just about can't give it away) were paying $10. For the big round bails for the horse .... "T"

  4. Glad to hear you're all set for winter. (I'm sure that's a typo, saying you're NOT Officially Set for winter.) We have friends and relatives who live in your area (Spokane, northwest Montana) and they've been telling us how cold it's been. I think we're all in for a seriously COLD winter! --Fred & Deb in AZ

  5. "We're not Officially Set for winter. Whoo-hoo!"

    Important typo alert! Don't wanna jinx anything! ;)

  6. In your last sentence, did you mean to say 'now' instead of 'not'?

  7. One huge concern came to my mind when I saw the photo's. The bucket of the tractor has the forks to slip under the bales of hay but there was no Back rest in sight to stop the bales from tipping back onto the operator. I used to unload semi trailer loads of hay when I had my cattle and they can be sneaky and tip back onto the front end load when you least expect it. I bolted on a V shaped angle iron brace to stop that happening and was very thankful for it when one day I hit a frozen pile of cow manure and the sway made the bale flip back. If I had not had the Brace I would have been severely hurt! Just an Observation. A lot of tractors have a Grapple fork to handle big bales safely.

  8. Good to see and hear. Congratulations!
    Glad to know those hand warmers work, too. Never know what is just a gimmick.
    Hubby remembers square bales when he was growing up, but around here they all seem to do the round bales.