Hay, hand baling and cutting

Rankin, IL(Zone 5a)

Not sure if I am in the right place, but it's farm talk..

We allowed the clover/grass field to grow to baling length. We have goats so are not in need of "perfect" hay, but it seems we ended up with some really nice looking stuff.

We have no cutting or baling equipment and are raising animals for their fiber.. so all is being done on a shoestring..
Dh is in the automotive business so has spent most of this year laid off.. part blessing, large financial headache. But he has been along side me learning and daydreaming up new plans everyday.

Ok so with all that.. we HAD to bring in the hay. We tried to make a sickle.. ever seen a hedge trimmer strapped to a rolling hose holder.. LOL epic failure.
Finally a neighbor came and cut it for us.. to be neighborly.. we had never met him.. just stopped by. The only advice he had was to let it sit for three days. During that 3 days, Dh made a small box baler.. with a storm looming we panicked.. spent 4 hours in 105* heat and moved it all to a pile ontop of pallets and covered it with a giant tarp we just happend to have..

Dh still wants to go back and bale... Now that we have moved all that hay.. it will take him until 2012 to finish.. and I hear we can get 2 more cuttings this year. Not sure where we will put more, this cut yeilded us a 6 foot tall under a 50'x30 tarp

So questions... anyone got any ideas how we can cut this stuff...(next time)

Oh.. and it was a great day spent with the family.. doing some major hard work, but knowing what we were doing and why.. it wasn't fun (well there was a few laughs) but it was satisfying!

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Rankin, IL(Zone 5a)

A never ending small field of cut hay, we hand raked/rolled it..

Not too bad for 3 girls and one brave man!

If I sound a little proud, I am.. maybe we are working way too hard.. maybe there is an easier way.. maybe you guys can share it with us... but for now.. our hands are all we have..

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Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Wow Fran, that is some hard labor you guys did! Congrats on that! I will be interested to see if anyone has ideas for the next time! Your goats are gonna love it!

Waddy, KY

Personally, I'd have bartered a couple days labor in the hayfield or other farm labor to get the neighbor to cut, rake and bale it for me...

As it is, you have a haystack. You could do one of two things, make a huge stack and cover it with the tarp and leave it or get someone in there with their square baler and feed the stack into the baler with a pitchfork.


Rankin, IL(Zone 5a)

You know Janet, hard work and bartering does not scare me at all.. what confuses me is what do I have to offer? I honestly don't know. How do I make an offer to a farmer if I don't know the correct terminology? Do I just say, I will work.. or do you have some work? I guess my question would be is how to start a barter conversation.

Waddy, KY

I think that if it's your next door neighbor and you see that he's cutting some of his own hay you go over and just be up front. "I wonder if you'd be interested in me working for you X amount of days in exchange for you cutting, raking and baling my patch of grass when you cut yours. I can (insert skills here). " Those skills can be as simple as pick up tree branches around fencelines to working on a piece of machinery to helping weed the garden. They won't do anything worse than tell you no but on the other hand you may strike a good deal to benefit you mutually.

Rankin, IL(Zone 5a)

Next door is 3 miles up the way.. so seeing him out isn't that easy.. but I think I have figured out a way to make a nice connection and start a conversation... So you are right.. I just need to get to it... Fall will be here quickly and we will be out there again!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I grew up on a farm in the days of small farmers. We raised all of our food and all of the livestocks' food with my parents raising 9 children to assist. In those days, farmers appreciated the ingenuity of other poor farmers and were always willing to share equipment, knowledge and assistance. I am certain this neighbor would be willing to help for assistance on his end, whether it be as simple as mowing his yard or tending livestock or a spare hand when he hays or works his own fields. Do go talk to him, you may be surprised. Good luck and good effort y'all have put in already. I know it makes you proud!

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

The easiest thing you could do is leave it in the stack.
Before balers, hay was stacked. No tarps either. Especially grass hay will repel water when it is layered with the stems going in line with the fall of the stack. (Hard to explain, but like a thatched roof.)
I bet your DH would be able to get farm work around there. Farmers always seem to need help & usually pay very well.
My step-son just started on a farm in NE Iowa. He is getting $500 per week + a house to live in & other benefits.
Grain farmers, which I saw lots of when I drove through your area last fall, always are looking for help in spring & at fall harvest. Most is driving trucks or tractors.

Good Luck with all your endeavors.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

If you want to try the hand cutting again, get a copy of the Scythe book. It has great info on "tuning" the scythe, which is what you need to cut hay efficiently. The scythes available at the local hardware store arent' angled correctly and are poorly balanced, but they will work with some adjustment. I took mine down to the welding shop and had them heat the tang and get the proper angle on it for my height. Made a huge difference. I don't mind cutting an acre with it. You'll also need a proper scythe stone to keep your blade sharp... you'll stroke each side every few cuts, so it comes in a nice sheath for your belt.

If you find you like scything, then it's worth it to invest in a proper one, but that will put you out a pretty penny, so you'd better know you like it....
A couple of real scythe companies....

For what you're doing, creating a nice haystack will be more efficient. I suggest you contact The Small Farmer's Journal and ask them for info and resources. They've had several articles in the past on hay stacking, usually with horses, but the principle of how to create a good stack with alfalfa will be the same. I've got a feeling you will need to tarp it, but they'll know for sure...

Good Luck!

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