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Hay and Hard Work

By Gabe Ross, Farm Manager

Loading hay

After a very rainy spring we finally got a few dry days to make hay at Gallant Farm this week.  While the hay was cut with a tractor there was still quite a bit of hand work required to get the load into the barn. Hand work always leads to pondering, and this particular pondering session was focused on the advantages and disadvantages of mechanization. After the hay was cut we tedded it by hand with wooden hay rakes. Horse drawn, and tractor drawn tedders were in use in the 1930s, but we don’t happen to have one. Tedding is the process of scattering the cut hay across the field, so it will dry quicker. Doing this by hand took two of us about 2 hours, with a tractor in would’ve taken a quarter of the time and only one person, but we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to discuss plans for the week, hone our bird song identification, and inspect the entire field for holes, rocks, weeds etc.  The next day’s activities included raking the hay with a tractor to windrow it for pick up but the pick up was all done by hand with pitch forks, again giving the crew an opportunity to talk and laugh without the drone of machines. An afternoon storm threatened the fun as we rushed to load the wagons before the rain hit. We finished just in the nick of time and parked the wagons inside the barn. The following day was time for unloading into the mow with the hooks and trolley. In the past we have hoisted the loads by hand, pulling on the massive rope, but this year using a myriad of pulleys we hauled it with a small tractor. This saved our backs, but the noise of the tractor made communication difficult. In the 1930’s a team of horses would have been used and would have been silent. The hay is now safely in the barn and I never had to turn a wrench to fix a hay baler. I feel like over the years I used balers, I spent as much time fixing them as I did using them, and I’m not much of a wrench turner.

hay trolley system
Loading hay into the barn

I know I won’t convince everyone that all this hard work is fun but there are some definite advantages. During the great depression and times before at least all of the hard work went towards something like hay, a garden, building a barn, the list could go on and on. I’ve got nothing against gyms, 5ks, or marathons but I’d sure rather have something to show for the energy I’ve spent doing something. Maybe we should start a health club next door to a cabinet shop. We could hook all of the machines to line shafts that could drive the table saws, planers, drill presses and jointers. The energy wouldn’t go to waste and we would save fossil fuels. Are these just the ramblings of a luddite? Maybe, and I’m guilty myself of using modern machinery for many tasks, but when mowing with a bush hog or sickle bar I often long for the silence of my scythe.

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