I don’t know how old the square baler is. There’s no paint left. The name – McCormick – very faint. Old Faithful, I call it. A friend said you can use this until you get something else. That was several years ago. We still have it. It baled the whole first and second cut of square bales this year.
We have two other balers now, both newer. Another square baler and a round baler. Neither could be called “new” but compared to the old fella, they’re youngsters.
Every year since we’ve had them, something has gone wrong with one or both at critical moments. Haying time is often one long critical moment.
One long critical moment
In early July, you start looking at the fields. How high is the grass, how green. A walk through the fields to see what the heads of the timothy are doing. What’s the weather forecast. For square and round bales, you need at least three sunny, dry days for cutting and baling. Radio weather reports, plus localized weather apps and the farmers’ forecast. They might be accurate, they might not. With them and your gut feeling, you decide and hope for the best.
A nice stretch of 3 or 4 days of sun, light breeze, low humidity – good drying weather. Mower ready to hook up to the tractor PTO. Let’s go. Cut when the morning dew is off. Wait a few hours and toss with the tedder. Next day, toss again a couple times. Leave it when the evening dew comes out. Toss again next day. Test it to see if it’s dry enough. When it is, windrow it so the baler can scoop up the line of hay.
Rain and scattered showers and rain
This year, there was so much rain. The upside was the hay quickly grew tall and lush. The downside was the hay quickly grew tall and lush. Predicting a stretch of several dry days and nights was a crap shoot. So you have to act fast when the odds look good.
Do square bales first, while the sun is shining and no rain in the forecast. The new baler plops out one bale, and sputters to a halt. Can’t find the problem quickly. No time to delve into it. The hay is cut and it’s not going to bale itself.
Need me, do ya?
Walking past farm equipment around the yard, fretting. You can almost hear the old baler wake up with a creak and a groan. Need me, do ya? Yes we do.
So hitch up the old guy. Trundle out to the field, and get back to work. Bale after bale after bale pops out the back. They might be a bit crooked. Somehow the tying mechanism is looser on one side than the other. But if you were as old as that baler is, you’d likely have trouble tying too. At least the bales are made.
Job done, the baler goes back to its resting spot. Hook the wagon on to the tractor, and head out to load it up. One phone call, and neighbours appear from all around. They head to the field and start loading.
Then in the barn, they unload and stack. So that’s a lot to be thankful for: good neighbours and a good old baler.Winter Resort has more on living in the country, pre-haying days, and the reason we hay is told in the story of Jerry and Oscar. That’s Oscar above, happy to see the food truck!