Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How We Make Hay, Part I

Way back in March I told you that "hands down, calving season is my favorite time of year," or something to that effect. Yeah, well, I lied. I do not tell untruths very often so I am sorry if I have offended you, but after this cold calving season and wickedly icy spring, I am tired of the cows. I'll fall in love all over again next March for a few weeks, but I am a fickle soul and will again lose interest and again tell, come June, just how much I love haying season. Really, it is hands down my favorite time of year. Danish Cowboy breaks the swather and baler out of hiding in the quonset building and begins the annual process of preparing them for hot days of work. And I get anxious to smell that intoxicating, sweet aroma of freshly cut alfalfa. If you've never smelled it, you have no idea. None.
We purchased a new-to-us swather last year from the South Dakota territory. Why only new-to-us and not new? This is a 2002 Canadian MacDon (as in Old MacDonald had a farm...get it?) and is nice but much less worthy than the green American standard John Deere. And it still cost us $45,000. Yeah, really. Thankfully though, we were able to get a good price on our old John Deere swather which helped to ease the pain a little bit. That old swather -- I got to drive that -- it was like a really big lawn mower. And it had a gas engine (this one is diesel). So when it got really hot and you had to fill it up, taking off the gas cap was great fun. More than once it literally exploded out of your hands. Oh, those were the good old days. Dry grass and combustible, explosive over-heated fuel.
Danish Cowboy has spent hours (days almost) preparing Mr. MacDon for his 2009 premier. You know, greasing all the moving parts, vacuuming, cleaning the windows, installing the Sirius radio, all the really important things. The header is 21' across and has numerous sickle sections which also need to be inspected to be sure they are sharp and up to the task. He spent all this time on it and then it broke down as soon as he started cutting hay. Something about a ball bearing or the Sirius radio not tuning in properly. I can't be sure. And now he has to wait for Canadian parts for his Canadian swather from Canada. That will teach him to save money in the future.

And then there is also the baler. Danish Cowboy's brother drives this thing which cost us $35,000. Here's some math for you. If we owe $80,000 on equipment and hay is worth approximately $70 a ton and the average bale weights 1.5 tons, how many bales do we have to put up to make this a profitable operation? Don't forget the cost of Diet Coke, net wrap for the bales, diesel, and the occasional can of snoose. I can't tell you much about the baler because I maxed out my question allotment to Danish Cowboy for the day.

I wish I were making this up, but...
the baler does truly shoot the newly made and tightly wrapped bales out the back to ensure adequate clearance. It's especially fun when the bale is shot down hill and you wonder how far it will roll. So learn something new for today: never stand behind the business end of a baler. Don't ever say this isn't an educational blog.


  1. If you had wicked allergies you would not love haying season so much, I grew up on a farm and as a child this was a killer for me.

  2. I can truly appreciate this point of view. Fortunately for me, I have never suffered from allergies -- until this year. During the time that the crested wheatgrass was pollinating, I suffered! Still though, seeing the bales dotting the rolling hillsides and the way the sun plays with the colors and shadows, I just can't resist loving it. I tend to romanticize this life a bit, but I'm new here. Give me a few years.