Bucking Hay Bales

The hay has been cut and is drying.

The hay has been cut and is drying.

We’ve had a very wet early summer, which has made it tricky to get our hay cut.  You see, it has to be dry and at least 80 degrees for three days in a row in order to cut hay.  If you cut it and it rains before it is up, it can be ruined.  If you wait too long to cut it, it will be inferior.   Then when the weather does cooperate, you need to be next in line to have your hay cut or own your own equipment.  Since the necessary equipment could cost more than a house, we hired a man to cut, rake, and bale our back pasture.  We ended up with over 600 square bales of hay.  All that rain made our waiting worth it.  What a blessing!  We don’t need nearly that much and are able to sell the extra.

This rake gathers the hay into rows.

This rake gathers the hay into rows.

This side of the hay baler picks up the loose hay.

This side of the hay baler picks up the loose hay.

This side of the hay baler spits out the hay into bales, each tied with twine.

This side of the hay baler spits out the hay into bales, each tied with twine.

Here are some pearls of wisdom we learned from our first “get the hay out of the field before it rains again” event.

1)  The more the merrier.  Pay your friends and family to help.  It is hard work.  We paid $10/hour in pork to most of our helpers.  One person preferred cash.

2) You will need a babysitter.  This job is not safe for young kids unless you want to strap them into car seats inside the truck.  Warn your babysitter that this job will take several hours.

3)  You need a driver.  This person must drive slow and steady and avoid rapid starts and stops.  They should be able to hear well in case a loader needs the truck to stop. Have at least one person on each side of the trailer to load the bales.  Have the driver drive between the rows of hay so each side can load.  Ideally, have at least two people picking up bales on each side of the trailer and at least have one person on each side.  These people must be able walk, lift 65 pounds, and carry 65 pounds for up to thirty feet.

4)  Stacking is an art and not for the faint of heart.  Those guys climb up pretty high on a moving vehicle.  They have to be strong enough to lift and sometimes throw the bales up over their head. You need at least one stacker and it is nice to have two.  You can’t be a stacker if you are prone to motion sickness.  The trailer bed is always moving and you are turning side to side to pick up the bales.

Ben, an expert stacker, contemplating his next move.

Ben, an expert stacker, contemplating his next move while hubby throws another bale onto the trailer.

5) Be sure to feed your help so they don’t collapse from hunger.  I chose to feed them salty pork and beans to help replace salt loss.  Buttered cornbread doesn’t hurt either.  They are burning tons of calories and sweating a lot out in the heat.  A bale of hay weighs 65 pounds on average.  You are picking them up off the field, lifting them onto a trailer.  Once in the barn, you have to unload each bale and re-stack it.  Each bale is touched more than once, resulting in lots of energy expenditure.

6) Have plenty of water available to drink.  Lemonade doesn’t hurt either.

7)  Having a grain elevator to move the hay bales up to the loft is priceless.  Get one.

Friends moving hay from the trailer to the grain elevator.

Friends moving hay from the trailer to the grain elevator.

Men happily awaiting the hay to pop into the barn.  We'll forget it was probably 120 degrees up there.  And that they had to stack the hay.  Again.

Men happily awaiting the hay to pop into the barn. We’ll forget it was probably 120 degrees up there. And that they had to stack the hay. Again.

8)  Wear long sleeves, even if it is hot.  Hay scratches up your arms.

9)  Appreciate every piece of hay.  You worked hard to harvest it.  Also, realize how many times a day we say “hey!”.  Out in the hay field, we learned we say “hey” a lot when talking to each other.

Overall, we spent 7 hours the first night and another 3 hours the second night picking up hay.  Thanks to all our wonderful friends and family for pitching in.  We hope to cut the hay again late summer.  Who’s in?!

P.S. We are selling square bales at $5.00/bale.