Hay’s Done! Sunday, Jun 22 2014 

I don’t need much off the field, but I do need some and it has to be good quality: picky, elderly thoroughbreds and pickier owners….I am sure I drive the farmer who cuts it (who runs Non-picky beef cattle) slightly bonkers, I try very hard not to. Especially since all I have to do is put it in the barn.

I’d give a great deal for his tractors and sundry equipment though….

As usual this one ran perfectly:


A good thing, since this big Oliver* (which was rebuilt since last year but not run hard till now) gave up on the second circuit of the field with the cutter. The grass was just too heavy and something in the cooling system went Bang!  Thankfully, the man has another, earlier Oliver as well and that combined with the Farmall made due.



The real problem is finding people to do the work, these days it is almost cheaper to buy extra hay-wagons than to try to get people to buck hay. Still you end up with quite the hay wagon collection!


*big for post-war New England okay? I confess, I am not really a fan of the Olivers, any more than I am of Mack trucks, the bulldog effect doesn’t do it for me. As far as I am concerned, tractors ought to be red, tricycle Farmalls or stout little gray Fergusons.



1911 Dump cart Wednesday, Sep 5 2012 

Building the tennis courts (now a nice pine grove, if entirely too well draining soil).  The team is the farm’s work team, probably Percherons or primarily of Percheron stock.  The cart appears to have a rather ingenious design: the actual dump-cart is balanced on the back wheels, which is actually a trailer.  It must have been very maneuverable, if tricky to load.  The wheels are wood, with iron frames and hubs.

Note the rather nice view over Beeney and West hills, the trees in the west hedgerow now obscure almost all of this view.  Note also that the men are wearing coats and hats, despite doing hard work in the full sun, in late August!

Brief Meditations on a Barn Tuesday, Jul 3 2012 

Esperanza’s barn, the barn that is still part of the property that is, is actually two structures: a purpose built horse barn and a standard, English style, barn now used as a garage.  The two are attached to each other, the dates are entirely uncertain.  The carriage/garage section could be anywhere from 1800-1875, without careful examination I wouldn’t care to guess; the horse barn (despite family lore) is almost certainly 1873.  Dating barns is hard, recycled timbers were the order of the day and styles for general purpose barns changed only slightly.

In any event,  having reason to wander in the horse barn, I amused myself by examining the actual structure.  It is a post and beam build, and a big one.  Three east-west beams carry the hayloft: at 48 feet long, and 8inches by 8inches.  The barn floor is carried by another three beams of the same length, but closing in on 12 inchx12inch dimensions.  There are a another set of north-south sills, close to thirty-five feet in length, plus two floors of joists: 38 to a floor, thirty-five feet long, three inches by ten…plus corner/side posts….and the sheathing, and the flooring…in no case can you drive a heavy and very sharp knife in more than two or three millimeters, even with one’s full body weight behind it.

You can’t build them like that today…

Red and green Wednesday, Jun 27 2012 

1911 versus 2011 Saturday, Jun 16 2012 

you can see the chucker in action in the modern photo, that eliminates two or three people, right there. 

Good thing, since extra bodies don’t seem to be around this year, but what a good year!  My guess, conservatively, close to ten tons of hay, and bone dry at that, so very light.*

We are pretty much a cheering squad, a friend does the actual work…

‘Tis the Season Thursday, Jun 14 2012 

for hay.  Connecticut is not an agricultural powerhouse, though like every single state it does have an agricultural sector; it is best known for nursery plants, Christmas trees, and intensive, specialty farms.  It is not known for sprawling fields.  And honestly, why should it be?  Though the Connecticut valley holds some of the finest soils in the world*, the state is small, densely populated, hilly, and rocky. You cannot have a thousand acre field here.

Nonetheless, I grew up bucking hay at least once a year and usually more.  At one point we went through 700 bales (55lb square) a year. *  This year, I asked for 60.  Our field currently produces 1400 bales a year, generally high quality, off of about ten acres.  The man who does it, does not make money off of it.  He likes doing it, he can use the hay for his cattle, and  he has the equipment.  In this case, all vintage tractors (several gorgeous Elliots and Farmalls) that need several days steady running a year; they have another life as show tractors. 

Hay is an increasingly scarce product here.  Hayfields invariably make high quality subdivisions, while hay (though the price has gotten painfully high) is not a high value crop.  It is however, labour and equipment intensive in the most spiky and unpredictable fashion.  You need at least: one tractor (preferably two), a cutter/conditioner, a tedder, a rake, and a baler.  Hay wagons are also recommended.   And A Lot of gasoline. Then you need the people to drive the equipment and buck the hay, and you need them at some undefined point in June and again in late August, and you need them to work in the full sun and fast.  Why fast?  Once hay is down, if it is rained on in the field it goes from 6 dollars a bale to 1.50.   Hay weather is also thunderstorm weather. 

I will, no matter where I live, for the rest of my life start to get edgy the first weekend in June.  Will the hay be good? Are there enough people? Will it rain?  Still, I love the thundering roar of the tractors, the smell of hay, of gasoline, the ka-chunk sound of the balers; I loved the challenge of stacking hay as fast as it came off the elevator, the trick of grabbing the hay as it came off the spiked chain without snapping the twine or slipping near a lethal piece of equipment, the trick of stacking six high alone, eight or more with a helper.  Who is faster, the stacker or the loader? 

Do I mind not having the stress? No. Do I miss it? yeah.

Two years ago, the Elliot in the foreground with the baler, the tedder is the piece unhitched to the right, a Farmall in the distance.

*Connecticut once produced shade-grown tobacco of a quality rivalling the famed Cuban strand. 

*I also stacked innumerable hay and straw bales at the farm where I worked.

*Wordpress’ spellcheck hates ‘Farmall’…that says something, doesn’t it?

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