Last weekend, we received some very nice soaking rain. This provided much needed moisture. The timely rain was then replaced with moderate temperatures, sunny skies, and a steady breeze which proved perfect for making some very nice hay. These weather conditions also provided an excellent backdrop for the “Farming with Draft Animals” class held this week. Tillers’ oxen and draft horses were out each day, hooked to a variety of tools. This allowed students to compare two different types of work animals, as well as providing the opportunity to see and operate a variety of farm equipment performing numerous tasks. In addition to Tillers’ three farming interns, this year’s class was comprised of individuals from two living history sites. Tillers’ quiet setting provides a relaxed place to concentrate on the work at hand. Even though each of these historical farmers were experienced with using draft animals, such a opportunity can provide a nice break from distractions inherent with outdoor museums, making it more conducive to focus solely on the use of the various equipment and draft animals.
One of the tasks Tillers’ oxen Herschel and Walker were put to was that of loading hay. With the advent of the mechanical hay loader, it was possible for fewer people to load more hay faster than with pitch forks. The oxen were hitched directly to a forecart, which allowed the animals to be then connected to a short tongue on the wagon. Finally, the hay loader was connected to the rear of the wagon. In use, the entire assemblage of equipment is driven straddling the windrowed hay. Tines at the rear of the hay loader pick the hay off the ground, advancing it toward articulating bars which “walk” the hay up an inclined plane to the wagon. The result is a stream of hay delivered high above the wagon bed, allowing workers stationed there to stack it, so that it can be delivered to the barn.
The following pictures show our loader – a New Idea model L-128 – in use. As is often the case the simpler the equipment, the greater is the skill requirement of the operator. In this case, it is a practiced art to build a balanced load which will accomodate great height without tumbling off while traveling to the awaiting barn. The skill requirement is heightened due to the speed required to make decisions in stacking while keeping up with the unyielding stream of hay. Fast animals, thick hay, and perhaps a teamster with an off-color sense of humor can all add to the challenges of the effort!
See video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z1TKzup8Qg