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Hay bales

When did hay balers replace binders?

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Ron Laden16/10/2018 19:07:41
1356 forum posts
240 photos
Posted by Bazyle on 16/10/2018 18:19:16:

I had been thinking in terms of the small square bales producing square haystacks instead of round ones resulting in visible changes to the countryside as seen from a train window. I noticed a reference to that type being patented in 1936.

Now stacks are rather boring piles of round black lumps. The mini round bales look rather cute and perhaps designed to be easy for women to carry to their pet pony.

The rectangular small bales are still produced by some farmers especially if they have customers with horses. Our daughter manages an equestrian centre and all the girls there buy the small square type bales.

Piles of round black lumps..? Not if you live in the cool, switched on, fashionable North Devon. How about piles of round bright purple lumps or maybe yellow. I kid you not, last year it was yellow and the year before bright purple. All the baling around here is done by contractors and I thought it was a joke when first I saw them but no, that was the "in" colours for the last couple of years. I see this year they are back to black though

mark costello 116/10/2018 19:26:21
541 forum posts
12 photos

Anyone remember stacking loose hay in the barn. I worked with an oldtimer and His hay was put up in the mow while still a little green. Towards evening He saw steam or smoke coming from the barn. Got up on the second floor and the hay was smoldering. All He could do was to pitch it out the door and when it hit the ground it was bursting into flame.

Neil Wyatt16/10/2018 19:53:25
16568 forum posts
687 photos
75 articles

Anti-social 'bale'-haviour?

V8Eng16/10/2018 20:42:26
1314 forum posts
28 photos
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 16/10/2018 16:48:38:

Does anyone remember Allen scythes? The most lethal devices known to man!


Ha, yes like a monsterous horizontal hedge trimmer! the blades operated whenever the engine was running only the wheels stopped.

Quite common with ground care people when I was young and best to be well behind the machine for obvious reasons!

They appear on EBay sometimes, usually non runners (safer that way).😉


Edited By V8Eng on 16/10/2018 20:46:27

Howard Lewis16/10/2018 23:21:39
2329 forum posts
2 photos

These things bring back memories. I remember my Uncle harvesting a field, after cutting an outer track cut with a scythe, with binder that had been converted from horse drawn to be pulled by his Fordson N..

The sheaves were piled into stooks, before being taken to a threshing box, driven off the PTO pulley of the Fordson

(The little grey Fergie had a PTO shaft, but not a belt pulley)

Balers were either Pick Up or Stationary (again belt driven, and considered to be superior to a pick up baler).

Thatching a rick with loose straw was an art which not every farmworker had..My Great Uncle was an accomplished Thatcher, and a skilled Hedger and Ditcher. My Father had never ploughed with a tractor until he was in his 50s, and put on my Uncle's Fergie. In his youth, he had been a very good ploughman, using horses..

In '78 I had dealings with a new Tractor, that had air con, radio and CB radio. A huge contrast to the Fordson N or E27N of my youth. Now the Combines are controlled by GPS.

Times they are a'changing! (Mind you, so are our machines)


John Paton 117/10/2018 10:10:45
172 forum posts
6 photos

Reference date of transition to combine harvesters, on a small farm in Suffolk they were reaping the barley with a tractor drawn scythe (with the familiar reciprocating triangular toothed blades) and gathering into bundles before carting to the stack yard and lifting on a conveyor onto stacks for threshing later. This was in 1961 I believe.

The youngsters like myself went round armed with sticks and catapaults to try and deal with an rabbits as they ran out of the last remaining section of uncut barley in the middle of the field. The farmers terriers had a 'field day' at that part of the harvest!

In 1962 they introduced a Massey Harris combine harvester with included a thresher and downloaded the grain into hessian sacks which were wired closed when full and loaded onto a rack at the side of the combine, from there they were transferred periodically to the tractor and trailer which pulled alongside.

Straw was raked into lanes and baled withe the traditional small bales collected in a sledge behind the baler with a long lanyard back to the tractor. When the sledge was full, the lanyard was pulled allowing the whole collection of bales to be left in one place. We then went round 'bale carting' which entailed lifting the bales onto the trailer for carting to the stack yard where they were built into stacks. Our forearms ended up nearly raw from where the stubble ends jagged into them when lift in the bales by the binder twine.

It was about ten years before they got a combine which discharged directly into high sided trailer rather than sacks. And the cutter bar on that one was about double the width of their old machine.

Alistair Robertson 117/10/2018 11:04:24
59 forum posts
6 photos

I remember when my grandfather cut round a field of corn (oats) with a sythe to allow his binder, an american Deering with a left-hand cut, to get round the field to begin the cutting. The binder was pulled by a Fordson tractor and was supplied as new with a drawbar but if you looked closely the brackets were still on the frame where shafts for converting to horse drawn were still there.

The sheaves were stacked on "stooks" of eight sheaves for a few days for drying in the wind and the sun. When they were dry they were forked on to a horse drawn wagon equipped with "shelvings" which allowed two rows of sheaves to be stacked, top and tail. They were then taken to the "corn yard" where the "rucks" were built on stone bases. This was a most important job as the "rucks" had to be built to the highest standard and with great pride as these would stand for many months for all the neighbouring farmers and visitors to see. They also had to with stand the worst of winter and it was a huge blow to a farmers pride if a "ruck" was blown down in a winter storm.

A "ruck" was dismantled every few weeks to allow the sheaves to be "thrashed" in the small mill at the farm for animal feed as required but in the spring any remaining "rucks" were "thrashed" by the "traivlin' mull" anbd the resulting corn sold as a cash crop to help the farm finances. The coming of the "mull" was the high point of the farming year as neighbouring farms sent their workers to man all the jobs that had to be done. The "mull" would arrive the night before and set up, often in darkness to start at 8 o'clock next morning. The "mull" crew had to be up at 5am if they had a steam engine but the coming of the Field Marshal tractor gave them a while longer in their beds!

The "thrash" went on all day but always concluded by 6pm. to allow the neighbouring farm workers to get home to their beds as they probably had to be back next morning to continue or at least move on to the next "thrash" 13 men and 2 women were needed to keep a "traivellin' mull" going and I very much doubt that you could get that amount of fit and able men within 25 square miles today!

This way of life ended by the late 60's as the availability and acceptance of combines took over although I remember a couple of brothers who used a binder for the last time about 1998!

V8Eng17/10/2018 22:05:28
1314 forum posts
28 photos

cb62bfe2-3790-4700-9023-4d02fd2858fe.jpegf950c211-3812-4347-8400-09c47126a147.jpegNow for something different.

A human being for a sense of scale, excuse the picture quality it was a long way off.

Edited By V8Eng on 17/10/2018 22:10:41

Edited By V8Eng on 17/10/2018 22:13:21

SillyOldDuffer18/10/2018 09:31:43
4705 forum posts
1010 photos

Alastair's fine description of the "thrash" has me wondering if he's also explained an expression. Not sure if it's local or current but a pub crawl round here was often called a 'thrash' when I was young. A group of young men organised to visit several local pubs in succession for serious drinking, much as farm workers once tackled real work...


Ian S C18/10/2018 12:13:19
7447 forum posts
230 photos

Today the prefered bales here are big round, about 4ft x 4ft, or one of two sizes of large square bales either 3ft sq x 6ft long, or 3ft x 4 ft x 6ft long, the heaviest of the latter being balage at about 900 kg. The best means of feeding these out is some type of mechanical feeder such as this. Then before the days of bales here's the crop ready for threashing, (oops we are a bit out of order there, never mind).

Ian S CBags of grain, and the crop for threshingtest 037 (640x480).jpg

Alistair Robertson 118/10/2018 12:51:47
59 forum posts
6 photos

Hi, Dave.

I believe you are probably right about the "thrash" expression but I didn't think about it at the time. The expression is still in use today in north east Scotland describing a determined pub crawl with nothing in particular to celebrate. just an excuse to have a hang-over for a few days!

To get back to the topic of this thread I wrote a paragraph about bales and I forgot to add it to the text!

When the straw came out of the end of the "mull" (Usually a Barclay Ross and Hutchison, made in Aberdeen) it was fed in to a horizontal baler with the most fearsome "nodding donkey" sort of serrated head that moved up and down about six feet and packed the straw in to the chamber where it was compressed by a square piston driven by a crank with an attached flywheel about six feet in diameter. I cannot remember the name of the baler after all this time but it was a most impressive bit of kit. The bales were about 1 cwt. in weight but awkward to handle, the tying string bit in to your hands and only bits of sacking wrapped around the fingers helped to prevent your fingers getting red raw, By the end of the day your shirt was covered with blood from your hands. The bales were then stacked in a square "soo" (it resembled a fat pig! The bales were stacked to put a pitch on the roof and covered with a canvas cover. This served as bedding for any animals over the summer and early winter.

Danny M2Z18/10/2018 12:52:42
745 forum posts
278 photos

Because of the drought many interstate trucks are transporting hay bales (the round ones) thousands of kilometers here in Oz. Farmers are being advised to stick a crowbar or piece of rebar into the bales and feel for a temperature rise as spontaneous combustion is a real problem. **LINK**

Prince Harry brought a bit of welcome rain though with his visit , he's a popular lad here down under **LINK**

* Danny M *

Alan Wood 420/10/2018 07:15:25
124 forum posts
4 photos

Having come from a farming family this post attracted my attention. Technically speaking a binder is for cutting corn fields and a reaper is used for cutting grass pastures so a binder would not replace a baler but a combine would replace a binder ... and a baler would be used for baling both grass (hay) and corn straw ... if that makes sense.

Self combustion of hay bales was common if the grass was baled too soon after cutting and had not dried out fully. This was often the case with first crop which tended to be cut earlier in the year and not see enough sun to dry it out when there was always a panic to get it baled quickly pending rainy weather. Second cut was later in the year and more likely to dry out quickly. At the very least a damp bale would burst the strings holding it together or go mouldy and not be suitable as animal fodder. In the extreme the local fire brigade would be needed and an insurance claim lodged. The more sun the cut grass got and the more it could be 'turned' before baling the better which reduce the possibility of heat being generated.

Straw bales did not suffer this effect as the straw was inherently dead on cutting. In a very rainy summer the corn before cutting could be beaten down by the rain and the ears start to produce secondary growth. The binder and the combine harvester cutter beds had dividers to separate each breed of cut and lifters fitted at intervals along the knife fingers to overcome the laid corn stalks. The knife blade edges could be plain or serrated depending on crop type and quality of growth.

The same heating effect could occur with corn which in the early days was 'bagged off' either as threshed or later combine harvested grain. If the grain was damp when bagged you would often not be able to thrust you arm into the sacks such was the heat generated. Combustion would not happen but the grain would, like the hay, go mouldy and not be marketable. A corn merchant would visit to sample from the bags for moisture content which usually ran in the 15% to 20% range. The lower the moisture content the harder the grain and a better price achieved. Really hard grain went for milling or brewing. Once bagging gave way to bulk transport from the field, the grain would be spread dumped into open sheds with a fan based air ducting system under the floor to dry the crop out.

That was all a bit longer than it should have been. There are some written notes on my blog if anyone wishes to have further boredom thrust upon them.

Peter G. Shaw20/10/2018 14:01:52
985 forum posts
39 photos

Mark Costello asks if anyone remembers stacking loose hay in the barn. Yes indeed.

The local farmer, behind our house, used to cut the grass with initially a horse drawn mower, and later with a Grey Fergie with rear mounted bar mower. The grass, weather permitting was turned twice on consecutive days, using a shaker and/or or rowing machine, both being towed by either the horse or later the tractor. On the third day the hay was brought into the barn entrance by means of a sweep, a device which was either towed by the horse along the ground to collect up the hay, or later by a front mounted sweep on the tractor. Steering was done by an amount of guesswork and by reference to where you had been as the hay was piled up in front. Once delivered to the barn, a small army of men/youths would fork the hay into the barn and up onto the "moo" (or maybe meow) as it was called, where it was then stacked up to the rafters, some 10 or 12 ft high.

The hay was never housed unless it was dry - because of the fire risk, and yes, we all knew that once the farmer started cutting, it would be all hands on board in three days time, no going out or anything, getting the hay in dry was paramount.

There is a rather sad tale about another farmer who also had a front mounted sweep. One day, one of the men was driving the tractor and fully loaded sweep towards the barn when the bull got loose and took a strong objection to this slowly moving stack of hay - and charged! Now unfortunately, the prongs on the front of the sweep were long pieces of steel tipped wood, and the driver had the sweep in the raised position. And he could'nt see over the top. I leave the rest to your imagination.

Peter G. Shaw

Alistair Robertson 120/10/2018 15:54:13
59 forum posts
6 photos

In Scotland because it was (still is!) difficult to get 3 sunny days in a row we used to stack the hay in "coles" about 8 feet in diameter by about the same high. They stayed in the field until any threat of "heating" had passed, then they were dragged tthe corner of the field and built in to a few "hay rucks" for winter feed.

The method of dragging was that a rope was attached to the tractor drawbar, round the "cole" then back on the drawbar pin. My job was to stand on the drawbar holding on to the rope as my uncle drove the tractor at top speed (about 18 mph) to the next "cole". Health and Safety not even thought about!! I then had to take one end of the rope, run round the "cole" re-attach the rope to the drawbar. then back to the "cole" to loosely hold the rope about 6" off the ground, shout OK and the tractor was drawn forward to tighten the rope and me with, feet standing on the rope and balancing against the "cole" away across the "park" at top speed to where the "big" men were building the "ruck"

On one occasion, somehow my foot went down the back of the rope and I fell back, flat on the ground. My Uncle took off with me trailing behind but my shouts were drowned out by the roar of the exhaust from the old Fordson at full throttle! I was dragged for about 400 yards and suffered a bruised ankle but I was expected (and went ) out to drag the other "coles"...I was off school for a few days as I couldn't get my school shoe on that foot ( I had been wearing gym shoes and they were not allowed in class!)

This thread has brought back wonderful memories of a time long past but fondly remebered.


Derek Lane20/10/2018 19:19:38
206 forum posts
49 photos

I have only ever seen one or two model balers and both of these were working with a threshing machine. The one in this picture is owned by a friend of mine. Shame about the wheels on the thresher and bailer.



Edited By Derek Lane 2 on 20/10/2018 19:20:05

Mike Poole20/10/2018 19:36:31
2107 forum posts
51 photos
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 16/10/2018 16:48:38:

Does anyone remember Allen scythes? The most lethal devices known to man!


My mother was a secretary at John Allen when they used to make the scythes. Even today a lot of farming equipment is potentially lethal, I would not like a close encounter with one of their flail type hedge cutters, it’s bad enough passing in the car.


Hacksaw20/10/2018 20:25:47
405 forum posts
163 photos

That reminded me ,I've got this . It came off of a trencher that was scrapped.. in 1968 .. I've had it since then . Bronze , it doesn't shine up like a brass one would . AA battery for size..ccc 169.jpg

There's one , by the footplate !


Edited By Hacksaw on 20/10/2018 20:27:15

Edited By Hacksaw on 20/10/2018 20:50:10

Farmboy20/10/2018 20:31:40
119 forum posts
8 photos
Posted by Mike Poole on 20/10/2018 19:36:31:
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 16/10/2018 16:48:38:

Does anyone remember Allen scythes? The most lethal devices known to man!


My mother was a secretary at John Allen when they used to make the scythes. Even today a lot of farming equipment is potentially lethal, I would not like a close encounter with one of their flail type hedge cutters, it’s bad enough passing in the car.


Of course, for serious hedgecutting you want one of these:

Hacksaw20/10/2018 20:46:23
405 forum posts
163 photos

surprise And my mum always said motorbikes were dangerous....

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