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Hay season blunders we can finally laugh about

Progressive Forage Grower Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 05 November 2014
hay bales

Every now and then on an ag online forum, I run across something that I can sit on no longer; it has to be shared. The first incident I’ll share with you has been modified slightly (with the author’s permission) to make it family friendly and to protect the identities of those family members who, bless their hearts, are doing their best to help.

When family tries to help

Just figured I would share a humorous little struggle that has been brewing over the last week. It isn't very funny at the moment, but in time it will be.

I thought that I would do a trial run on hiring someone to help put up a third cutting of hay with the thought that I can pick up some more ground this winter and use them next year on a regular basis. I am leaving out some of the highlights, but you will get the picture.

Knowing that I had to go out of state, and having a really messed up schedule for a couple of months, I decided to hire a guy to bale and stack my third cutting. I cut it when I was home and left just a day or two before it was ready to bale.

I decided to hire my dad, who retired this year and needs a little extra income. He has been haying about as long as I can remember. It was to be a great arrangement for us both; I would get the hay put up, and he would make a little extra cash. The phrase "best laid plans of mice and men" comes to mind.

Of course it rained a little the day before it was ready to bale. No big deal, except Dad doesn't want to use my rake, so he drags his 30 miles to my place. Raking goes off without a hitch, just very slow. Then comes the baling. I get several calls about "problems" with my baler.

He says the baler is a piece of crap cause it won’t tie a bale. I mention that it hasn't missed a bale all year and is in really good shape. Then my wife calls and tells me that the bales weigh 150 to 160 pounds. I talk to Dad again and ask what the moisture is. He says, “I am not sure ‘cause I don't believe that little black box.” I told him to believe that box, as it has been verified and, by the way, what does the little black box say? End result: he baled up a field at 24 to 30 percent moisture.

The next 2,000 bales or so Dad bales at somewhere around 45 to 50 pounds. Bales should weigh 75 to 85 pounds, give or take. When I hear that the strings are sagging, I can imagine what the stackwagon will think of them. Speaking of the stackwagon, he has never run a self-propelled wagon before. I give him an over-the-phone tutorial on it and feel pretty good about myself at this point. He has run wagons all his life, and I figure he can figure out the turning without much problem.

Then I get a call from the wife.

Wife says the wagon is in the west field, screaming so bad she can hear it from the house. I call Pop, and we get the gear selection figured out. The very detailed instructions for starting the stack are summarily not followed, and I find out the hay is lying everywhere in the stackyard.

I get another call from the wife.

Apparently there has been a disagreement on the quality of our equipment and how it should be used. You should know at this point that my wife refuses to run equipment, but she is better at knowing how I do it than I gave her credit for. She has apparently been paying pretty good attention over the years.

At the end of the day, the wagon is parked in the stackyard, and the next morning I get an expletive-laced call asking what is wrong with my wagon. My reply is “nothing,” as it is in great shape. Pop says it won't start. After a heated discussion, it was found that the air conditioning and fan were left on the night before. Out come the jumper cables, which are summarily hooked up backwards and the coil, condenser and rotor are toast. Of course, I didn't hear about all of this until the wife calls to ask if I had called the service technician out. I replied no and was informed that one was in fact there at the moment. Apparently Pop had decided to call the tech.

Long story short, we are still waiting for parts. The good news is that we still own the pull-behind wagon, and surely Pop is qualified to run that. After running over the dumpster with it, he calls to tell me that it is a piece of crap, as well. I notice there seems to be a theme in that regard.

Then I get another call from the wife.

The end result is that, as of yesterday afternoon, all of the hay is done, equipment (which may or may not need repair) is ready to go in the barn and all is good. My wife and Pop had dinner after the work was done and didn't hurt each other, and I will be home late this week. It sounds like disaster has been averted. As for a trial run for next year and the thought of picking up more ground this winter, I have some thinking to do.

Biggest haying mistakes of the year

The second set of posts included responses to my question, “What’s the biggest mistake you made baling this year?”

Really – I can’t make this stuff up. ...

  • “Getting stuck in the same spot twice.” (Location withheld to protect the innocent … or not so innocent.)
  • “Owning a baler.” (Location withheld, but it sounds like you might start watching the auctions for a baler on the market.)
  • “Renting out the first cutting of alfalfa to a neighbor. I cut it; he baled half of the field – got rained out. I finished baling it a week later. Got a check that was no good. Live and learn.” (Location withheld – probably still trying to collect the check and wouldn’t want to tip off the scoundrel.)
  • “Hiring a new kid to rake for me. He did pretty good, except for the first time he made an end-row U-turn with the rake down, with a V-rake with some older teeth on it. After another lesson on how to change the 30 teeth he broke, he caught on.” – North Central Kentucky
  • “Ignoring the temperature gauge, warning light and buzzer on the baling tractor because I only had 10 acres left and rain was on the way. The engine is now being overhauled because I scored a piston … oh yeah, and it never rained. Hooked up the backup tractor to the baler, and on the third bale, turned too sharp and caught the tin with a dual!” – Northeast Nebraska

If you haven’t joined the online ag forums, you are missing some fun. Some of you know what I’m talking about; others are scratching your heads. These sites (just Google ag forum or variations thereof, and several will pop up) have conversation threads farmer-to-farmer. If you create passwords and all that other good stuff, you can log in to the site and join the conversation, read what others are doing, post your dilemmas and get advice. It’s the online version of a coffeeshop. Sure, some of it’s just bull or entertaining, but some of it’s instructive and informative. Check it out.  FG

Photo by Cassidy Woolsey.