Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bossy Betty Remembers Hay Season

Putting up hay for the winter consumed many of my summer days since it was my job to drive the tractor in the field and help out at the barn.  Oh yes, Betty was a busy farm girl.  Long after our neighbors were baling their hay, my dad was still putting it up loose in the barn.  I am pretty sure this process is rarely practiced anymore, so I am glad I did a photo series for my 4-H Photography project when I was in junior high.  I came across the pictures the other day and thought I'd share them with you.

All you city kids hang on and listen carefully while I explain:  First we took the tractor, hitched the hay wagon on and went to the field where the hay loader sat.  This was a machine that grabbed the hay, which had been bunched into rows earlier and lifted it up with a series of prongs to the top of the loader which met the top of the wagon.  As I drove the tractor, my dad was on the hay wagon grabbing the oncoming hay with a pitchfork and loading the wagon evenly as the hay came on board.  

After the wagon was full, we took it to the barn and pulled it in front.  The tractor was then driven around the the back and a large rope that ran all the way through the barn was attached to the back of the tractor.  The rope went through pulleys and up into the hay loft, where it was attached to giant forks.  These forks were lowered to the wagon where Daddy set them in the hay, pushing them down with his feet in order to get a good amount of hay in the forks.  

He, or I, or one of my sisters would then go to the tractor at the back of the barn,  SLOWLY drive it forward, pulling the rope through the pulleys which ran through the barn which pulled the hay up and in.  Most of the time, instead of driving the tractor,  I was in the mid-loft, where I could watch the forks come in.  I'd watch and wait, listening to the creaking rope, feeling the anticipation.  The forks of hay would get to the window at the top of the barn and all the light from the outside would be cut off.  Then the sunlight reappeared as the load moved slowly back in to the hayloft. 

It was my job to call out to the tractor driver to stop when the forks got in the right place. (I had to make sure the hay would be evenly distributed.)  When I yelled, the big load of hay would jerk to a stop, swinging high above.  My dad would then go to the front of the barn, and pull a rope attached to the forks tripping a mechanism on the forks that caused them to open up, dropping the load. 

 It was really a tremendous feast for all the senses:  It was just me up there watching that big load of hay swinging, suspended in mid air.  Then the sound of the hay dropping, and the forks chiming in, clanking together, the strong smell of the hay, the sight of the great lump of hay dropping, rolling, tiny bits of hay dancing in the air all about my head.  It was a farm girl's ticker tape parade.

After that, my dad would pull in sharp, hard jerks to get the forks to come to the top of the window of the barn and then the forks would come crashing down with the help of gravity, my dad attempting to guide their descent on to the wagon of hay.  I still remember how we were NOT to step foot out the front of the barn until we heard those forks come down lest we get hit by them.  When they did come down, it was time to start the process all over again.

In the bottom right of this picture,  you can see my dad driving the tractor which is connected to the rope pulling the hay.  I am in the mid-loft waiting to yell out when to stop.  Oh wait.  No I'm not.  I'm taking this picture.  Hopefully there was a sister there doing that job!  


Anonymous said...

I love these pictures! What a great BB. Now, as a city girl, I have limited experience with hay and it's uses and really, I'm allergic to it. I think I may have died from hives in all that hay. Pardon my ignorance, but what's it used for? Feeding horses and cows? Did that entire barn contain hay? How did you get it out?

Anonymous said...

Most illuminating. Did you have a silo, too? I love silos. What kind of silage did you have, if you had silage? I have always wanted to play the word "silages" for a bingo in Scrabble, but it hasn't come up yet in over two thousand games. Weird, huh?

Bossy Betty said...

PG--Knowing your allergies, yes, you would have surely died in all the hay. It only served to make me stronger, hence my overly developed sinus cavities of which you are. no doubt, jealous.

The top of the barn was filled with hay and the mid-loft had three holes that went down to where some cattle were kept. The hay could just be thrown from the main loft, to the mid-loft and then down to the eager cows. There was also a large hole in the floor of the main loft where hay could be push down onto a wagon to be taken out to the VERY eager cows out in the fields in the winter.

As you can see, with the large iron forks dangling above, and holes appearing in the floor at regular intervals the barn was a dangerous and exciting place to be! I loved it and it helped develop my sense of strategy when I approach a modern-day Super Mall.

Bossy Betty said...

Brian--Alas we did not have a silo. Our neighbors did and after reading at school about silos in the midwest were often used to store missiles that could be sent over to conquer those Russians who were bound and determined to take over our fine land, I'd go and stare at it and imagine the giant missile that I was sure was within.

Silos are pretty cool. Perhaps we should check to see if there is any city ordinance against building one, say in our back yard. I am all over that one. What could we store in them? Christmas decorations? Bed frames? Missiles? Hummmm..... If only Thunderball was around. He'd know what to do.

Anonymous said...

Most city building departments allow for construction of a shed or storage building in one's back yard, without a permit, provided the area is less than or equal to 120 square feet. I called my local building dept. and asked them if there is any height limit for such an edifice, and they said I was the first person ever to ask that question. They made up a value on the spot, 12 feet, reasoning that this was equivalent to gazebos they have approved in the past, but I would think that one could easily challenge this. A silo is clearly a storage edifice, so as long as the base area weren't in excess of 120 ft^2, I think it would be entirely within a homeowner's rights to construct one.

Yes, Christmas decorations would be an excellent use. It would be especially good for wrapping paper, as there never seems to be a place long enough to store rolls of wrapping paper. Silos are plenty long. Good place for jet packs, too.

Bossy Betty said...

Thanks for the info! Construction begins tomorrow!