The Family that Hays Together

Last weekend was a momentous weekend in my years on the farm.

It all started with knowing Dad, Mandy, and the farmer would be gathering up all the square bales from a neighboring farm we cut hay off of and split between the owner and ourselves. So, I was aware of what Saturday’s plans were; I just wasn’t aware of what MY plans were until my dad informed me Friday night that I would be driving. Driving meaning I would pull the trailer with the truck as the rest of them walked along beside, picked up the square bales, and hefted them onto the trailer. Sounded simple enough even though I’d never done anything like that before.

So, what do I do? Arrive ready to do it straight up farm girl.
20160924_1157501Dad has to hook up the trailer and tells me to go ahead and drive the truck to the field. Since he’s in the passenger seat, I’m already feeling a fair amount of anxiety–because I have a good feeling he’s not going to get in the driver’s seat and back the honkin’ truck up to the trailer himself.

Me: “Are you going to back up to the trailer?”

Dad: “No, I’m going to coach you.

Oh no…said the city girl who 1) is not an expert backer and 2) cannot read hand motions or follow directions.

The farmer was already headed down the dirt road and saw us–or more importantly me in the driver’s seat–cross the road into the field. He later told me he wished he could have stopped and watched because he knew it would be good. Brat.

So, he has me swing around to where the hind end of the truck is in front of the trailer, hops out, and proceeds to wave me on back.

“Ok, straighten up a little! 

I straighten.

Straighten up your wheels!” 

I am straight.

“Straighter! Turn your wheels to the left!”

How is that straight?? He’s walking towards the driver’s side window.

Pointing at the steering wheel, he says: “When “Ford” is straight in front of you, you are straight.”

It wasn’t. I was looking at the tires the whole time.

Ok, so now that we got that part accomplished, he continues to hand motion me back ward and then throws up the fist that means stop. Well, I found that the difference between my husband’s fist and my dad’s fist is that Dad means for you to slam on the brakes while my husband means an easier stop.

Therefore, I have to pull forward again.

I think we did that about 3 times before Dad said, “Two inches. That’s all we need. Two inches.”

Finally, we got it as Mandy was pulling into the field on the side by side. Dad waves and points at the truck like “HA HA! Isn’t this a kick in the head?” Her expression mirrored his.

Little did I know he was going to continue to make me drive. He hopped back into the passenger seat and by this time, I’m being more vocal about my anxiety. “Dad, I’ve never done this before! I’ m going to take out every fence post from here to there! I’m not coachable!”

Long story short, I’ve watched my husband more than I realized, swung wide where I needed to, used my mirrors, and trusted Dad to tell me how best to maneuver through tight spots.

So, now it was my turn to learn what “bucking bales” was all about.


Even though it was 94 degrees outside, look how beautiful it is! It was my job to slowly drive the trailer down the lines of square bales so all the farmer and Mandy had to do was walk along and throw the bales on the trailer. Then, Dad grabbed them–as I’m continuing to drive, mind you–and stacked them. He may be eeking ever closely to 60, but he’s still spritely. Staying on two feet while stacking 60 lb. bales on a moving vehicle is definitely for the sure-footed.


I’m just guessing here, but the “bucking” part seemed to have to do with your knee motion as you heft the bale onto  the trailer. You use your knee for an extra nudge up.

You don’t know how many times I giggled thinking about making the farmer chase the trailer with one of those bales. If Dad and Mandy hadn’t been working like dogs themselves, I totally would have done it. Don’t feel bad for him. He’s ornery.


There’s Mandy. I got the cush job, for sure. She’s She-ra.


Fun fact: Mandy did not grow up on a farm and had no experience with farming until she met my dad. And yet here she is, buckin’ bales and later shouting “GIRL POWER!!” as she jumped out of the truck after grabbing a quick drink of water. I’m feelin’ it, man. I’m driving the diesel in 4-low with a trailer full of hay behind me.

The trailer soon grew as full and high as it could get. I gladly hopped out of the truck and into the backseat so Dad could drive. I wasn’t feeling so confident in my newfound skills to think I could maneuver the squirrely path back to the highway without losing half the bales. In no way did I want to be the person that made all this hard work for naught.

And when Dad lost about 8 bales in a ditch along said squirrely path, I was just thankful it wasn’t me.

We arrive back at my Dad’s barn where the hay will be stored…


and go to work undoing all the work we did before. And by we, I mean not me. I have the VERY important job of making sure all of this gets documented.

First, one must pick up the bale.


Then, one must throw it into the barn where the man in black awaits…


to stack it all over again.


Mandy climbed to the top of the heap to continue to push bales down for the farmer to throw. He likes to throw stuff.


In other news, MUSCLESSSS!!!! I’m likin’ my job right about now…


The sweaty assembly line. Mandy may or may not have tried to take my beloved out a couple times with a flying hay bale. Don’t feel bad for him. He’s ornery.


Sweaty sweeper. Boots were not working in anyone’s favor that day. If you look at the two above photos, you’ll see that the truck and trailer is practically parked up a cliff. Slick hay + very worn boots = an extra element of fun while working. Sliding around like they were on slick floors with socks was not part of the objective that day. So, we look like OCD farmers instead. Something appears to have my dad very perplexed here.


Mandy doesn’t take herself too seriously. That’s one of the things I like about her. Are we surfing or working here? Well, both…in an attempt to keep herself from sliding off all the bales straight into the farmer. I personally think Mandy and I add a lot of fun to the workplace. They wouldn’t know what to do without us. No laughter. No shenanigans. Possibly more productivity. I mean, can you imagine?

But seriously, Mandy’s one of the hardest working women I know.


Last one of that load! Did I mention that I really like my job? This view never gets old. 😉

We still had some bales left to load, so back to the neighbors for the rest of them.


After those were loaded, Dad and the farmer had some straggler hay in the corners of the field.


In goes the hay, out comes a square bale.


The farmer hopped in one tractor and Dad had to drive this one out. Mandy was in the passenger seat of the truck. Who does this leave driving the truck with a trailer load of hay down the squirrely path to the highway? ME! This is bad…this is very, very bad.

But, you know what? I made it. I made it the whole way. Without losing ONE bale which totally showed my Dad up.

It mattered in no way that they double strapped everything that time.

Winning’s winning.

It was a good day.


Making Hay While the Sun Shines

A couple of days ago, as I returned from a grocery shopping trip, I was driving down my driveway and noticed 5 tractors driving every which way through our freshly mown fields of winter wheat. Never had I wanted my camera with me more than at that moment because it looked like a congested, chaotic mess of very busy tractors.

It made me smile.

The farmer has some baleage (pronounced bale-edge) done every year and Wednesday was the day it would all be baled and wrapped.

I hadn’t seen my husband all morning, so he stopped in to say hi and I sent him back out with my camera since he was in the middle of all of it.

I get kind of nervous just going out in the field and taking random pictures of men that don’t know me. They might think that was kind of weird.

So, today, our pictures are provided by the farmer and I am going to attempt to tell you about how all of this goes down.

The first day consists of just mowing down all the wheat. We don’t want the wheat to dry out very much. We want to bale it green for baleage  and, ideally, it will “cure” over night to a 40-60% moisture rate. For regular hay, you would want about 18% moisture.

The next morning, the family that does our baleage drove all their tractors out with the equipment hooked onto the back and went to work.


The first step consists of raking all the “wind rows” that have been mown down.


The rows that were originally mowed are kind of light. This rake pulls three of the thinner rows into one big row so the guy pulling the baler can make faster work of baling.


Now, for the baling part.


This tractor is coming along behind the rake and pulling all of the raked hay into this nifty little contraption.


I like to think of it as a “hay vacuum.”


As he continues to drive down the wind rows, it picks the hay up and winds it around and around into a bale inside. Notice the black box sticking up there beside his shoulder. That’s a control module for the baler.


This computer will start beeping away when the bale is done and ready to roll out.

All I can do at this moment is think about that silly rap song, “Roll Out!”

I’m going to write New Holland today and pitch my idea of letting that be the new sounding alarm when a bale’s done.


And roll out is exactly what it does.


Just beautiful. Balers are so cool.

Upon releasing the bale, another tractor comes along behind (my husband was doing this, so there’s no pictures) and picks up the bale to transport it to the hay trailer. Another tractor brings all the hay on the trailer to the person stationed at the wrapper. And yet another  tractor is parked at the wrapper in order to spear the bales into the wrapper.

I will now introduce to you to the wrapper.


I get transfixed watching this piece of machinery work. It rotates around the bale, speedily wrapping it in plastic at a rate of over 100 bales per hour.  This plastic does not allow the bale to breathe at all. Because it is more moist than regular hay, this causes baleage to ferment. In short, this whole fermentation process makes for a more palatable feed for cattle. They think it’s quite tasty, which means that very little goes to waste. When you’re a dairy farmer, it’s all about intake. If the cows like to eat it, production is good.

As the guy working the wrapper feeds the bales into it, it creates this long tube.


You can individually wrap bales, but my husband personally prefers to do the tubes. I have no idea why. That’s a post for a later date, maybe.

Now, that’s it all done, he’s researching  what he wants to plant next. Farmers never stop thinking about crops. Crops are the life-blood of dairies. Dairy cows are picky eaters and a farmer in this particular category can’t just plant anything and expect good production. A lot of planning goes into the process because dairy cows need specific levels of specific nutrients to be happy, healthy cows.

When we do our job, they do theirs. And they’ll do it quite well.

Making hay while the sun shines. It’s a win-win.