Making Hay
Week of July 31st, 2005 | The weather was hot and dry.

Dad and I baling barley straw.

Dad and I baling barley straw.

Hello! I just got back from the Kickapoo Country Fair, where Organic Valley held their large annual celebration. Thanks to all the Organic Valley staff who worked hard at putting on such a great day! It was fun to go to Wisconsin and tour the new headquarters and visit with so many people. I also toured a dairy farm near LaFarge. They have a very old silo on the farm, and instead of destroying it, it has been converted as a part of the barn and used for feed storage. The silo is built out of stone and plaster. That's really old! The farm is growing a mixture of peas and oats as an alternative feed for the cows. All the dairy animals on the farm have been raised on the farm. None were purchased. The farm tour was very interesting and innovative work is being done. I can't wait until next year's celebration.

This has been a very busy month. It started out with the Fourth of July. I took a vacation and went to my sister's place in Owatonna, Minnesota, for the weekend. The second week of July was the Chickasaw County 4-H and FFA Achievement Show (our county fair). I exhibited a dozen projects for both 4-H and FFA. I received many blue ribbons and a few State Fair Considerations. I took welding, woodworking, leadership, communication, and crops. The crops were off of our organic farm, and I received Reserve Champion for them. The fair was fun, and like usual, a very hot week.

We have been very hot and dry in the Midwest in July. Illinois is going through a major drought. Many acres of crops have been lost. We have been fortunate to receive some rain. Our crops are doing very well. Hopefully, it will rain soon further south of us and in Illinois.

We sold some of our fat cattle to Organic Meat Company, Organic Valley, a couple of weeks ago. They weighed 1145 pounds. Dad was very happy with that weight.

After the fair, Dad and I harvested the barley. The windrower broke down many times this year, but we believe it was just a freak! Every day we cut the barley, the machine broke down. I ran the windrower many hours this year. I enjoy running it, even though it is a hot, tiring and dirty job. After the 67 acres of barley was cut, we had a neighbor come with his John Deere 9510 combine to harvest the barley seeds off of the plant. The rain held us off for a few days, but we needed the water. Jolene, my sister, was home to help haul barley on our first day. I enjoy harvesting barley. After the barley was harvested, the straw (stems of the plants) had to be dried and baled for hog bedding. We also cut second crop hay for cattle feed during the winter months.

The straw and hay were rained on, but again, we needed the water to keep the corn and soybeans in good shape. After the hay dried out, Dad and I raked it and had it baled into large square bales. The straw dried out at the same time, and we also raked it and baled it into large square bales. These bales were later picked up and moved inside of the storage sheds with our John Deere loader.

Dad and I left four acres of straw to bale into small square bales for the light duty bedding jobs inside of the barn during the winter. Using our John Deere 3020 tractor, New Holland 310 small square baler, and two hay rakes, we made over 200 small square bales. While Dad drove the tractor and I stacked the bales on the rake, I thought of the great American farming tradition that has been fading away due to the new, larger, faster and easier way of life. Baling hay and straw has been changed in many ways through out the past 50 years. Balers used to be very crude and farmers had to make the bale's twine knots themselves, an extremely hot and dirty job that nobody wanted to do. After time went by, balers finally were made with their own knotters, but still was a slow process. Over the past 25 years, balers came from small square bales to large round bales, and now very common, large square bales. Large square bales are very easy to handle- with tractors and loaders. Baling small square bales, the crew operates at about 2 miles an hour. Large size balers can operate at 6 miles an hour. Many farmers are using these new bales now. Custom baling large squares is a very profitable business. We still bale some small bales for bedding inside of the barn and to keep a bit of the American farming tradition alive. When you picture a farmer baling hay or straw, most people vision the small tractor pulling a small square baler with a hayrack behind. One farmer is on the tractor driving when another is on the hayrack stacking. I enjoy that picture and I enjoy the hot, dirty and tiresome job of making small square bales. I hope to make a few each year as I farm. I don't think I could ever part with a small square baler, just like how I could never part with the John Deere 3020 pulling it!

Farm Fact: Brand new large square balers cost about $85,000 today, but with the largedemand for the larger bales, the baler brings in great profit after a coupleof years of a custom-hiring baling business. If an agri-entrepreneur went intothat kind of business, he would need a good tractor to pull the baler. A Europeanstyle tractor goes 40 miles an hour on the road, which allows the entrepreneurto go from one farm field to another in short time, so he'll get more done andearn more money.

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