Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ready for haying

Dave and the haybine

I am not mechanically inclined. I have put air in my bicycle tires - and blown one up. I have used a ratchet wrench to try to remove a spark plug in my car – to no avail. I have fixed the knot tier in the baler - every third bale, for an entire day of baling.

Fortunately, Dave manages to figure out how to fix nearly every piece of machinery on the farm. He uses tattered old repair manuals, patience, and persistence. We have two extra balers for parts and a huge supply of shear pins and wrenches (both the ratchet kind and the ordinary immoveable kind). Dave gets oil and grease under his fingernails, grass stains on his jeans and shirts, and bruises on his head from sitting up too fast under a piece of equipment. The newest piece of farm equipment we own is our tractor and that’s almost 20 years old. The baler, haybine, chopper and disc are much older than that and they all need constant upkeep.

Every spring, about the time we set out the garden, Dave begins to put the haybine back together. He tightens the rivets on the sickle teeth and replaces teeth that are broken. Then he forces the nine foot sickle bar between the sickle guards on the bottom of the haybine. He greases all the zerk grease fittings and makes sure that all the moving parts meet where and when they are supposed to.

When it’s all back together, Dave takes the haybine for a test run. He cuts the pasture the sheep have just finished grazing to keep the grasses the sheep didn’t eat from going to seed. He understands the mechanical processes that come together to produce a long windrow of cut alfalfa. From my point of view, it is more like a series of magical events. The tractor engine turns the power take off shaft (somehow); the power take off shaft connects to the slip clutch on the haybine (the slip clutch is two dirty, yellow discs that seem to be connected only by black grease); the slip clutch turns the gear box which drives another shaft which pushes a rocker arm that slides the sickle teeth back and forth within their guards. At long last, the alfalfa plant comes into play. The alfalfa stems are pushed into the sickle teeth and the sickle guards by the reel; the stems are cut; and then grabbed between two heavy metal rollers that are both turned by the shaft from the gear box (remember the gear box? It also drives the sickle teeth); and the rollers shoot the hay out the back of the haybine to lie in the sun and dry. Now you know as much as I do about how our haybine works.

Dave still needs to check out the baler; I’ll make sure the hay wagons have solid decks and air in their tires (I can do wagon tires without exploding them); and finally, we need to mulch the new trees and gardens with the old hay in the barn and set up the bale elevator so that we can fill the barn with hay bales, after we bale it, after we cut it, after the hay first begins to bud out, after we get some warm weather and rain so the alfalfa will grow taller and produce buds.

Then we’ll be ready for haying.

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