Vintage equipment and veteran balers equal a seasoned crew
Earlier this summer when I was mowing the farmyard near the machine shed and saw the baler sitting idle, I started missing what had been an annual rite of fall.
When I sold our horses two years ago, our family took a break from baling straw. For the next few years the baler sat idle because we no longer needed it for bedding.
But earlier this summer when I was mowing the farmyard near the machine shed and saw the baler sitting idle, I started missing what had been an annual rite of fall. I asked my sister, Bonnie, and her husband, John, if they would like some straw for bedding for their trio of goats.
They did, so on a late August evening my husband, Brian, who was born in 1963, pulled out the 1963 271 New Holland Hayliner baler that had been my father’s and hooked it up to our 3010 John Deere tractor that my grandfather had purchased new in 1963.
Brian headed out to the wheat field near our house that had just been combined and I followed him on foot to the field where I met my brother, Terry, who was an expert bale stacker, and Bonnie and John, who pulled into the field with a trailer attached to their pickup.
After a minor breakdown when the knotter malfunctioned, the baler rhythmically churned out perfectly shaped small squares of straw like a brand-new machine, and the tractor pulling it moved methodically down the field, just as it had many times before.
I don’t have official records of how many bales the New Holland has made or how many hours are on the John Deere, but my guess would be that the former is a five-figure number — my dad used to bale about 3,500 small, squares of alfalfa and a thousand of wheat or oat straw every summer for his cattle herd during the 1960s and early 1970s before buying a round baler. After that, for the next two decades he baled alfalfa/grass hay and straw for our horses and to sell to horse owners. Brian and I continued the tradition when we moved to our farmstead and baled hay or straw or both with the New Holland.
Our workhorse John Deere 3010 is in its seventh decade of traveling up and down the fields of farmland south. My grandpa used it to plant fields during the 1960s and Terry drove it during harvest when it pulled the JD 65 combine, in the days before my dad bought a self-propelled model. During the next several decades, the John Deere was used for field work, including pulling the sickle mower to cut alfalfa and mow roadsides, pulling the baler and hay trailers and cutting edible beans with a knife attachment on front.
The human element of our straw baling team also has miles and age on it but still was efficient and in good condition. Brian expertly guided the tractor over the straw swaths, watching to make sure that they didn’t get bunched up, Terry, a 1947 model, expertly stacked nearly 100 bales on the trailer, which John, a 1965 model, pulled at just the right speed with his pickup. Bonnie, born in 1964, and I, born in 1958, walked along the baler and picked them up as they came down the chute.
After we finished loading the trailer, Brian baled another 32 bales, which we picked up and stacked in the pickup and the loader bucket. We plan to use those for decorating, covering the grass we plan to seed this fall in some bare spots in our new flower beds, and selling at the Farmers Market in Larimore, North Dakota.
We completed our entire baling project within three hours, thanks to seasoned, dependable equipment and humans that worked in harmony to get the job done. It was, for me, a perfect way to start a weekend because it brought back treasured family memories of baling on the farm where I grew up and of when my sons and daughter helped us bale on our own farm, and it made some equally precious new memories with my siblings.
Though time marches forward, sometimes at a breathless pace, my respect and love for all things family and farm never grows old.
Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, N.D., that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.