Yesterday, Dan and I spent a good part of the evening on yet another restoration project. We're now the proud owners of a John Deere that will make making hay a whole lot easier. While we have been using the dump rake for the last few seasons, and then using pitchforks to load the hay by hand onto the hay wagon, it is a time-consuming way to make hay, not to mention very labor-intensive. We love the antique methods and are proud to utilize them, but the John Deere will save both labor and time, although it will modernize our process a bit.
But no, we haven't given up our horse-drawn ways in favor of a tractor. John Deere originally manufactured farm implements for use with teams of horses, not tractors, because the company has been around since before tractors were used out in the fields. Our John Deere is a single cylinder hay loader. It attaches to the back of the hay wagon and picks the loose hay up off of the ground and then piles it on to the wagon. This moves our haymaking technology up to the level of our Old-Order Amish neighbors (although the loaders they use are of a more modern design).
This type of hay loader is both rare and old. We feel very lucky to have come across it. Dan was hired to do some foundation work on a barn, and this hay loader was inside. The barn's owner was willing to part with it, because to him, it was just something taking up space that he had no use for. By his estimate it had sat, gathering cobwebs and dust, for 60 or more years. Although there is no date on the machine, between what he told us and the research we've done online, we estimate that it was probably made in the 1920's or shortly thereafter. However, “John Deere Single Cylinder” is still readable in the paint on the side boards, along with a running deer logo that is a bit different than the one that graces today's big green tractors. Since it was barn-kept, it is in great shape overall. But, of course, after sitting that long, some repairs are going to be necessary. The first order of business was lubrication- all the moving parts need to be greased or oiled to run smoothly, and that hadn't been done since the machine went into storage. The hay loader works by utilizing thin boards and ropes to form a sort of conveyor belt for the hay to travel up. A few of the boards were broken, and the rope was mostly baler twine. We did consider just doing the minimum and replacing only the broken boards, but the ropes were a mess and in the end we decided to replace all of it. So last night, we unhooked the chain and laid the track out on the ground. Old boards were removed, with new ones put into place. Then 6 rows of new rope were hand-stapled into place. The hardest part was threading it back through the guides and pulleys to refasten the chain links, but with some patience that was accomplished as well.
There is still a bit of work to be done, but it is nearly field-ready. We are waiting for a forecast with a bit less rain, and then Dan will be out mowing hay. Once it dries, we'll put our “new” hay loader to the test. We're very excited about this, not only because of the back-breaking labor that it will eliminate, but also because it's a really neat piece of farming history. Even we have never seen one like it in use, so we're anxious just to watch it work!
Emily tightening up the bolts that hold the boards in place.
Dan threading the newly repaired conveyor through the guides & pulleys
Posted by Emily
@ 11:22 AM EDT