I remember some of the equipment and methods we use in putting up alfalfa hay in years past.
My earliest memories are from 1940. I was four years of age. Grandpa Wall had a five foot mowing machine pulled by a team of two horses. (There are large lawn mowers in 2013 that cut five foot or more).
The mower had a seat for the operator. I remember riding on the mower once, but it was not safe for children to ride.
The power for this machine was furnished by the wheels. The mower had a little toolbox about 5 inches by 10 inches with a lid on it. At the end of that tool box was a circular metal holder to hold an oil can. Every hour or so the operator needed to put oil on the connection between the sickle head and the Pitman arm.
That year we had a horsedrawn dump rake. It had curved teeth that raked the hay into piles. It raked a ten foot swath. It had a seat for the operator. I rode on it once.
Hay that we fad at home was put up loose in the barn. We had a horsedrawn hay rack wagon. The horses knew to pull along the next pile of hay when we sail "giddup." The hay was pitched onto the hay rack and hauled to the barn, I sometimes rode on the hay rack.
Hay that was sold was baled. Louis and Glen Houston had a stationary hay baled called a hay press. It was set up in the middle of the field and powered by a tractor with a belt pulley and belt. The loose hay was hauled to it. The Wall family had two sweep rakes called buck rakes pulled by horses to bring the piles of alfalfa hay to the baler. The hay was pitched into the hay press by hand.
The baler wire was tied by hand. Baler wire came in long cardboard cylinders 10 feet long pre-cut. Each wire had an eye looped on one end. The wire was a lighter gauge than wire used now in automatic wire tie balers. The wire could be purchased at hardware stores in Perkins.
I went down to the field to watch the operation. There was some kind of weed in bloom by the field that gave me an allergic reaction (or hay fever). It made my eyes itch and water. I went back home.
We had a tractor so in a year or two my dad Ephraim bought a John Deere #5 tractor mower that cut a seven foot swath. He traded the horse drawn mower in on it. He was really pleased with it. The instruction book told how to hitch the mower to every make of tractor. We had a Farmall F-20 that had been changed over from steel wheels to rubber tires by 1942.
Our neighbor Palmer Sadler also had a John Deere mower of that same model.
We used that mower from 1943 to 1964 when we purchased a used self-propelled Heston windrower from Russell Westfall.
In 1943 we still used a tea of horses to rake and pick up loose hay. That year we only had one horse and neighbor Earl Hullet only had one horse. When we or Earl had horse work, we would put the two together and have a team. By that time most of our other farm work was done with a tractor. We also used horses for picking corn by hand.
Through the years since then, we would get later model hay equipment to speed up the hay making and to have less physical labor. However, putting up hay still requires overexertion, physical stamina, risk of accidents, frequent machinery breakdowns, hot weather , racing against the next predicted or unpredicted rain. Why then do I still help the family hay crew? I guess I don't know any better!