I feed the animals round bales – mostly silage, but hay as well. Hay is grass cut on a sunny day with a drying breeze, and left to dry for several sunny days, and turned over to dry quicker before baling.
I make silage on the farm. Silage does not need sunny days, drying breezes or turning: in the Highlands we tend to make silage, (Though from what people say, the weather was easier in the past). The wet grass is simply wrapped in a long bandage of plastic until all air is exluded, whereupon a gentle process of anaerobic fermentation commences that preserves the grass -for years if need be.
My bales are round –
though they are not round, any more than square bales are square, which are cuboid.
They are in fact compressed cylinders of grass, complete with seed heads, dried flowers, and the occasional unfortunate frog. These cylinders are 4 foot square – well, 4 foot long by 4 foot diameter.
Hay bales are lighter than silage by virtue of their dryness. I am able to transport hay using the quad and trailer, the preferred option when heavy machinery would carve up soft ground.
The bales sit in the shed on end, piled three high behind the pen where Demi-Og and her new baby have been overnighting. I need to roll it to the front of the shed. I must then reverse up to it, braking the trailer so the drawbar hinges and the scorpion tail grab slides over the back of the bale hauling it into the dished metal bogey when I pull forward.
But first I have to dislodge the bale.
Round bales roll easily but sit firmly on their bases. Shifting them involves a kind of sumo bout with lots of gasping and grunting (but without the nappy). If a bale is caught in the open, it can be tackled by pushing against the top and rocking back and forward until the tipping point is reached. If wished, momentum, once achieved may be maintained by a judicious shove at the right moment to keep the bale turning end over end. This is useful on occasion, for instance if the ground is mucky.
Where possible therefore one adopts the easy option of rolling.
That’s a single bale. An artic & trailer carries 72. Before I installed the new shed with the eaves high enough for the JCB, half a load needed stacking inisde – manually. Stack ’em at the door, roll to the back, push and pull to set them neatly, work back towards the entrance, and then load the second layer. Set scaffolding boards across the top, cart them to the door on the pallet forks, flick the bale into the shed and then repeat ground floor process – only more difficult because you can only work on the duckboards.
This work would tax a Rugby Union forward, and for me it was impractical. I used to pressgang hardy, generous souls to assist me. My stepson Daniel Arnold was one: he inadvertantly developed a 3 Stooges comedy routine swinging long boards in confined spaces. Another to bend his back was Rupert Friend, as he said ‘resting’ from acting – surely resting never looked so much like hard work! (He showed no inclination to assassinate anyone either).
This morning, Angus Halfhorn, Alice and massively pregnant Moira,wait in the bottom paddock for a new bale of hay. I must shift it from the shed. It is piled in tight stacks- on end. I can’t rock it to upend it.
I can however use the adjacent stack for leverage, by sliding down a gap. I then set my shoulders against the intended bale, climb my legs up the next one and straighten them. When the bale tilts a bit I walk my legs up to tilt it some more. When I am at full stretch parallel to the ground with my legs straight and the bale still not toppling, I pause- like a mountaineer in a crevice.
If I let go now – all previous effort will be wasted.
Keeping the pressure on my legs, I start to wriggle my shoulders so as to shunt my back lower, and then walk my legs up some more on the opposite bale –
-until it topples. I catch my breath.
Technical business this farming.