Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hay Baling Battles

Finally done with this field of hay
It's been an exhausting week or so baling about 65 acres of crabgrass hay and I've never been so glad to be finished with a field of hay as this one.  There's been breakdown after breakdown, starting with the A/C in the tractor refusing to work which we fixed by taking the doors off of the tractor so that I wouldn't get heat-stroke.

Then, the disc mower pulled the three-point apart, so we "borrowed" the part needed to fix it from the other tractor. Sometimes it's handy to have two half-worn out tractors so that you can keep one running, other times I wonder if two half-worn out tractors are about as useful as one completely worn out tractor.
Tractor split apart, waiting on clutch parts

Soon after I started to bale the first half of the field, the throwout bearing and clutch in the tractor blew apart, which meant that we had to take the duals off of the other tractor so it could be used to bale the rest of the field.  For some reason, I must of really been worried about the lug bolts coming loose the last time I put those duals on the tractor because it took almost all I had to break them loose (alternating between jumping up and down, and hanging off the end on a long piece of pipe I was using as a cheater).

The stupid A/C in that tractor refuses to do its job just like A/C in the other tractor, so the doors also had to be taken off so that I wouldn't pass out from the heat, fall out of the open door, and get baled up into a bale of hay.    

I finally finished up baling the first half of the field, and was getting ready to start cutting the second half when I noticed a low tire on one side of the tractor so I put some air in it and kept an eye on it during the day.  The next day when I was getting ready to rake hay, the tire was even lower and now the other side was also low, which was a little concerning because I needed to get this hay baled.   All you can do at this point is air the tires up and hope you can rake fast enough to get done before you run out of air, which is what I did.  Just make sure that you stop once in a while while raking to check your tire pressure so you can make a quick run back to the compressor in time to avoid a flatter than flat tire in the middle of a field. 

By some stroke of luck, the tire held enough air long enough for me to get the hay raked, but the next day it was low again and the other tire was flat. What are the odds of that happening?  After airing both tires up, and driving slowly back and forth looking for something obvious stuck in the tire, nothing was found except that one tire was losing air faster than it could put it in. The consensus of everyone standing around looking at two flat tractor tires is that cheap tubes that have failed in some way might be the reason for all this trouble (there's no way to know until I get around to fixing both tires).
At this point, I had about thirty acres of hay left to bale, one flat tire, one tire that sort of held air, rain in the weather forecast the next day, not enough time to find a tube to fix this tire, and absolutely no desire at all to call someone to come out and fix the tire for me (it gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about paying someone to do something that I can do myself).

Since desperate times call for desperate measures, after a little "woe-is-me", expressing my displeasure with the unfairness of it all, and arguing back and forth, it was decided that the solution was to put one of the duals back on side with the flat tire and air up the other tire so that I could at least try to bale the rest of the hay.  The only bright spot in the whole crazy business of driving a lopsided half-dualed tractor around baling hay is that I was far enough away from the road that hopefully nobody had the chance to wonder why the heck I only had duals on one side of the tractor.

Surprisingly, I was able to get all thirty acres baled in almost record time, then was able to get the tractor back to the barn right before the "better" low tire also went completely flat (which makes me think even more that it might be something to do with the tubes disintegrating somehow rather than a more typical puncture type of flat tire).

As soon as all the parts get here, we can start putting one tractor back together, can get both tires on the other tire back to where they will hold air, and I can start getting ready to bale about forty acres of sorghum-sudangrass which I'm hoping isn't also going to be a knockdown drag out fight.

Wish me luck, sometimes I need it.


  1. Replies
    1. Some years it seems like I'm breaking and trying to fix almost everything, other years nothing breaks or need fixed. This year everything seems to need fixed, I'm hoping nest year is one of the nothing needs fixed sort of years.

      Back in the years when I wasn't no-till, that field would have been disced, chiselled, and field cultivated by now, covered in bare dirt with no grass in sight, and there wouldn't be any hay to worry about trying to get baled.

      I think it looks a lot better covered in grass and bales of hay.

  2. It's a good thing you are Rich!

    I have weeks like this in my non-farming life I know but the ones that always stick with me are the ones from my farming life. Many times I find myself sitting at the dinner table with my parents remember and laughing about that week from hell that sounds eerily similar to the one you just had.

    This past Saturday at my parents, we were discussing the merits of putting $15k worth of transmission repairs into a tractor that is maybe worth $20k in working order. The only alternative seemed to be hauling it to the scrap yard, after paying the diagnosing part of the bill, and perhaps breaking even with the scrap money. I think my dad finally decided to go ahead and pay for the repair and hopes that he at least covers the bill when he goes to sell the thing later. A bolt came loose in the rear most pinion gear dropping the shaft down and shredding a whole bunch of teeth inside. About five years ago when he had the engine and transmission rebuilt, they had found a crowbar inside the transmission case of the same tractor. Evidently this tractor has been causing farmers transmission issues for years!

    1. I've had times when there are so many breakdowns and broken stuff surrounding me that I think I missed my calling and should have been an anvil tester. But, if you are going to use any kind of tool, it's going to eventually wear out or break. Fix it, junk it, adapt and overcome is what you have to learn to do to survive.

      I can easily see dropping something like a wrench down inside a transmission and not wanting to take everything apart to get it out, but dropping a crowbar into a transmission seems like something you couldn't just ignore.

      I've never had major transmission problems, but when I first started farming, one of the planetary gears disintegrated on the only tractor on the farm while discing a field right as I was turning on the end of a terrace. We had to get the bulldozer to pull the tractor and disc to get it all straightened out and on level ground so the disc could be unhooked. Then, I used the bulldozer to tow the tractor about half a mile to the barn, going up a bunch of terraces in the field and then down a road with the tractor in the road and the bulldozer in the ditch (so the tracks wouldn't tear the road all up).

      That whole ordeal would have made a heck of a series of blog posts, and my levels of frustration and despair back then were much higher than they would be now.