Even kids like me who didn’t grow up in the country knew about hay lofts. It’s one of those things we learn through osmosis from books or Fischer Price. Every barn I ever drew as a child had hay coming out of a tiny window on the top floor—why did I never question how it got up there? It wasn’t until actually experiencing the wonders of the grain elevator this past week that it even occurred to me to ask how the hay got upstairs. Yellow tufts of hay were simply always sticking out of red barns.
Last Saturday we had a work party at my host farm to load hay into the barn for winter feeding. The hay was baled on my host family’s other property and then transported to the farm in a large trailer made especially for this purpose. Each bale was then shoved off the trailer and loaded onto the grain elevator. The grain elevator takes the bale up the barn’s second floor window where it is, forcefully, dropped and picked up and stacked 5-6 bales high.
Before going on let me describe a grain elevator in case, like me, you’ve never seen or fathomed one before. In simple terms a grain elevator is a massive metal contraption that brings hay bales up. In my opinion they would be more aptly named hay escalators because they move at an incline not straight up and down like I had pictured in my head while eating breakfast that morning. Our first task of the day was secure one end of the elevator (its about 40 feet long) to the window we want the hay to go through and one onto a platform that we made by stacking palates. Maybe newer models of grain elevators have figured out how to make this an easier task but what we simply tied a rope to one end and pulled it up and tied it off at the top. To start the machine a string it pulled much like a lawn mower and a large chain with hooks starts quickly going round like a bike chain or really large chain saw. The hooks are what the bale is places on that that 9 times out of 10 they don’t fall down and endanger the people below. It’s quite a formidable machine. Definitely not one to wear dangly jewelry around.
So anyway, I was one of the three stackers in the hay loft which I can say with all honesty is one of those jobs that I wouldn’t want to do more than once a year. Don’t get me wrong—we had a blast up there but it was very hard work. The bales bound and bounce through the window every 10-30 seconds and in that time we would race to the other side of the barn while lugging a bale and heave it upwards into a neat stack to the ceiling. Once we blocked the back window and lost our airflow things got a little rough. Hay dust and high temperatures threatened to beat us but we kept on! The two trips to restock the hay trailer had given us two swims in the cool creek and an afternoon coffee break kept the energy up. Hours flew by and before we knew it the hay loft was full. At the end of the day as we sat outside with our beers and scratchy throats we felt nothing short of victorious.
Question of the Day: If each hay bale is between 40-60 pounds and throughout the day we stacked around 500 bales and if a polar bear weighs a standard ton—how many polar bears did we lift?