Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Stacks and Tarps

Last year we had a bit of trouble with the whole buy enough hay to last over the winter thing. (See here and here)

This year we've started a little earlier. Primarily we were interested in finding someone close enough who would deliver the hay to us by stacker wagon. Stacker wagons go through the fields picking up bales one at a time and ... well, stacking them. Stacks are then offloaded leaning against each other and form large more or less neatly stacked bales. But, if you can get a stacker wagon to drive to your place, then you can get a nice stack of hay delivered right into place!

Sounds great. We called our neighbor when he started cutting. Turns out he sold his property to his neighbor, but eventually we got through and placed an order. The price they came back with was a little steep - $5.25, but we had never shopped delivered prices, so we decided to get one stack and see how it goes. They came over and dropped off the stack against the back side of the barn. Amazingly enough, a stack is big enough that it was too tall to fit even uder the tall section of the barn eaves, so Dave and they guy had to knock several bales off as the stack was being put into place. It ended up being about 10x10x14 feet tall, or 160 bales.

So there we were - a small fortune in hay standing behind the barn unprotected. Rain being the enemy of hay, we knew we needed to get it tarped quickly. Ginger and I set aside time after feeding one evening to do this.

Unbeknownst to us, the hay tarp we just bought at auction is enormous. Gigantic, even. Like 15' x 150'. I knew the dimensions... but really didn't comprehend what they meant. We struggled and wrestled the thing up. Ginger climbed to the top of the stack via a ladder, only to discover that stacker wagons don't stack bales as securely as we do when we do it manually. So here she was up on a 14 foot stack of bales that swayed about everytime she moved. So I was running around the base of the stack trying to manoever the tarp from there while she held it steady above. Meanwhile the sun was going down and the wind coming up. We sortof got the thing on and quit.

A few days later we knew the tarp needed to be adjusted, so Dave and I proceeded to shifting the entire tarp 90 degrees so that it started on the ground, up and over the stack and ended at the ground on the other side. We then proceeded to tie it down securely. I had planned on getting a picture of stack after we'd tarped it - and make it a blog entry titled "Craziest tarped hay ever". We just kept running twine and tying it off.

Too bad 3 days later wind in combination with our tarp blew down our main support pole, and 2 days after that the top half of the stack, encased in the tarp, fell over. It was another 3 days before we went to go untangle the whole mess. We moved the fallen bales in front of the barn under the overhang, and retarped the remainder of the stack.

To say the least, all this mess made us rethink the wisdom of having stacks of hay delivered. Either we needed to get a whole lot smarter about it, or we'd end up doing just as much manual shifting of bales and paying more for that priviledge.

The morning that we were to clean up the fallen stack a guy pulled into our driveway with quite a story. Seems he used to live in our house with our neighbor back when he was building the place. He's done hay for years but is again looking for regular customers. Dave and Ginger went to go speak with him last night... and may have a very interesting solution: we buy more or less a year's worth of hay - 1200 bales - at $3.50 a bale, BUT leave the majority of it stacked over on the guy's property, (properly tarped). Then we can go pickup loads whenever we need them! This really sounds ideal so we're pretty enthusiastic. We'll have to keep you posted on how this arrangement goes, keep those fingers crossed!



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