During the winter months, Steve and his wife Tandy feed between 120 and 150 bales of hay to a herd of pretty high-quality dairy goats on their northern Indiana farm. This couple’s major source of income is derived from selling these goats. Once their initial investment in breeding stock was recouped, they hardly incurred any further expenses except for minor veterinary bills. By themselves they produce all of the hay their animals require, but the way their property is laid out makes it pretty well impossible to use any standard sort of tractor-drawn mowers, balers, or other equipment.
Yet, wanting to become entirely self-sufficient in this area, they improvised and came up with their own system for mowing and baling. First, for the mowing, they searched around for nearly an entire summer until they located a front-mounting, sickle-bar attachment for the older, two-wheeled Gravely tractor that they use for nearly every purpose on their small acreage. Any other brand of walk-behind, sickle-bar mower would work just as nicely. Steve and Tandy like the idea of owning a single machine they can use for nearly all of their equipment needs by simply switching attachments. Of course this has always been one of the strongest points of those older Gravely tractors.
The first winter they merely forked their dried grass into haystacks. Well covered with weighted-down sheets of plastic, and left right out in the open, this hay kept well enough. Still, Steve and Tandy were certain that regular bales would be much easier to handle and store. Which was why the next spring found Steve designing and putting together his own readily-portable, simple-to-use, human-powered, wooden hay baler. Once we’d seen his simple improvisation in use, my wife and I realized just how valuable it would be in our own operation. That same week I put together a duplicate for our own use.