This is the first summer on our little homestead that we have been in need of hay for ourselves. In years previous we have only ever had poultry and rabbits, no real need for large amounts of hay. That changed this spring when we brought home our two weed eaters. The goats have been an amazing addition to our homestead, and we are looking forward to adding more to our herd in the future. One thing we have learned over the course of the summer is that our goats are picky. Maybe it’s just our two girls who don’t like the rain, but if rain is in the forecast our girls will not leave their shed. We have also learned that a hungry goat is a loud goat! So to save ourselves the headache and annoying our neighbors we feed the girls hay on these days. We also feed them hay in their permanent pen if we are going to be away all day, and it’s not safe to have them out in the pasture for extended periods of time.
We have the land for hay, and our brother-in-law kindly cuts and bales it. We do an exchange, he does our hay and keeps it in exchange for keeping my horse at their barn, it has worked well for us. But we have no equipment or dry storage to deal with the large round bales that he does. We started researching some alternatives, and since we didn’t want to spend a lot we decided that this year we would try to bale some of the grass on our side yard that has not been landscaped yet. Normally this side yard is left to grow into unruly weeds and grass and is mowed about once a year. What a great way to put to use some wasted space.
To start we didn’t want to spend any money, and Leighton being the resourceful person he is rigged up a broken toy bin that we had lying around (you can see it in the picture above). He cut the grass with our weed-eater and let it dry. Then set two strings in the broken box and packed it with hay, using his own weight to compress the bales. It worked surprisingly well and motivated us to keep going. The bales from this box were large, heavy and awkward for me to handle being almost 8 months pregnant. We also found there was waste since the bales were so big they lasted a few feedings.
After a bit of research and designing Leighton built a hand baler, and it works wonderfully. Some modifications were needed after the initial use, but now we are able to make smaller bales that are the perfect size for a daily feeding and easy for me to carry.
The hand baler can easily be taken apart into two or three pieces for moving it around the yard and for easy storage.
Here are some pictures of the baler in action.
How it works is simple, we cut the hay and after it dries it’s ready to be baled. Once the baler is set up and the strings set you pack the top of the baler with hay, using the lever to compress the hay down. Add more hay until the baler is full, compress the hay one last time and then gather the pre-set strings and tie around the bale, pop the door open and out falls a small bale of hay. After a few more uses to make sure that the design continues to work well I hope to post how Leighton built the baler.
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