We’ve not exactly embraced the twenty first century yet, with the purchase of a tractor and its various ‘atrezzi’ or attachments but we are now the proud owners of a hay baler! After a trip to our local ‘agricola’ (basically a store for all things ‘farmery’ selling everything from chestnut flour and plants to scary looking tools and enormous sacks of animal feed) we picked up some pallets for another job on our list, but added another four to the pile so Marcus could get all creative and finally retire his dustbin and gorilla tub. Twenty four hours later and we have a hand-baler that cost around €20 to make. Even for my engineer husband it is a work of genius as not only does it bale hay brilliantly, but folds up into a neat box shape for storage as well.
So here we go with a run-down of how to use the Homespun Hand-baler (TM?)
Firstly manoeuvre the baler into position with the help of a sack cart (remembering to pump the tyres up first or you could run into an argument with your husband as the whole thing careers off to the left when you approach the sloping path to the field!) and unpack the moving parts to reveal a solid base and compacting handle.
Thread the two strings from the attached coffee cans at the rear onto the various hook points to ensure no string slippage during compaction (colour choice of string not compulsory but remember it jazzes up the finished bale so the brighter the better!)
Then take large armfuls of hay (having already been left to dry for a couple of days after cutting and turning), folding in the edges and depositing each ‘layer’ into the baler until around three quarters full, remembering to dust yourself down from time to time for fear of looking like Wurzel Gummidge!
Now comes the first pull of the lever, compacting the hay to around halfway down the box. This process of loading and compacting is continued until the baler is over-full and the final compaction results in the bale sitting just lower than the top of the wooden edge (and in the case of our first try, the door springs open as the tie-wire we were using to hold it shut couldn’t cope with the force and needed to be replaced with an extra block of wood and a hefty looking bolt).
Finally, with the help of a willing and beautiful assistant to keep the compacting lever pulled down tight (dressed in rigger boots and shorts rather than heels and a leotard, but definitely with some sort of feathered head dress – be honest – you were wondering about the photo at the top of the post weren’t you?) tie the strings to secure the bale, undo whatever bolts and tie-wire are in place to hold the door shut and ‘Voila’ (yes I know that’s French but they use it here in Italy too … but if you insist on the Italian ‘… Eccolo’) you have a compact, oblong bale of hay ready to load onto your Land Rover roof for transportation to your old neighbours’ house and their waiting animals, or …