Hay time – July 2013, trimmer trouble, useless scythe, old good haylofts

This year I decided to combine using simple scythe and two-stroke trimmer (brushcutter) with four edged blade.

Because of unusually warm weather  grass got ready before summer solstice so I missed a lot of good grass time. The earlier grass is cut, the nicer it is for an animal to eat it.

I cut with scythe in the mornings, when grass is wet and also due to the moon influence has most liquid in it. This makes cutting easier. I could wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning and scythe up to 9 o´clock, when grass became dry and difficult. This is when I took trimmer, because conditions do not matter for the machine.

Cutting with trimmer was four times faster than with scythe, but if scything is a pleasant sport, then trimmer is a hell on earth, especially in the middle of a july day. Even if wind direction is observed, smell of burnt gasoline still gets everywhere – clothes, nose and mouth. Noise is annoying and in my musicians case unbarable. On the first day I could last only one tank. Over time I could do 3 tanks a day. I the end my trimmer lost power and couldn´t cut at all. Unfortunately exaust pipe fell off before I understood, that it has to be cleaned.

My attempts to get out the broken screws failed so much, that in addition to that I misdrilled the head of cylinder. Fortunately I discovered, that parts still can be ordered from Germany. It appeared to be expensive however (~100 eur) and I spent some time thinking if I should get the parts or buy a new trimmer. New trimmer means more potentional landfill, so I decided to try my luck and ordered the parts.

Happy I was when parts came after a week! They were not Ikra however, but some MTD from Ohio, as they wrote on package, well, who cares as far, as it works. But, oh no, they forgot to make way for the screws in a cylinder head! Moreover, the new screws needed new hexagon screwdrivers, instead of my old pluses and minuses. So I wrote them a complaint.

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Ikra-Ersatzteile replied, that it is normal and I just have to drive those screws in there. So I went to my uncle to get the right screwdrivers. My uncle is a handy guy but with high demands. He said, that screws they shipped will hold the pipe on only a few milimeters of length, because of the sharpened top and will break again soon enough. So he just took some larger screws, made some drills and carved new way for the screws. Then he took a trimmer by a starter and tried to raise it – starter rope almost freely came out, so he said that rings of the motor are worn out and I should have ordered those rather.

While trimmer was offline, I still was cutting with scythe. I managed to cut some 2 ha area without tractor during a season. But I came to a conclusion, that metal handle for a scythe is unacceptable. It slows down and makes tired. Moreover, I did some reading in Latvian environment magazine and stumbled upon an article where they (page 52) explain how to tell if a blade is good enough. Where the main point was, that if metal of a blade is not good, then it will be more sharpening then cutting. And I must admit, that so it was in my case – I had to sharpen after every 10 steps, but that is not how it used to be back in the days. One blade could serve more than one farmer, whereas my blade already looks like a sword of an old pirate.

The conclusion is, that I must learn metal works, to make this tool myself or to improve it. And this could be a general philosophy for all the folks who want to become farmers – first of all learn blacksmiths craft, only then farming itself. I am already thirty and already on the farm, so I can’t go travel to schools anymore. Maybe internet might help. I downloaded some books, but it will be slower, than at school, where somebody may point out mistakes.

2-stroke trimmer as a haymaking tool is also not an option. So now I am thinking about some walk behind sickle bar mower. It has to take the same amount of fuel, but hopefully will be faster and easier, and not so loud and intoxicating. The workshop people in closest town suggested that I buy Bertolini 401 cultivator with 115 cm scythe mower. About my intent to buy MTD he said, he can sell it to me, but he does not want to, because it has motor from China and I will definately return to him with a problem.

The biggest dream of course are amish horse drawn tools. But price and distance make it impossible. I could almost study to become an engineer for that money and make these tools myself. But there is no time, so again I pay money to a 100hp man, who will do all the job in one day.

Moreover, cutting grass is not the biggest issue. The biggest issue is to collect it, so it is dry, and transport it to a hayshed. I used made in china wheelbarrel with some wooden enlargement, but it’s tires got broken quite fast. So in the end I had to make haylofts. It took me 3 haylofts and my fathers advide, to make a good hayloft. Advice is: put the hay on the frame, so that hay does not touch the ground and make the walls of the hayloft vertical. When hayloft is finished, put some long branches on it, so that wind does not turn it over. I did not put any braches of course, and had to reconstruct my haylofts after every storm, fortunately only two times. In the end haylofts appeared to be good, because I managed to have my sheep outside even in winter. I am planning to rely more on haylofts in future. Some friends suggested to feed sheep from the ground if I don’t want hay to get stuck in the wool. It means I don’t have to construct any kind of foodbox where to put hay, so this job can be much easier.

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About Pavels Melnis

Independent ecology activist, family farmer, gardener and forestkeeper. Musician: violin, guitar, singing. Hobbies: traveling by bicycle, learning to play different music instruments - accordion, piano, recorder flute, harmonica, drums; languages, theology, prehistory, logbuilding, repairing and recycling. Religious. Ecological. Love all things ethnic and traditional.
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