Outdoors Column: Big Round Bales

The guy that baled my hay this year has a newer John Deere big round baler. The bales it makes are very heavy and very tight. This is a good thing as it keeps the hay from spoiling before a person needs to feed the bales during the winter. I did discover one problem with tight round bales when working on hillsides. They will roll like an extremely heavy beach ball until they reach something that will stop them.

I started out to pick up the bales early on Saturday morning. The temperature and humidity were forecast to be high and miserable. Having a cab on the tractor is nice when it is cold or raining, but when it is hot and the air conditioner quits working, it is like driving around in a solar powered oven. The bale trailer was waiting for me in the hay field with a flat tire. I had to call my wife to bring tools, pull the tire, get it repaired, and start in again. The temperature was rising by the minute. By the time I headed across the field with the last load, the temperature in the cab of the tractor registered “slow bake.” There is one obstacle on the way out. A fairly long and steep hill needs to be climbed before the last stretch to the gate. In low gear, I carefully made my way up the hill. I was almost to the top when one of the two back bales rolled off and took off down the hill. It picked up a fair amount of speed by the time it got to the bottom where it jumped a fallen tree and came to rest in the ditch.

I unhooked the trailer and went to the bottom of the hill with a cable to retrieve my runaway bale. Climbing over broken branches and through rose bushes as I dragged a cable was hard enough work to cause a sweat on a good day. This was not a good day. While wrapping the cable around the bale, I noticed a strong and pungent aroma of skunk. I thought this would truly top off my day. If it was not bad enough to be hot and sweaty, I did not need the added affliction of smelling like a skunk. I hooked up the bale and got out of there as quickly as possible. I did not even look back as I made a run for the top of the hill. I quickly loaded the bale only looking briefly to make sure no skunk was following me. I am sure there is a skunk with a bad attitude somewhere around that fallen tree. He was probably having a good day until a ton of hay crashed into his world.

There was some relief driving down the road with the windows open. Fresh hot air circulated through the tractor cab which is better than hot humid air not moving. This load completed my tidy rows of bales back at the house as well as completing by running the farm to gather hay. I am set for the winter as long as none of the bales take off and roll down the hill again.