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Keeping bales over winter

 
Daniel Ray
Posts: 51
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
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Hey everyone, I need advice on storing straw bales over the winter here in Montana.

I am building a balecob hybrid next year and need to get two string bales. The building won't obviously commence until spring of 2017 and I'll need the bales then, but most good quality straw is being cut (or has been cut) in the fall which is the time I need to purchase. I have pallets to lift the bales off the ground, I will purchase a few really nice hay tarps, and I'll pyramid the bales to create somewhat of a peak. Any other great ideas out there besides building a barn. Cheers.
 
Brett Hammond
Posts: 71
Location: Maryland, USA
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A cat or mousetrap to keep the critters out.
 
Dan Ohmann
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Location: Inland Northwest
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Without a solid structure to put them under through a Montana winter, I think tarping is all you can do.  I've seen neat makeshift cattle panel hay sheds but I don't think they'll handle a Montana winter. 
 
Jessica Hudkins
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In a program I've watched called Edwardian Farm, they use a temporary structure they called a 'Hay Rick' to store excess hay for the winter.  There were already mushroom shaped concrete footings, that keep mice from climbing up from the ground onto the hay, they lay boards or sticks loosely across and place the hay on top, stacked. The illustration of a design they used show two men mounting a pole tent over the top, to be the roof.  They chose to staple thatch directly to the top instead to help the structure shed water, but the middle top of the hay rotted.  Link to video at beginning of the hay rick project:  https://youtu.be/UcBl4_2FJX4?t=1583
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Condensation is a consideration, if you use a tarp.  Making a peak is helpful to keep precipitation from pooling, but that was not the whole solution for me.  Where the straw on top touched the tarp,moisture collected, soaked in to those bales and mold ruined them.  I think an airspace between the tarp and the straw is crucial.  Pallets or a tacked together wooden frame, or PVC frame the tarp goes over and rests upon, possibly even a few layers of wool blankets.  I would say you could just factor in a certain percent of "waste" that could become mulch, but the mold and moisture can extend down into lower layers of bales.

Here in this arid desert climate, there was enough moisture to be a problem. 

Interesting puzzle.  Good luck on the storage and the 2017 construction.
 
Peter George
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Location: Southern Ontario
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Make yourself a hoop house on timbers made with bought or made arches and cover with 1-2 layers of greenhouse plastic. On pallets with traps underneath or at the edges. Then you've got a sunny place to warm-up & dry the bales, a place to work in in bad weather, and a place for season-extension and/or equipment or animal storage later.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Peter George wrote:Make yourself a hoop house on timbers made with bought or made arches and cover with 1-2 layers of greenhouse plastic. On pallets with traps underneath or at the edges. Then you've got a sunny place to warm-up & dry the bales, a place to work in in bad weather, and a place for season-extension and/or equipment or animal storage later.


excellent idea, and if possible you could place the straw storage right where you need a hoop house in coming seasons!
 
Joe Ruben
Posts: 26
Location: Southern Colorado 6200 ft elevation, 20" annual precip, zone 6a/5b
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Cut a hole in the top of the straw pyramid tarp.  Lay a pallet on top of the straw, add the tarp with hole, add another pallet on top of that.  Cover the top of that second pallet with a small tarp and allow air to escape all around the sides of that top pallet.  The chimney effect should carry out the moisture as the straw cures and any moisture that blows in the top will be minimal compared to what is drawn out.

This is essentially the reason that most homes have vents around the soffits and vents along the ridge.  Give air a way to get in lower and get out higher and it will do so.

If you can raise the pallets that hold your straw up higher (i.e. concrete blocks or rounds of wood) it will help keep the mice down a bit and allow moisture from the ground to blow away under the pile.

The rule I was taught was for air drying of green wood and that was that the lowest boards in a stickered pile should always be at least 16" off the ground.  I think the same would be good for your straw.
 
Evelyn Mitchell
Posts: 20
Location: Central, Eastish Missouri, St Robert in Pulaski Co. was in SE Michigan, South of Detroit, Suburbian
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I agree with Joe. I lived in Michigan, very wet over fall and most of winter. I stored clothing, books and other highly "Moldable" items outside in a small tarped, wooden trailer, it had 3 bars bent sort of like a roof, about 120 - 110 degrees. The first thing my dad told me when I bought it for this purpose was to lay 1 x 2's on the floor so air could flow under things, and make sure that nothing touched the tarp, because water flows similar to electricity at contact points with canvas, with plastic water condenses and can flow from those points. "Air flow" was the point he was trying to make.

I used that trailer as my shed/storage unit for more than 10 years. The storage unit my stuff was in was costing me $70.00 a month. I always felt blessed to have it. It never let my things draw damp... unless I left the tarp pulled back. It dried quickly though on those few occasions.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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I can't thank you enough Joe and Evelyn.  Now, I'll be able to store my alfalfa out doors, without losing any to mold.  If it works in Michigan, it should work in the desert.
 
Daniel Ray
Posts: 51
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
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Thank you for all the replies, awesome to see this thread get put to Paul's dailyish mail as well. I'll definitely get the bales lifted as high as I can. I have some 4x8 pallets that will work really well and using some logs under those to get them at least 2 feet off the ground. The idea for a chimney effect sounds great, I'll give it a shot and let you know how it goes next spring. Thanks everyone!
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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