I am looking for ideas for getting loose hay into our barn loft this coming season. The barn is a classic Midwestern gambrel-roofed thing, built in the 1930s. It has the typical overhang on the front face (for loading loose hay from a wagon using the old trolley and fork system), plus a small opening at floor level of the loft (you can see a few photos here). All that is left of the old trolley system are the brackets from which the track used to hang. I'd love to fix it all up, but don't have the money for the track, trolley, forks, and all the rope necessary to make such a thing functional. Thus, cheap ideas are a must.
In the past, we've loaded it all pickup load by pickup load, me forking the hay into the loft and my wife raking it out of the way for the next load. It works, but it's a bit wasteful of the hay, and the amount of labor seems silly when there are more elegant solutions. This past year we tried loading the hay into a sort of sling comprised of a small tarp with ropes tied to the grommets, then hauling the sling in with the aid of a block and tackle (again, see the link above). The problem here is that the angle is wrong, causing the sling/tarp to rest against the outside wall of the barn, which both causes friction (and occasionally results in stray nailheads snagging the tarp) and significantly increases the strain put upon the sling. We busted out multiple grommets and in the end finished putting the hay up via the fork-it-in method.
I've got a couple ideas for better solutions. The starting point of each is a hay elevator used for loading square bales (which can be seen in one of the pictures on the blog post linked above).
Number One involves rigging up the hay elevator to convey loose hay. As best as I can imagine it, this involves attaching side panels (lumber or plywood) along the length to prevent the hay falling off the side, and adapting the teeth that are on the chains so that they will catch and carry the hay upwards. The latter would require some sort of heavy duty wire or bolt, probably upwards of 6" in length, similar to the tines on a side-delivery rake. Two problems: there is a bracket on the underside of the elevator that holds the chain in place during its return trip that will not accommodate something larger than the existing teeth, and I think that removing that bracket will negatively affect the whole functionality. The second problem is that the elevator's motor is shot, though that could be a relatively cheap fix.
Number Two involves using the elevator as a ramp for moving the hay upwards with the tarp/sling method discussed above. I could rip down a sheet of plywood, bolt it to the elevator frame, and rig up the block and tackle to pull the sling of hay up this ramp. Probably this would require sidewalls to keep the whole thing from falling off, and possibly some sort of lightweight sled to keep it even more neatly contained.
Number two seems the better option, but I'm curious if anyone else has tried anything similar, or has an even better idea. (And please don't just suggest that I keep the hay in the field on tripods or in haycocks or such. Even if that does happen, some needs to go into the barn anyway.) So what have you got?
I like the slide idea. It would want to have a circular rope so it could be pulled back down quickly and reliably unless it is very steep indeed. Also, a circular rope could allow pulling from the bottom instead of or in addition to pulling from the top, which would ease the workload. I would set up some sort of counterweight to take part of the pulling load off the workers. This may be tricky, as you will need to pull farther than the vertical distance from bottom to top of the elevator. A weight on a pulley, with the free end of the rope tied to the top of the elevator, could supply the counterweight while moving only half as far vertically as the slide moves on the incline. Adjust the weight to properly balance the sled.
When I was a kid, we (my sisters, that is) had horses, and we harvested our own hay (every day after school in June) with a garden tractor with sickle bar and hand-operated rake, and a homemade haywagon. We pitched the hay into the floor-level loft by hand. One year, my father came up with a labor-saving idea: lay some ropes across the wagon bed, drive into the barn, and hoist the hay in the ropes and swing it over to the stack. It worked great, until winter when we found that the lack of final fluffing had let the hay compact and the residual moisture made it all go moldy.
I have found that using 2 x 4's sandwiched between plywood gussets makes for very strong bonds that are fast and cheap. You get multiple pieces from even a 1/4 sheet of 1/2 inch plywood that you can buy at home depot. I am thinking with some rope purchased at a discount tool store, and a few pulleys, you could make a very workable set of forks. Off the top of my head I envision it being built for $25 or so...
I am assuming that this being the scythe sub-forum that you do not have a tractor. I say that because a neighbor had a tractor with a loader and built 2 x 4 tines onto it and just cut, dried, then scooped up the loose hay and bucketed the hay back to the barn and dumped it. But if you lack a tractor, that is a silly suggestion.
Have you ever considered feeding less hay maybe by switching to corn silage? It is REALLY easy to make with all the tools you have at hand. If you can grow a garden, you can grow corn, and then make silage so that you only have to put up half the hay as before. I did a long explanation on how homesteaders could do this very easily, and back before I had a lot of sheep (I actually only started out with 4 sheep) that was how I fed my sheep. It was just as good of silage as what our 1/4 million dollar combine produced. I am not trying to steer you away from any method you are dedicated too, I am just trying to think outside the box to help you with a problem.
I'll give this some thought and hopefully return with more ideas...
Travis, do you have a photo or a sketch of the grapple you're describing? I'm trying to picture it but coming up blank.
You are correct that I don't have a tractor.
I don't even put up that much hay (though I'd like to put up more this year). All told, the job of loading the hay into the loft takes perhaps four or five hours per cutting--and that's probably a rather high estimate--so it's not even that much of a time drain. It's just difficult to balance on the edge of my pickup bed while forking hay into the loft and trying to keep it from flying everywhere, and I figure there's got to be a simpler, more effective and efficient method.
Well...I tried. I am not good at doodling, but sketched a CRUDE drawing in excel. Perhaps you can get an idea of what I am thinking from it.
First you would start with the upside down T at the top. This would be a 2 x 6 cut in half and lag bolted into a T shape. The blue line at the top is the hoisting rope attached to the center of the grapple through a drilled hole and knot.
Then you would start making the forks of the grapple. These would be 2 x 4's cut maybe 3 feet long. They would be joined together by plywood gussets (the l-shaped pieces in the drawing) on each side. Put plenty of nails in them, and only use plywood, regular boards might split.
The (4) forks are joined to the inverted Tee by way of lag bolts. One set of forks on one side would be lag bolted into the ends of the inverted Tee. Using washers this would allow the forks on that side to pivot. To get the other side to pivot too, but bypass the other set of forks on the other side, two notches would have to be cut into the flange of the inverted Tee. Cut just a few inches in, long lag bolts and washers would allow that set of forks to pivot.
The top view (lower drawing) shows these notches and 1 x 3 boards criss-crossed to keep the forks from twisting.
The red lines are the ropes that pull the grapple open when you want to dump the hay. The two small circles they touch on the inverted Tee are pulleys.
In practice you would use short sections of 6 inch saplings in the bed of your truck lain parallel with your axle. If you shape your grapple correctly you could pitch fork your loose hay on top of these saplings giving you clearance for your forks to pass under. That would save a step of repitchforking your loos hay a second time. Then the red rope would cinch the grapple shut. The blue line would then hoist it into the air. The weight of the grapple and hay may mean you have to run a two or three part line, or you may be able to use your truck to hoist the hay upwards. Maybe eventually you could get a cheap hand cranked winch? Anyway, once it was in the air where you wanted your hay to land, you draw open the grapple forks by the red line and the hay would drop out.
You may have to fuss with the exact dimensions, but maybe you see what I am envisioning???
I think I get the idea, though a set of grapples is only a small part of that whole setup, no? I would still require the track and trolley--unless you had some other way in mind to move the load of hay around once it had been hoisted?
On a side note, apparently one can do more on Excel than just make spreadsheets! I've got a bit to learn.
I am not sure of your exact set-up so it would be hard for me to say just what you need and where.
You may need a track and trolley system, or you might be able to just move the hoisting point in your barn a few times. Depending on how far it is from where you unload your truck to where the hay is stored you might be able to just swing it into place. I don't know.
Honestly I don't see a hardship in building a trolley and track out of wood either though. I guess it is back to using Excel.
This might seem a bit silly after the ingenious solutions by previous posters... still, I thought I'd just share this one in case there's someone out there with the same problem but no technical skills whatsoever (ie. like me)
We make loose hay too. One year our tractor broke down and it was about to start raining soon, so I came up with this simple solution: let's just spread a big tarp on the hay field and rake the hay onto it. Then we simply dragged the tarp to the barn and up the ramp (yes, we conveniently have a ramp in our barn) to the hay storage. Tying some strings on each corner of the tarp makes it possible to keep the corners and sides bended so hay doesn't fall out. We had to make about ten trips with the tarp but we managed to get all of the hay in. We made enough hay for our goat for the winter (only one goat that winter).
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