32 thoughts on “Hay Bales: A Sunday Photo Essay

  1. Oh, man, that brings back childhood memories in South Dakota. A storm coming in, the sky filled with dark clouds, the scent of ozone in the air. Farmers hurrying to finish cutting the hay, alfalfa, etc. And then the sharp crack of thunder, lightning, rain. A lot of wind. Tornado watches. Scurrying to the basement to take cover. When the storm has passed, the air filled with the scent of hay and alfalfa, rain, and ozone. The june bugs (I hated those things), grasshoppers and the chiggers quiet for a while. And then off to the barn, milk the cows, and make some homemade ice cream, with fresh picked strawberries, using a hand cranked (dry ice) ice cream making machine.

    Thanks, John, for the trip down memory lane.

  2. My Sunday has been quite nice, thank you. Had lunch with a friend, went to an art exhibit, got some ice cream, enjoyed the sunshine. No complaints here.

  3. I’m so glad you did this! Maybe someone can answer my question… In California and NV, I have always seen the bales in squares… When/ Why/ Where are they rolled (as in the photos) instead of in square manageable tidy square bales? Are those giants in Scalzi’s photos actually moved and put on trucks for transport? I Have never seen trucks rolling by here with round bales…. Or are these round bales only for the farmer’s use? Always wondered.

  4. Round bales are used for bulk feedings of large herds of cattle or horses (not really optimal for horses in small groups because of sensitive horse guts, but still).

    They take a special apparatus to bale and load, but feeding them is a matter of either rolling out the long bale (good if you have a big herd waiting for the feeding) or plopped into a special round bale feeder.

    I have heard that they are more economical, once you’ve acquired the equipment for handling them. There’s plenty of places in NV and CA that put them up–but they’re designed for feeding by the big farmer or rancher, not for a smaller operation.

  5. kathy e.,

    I believe deciding what sort of hay bales to make depends (at least in part) on the expected destination. If you’re mostly selling hay to individual horse-owners, for example, they’re going to want the much lighter “square” bales. If you’re selling to massive farming operations, or are turning it into silage, it may be worth investing in the equipment needed to make the cylinder bales. There’s also special equipment needed to move them. But, for a given amount of hay, they are cheaper to make (and may not need baling wire, but I’m not sure about that).

    Cylinder bales may be an east-of-the-Rockies thing, mostly. I’ve certainly seen them all the way to the Mississippi. They use them in Europe too…

    Around here (western NY) they are sometimes spray-painted orange for Halloween. In Texas I’ve seen them decorated with ears and eyes and snouts and legs made out of plywood.

  6. I got a bunch of stuff done (most notably teaching my daughter to ride her bike without training wheels – and without crashing into the cars parked along the street!) and didn’t get some other stuff done.

    I set up the slip n slide for the kids so they could shriek loudly and thrill the neighbours, and I just sent them off to the playground with their dad so I could sneak some chocolate ice cream and brace myself for another summer holiday day with them!

    It was an excellent day.

  7. kathy e., which kind is used really depends on a lot of factors. Square bales are easier to store in a barn and can be handled by hand. Round bales are more weather resistant and can be left outside and require equipment to move. When you need a little a square bale is handy. We used some of both.

    All I can say is that I do NOT wax nostalgic at the sight of a hay bale! It brings back memories of getting home from school, only to be rushed out to the hayfield. My job (as I was the wussiest square bale tosser) was to drive the tractor. In my day farmers did not have cabs on the tractors, and shortly after starting I would be instructed to fire up the lights so we could work into the evening. Of course this attracted all the bugs to ME! I ate so many that by the time I was sent in to cook supper I wasn’t hungry.

  8. Head was trying to kill me this morning, but is feeling better now so maybe my neuro won’t spinal tap me. So, sucky Sunday and I missed church. But your photos are great and I finally got a shower so hoping things are looking up!

  9. Ahhh… Ohio. I like the photos of the hay bales, I get to enjoy them without the persistent itchy feeling they cause.

    My Sunday was spent in the desert searching for abandoned mines. That isn’t so hard in the Mojave actually, but still fun. While driving about, I also came across a Buddhist temple under construction in the middle of nowhere. They had at least 20 4-6′ marble statues lining a paved walk; it was surreal.

  10. My Sunday was terrific, thank you. It’s Gay Pride here in Seattle, so I made a complete idiot of myself in public along with several thousand friends and cohorts. I wore sunscreen. I think I pulled something. No, not a toy wagon.

    It appears, as an indication of the growing globalization of glee, that the vuvuzela has finally come of age and is taking its place in the line-up of annoying noisemakers, even in this country.

    Actually, one or two vuvuzelas in a noisy and cheerful crowd of mostly non-vuvuzela players makes a perfectly nice accent without being noticeably annoying.

  11. Thank you everyone for your response regarding round/cylinder/rolled bales vs. square bales. :)

  12. I helped haul thousands of small square bales growing up in Nebraska. 1 month after I graduated from high school and headed off to college, the guy I worked for bought a large round baler and the loading equipment.
    I asked him, “why did you wait to buy this now” and he said, “I had you to help me before, now I don’t”

    It makes entirely too much sense doesn’t it.

    There is also a larger system for larger hay stacks.
    They look like log cabins made out of hay. Big feed lot operations use them.

  13. Totally brings me back to my 3 years in the Midwest. Don’t miss the humidity, but do miss the thunderstorms (and the hay rolls).

    (for Louise) Pretty sure saw some vuvuzelas here in SF in the Pride aftermath.

  14. It was a subtle invasion. By the time the forces were detected, it would be far too late.

    Oh, the cows knew. The cows always knew. But, being cows, their observations were lost on the humans. This was quite ironic, given the plans that the Gna ‘arr had for HumanBurgers.

  15. small (~50 lb) square bale: labor intensive
    large (~2000 lb) round bale: one man operation

    Both round and square bales require special machinery, but once you have the machines, round bales are much less labor intensive. One guy with a tractor/end loader can move 2000 pound of round hay in a single trip on a tractor. It might take you an hour with square bales, and you’ll move it all by hand.

    Also, the small square bales have to be stored in a barn or somewhere indoors. The large round bales can stay outside until needed. So square bales have to be baled, hauled to a barn, unloaded, and then stacked in the barn. (1 guy running the baler, 1 guy unloading into the barn, 1 guy in the barn stacking) Round bales, you just bale em and leave them right there in the field. (1 guy running the baler)

    As for silos, (those ~20 foot diameter, ~80 foot tall cylinders usually made out of grey concrete, but sometimes are blue material) they’ve been out of style for some time now. The common approach these days for storing silage is to use a really large, long bag. You chop the hay and then blow it in the bag. And when you need to feed the cows, you get an endloader or bobcat and scoop it up and dump it in the feed lot.

    One reason for this approach is the bags are a lot cheaper than a silo. Another reason is because silos increase your property tax but bags of silage don’t.

  16. oh, and harvesting hay and making it into small square bales is much more subject to the weather. If it’s rained recently, the hay will be wet, (and really heavy to move by hand), and once you pack wet hay into a barn, it may start fermenting and spoil or catch fire.

    big round bales and silage are both more flexible as for allowing you to harvest even though the hay is still wet from rain.

  17. That last photo was so strangely Processed that I first thought it was of a cow, wandering among ginormous rolls of hay (or straw). Then I figured out that the animal was Kodi, your dog, and the perspective became more realistic. (Perhaps the fact that this happened _very_ early on Monday morning had something to do with it.)

  18. Looking at the second and fourth pictures, I wonder if aliens saw only those two pictures of earth what they would think of it. They look as if they should be moving, as if they were grazing cows. I can imagine a little less intelligent Ford Prefect type walking up to the hay bale to try to establish some sort of communication.
    “Hey, hows it goin’. You know whats facinating about you guys? You’re all carbon while your most abundant element around here is silicon. . . . Facinating.”

  19. In Wisconsin those round hay bales have been banned for years now.

    The cows weren’t getting a square meal.

  20. Whenever I see those round bales I want to set up a picture where those great big bales are in a circle, surrounding a little square bale.

    Do it in sharp black & white and it could be quite menacing.

  21. Square bales can weigh as much as 90 pounds if it’s a “first cut”. They get lighter as the season goes on and the plant matter is more “twiggy”.

    Trust me my wife has a horse that eats like…

    … actually it eats like 2 horses, because it was underfed by the previous owners.

    I can’t imagine trying to move one of those round bales with anything sort of pretty big equipment, though it would be pretty handy.

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