September 12, 2014

Let's Make Hay!

I've been looking for one of these for a long time.

Walk behind sickle mower

Not necessarily this make or model (Troy Bilt Trail Blazer Sickle Bar Mower), but a walk-behind sickle mower that we could use for cutting hay. Dan uses his scythe, but I was wanting a piece of equipment that could help get the job done in less time.

I've been keeping an eye on craiglist, but walk-behind sickle mowers don't come up very often. The ones I have seen have been in the $900 to $1100 range. When the Troy Bilt presented itself for $400, I had to go see. It had been taken care of and ran well. I bought it.

Dan checked it over and tested it out, then it was my turn. I mowed about a quarter of our one acre front pasture, the part where the best grass is growing.

My first cutting of hay. 

It's heavy and does not maneuver particularly well. Neither does it have a reverse. It is self-propelled, with a wheel drive and a blade drive, operated separately with hand levers. I like that because I could "walk" it to the area I wanted to cut, or over areas I didn't want cut, such as a patch of deadly nightshade.

When we initially discussed getting a sickle mower, Dan pointed out that could get a sickle bar attachment for his walk-behind tractor. That would, of course, entail being able to find one, which I've never seen for sale around here. The other consideration is that the tractor is bigger, heavier, and more machine than I care to wrestle with. The sickle mower still requires muscling, but it is smaller and more manageable.

Caleb checking it out.

We actually got it a little late in the season for the best quality hay. Ours is starting to go to seed, but something is better than nothing and I can't let it go to waste. At least it's leafy and not stemmy. Dan scythed a first cutting here earlier this year and it was mostly stems. For a previous blog post about the cuts and quality of hay, click here.


tpals said...

I like that you look for equipment that is sized for your needs instead of wanting the biggest/newest possible.

Harry Flashman said...

That's a nice piece of equipment, if a little intimidating with all those blades on the front. It's always good to find something you really need at a decent price.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Nice piece if kit there Leigh! I think they are called Allen Sythes over here. My goats used to actually prefer stalky grass, though I am sure it has less nutrients in it by the time it has gone stalky.

Leigh said...

tpals, that's the blessing of not having much money, LOL.

Harry, yeah, those blades were Dan's hesitation, I think. With the big ones that attach to farm tractors, it's not uncommon to hear of them killing or dismembering. I just have to make sure everybody is out of the way, but then none of our critters like noisy machinery anyway. I did have one curious chicken that watched from the sidelines for the longest time. All the others hightailed it as soon as I started it up.

Gill, my goats like that stalky hay too LOL. They also like wheat and oat stalks! I know we always emphasize protein and nutrition, but roughage is actually the most important thing to feed to ruminants. Realizing that, was the thing that helped me stop worrying about all my hay not being "perfect". I concentrate on other nutrients with other feedstuffs. If our winter is as cold as is being predicted, then my goats will need all the extra carbohydrates they can get.

Izzy said...

Nice find. I've never seen one of those before. We don't grow our own hay (yet), but our thoughts are turning to ideas of how to manage our own feed stuffs better.

Farmer Barb said...

The hill going down to my potential haying grounds is a very steep grade. When I tighten up with the battery powered mower, the drag back up to the garage is a battle. The sickle mower looks like a great big hair clipper! I still can't conceive of having enough sunlight to grow hay, but a person can dream, can't they? How will you be putting it up? Are you going to make a mound? I saw a guy at One Scythe Revolution who made nifty elevated stacks and just covered it with a tarp and weights. I am anxious to see the next post!

Meredith said...

Wow... That's awesome! I didn't even realize this type of equipment existed! I thought the choices were basically use a tractor or use a scythe.

Leigh said...

Izzy, I confess that we aren't officially growing our own hay. This is just what the goats don't eat!

Barb, hills are tough! After the cutting everything else is done by hand. We turn it the next day or so, to make sure it's thoroughly dried, then rake it up and haul it to the "hay mow" in wheelbarrows to store it under cover in piles.

It rained last night so I just got in from turning it again! And it was almost ready to rake in! Last summer it rained so much that we lost a lot of our homestead hay to mildew. I'm hoping I can get this batch properly dried out, if it doesn't rain again!

Meredith, I think I learned about these when I was looking for a 2-wheel, walk-behind tractor. I ran across a sickle bar mower and said, "I need one of those!"

Michelle said...

You keep introducing me to equipment I've never even heard of, much less seen. Guess I'm not much of a homesteader! ;-)

Renee Nefe said...

AWESOME! It's so nice when just what you need shows up. We just replaced our kitchen table because we found a "new" one at the thrift store...paid about 1/8th of what a new one would go for and it's in great shape. :D

Mark said...

I think you and Dan will really enjoy that piece of equipment. It's just the thing for a small scale operation, and will be easier to maintain and store than a full size tractor and separate pull behind or three-point sickle more. Good Stuff!

Anonymous said...

What a great find! I hadn't heard of these until I watched the BBC show "Wartime Farm". My friend Bud has one from the 40's, but sadly he hasn't found anyone who can get it running (it was his dad's), so he ended up scrapping it.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Well done Leigh! Folks don't often understand how long it takes to find the best piece of equipment you need for the price you can afford. I sometimes spend hours searching for such items but the research is worth it. Here's to more hay for what is suppossed to me another rough winter. Boooooooo.