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Vintage equipment and veteran balers equal a seasoned crew

Earlier this summer when I was mowing the farmyard near the machine shed and saw the baler sitting idle, I started missing what had been an annual rite of fall.

A white pickup pulls a trailer of straw with a man on it and next to it is a woman carrying a bale of straw walks behind a red baler and green tractor.
Ann Bailey carries a bale of straw to her brother, Terry Bailey, who is stacking the straw on the trailer. This photo was taken Aug. 26, 2022.
Contributed / Bonnie Butz
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When I sold our horses two years ago, our family took a break from baling straw. For the next few years the baler sat idle because we no longer needed it for bedding.

But earlier this summer when I was mowing the farmyard near the machine shed and saw the baler sitting idle, I started missing what had been an annual rite of fall. I asked my sister, Bonnie, and her husband, John, if they would like some straw for bedding for their trio of goats.

They did, so on a late August evening my husband, Brian, who was born in 1963, pulled out the 1963 271 New Holland Hayliner baler that had been my father’s and hooked it up to our 3010 John Deere tractor that my grandfather had purchased new in 1963.

Brian headed out to the wheat field near our house that had just been combined and I followed him on foot to the field where I met my brother, Terry, who was an expert bale stacker, and Bonnie and John, who pulled into the field with a trailer attached to their pickup.

After a minor breakdown when the knotter malfunctioned, the baler rhythmically churned out perfectly shaped small squares of straw like a brand-new machine, and the tractor pulling it moved methodically down the field, just as it had many times before.

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I don’t have official records of how many bales the New Holland has made or how many hours are on the John Deere, but my guess would be that the former is a five-figure number — my dad used to bale about 3,500 small, squares of alfalfa and a thousand of wheat or oat straw every summer for his cattle herd during the 1960s and early 1970s before buying a round baler. After that, for the next two decades he baled alfalfa/grass hay and straw for our horses and to sell to horse owners. Brian and I continued the tradition when we moved to our farmstead and baled hay or straw or both with the New Holland.

A man with a gray t-shirt and hat drives a  green tractor pulls a red baler with a yellow wheat straw bale coming out of the baler chute.
Brian Gregoire, the 3010 John Deere tractor and the 271 New Holland Hayliner are all 1963 models that baled straw. This photo was taken on Aug. 26, 2022.
Contributed / Bonnie Butz

Our workhorse John Deere 3010 is in its seventh decade of traveling up and down the fields of farmland south. My grandpa used it to plant fields during the 1960s and Terry drove it during harvest when it pulled the JD 65 combine, in the days before my dad bought a self-propelled model. During the next several decades, the John Deere was used for field work, including pulling the sickle mower to cut alfalfa and mow roadsides, pulling the baler and hay trailers and cutting edible beans with a knife attachment on front.

The human element of our straw baling team also has miles and age on it but still was efficient and in good condition. Brian expertly guided the tractor over the straw swaths, watching to make sure that they didn’t get bunched up, Terry, a 1947 model, expertly stacked nearly 100 bales on the trailer, which John, a 1965 model, pulled at just the right speed with his pickup. Bonnie, born in 1964, and I, born in 1958, walked along the baler and picked them up as they came down the chute.

After we finished loading the trailer, Brian baled another 32 bales, which we picked up and stacked in the pickup and the loader bucket. We plan to use those for decorating, covering the grass we plan to seed this fall in some bare spots in our new flower beds, and selling at the Farmers Market in Larimore, North Dakota.

We completed our entire baling project within three hours, thanks to seasoned, dependable equipment and humans that worked in harmony to get the job done. It was, for me, a perfect way to start a weekend because it brought back treasured family memories of baling on the farm where I grew up and of when my sons and daughter helped us bale on our own farm, and it made some equally precious new memories with my siblings.

Though time marches forward, sometimes at a breathless pace, my respect and love for all things family and farm never grows old.

A white pickup pulls a trailerload of yellow small, square bales of wheat straw.
Ann Bailey and her husband and siblings baled a trailerload of straw on a late summer evening. This photo was taken Aug. 26, 2022.
Contributed / Bonnie Butz

Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, N.D., that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or abailey@agweek.com.

Related Topics: RURAL LIFEAGRICULTURE
Opinion by Ann Bailey
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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