Fertility Farming

by Newman Turner

Chapter 12
Weatherproof Harvesting

Most of us will admit that our greatest worry as farmers is the problem of harvesting good quality hay and grain safely, in a reasonable condition, with a minimum of labour problems.

All sorts of involved mechanical inventions have been introduced to take the worry out of harvesting, from the hay loader and pick-up baler to the combine harvester, none of which can claim to have beaten the weather. All the widely advocated methods of haymaking and harvesting still depend for their success on long spells of dry and sunny weather.

But the simple inventions of Captain Alexander Proctor, the practical Scots agriculturalist, who has spent twenty years perfecting his system, have made haymaking and harvesting a weatherproof operation which any farmer may face with complete equanimity and a minimum of expense.

Proctor's Weatherproof Tripod Harvesting System is a natural process of air drying to cure hay and corn in the most catchy of seasons, and because of its simplicity and naturalness is to be preferred to orthodox haymaking or combine harvesting. A sample of seed barley from a 100-acre tripodded field was enough to persuade me to give Tripod Harvesting a full-scale trial. This 100-acre crop at Chequers Estate remained in the field throughout the winter of 1946-7, and when threshed in April proved to be unblemished and fit for seed. I have since kept a field of linseed out on tripods all winter, threshed in April, and used it for seed, without loss of a single sheaf.

7a. Cutting and tedding lucerne for tripodding. Note the kick type of tedder which is best for this job

7b. Tripodded lucerne at Goosegreen

8a. Building a tripod hut

8b. Tripodding hay at Goosegreen

When haymaking by this system the mowing machine is followed immediately by the kick tedder. This enables the air to be incorporated with the grass and clover immediately to hasten wilting. The old-fashioned kick tedder is most satisfactory for this work, and a Somerset firm is now making the kick tedder once more, after it had been extinct for many years.

On a good drying day what has been tedded in the morning will be fit to put on to the tripods during the afternoon, provided it is not wet with dew or rain. Except with the heaviest of crops, I have usually put on to tripods each day what was cut during the same morning. As there is no rush to make the best use of a spell of good weather, it is wise not to mow more each day than can be tripodded during the following twenty-four hours.

Once they are experienced, I find that two men can build one tripod in approximately twenty minutes (if the grass is long and the men keen, fifteen minutes is enough). I have myself built a normal-sized 'hut' of lucerne in twenty minutes. This means that two men, with the aid of a sweep or rake to bring the hay to the tripod, will build the 'huts' at the rate of at least a ton an hour. Four men building tripod huts, and one man sweeping or raking hay to the builders, will save a crop of approximately two tons to the acre at the rate of an acre an hour.

The hay is laid lightly on the wire which encircles the three legs of the tripod about a foot from the bottom and built up lightly around the air vents astride each leg of the tripod. I will not attempt to describe in detail how it should be done, for any attempt to do it without a practical demonstration will no doubt fail. It is important to see it properly demonstrated by someone who has made tripodded hay successfully. When the 'hut' has reached a height of about eight feet the wooden air-vent constructors are removed, leaving a free passage of air at three points in the base of the 'hut' up through the hollow centre. The building of grain tripods is similar with the sheafs standing upright around the bottom and going up in tiers in as upright a position as possible.

Once on the tripods, both hay and grain are safe from any kind of weather, and the damage from bleaching by the sun and leeching by the rain is avoided. The hay is cured green and remains green permanently, and the corn is matured on the straw as Nature intended, by a steady flow of air through the 'hut'. After two to three weeks, according to the weather, though quite regardless of the kind of weather, both hay or grain are ready. Even after a shower of rain a breeze will quickly dry the huts, as they are never more than superficially wet.

The ideal method of dealing with the 'huts' is to sweep the hay to the baler and to sweep the corn to the threshing machine by means of Proctor's sweep which carries the hut intact with tripod legs inside. One sweep driven by tractor or Jeep can keep a full-size baler or threshing machine going.

We discovered very soon that there is an art in tripodding, which makes expert instruction essential to success; for, like many others, we spoiled some of the crop by working, in the beginning, without guidance. But once we knew how, the process was simple, and the best method of saving quality crops that 1 have yet experienced.

Next: 13. Preparing for the Change

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