Sunday, 28 July 2013

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

The recent hot, dry weather has seen Alistair, the estate farmer, hard at work cutting and baling the hay meadows at Gibside.  Some areas such as along roadsides and fencelines are not easily accessible to his machinery so are left uncut and the ranger team tidy these areas using strimmers. This grass has in past years been added to 'grass snake heaps' (piles of vegetation which heat up during decomposition creating an ideal environment for grass snakes to lay their eggs).  This year however we have saved some of the better quality grass for a trial at making our own 'hand-made bales'.  Our volunteer joiner Colin manufactured a bale maker from timber and plywood. This is a rectangular, open-topped box into which hay is fed, with hinged door at the front for removing the finished bale. Two string lines are put in place prior to loading with hay and a swinging, pivoting press mechanism compacts the hay before tying off and releasing the pressure.  

Ranger Phil collecting hay for baler

New volunteer Daniel loading hay into baler

Ranger Phil with finished bales

Bales loaded onto vehicle

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