As we are working our way into October, our focus begins to shift into what we need to get through the winter. Our oat cart has some 300 bushels on board. We like oats because they produce energy very easily: when the sheep think there are oats in the feed bunk, they run for it before they even get the first taste. It doesn’t take more than a half pound for each animal and the dogs like to shoulder their way in, perhaps out of camaraderie. And we have many large round bales of prairie hay – native grasses, if you will, big bluestem, indian grass, little bluestem, sideoats grama, switchgrass, western wheatgrass – and alfalfa.
This year we will feed alfalfa from large round bales, so the first tool of the trade is a three-tined pitchfork. The second must be a five gallon bucket. It carries water, oats, tools and anything else. The third is baling wire. Our bales, round or square, come tied with plastic twine, so we have a roll of baling wire which should be called non-baling wire. If we have to handle small (60 pound) square bales, we use a bright red bale hook. Call that 3A, because we’d just as soon not have to hoist them. And right behind wire is the fourth tool: wire snippers. Not the ones that don’t snip, not the ones whose colored plastic handles slip off so when they fall, they’re lost. The best ones we have right now have pale blue handles. We don’t loan them. Not to anyone. Better not to ask.
Bolt cutters can be necessary when the task requires more that a snipper, so the bolt cutters are number five. Number six is the tractor. Maybe it’s number one. It can move anything that needs moving, horizontally, vertically, whatever. And to help it do so are chains. Chains are like hoses, two short ones are better than a long one. So number eight, right next to chains at seven, is hoses. Much better than buckets and all the more useful when there is a nearby high point over which a hose can be draped so it will drain. And not freeze. So you don’t have to haul it into the house to thaw it out.
Maybe we should add the house to the list . . . And scissors, for the twine. Better not forget the scissors.
Jerry Wigglesworth, © October, 2014
Artwork by Master Dyer, Matt Gallo, © October, 2014