April 26, 2010

When Emerald Strikes the Clover

It is haying season in the west. Last winter many people simply ran out of hay and livestock went hungry for a while. Not only was it generally unavailable, if you could find it the prices were doubled. Several neighbors ended up paying $10.00 a bale for mediocre hay. We had enough hay of our own production for our needs, so the shortage did not affect us. The season has changed and we have swung into action on the Quarter Circle K. Our first crop is in and the second is on its way (Photo is of one of our fields).

Last winter I wrote poem called “When Emerald Strikes the Clover” which was a wistful anticipation of the coming of Spring. What I never mentioned in that poem was that when the alfalfa (clover) grows, the work begins – starting with the repair of haying equipment. I have recently completely rebuilt my hay mower and wanted to share a tip on sickle bar riveting that someone, someplace may find useful. Once that’s done, I’ll add the poem.

Whether you are using a swather or a sickle bar mower to cut hay, both work on the same principle. They each have a long cutting knife that cuts a swath from five to thirteen feet wide. (A swather is a combination implement that not only cuts, but conditions and rakes the cut hay into windrows in a single pass.) The cutting motion is based on a scissor-like action between the stationary rock guards and the blade comprised of two-inch triangularly shaped knife sections individually riveted onto a bar (two rivets each) which is either activated by the tractor PTO (power take off) or the swather itself, if it is a self propelled model.

At any rate – here is the tip. During the mowing operation one of the knife sections is bound to break a rivet and will need to be re-riveted. Breakage may due to hitting a rock in the field or through normal wear. The remaining rivet of the two will need to be removed. To do this, use a clinch cutter that we use in horse shoeing. This tool has a sharp punch on one end and a metal cutting blade on the other end and is made to be struck with a hammer to cut off the clinches of old horseshoes to facilitate their removal. Clinch cutters work just as well to cut sickle bar rivets. Grind the punch end down to the exact diameter of the rivet hole for rivet stem removal. When a section needs to be removed, cut the head of the rivet with the cutting blade end of the clinch cutter by holding it in place and striking firmly with a hammer. The head will pop off. Then take the ground end of the clinch cutter and tap out the remaining stem of the rivet. To replace the section, hold the section and the rivet in place using two hammers – one on the bottom of the rivet acting as a mini-anvil and the other used above to forge-set the rivet head. I am sure that all of this sounds totally Greek to those that have never needed to do this, but for that have, we are talking the same language. I know that there are other ways of doing this, but this works pretty slick and I hope it helps someone out there. If it does, send me an email. I have a bunch of other tricks up my sleeve as well when working with sickle bar mowers.

When Emerald Strikes the Clover
by Paul Kern

The haystack now is melting down,
I see the hoar frost flee,
The wind cuts short her howling moan,
Dark days are blowing over.
A snowbird sings and so will I –
When emerald strikes the clover.

It's calving time and lambing too,
They struggle to breathe free,
Most will live but some just won't,
Cold days are nearly over.
Just hang on for a few more weeks -
Till emerald strikes the clover.

The horses stand in mud unshod,
Their coats hang long and shaggy,
Winter moustache on my bronco's lip,
The shoer is driving over.
They'll be ready again for work -
When emerald strikes the clover.

Springtime fills most every step,
These muddy boots will take,
Don't mind too much the windy cold,
But am glad when it's all over.
I live for days when life ebbs back -
And emerald strikes the clover.

The haystack now has melted down,
And frost takes to the wing,
Breezes wafting light and slow,
Blue skies have taken over.
A songbird sings and so do I -
When emerald strikes the clover.

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