Buying hard work in


We had a bit of a tidy up, which will doubtless be followed by a ‘throwing out session.’ That’s when we found the old hay knife. As you can see it’s effectively an electric jackhammer with a blade for cutting hay or silage.

Basically back in the late 1960s we had one silage pit which was as big as we could afford, and we put as much grass in it as we could, and that way it got our dairy herd at the time through the winter.

The problem is that we were doing ‘self feed’ silage. Cows were held back from the silage face by an electric fence and just ate their way into the heap. This works great if the face isn’t too high. If it’s too high they burrow into the clamp and it collapses on top of them.

So we had two options, not make enough silage, or throw silage down off the top to take it down to a safe height. But silage, especially back then, was long and fibrous, and just pulling at it with a fork was damned hard work. You’d end up picking up a ‘mat’ at least five foot across.

Now my father had worked with hay before bailers have been popular so was used to dealing with mowed loose hay. You used to cut it with a hay knife. Here you see the traditional hay knife.




My father was at a farm sale somewhere and saw this electrical hay knife. He bought it at the auction and brought it home. All we had to do was use it. Well he used it during the week but at weekends I’d do the silage, and given I was about thirteen at the time, to me it was a brute of a thing and a real sod to wrestle into place. Not only that but you had to be careful where you put your feet with that blade bouncing up and down. I’m not entirely sure my mother knew what I was getting up to.

But I managed, because I’m bluidy minded and stubborn like that. Then I’d get the fork, throw what I’d cut off down onto a trailer and take it round and fork it out for heifers and others to eat.

I suppose I should have hated the blasted thing because it was big, numb and dangerous. But to me it was a sight easier than doing it the old way so was almost a great leap forward.

Now obviously we could have done down the shear grab route, although I think they came in later. Eventually we did get a tractor with a fore-end loader and a shear grab.

This meant that in half an hour I could do what had taken me a fair chunk of the day. Yet this wasn’t entirely without problems. Once when using the shear grab the tractor almost stalled as the grab went into the silage but fired up and the engine kept running.

Unfortunately it was running backwards. Eventually I worked out what was happening as I sat there surrounded by a cloud of diesel vapour, on a tractor which had four forward gears and twelve reverse gears!

This was, to put it bluntly, a little disconcerting, but when I stopped the tractor and started it again, the engine started up running properly. Agricultural engineers tell me that this shouldn’t happen, me I’ve done it twice!

Ah well, it struck me that you good people might fancy rescuing me from a life of hard work and penury. If so, all you have to do is wander across to


There you will find my latest novella

Tallis Steelyard and the sedan chair caper.

Rather than his usual collection of anecdotes, this time Tallis presents us with one gripping adventure. A tale of adventure, duplicity and gentility. Why does an otherwise respectable lady have a pair of sedan chair bearers hidden in her spare bedroom? Why was the middle aged usurer brandishing an axe? Can a gangster’s moll be accepted into polite society? Answer these questions and more as Tallis Steelyard ventures unwillingly into the seedy world of respectable ladies who love of sedan chair racing.


All that for 99p, what more could anybody want!

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3 thoughts on “Buying hard work in

  1. oldhenwife February 20, 2018 at 8:03 pm Reply

    You’re going to have to sell an awful lot of digi books to make up for lifting hay. And could you REALLY choose?. I’m chucking out at least one thing a day which I haven’t used in a hundred years. Sometimes it’s hard. Metal is weighed in, good things go to the Community shop, clothes to the Air Ambulance, paper (lots of that) in the green recyclables bin. It’s not easy but it’s become cathartic.

  2. Cynthia Reyes February 24, 2018 at 10:25 pm Reply

    I live with one of you bluidy-minded people. Which, on the days when I’m not yelling “Leave that alone before you hurt yourself!” can be a good thing.

    • jwebster2 February 25, 2018 at 7:14 am Reply

      we are the cross some people have to bear 😉

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