Annual show for vintage hay enthusiasts

Annual show for vintage hay enthusiasts at Wagin

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Peter Spurr, with dog Ricky in front of a 1920s ground-driven Sunshine hay binder and with a 1927 Harts Parr tractor from his extensive collection in the foreground, will host a vintage hay making day open to the public on his Wagin property.

Peter Spurr, with dog Ricky in front of a 1920s ground-driven Sunshine hay binder and with a 1927 Harts Parr tractor from his extensive collection in the foreground, will host a vintage hay making day open to the public on his Wagin property.

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Annual show for vintage hay enthusiasts at Wagin

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HAY was once the fuel that powered the farm and the machinery used across the decades to make it will be on show working at Wagin this Saturday, October 16.

With help from Vintage Tractor & Machinery Association of WA (Tracmach) members, tractor and farm equipment collector Peter Spurr will host the third annual vintage hay making day on his Steward Road property two kilometres east of the town.

There will also be vintage truck and stationary engine displays and a local service club will provide catering.

Last year's event attracted more than 200 visitors and Mr Spurr is hoping this year more will attend the free event from 9am, with everyone welcome.

Making hay is not hard work these days, Mr Spurr pointed out, sitting on a suspension seat in an air-conditioned tractor cab while the baler on the back churns out high-density "big squares" or round bales.

But back in the day it was "just hard yakka", he said, when the operator sat sideways on a metal seat in the sun making frequent adjustments to a hay binder's mechanisms - while also controlling the team of horses pulling it - to allow for variation in crop density.

No bales came out the back, Mr Spurr pointed out, only tied sheaves which then had to be stooked into haystacks.

"That was an art in itself, to build a stack from sheaves and to put a tapered top on it so the rain ran off rather than soaked into the stack," he said.

Keeping the hay in good condition was important because a significant proportion of it was used to feed the teams of horses that pulled the machinery to cultivate the ground, sow the seeds and harvest the crop when it was ready, he pointed out.

If sickle mowers that cut the crop and left it on the ground were used, the hay was raked and carted to a stationary baler, usually driven by a stationary engine or belt-driven off a tractor.

"They were very fickle because you had to tie the knots (in the wire or later hay band) yourself," Mr Spurr said.

"They usually required a couple of blokes to operate them - one to pitch fork the hay in and insert wooden sections to separate the bales and as they came through the other bloke had to shove big needles with string or wire on them through and manually tie the knot.

"On a good day with a stationary baler a team could do about 400 bales.

"These days with a modern baler you can knock out 700 or 800 in an hour."

But it is the binders that attract the attention of farm machinery buffs and spectators alike, with their combination of cast metal, flailing timber and canvas and their distinctive rattle from the chains that drive the different components.

"People who have never seen them before - which is most people these days - are amazed and fascinated when they see them working," Mr Spurr said.

"The only way to understand how a binder works is to watch it working.

"But in the day, every farm had a binder because they had to make the sheaves to feed the horses pre-tractors and power farming.

"They were used on many farms right through to the 1950s and 60s, but pulled by tractors which replaced the horses."

Mr Spurr said he would have his own 1920s six-foot (1.8 metres) cut, ground-drive Sunshine binder, which is in exceptional unrestored condition for its age, working on the day - he has oat and Baroota Wonder traditional feed wheat crops ready to harvest.

"If the crop's in good condition it can spit out a sheaf every three or four seconds," he said of his binder.

"I've got all manner of balers, but predominantly I'm a collector of International brand tractors and machinery and I'll have my collection (34 tractors, plus vintage farm equipment) on show.

"I've got a McCormick Deering F12 tractor with a sickle mower attached to the back of it - all new in 1934 - which is something to see and it will be operating."

One of the pieces of equipment other Tracmach members will be bringing will be a very early example of McCormick Deering hay making machinery called a daisy reaper.

"It's pre any binder or baler and dates from the late 1800s," Mr Spurr said.

"It has no knotters or string, it leaves the sheaves out the back to be tied off by hand using strands of the crop."

Mr Spurr said that while he was a collector, he liked to keep vintage farm machinery alive by using it to demonstrate how it worked.

"You go to shows and most of the time it's a static display and that frustrates me, because we spend a lot of money getting the machinery back into working order,'' he said.

"I grew up on a farm and my family was involved in the chaff business, as a business, so I grew up with binders.

"We got taught as kids how to operate a binder and how the knotting systems worked.

"We used to have up to four binders on the go in a paddock - it was a fairly big concern with dad and his brothers.

"So they made a lot of chaff in Wagin."

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