Haying: The Dump Rake
moisture level was deemed acceptable, the simplest method of gathering cured hay was to rake it into piles with a dump
rake. Commonly 10 feet wide, this rake had
a set of long curved tines mounted on a frame set between two large wheels. Dump
rakes had become standardized by the 1890s and remained virtually unchanged
until the 1950s. An operator sat on a seat mounted above the frame, working a
lever to lift the rake teeth when they were full. Normally, he had only a single
horse to handle, but a team could be used for heavy hay. And because the
operation was deemed simple, he was usually the least experienced crewman.
But, dump rakes
could be temperamental. As a young British greenhorn recounted,
Two of us
have been having a terrible day of it on the dumprakes... Mine kept refusing
to lift and dump the hay, and his got the dumps and wouldn't stop lifting with
every turn of the wheels.
The piles left
by the dump rake were usually pitchforked onto a hay rack and hauled to the
stack or barn. Hay racks were homemade, adapted farm wagons. Farmers built a
light wooden deck about eight feet by 16 feet, and made the sides and ends from
poles. As little wood as possible was used to minimize weight and expense.
Putting up hay
using a mower, dump rake and a hand-loaded rack was a technique used throughout
Alberta for almost all types of hay regardless of terrain or storage facility.
The equipment required was relatively inexpensive, or like the hay rack, could
be homemade. But this process involved much backbreaking and time-consuming
work. The average Alberta farm in 1931 had around 11 head of cattle and seven
horses, requiring about 40,000 kilograms of hay a year. Producing this amount of
hay by this process required over 200 hours of work. Most farmers found it was
imperative to use more mechanized methods of hauling and stacking hay.
Judy Larmour. Making Hay While the Sun Shone: Haying in Alberta Before 1955. n.p.: Friends of
Reynolds-Alberta Museum Society and Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, Historic Sites and Archives Service, 1992. With permission from
of the Reynolds-Alberta Museum Society.