From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Horse Drawn Hay Sweep-Rake

Making hay with horses


In the hayfield, the hay sweep (or sweep-rake) moved hay. The driver lowered the sweep's teeth (the long wooden tines) to ground level and took the sweep down a windrow of raked hay. As the sweep moved forward, the hay piled onto the buck (the platform of wooden teeth.)

When the buck was full of hay, the load was taken to the haystack. A good man on the sweep planned his route so he was close to the haystack when the buck was full and heavy.

Mowing machines and dump rake were pulled from the front. However, horses could not walk in front of the sweep-rake -- they would have been wallowing through the hay windrows that the sweep was supposed to gather. This problem was solved by having the horses pull the sweep from the sides.

In the image below, the load of hay has been deposited on the haystacker buck (another platform of wooden tines.) The sweep driver has backed the horses away from the load. Now he is approaching the hay again to push it farther onto the stacker buck. The driver is physically lifting the sweep teeth. Men and horses worked hard in the hayfield.

Out of the camera's range, the stacker team waits. The horses are harnessed to the pulleys that take the stacker buck to the top of the triangular frame and throw the hay onto the haystack. The man who is standing by the stacker buck is probably the driver of the stacker team. This was a fairly easy job, perhaps one that a grandfather might be assigned to do.

By the time I was a child, the hay sweep was a tractor, with its transmission reversed and its seat turned around. Its big wheels were in front and its small wheels were in back. The sweep buck was mounted in front of the big wheels, and it was raised and lowered with hydraulic power. It could carry much larger loads of hay than a horse-powered sweep, and it went much faster.

A tractor pulled the load of hay to the top of the haystack. However, the tractor driver was still said to be "driving the stacker team." Maybe "stacker team" was easier to say than "stacker tractor."

Photographs in this post were taken between 1935 and 1945 by John Vachon (top-left image) and Russell Lee (the other three images) for the Farm Security Agency.

Related posts:
The Hayfield
Horse-drawn Hay Rake
Winter Memories

More images
Solomon Butcher's Nebraska images of hay equipment (stacking)

4 comments:

John Ruberry said...

I saw similar implements, horse-drawn, in Latvia in the 1990s.

Genevieve said...

I've read a couple articles lately about small (mini) farms going back to horse power because of the cost of tractors and the ever-increasing price of fuel. Those Latvian farmers may have been ahead of the times, ironically enough.

s stone said...

my parents passed away last year(2012}in one old barns still standing theres a sweep rake in good shape,wasnt sure what it was called till now.

Genevieve Netz said...

Well, we always called that machine in our hayfield a "sweep," but "sweep-rake" is the name I saw in numerous documents around the internet.

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