For a while, many years ago, we had also tried the system described by Newman Turner (one of the post-war pioneers of organic agriculture) in “Fertility Pastures and Cover Crops” Note.
The size of tripods used by Turner accommodate three to four times as much weight as our racks. It also, of course, necessitates more consolidating of the hay to one site, which, if done by hand, takes considerable time. For in-field curing on farms that do not use tractor- or horse-powered buckrakes, I would therefore suggest building the tripods smaller (starting with five- to six-foot uprights, for instance).
Alternately, set up the large tripods near the barn and bring the hay to then on a wagon, pick-up truck or a hand cart, which is what we sometimes did. Our chief reason for settling on the presently used racks is that they are easier to move to the various fields on the farm and to store for the winter.
Below, in the form of excerpts we selected from his book, are some guidelines:
We started with straight 7-8 ft. larch or Douglas-fir poles, making the tripods ourselves, linking them at one end with wire so that they fold together when not in use. When erected upright, we fixed similar, but lighter, horizontal poles, resting about a foot from the ground across the base of each tripod leg. A triangle of wire goes around half-way up to keep the hay out of the center. This forms the shell of the tripod hut upon which we build the hay. We found, however, that it was much cheaper to buy the ready-made tripods and get the expert instruction of the patentees of the original system. With experienced tripod haymaking it is easy to produce a higher-protein fodder no better than with any other system, including grass drying; but if the tripods are built badly, it is easier still to produce fodder no better than farmyard manure and even less palatable.
Each day we cut with the mower as much grass as we can put on tripods the next day; the quantity depends on the number of men available. Two experienced men can build a tripod hut, holding about 5 cwt. of hay, in about twenty minutes. This means that four men, with the aid of a sweep or a buckrake to bring the hay to the tripod, can build at a rate of about 30 cwt. an hour. Allowing for stoppages, four men building tripods, with another man sweeping in the hay, will make a two-ton-an-acre crop at the rate of about five acres a day.
It is important to follow the mower immediately with the type of kick tedder which throws the grass into the air and lets it fall lightly to the ground to wilt. With of a crop of about 30 cwt. an acre, what is cut in the morning, provided it is immediately loaded and the weather is good, can be put on to the tripods in the afternoon or evening. But a two-ton an acre, or heavier crop, is best left until the following day before being put on the tripods. Deciding when it is ready to go on the tripods does not require as much experience or skill as deciding when hay, under orthodox systems, is ready to bale or to stack. If it has no external moisture, green wilted grass may usually be put on the tripods within 18-24 hours after cutting, with no risk of damage at all if it is not too tightly built. An experienced tripodder will start to build much sooner than that.
The aim in building the hut is to get a conical funnel internally, with a thin shell of hay as vertical as possible on the outside. The first “shelf” or foundation of grass is laid on the horizontal poles or triangular wire which form a ledge a foot or so from the base of the tripod. The wall of hay is built up on that, placing the grass on as lightly and loosely as possible. Start by hand, and then throw each small forkful gently on to the shelf, moving round and round as the hut grows. If you have been used to building stacks you’ll find it hard to avoid the temptation to pat it down. But you must allow as much air as possible to get in; build so lightly that the hay virtually sits on air. The center of the tripod must be kept hollow throughout the building operation until the hay has reached about one foot above the apex of the tripod; then, a large round forkful is dropped on, to round off and ‘waterproof’ the top. Tie it down with twine, tying it over the top from the base of one leg to the base of another, if it is likely to be windy.
Once on the tripods the hay is safe for as long as it needs to be left there.
Note: Newman Turner, Fertility Pastures and Cover Crops based on nature’s own balanced organic pasture feeds. London: Faber and Faber, 1955, 2nd, ed. rev. Pauma Valley, CA: Bargyla and Gylver Rateaver, 1975.