The importance of a new three-tined hay pitchfork might be lost on some, but not to most folks who’ve spent any amount of time around a farm.
We bought such a fork the other day from one of the area’s farm-supply stores; I’ve had to be reminded to leave it in the barn or machine shed since it arrived at our little farm. It’s one of the three-tined hay forks, the style used in days of yore to move loose hay or straw and certainly a staple among threshing crews.
It’s a beautiful, artistic and functional piece of equipment.
Three long and simple tines with a slight forward curve.
A good and sturdy wooden handle of good length.
Solid reinforcement at the base of the handle, metal-wrapped to assure the tine-connection doesn’t break through the wood with heavy loads.
I truthfully can’t remember ever buying a new pitchfork and can recall holding only a couple at any time in my somewhat long life around farms. There always seemed to be a well-worn pitchfork to use, and even when I’ve purchased them, they’ve been scrounged from farm-auctions or other sales of used equipment.
Perhaps my grandfather or father bought a new pitchfork or two during my first 18 years on our family’s farm over at Veefkind. I don’t remember the forks there being new, if that was the case. I recall new barn-alley scrapers, new manure shovels, new silage forks, a new haylage fork and even a new manure fork. But I simply can’t remember a new pitchfork being part of the operation.
The old-timers would be chuckling at my excitement about a new pitchfork – of that, I’m certain. Their voices, even those of the long-departed, echo in my mind about how having such a beautiful new pitchfork in my hands makes about as much sense as teats on a boar pig.
There’s no threshing in my future, they’d say; there’s no loose hay or straw to fork from a wagon and into the mow or out of the mow and into the cows; there isn’t even a need to fork chunks of small bales up and down mangers.
The truth is that there really isn’t a desperate need for a new pitchfork our little farm on Eimon Ridge, where there once had been full requirements of the oldtimers’ needs of owning a new pitchfork. But the other day I looked at the pile of long and stringy twigs piled beneath our farm’s grand old willow and realized that a pitchfork would be the best tool for managing them.
A pitchfork could be a handy tool for the willow twigs, I surmised, but there likely should be other rationale for spending the time and money on something so important as a pitchfork. Reminiscing and essays about such a tool wouldn’t suffice; more important reasons would be needed.
And then, I looked up to the shed where we store large round hay-bales for the resident beef cattle and horses. I remembered that the shed’s floor always is covered with upwards of a foot of loose hay, and that I’d long meant to get that old hay out of the way.
The new pitchfork would work grandly in removing that loose shed-hay and would add to my excuse use some of the hay as mulch for my gardens.
And then, I looked to our small barn, which for several years had housed my small herd of brood-sows and feeder-pigs. Maybe, I thought, I could convince my wife that having a new pitchfork would mean that I should build another herd of hogs – my rationale being that the fork would be used to manage the hogs’ bedding materials.
A sheep or two could possibly arrive in the barn to make that fork’s presence even more worthwhile, I thought.
However, my mind returned to the realities that I most likely would never have the barn again filled with hogs or any new sheep. I’d have to instead depend on that old tree, the old hay in the shed and the love of my gardens as the most basic reasons for having that new fork.
There’s a chance, of course, that a soul really doesn’t need too many reasons for owning a new pitchfork. It’s a tool like the jackknives so many old farm folks carry around in our pockets: Many reasons are found to have it because it’s available.
Few things are more frustrating than not having a jackknife when it’s needed; few things are more frustrating than not having a pitchfork when it’s needed.
Those truths hold true even when similar tools are at-hand. A job that calls
for a jackknife usually can’t be done as well with a crosscut saw; a job that calls for a good three-tined hay pitchfork can’t be done as well with a manure fork.
There’s no doubt many chores will be found for my new pitchfork.
I’ll even promise to keep it in the barn or shed and not take it into the house.
— Scott Schultz