n. A bundle or package of goods in a cloth cover, and corded for carriage or transportation. v.t. To make up in a bale. — Webster, 1882
A bale of hay weighs 300 pounds. Or not. At the time of Farmer Boy, the average weight of a bale of hay was said to be 300 pounds, but this could vary greatly depending on moisture, quality, and how tightly the hay was packed, and weight could also vary depending on the type of baler that was used. In Farmer Boy, the bales of hay that James Wilder could lift easily were said to weigh 250 pounds. In the days before twine or wire was used to bale hay, ash withes were used to contain the packed hay (see Chapter 28, “Mr. Thompson’s Pocketbook”).
In England, a truss of hay weighed 60 pounds if new hay, or 56 pounds if old hay. A truss of straw was 40 pounds. A load of hay was 36 trusses. In America, a load was whatever it happened to weigh, and there were no set number of bales that comprised a load. A ton (or tun) of hay was either 2000 pounds or 2,240 pounds, depending on local custom. A cube of hay in the mow, 10 feet square, was said to weigh a ton.
To estimate the weight of hay in a mow or stack: RULE. For hay in the mow, multiply the contents in cubic feet by 4 for clover, or by 5 for timothy. In a well-settled stack, multiply the contents by 7 for clover, or by 9 for timothy hay, and the product will be the weight in pounds. Here are some arithmetic problems Almanzo Wilder might have had to solve as a boy, and would need to know as a farmer: — Samuel Mecutchen and George Mornton Sayre, The New American Arithmetic (Philadephia: J.H. Butler & Co., 1867): 135.
1. How many pounds of clover in a mow 25x20x8 feet?
2. How many pounds of clover hay in a stack which is equal in volume to a cube 12 feet on a side?
3. How many pounds of timothy hay in a well-settled conical stack, 8 feet in diameter and 6 feet in height?
4. How many pounds of hay in a bale which measures 3-1/2 x 2-1/2 x 1-1.4 feet, if a cubic foot weighs 17 pounds?
5. The dimensions of a hay-mow are 30 feet in length, 15 feet in width, and 12 feet in height; how many tons of clover hay will it hold?
Modern baling equipment used today has enabled the farmer and consumer options other than the smaller and larger bales handled by one person. Wheels of hay and huge rectangular bales can weigh 1500 to 2000 pounds, and are moved by specialized equipment or fork lifts.
(FB 12, 28), see also hay, ash withe
“brought [the hay] one bale [sic] at a time, in my teeth” (error in TLW 18, many editions; should read blade)
hay-baler (FB 28), see also railroad press