Photos of readers

I’ve resumed posting photos of readers; please send one or two in, preferably with you doing something characteristic or interesting, and certainly with a description. Photos of you with your pet are welcome.

Today we have reader Max Blanke baling hay on his Colorado farms (I think this is our first picture of a reader on the farm). His notes are indented:

I took this image in early September, right after baling the last of this year’s hay. I am not one for selfies. I probably take two per decade.

This is one of our hay fields. The ranch is mostly in southern Colorado, but one corner extends into New Mexico. We grow the hay on flat flood plains of 35 to maybe 200 acres each alongside the river. This image shows a medium sized, late model tractor. Kubota seems to be popular these days. They are pretty reliable and can be fixed right here, by us.

I set the camera on a small bale and took the shot. The baler is older than I am. It makes small 75 pound bales wrapped with wire.Those little bales are good for people who might have limited livestock. They’re easy to carry and stack. We also do the big round rolls. Those are a commercial product.

I enjoy my summers here. The view is always wonderful. The work is hard, and trying to plan it efficiently is mentally engaging, as are repairs when things break. My real job is working with a big shipping company. I serve aboard ships as Chief Officer, and do a lot of security for our fleet’s ships and other facilities, mainly in the middle east and Asia.

Anyway- Here is Max and tractor:




  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 19, 2020 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Very nice. Looks like the bales have all gone to the barn. Must be an International baler. That has to be old.

    I use to help my uncle put up hay in the hot Iowa summer during high school years. Not my favorite job. The hay wagon hooks on behind the baler so you stack the wagon full while you run the baler.

  2. rickflick
    Posted January 19, 2020 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Very cool.

  3. Janet
    Posted January 19, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    It looks like your hay farming is a nice respite from your life at sea, which probably entails things you can’t tell us or you’d have to kill us.

  4. Janet
    Posted January 19, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    It looks like your hay farming is a nice respite from your life at sea, which probably entails things you can’t tell us or you’d have to kill us.

  5. Mark R.
    Posted January 19, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve owned two kubota tractors (the smaller ones) and a zero-turn mower. The mower is now 13 years old and I’ve never had a problem with it (or the tractors); though I do keep good care of them and get regular maintenance, etc. I’m no where near a mechanic myself.

    Southern Colorado is a beautiful part of the country…clean air and clear for miles.

    • Don Mackay
      Posted January 19, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      I can’t believe that the bales are wrapped in wire. Our small bales are held together with ‘twine'(ie in NZ). I would think that wire would do serious damage to hands on the pick-up. Twine is bad enough. A pity a photo of one of Max’s ships was not included. Maybe next time.

      • notsecurelyanchored
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        What? You have no baling wire in NZ? How do you fix things without baling wire?

        • Don Mackay
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

          We fix things in NZ using No.8 fencing wire. It is what we are famous for here. No man- shed worth its salt would be without a roll of No.8 wire. I have been using twine to tie up my tomatoes and a cover to protect my car from the sun….etc…

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Yes, there were some who used wire on the bales. I never saw any done with wire but there were some. Not many baling anymore with the small balers like this one. Everything is the big round bales. Takes all the labor out of it.

        • phoffman56
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

          I’ve a tiny little Kubota BX23, subcompact. But it’s real, not a make-believe lawn tractor, with FEL (front end loader), etc. Just cleared 35 cm deep of snow off a 300 metre driveway. That diesel never fails, though I’d forgotten winter fuel conditioner with recent mild weather, so it got feeble for a minute till I remembered.

          Are you near Mesa Verde? I’ve been there at that corner, but not much east in south Colorado.

          Nice pic; blue sky no surprise there.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

            I thought you were probably wanting to hear from Max. If I had to guess, that Kubota in the photo is probably around 60 hp maybe a little more. Kubota does not make big tractors as yet. I think they stay with hydrostatic drive witch does not work much past 80 hp.

            I use to have lots of grass to mow and had a big Kubota mower. The model I think was F3060 with a 30 hp 4 cyl. engine diesel and a 6 foot wide cut. It was a mowing machine but very expensive, around $20,000.

            • phoffman56
              Posted January 19, 2020 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

              As apologized for, I’d intended mine as a general reply; but thanks for yours.

              The BX23 is of course 23HP; I got a good buy, and everything’s 4 feet wide, FEL, mower, and stuff I attach at the back except the plow, 6 I think, but 5 tilting, and except for a sort of ‘comb’ (can’t remember the name) for smoothing gravel, cleaning up branches etc., and some gardening soil work.

              It was supposed to save shovelling snow as my age approached 99, and cut grass. But it’s turned out to be extraordinarily useful, digging postholes, chipping up small and big branches, shifting heavy stuff, making a second property entrance, etc. Lots of stuff I never would have considered doing if I had to pay somebody else or sweat profusely with hand tools.

              With all the attachments for the 3 point, it’s probably over $27,000 CDN by now, so over the $20,000 US of yours. Our canadian TSC has some good online sales, otherwise it would have been much more for those attachments.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

                Yes, they do make lots of attachments for those things. I had a snow blower but seldom had enough snow for it. Also, most of our road was gravel and snowblowers are really not much good on a gravel road.

            • Mark R.
              Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

              True, but check out what’s coming out Spring 2020!


            • max blancke
              Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

              I think you are right. I am not 100%, but I think that one is a 60hp l5460.
              We can’t use huge, giant tractors, because we have lots of small fields spread out over a really big area. In between, there are creeks, mountains, and narrow rock roads. And everything has to be 4wd.
              We do around 3K of the small bales every year. Some are from smaller fields, others are from margins in the larger fields where the big baler cannot get to. That baler folds sort of diagonally, so it can fit through a 10 foot gap.
              That baler is from about 1961. It was made when wire was the norm, and wire is still available in some places. The timing on the baler is fairly complicated, and sometimes you end up with compressed, unbaled hay coming out the back, and a big tangle of wire in the works. You learn how to deal with it. This summer I was probably averaging 400 bales between faults, which is acceptable.
              And the baler makes a very satisfying series of mechanical noises.

          • max blancke
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

            Mesa Verde is a little over an hour away.

      • Posted January 19, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Twine balers generally replaced wire in the 1970’s. And Max needs an H or an M to go with the International baler!!

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

          There will be some out there who do not know what you are talking about H or M? Those are old tractors.

          • Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

            That was kinda the point 🙂 In northern Indiana it was generally Inernatiomal versus John Deere. We had IH and I wish I still had our Cub.

        • max blancke
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

          The main advantage of a modern tractor is the ability to use hydraulic attachments on the front and rear. I can stick a backhoe on the back, and a hydraulic post pounder on the front. I also have a giant hydraulic rock grapple, similar to this-

          For most work, the limiting factor on this tractor is the weight of the tractor itself. It has the energy to pick up that giant rock, but the back of the tractor keeps raising up into the air. I have a big box scraper with a bunch of big rocks chained to it, which I use as a counterweight.

          Old tractors are aesthetically pleasing, but just not capable of keeping up with our daily needs. I do, however, still use an IH rake of the same vintage as the baler.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

            I was going to ask, kind of late now, if your hay business is a money crop. I expect it might be as you talked about the size of the fields. If your Kabota is hydrostatic drive, that is a nice thing to have for a baler. For mowing these days it is the only way to go. Normally in Iowa they get three cuttings a season on the alfalfa but four if there is a lot of rain.

            • max blancke
              Posted January 19, 2020 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

              Most of what we bale goes to Wyoming or to local places at lower elevations with less water. The small bales tend to go to people with horses.
              It is not a huge money maker, but it is fairly reliable, as we get plenty of water. Even so, we get two cuttings at most. Those fields are all at 8500 ft altitude and up, so the season is short.
              We also have some guided fishing on the river.

              But nobody is ever going to get rich doing agriculture of any sort up there.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted January 20, 2020 at 7:32 am | Permalink

                Thanks. Reminds me of an old joke. The farmer won a million bucks in the lottery and was asked what he would do. Probably just keep farming until it runs out.

          • Posted January 20, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

            Certainly agree with aesthetics versus functionality. Restored tractors are rather like restored autos – great to look at but not too practical for daily use.

            • max blancke
              Posted January 20, 2020 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

              I have the old car bug as well. A couple of them still have the stock look, but new engines, power steering, and even air conditioning.
              My Dad has had a 1936 Ford as his primary daily driver for over 60 years. It has had three different colors, interiors and engines.

              My suggestion is, if you want to do old cars or motorcycles, have several. That way, you can always have one in the shop being repaired.

              I had forgotten, but this summer I had a major component breakage on the pictured baler. It was not a part that could be purchased, so we ended up uncovering a long-abandoned baler of similar vintage that Dad remembered seeing parked on another farm many years ago. We were able to pull the part we needed, and get back to work the next day. I guess that is where we are at with this kind of equipment. Either fabricate the parts or find them buried in the weeds somewhere.

              • Posted January 20, 2020 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

                It sure seems to me that if one takes US 50 east out of Pueblo and head toward Kansas, there acres of old farm equipment that would likely yield any part one was looking for.

  6. phoffman56
    Posted January 19, 2020 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    oops–last should have been way over to the left like this.

  7. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted January 19, 2020 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Have you ever docked in Melbourne or anywhere in Austalia?

    I worked on the docks for many years and interacted with many Cheif Officers.

    No Americans that I remember though.

    All container ships.

    • max blancke
      Posted January 19, 2020 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      I actually was in Darwin briefly in 2004, I think, after recovery operations from the tsunami. But mostly we stay north and go through Singapore.
      I really hope that I will get to spend time there someday.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted January 20, 2020 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        Me too re US.

  8. Dominic
    Posted January 20, 2020 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    Max Tractor – surely a make-up brand?! 😉

    • Hempenstein
      Posted January 20, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      “Smells like freshly-mown hay.”

  9. Hempenstein
    Posted January 20, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Nice to see a tractor discussion here. I’m scheduled to get a 1950 Ford 8N with rear mower from an old pal come spring. Currently working on a garage for it.

  10. Posted January 20, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I guess I have a lot to learn – I do not associate Colorado with farms! I suppose I should, given its relationship to Alberta, but …

    • Posted January 21, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      About one half of the acreage of Colorado is agricultural and ag is at or close to the top in economic contribution. The downside – agriculture slurps up close to 90% of water use in Colorado.

      • Dominic
        Posted January 22, 2020 at 3:22 am | Permalink

        Wow… in a dry state!

        • Posted January 22, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          Dominic – I would argue that Colorado is anything but a dry state! We do have alcohol. More seriously, “Colorado is a headwaters state and the origin of four major river basins, or watersheds — areas of land that drain through small streams (tributaries) to a common point (main-stem river). Colorado’s basins include the Platte (northern Front Range), the Arkansas (southern Front Range), the Rio Grande (southern Colorado), and the Colorado (western Colorado). Together, these rivers supply water to 17 downstream states and two countries — the United States and Mexico.” This taken from a very nice article here: If we kept all of the precipitation that fell in Colorado, the state would prosper immensely and the down river states would dry up. Damn prior appropriations 🙂

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