My dad bought a Fox hay chopper in June 1947 to change the method by which we put up hay. It was to be very serendipitous in order to respond to the following disastrous climate year of 1948. The year began with a late spring, then a severe hail storm destroyed our corn when it was up about 24″ – just plowed it into the ground. It was so severe that where 60 acres of corn had stood you couldn’t see even a single blade of green.
That destroyed the sweet corn crop of 1948 effectively. The farmers decided to still gamble on getting corn picked before frost – so re-planted. However we had early frosts as well that caught the late corn before it could be picked. The farmers regrouped and decided to chop the corn for ensilage and feed it to our stock. To do that meant buying a chopper – however we already had one – and others saw it and its use and also went and bought others.
My dad’s Fox chopper was red, with a leaping fox emblem on a yellow oval background. It had a gray painted Continental gas motor – very reliable and easily powerful enough. This was a well engineered and well built machine. It had an easily used automatic sharpening device. The large tires were meant to handle our furrow irrigation “marks.”
My dad chopped our corn and dozens of other farmers between New Plymouth and Fruitland as the sweet corn matured into feed corn over the following eight weeks. It was blown into trucks like this one and hauled to sites where a deep pit had been scraped and/or bulldozed to hold it. These “ensilage pits” were about 20′ wide by as long as necessary – say 60-80 feet. The dirt was banked up making them 40-50′ deep when filled.
The trucks were backed into the pit and beds raised by hydraulics dumping like a dump truck. Then a small bulldozer or tractor with front loader spread out the ensilage. Subsequent truck loads were backed over spread out ensilage compacting it. This was repeated until the ensilage pit became a stack and we had to back up as fast as the truck was able in order to back up over the stack.
The ensilage was capped off with a layer of straw, covered with a tarp to protect and shed rain. This, in effect “composted” the ensilage, just as if it had been placed into a silo. Corn ensilage, heats, then ferments, and the product produces alcohol and composted corn stocks – which our stock really enjoyed! It took all winter to feed out that corn ensilage lasting until the following April. Such ensilage has been put into silos for past hundred years in various compositions, and becomes a superior feed grain.
This frost damaged corn was a major crop failure for farmers between New Plymouth and Fruitland. However, their ingenuity saved them from total failure. They discovered that the Fox chopper was a superior way to chop hay and put it up by blowing it into a barn or into a stack (hedged by snow fencing to keep into a round stack). From then onward, my dad always used the chopped hay rather than any other method. We made trailers specially built to blow the chopped material into that were hooked up behind the chopper – to make it a one man operation. We worked for many farmers around the county following this event. Eventually the method caught on so well that commercially built chopped ensilage trailers were built. The enclosed photo shows my dad with such a trailer in 1969 over 20 years later (using the same fox chopper). Left to right Steve, Paul, Carla, and Mike Chandler, Butte Rd, New Plymouth.