Hay, let’s celebrate

All images by Diane Morey Sitton.

It’s not surprising that when the holiday season rolls around, Texans think big. Whether it’s an entrance on a winding country road, the parking lot of an antique store in a small Texas town, or a community park, when the leaves begin to fall and the air becomes brisk, it’s time to crank up the tractor, load up a round hay bale, and decorate – Texas style.

Turkey trot. Turkeys come in all sizes, like this petite beauty made from natural and recycled materials. It is a former entry in a scarecrow contest at Shangri-La Botanical Gardens in Orange, Texas.
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The tradition is not new – nor is it exclusive to Texas. But regardless of when the first farmer plunked down a round bale in his pasture and gussied it up to look like a turkey, hay bale decorating has become more expressive –more creative–with each passing year. Yes, gone are the days when an inverted black tub and an orange cone precariously positioned on a round bale – snowman style – was enough to signal winter.

Double decker. When you don’t have snow to build a snowman, use hay.

Today, engineer-minded farmers stack two or three round bales atop one another to form towering figures. They combine round bales and square bales in the shapes of tractors, and they line up round bales end-to-end across hay fields to resemble gigantic earthworms. There are hay bale decorating contests and enough Internet pictures to inspire almost everyone.

Artistic expression – farmer style. This Wisconsin farmer thinks like a Texan – big and bold.
Gone camping. This scene was created in Woodville, Texas, by using some paint, some props, and a round hay bale.

So what are you waiting for? Round bales adapt especially well to designs resembling turkeys and holiday ornaments. Popular figures include Santas and snowmen. Folks fashion dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, and owls using round and square hay bales, as well.

Strutting his stuff. Reusable plywood feathers and head allow this turkey to reappear every year to the delight of passing motorists.
Transformation. Use detachable props to extend the hay bale fun as the holiday season progresses.

The best part, by using interchangeable painted plywood cutouts to form facial features and other distinctive traits (turkey feathers and snowman hats, for instance), you can use the same hay bales to extend the celebrating from one holiday to another.


How-to paint a round hay bale
Supplies: hay bale, tarp, exterior spray paint, brushes, canned paint.

Whether you want to paint a scene, symbol, or smiley face using hay as a canvas, start by first maneuvering a round bale into position. Next, place a plastic tarp on the ground around the bale to protect the grass or pavement. Apply a light coat of exterior spray paint, wait 15-20 minutes, then apply a second coat. Repeat as necessary. Apply details with a paint brush and canned paint.

Allow the paint to dry before adding plywood cutouts, i.e., hats, wings, feathers, ears. Use fabric, plastic flowers, buckets, and branches as props.

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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