Acre-gobbling machine leaves time for golf. Craig Cook jokingly refers to his home-built 48' tedder as the tee-time tedder.

"With this machine, I can get my work done faster, so there's time left over to play golf," says Cook, an Auburn, NY, commercial hay grower.

Frustrated by the man-hours it took to cover his nearly 350 acres of alfalfa and timothy with his 25' tedder, Cook decided to design his own bigger machine last year.

"Plus, most hay tools - like rakes and tedders - don't begin to fully utilize a tractor's horsepower," he says.

He planned to build a self-propelled tedder, but eventually gave up on that idea because it was too difficult to get the unit to fold properly. Instead, Cook, along with Tim Clark, his farm manager, built a pull-behind model that folds easily for transport down country roads. They spent a year and $15,000 designing and building it. It requires 120 hp to run.

Powered by hydraulics, the tedder sits on 16 wheels - two big ones and 14 smaller ones. When folded hydraulically for transport, the machine sits on the big wheels. In this position, the tedder is 28' long and 13' wide. In the field, the small wheels float over uneven ground, following the contours of the field.

While Cook's reluctant to go into great detail about how he made the machine, he says he attached three 17'-wide tedders to a heavy-duty frame of 7 x 7" square tubing. The unit has 12 tedding "stars" - four on each section. Covering over 30 acres per hour, he used the tedder on 800 acres last summer.

"It worked like a charm," he says. "The labor supply is very tight in our area, so instead of sending two guys to the fields with two small tedders, one guy can go out with this big tedder and get the same amount of work done in less time."

Cook or one of his employees puts the new machine to work immediately after the hay is cut, tedding four 15'-wide swaths with each pass. The next day, it's tedded again. While tedding twice does cause some leaf loss in alfalfa, he says that's the best option for getting hay dried quickly in New York's humid climate.

The tedding "stars" can be operated from 300 to 600 rpms.

"Sometimes, I just want to fluff the hay a little bit, so a lower rpm is better," says Cook.

He wants to build tedders for other hay growers or sell the design to an equipment manufacturer. He can be contacted at 315-252-4016.

Cook also completed a design for a 63' tedder. His next project is to design and build a 43' rake.