Hay Bales are the largest public land art project of the 21st century, despite having entirely escaped the view of art historians. My visual research into this overlooked art movement is ongoing and has formed the basis of a variety of projects.Although many types of vegetation can be baled, the most commonly baled is hay, which feeds different types of livestock. Round hay bales also don't travel on semi trailers very well, since each roundie is 5 feet in diameter, and a two-roundie wide trailer load (120 inches) is just a little too big for the interstate (which has a standard width limit of 102 inches for semi-trailer loads). As such, round hay bales often baled and consumed at the large farms that are becoming more common in the Dakotas and middle west, some of them over 1,000 acres. This is in contrast to the square hay bale, which is typically baled for export to global markets (mostly China and Brazil), and stacks on a semi trailer quite nicely.
Round hay baling machinery is typically only useful on a large-scale farming operation, given that the horsepower required to run one of the round hay-balers is quite high. A small tractor can't pull a baler that produces round hay bales, and thus, the presence of roundies indicates a massive agricultural economy of scale. Nowadays, while noting and enjoying their plump pastoral roundness, I consider the western landscape of grids, power, logistics, property, standardization, production, and intermodality, all of which have shaped the terrain and economics of the American interior, for better or worse.
When I was a kid growing up in Minnesota, my favorite roundies were the ones that sat buried in snow, gently peering at me from their fielded resting spots, like shredded wheat islands in a big bowl of milk.