"14 Bales" holds onto 14 20-second shots of baled hay, alfalfa, and other livestock fodder, those enigmatic sentinels of the western prairies.
These round hay bales (or "roundies", as I like to call them) were filmed on or near US Highway 2, which loosely traces the ambitious former route of the Great Northern Railway from Minneapolis to Seattle. This railway hugs the Canadian border and was the northernmost route of its kind in the US at the time, giving it the nickname "The Hi Line". These days, you can still spot the occasional freight line or Amtrak along that route, but it's now mostly humming with the shrieks of semi-trucks long-hauling intermodal freight containers.
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."