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Calling all innovative farmers!

Do you have a nifty way to make farming easier, more profitable or enjoyable? If so, we want to hear about it!

Eric, the elevator engineer from Spain who was spending a few months?working on our farm, didn’t like the people gate in our barn. The gate?led from the hay storage area to the sheep feeders. Every time Eric?carried a bale through to the waiting ewes, he had to struggle to latch?the gate before the sheep escaped. So he pilfered a long spring from?somewhere, attached one end to the middle of the gate with a fencing?staple, and the other end to the gate post. Every time he pushed through?the gate, the spring tightened and snapped the gate shut behind him.

We had lived with the awkward gate forever, but as soon as Eric?had worked his little bit of engineering magic, we wondered why we?hadn’t done something long ago. It was a modestly creative solution to a?problem that has made feeding time at the farm so much less irritating.?Another farm worker didn’t like wading into the pond to clear?the intake for the irrigation pump, so he took a dozen empty 5 gallon?buckets and attached them, bottoms first, to a half sheet of plywood?cut lengthwise. Then he pounded the lids on the buckets and lowered?the whole thing into the pond and secured it to shore with ropes. The?buckets provided flotation, the plywood was the deck—voila, no more?wading into the pond.

I’m not sure what I enjoy more about these kind of innovations—their practical benefit to us, or witnessing creative thought in action.?Whatever it is, a farm and farmhouse are full of opportunities for?labour- and time-saving devices.

A few other small ideas that have made a big difference on our farm:

–equipping each vehicle with a small canvas tool kit. Stocked with?hammer, pliers, crescent wrench as well as screws and nails, these kits?can deal with all but the most serious fencing/mechanical problems;

–a large plywood box to keep rats out of supplies. No matter?vigorous a trapping program, barns are still going to have rat problems?sometimes. This simple 4 ft x 4 ft box keeps vermin away from feed?supplements, veterinary supplies etc.

I’d like to hear from readers about the inventions/innovations?they’ve made to their farm. They don’t have to be large or particularly?unique (for example, one of the best things I did in the last year was?start packing a box cutter instead of a jackknife—the box cutter is?cheaper, easier to find if you set it down and, unlike a jackknife, can be?operated with one hand).

I know there are lots of great ideas out there, so let’s hear about?them!?Send your ideas, big and? small, along with images (if applicable), to?me. We’ll print the ones we think our?readers will enjoy. As an incentive, we’ll pay $100 each issue for the idea?that we think has special merit.

Just rewards. . .

The work of Small Farm Canada? contributors Ray Ford and Dan Needles?was recognized at the recent Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation annual?awards. Ray received gold in the technical features category for, “Do you?need a gun on your farm?” (Nov/Dec 2012), and Dan received silver for?his column, “Time isn’t money” (Jan/Feb 2013).