Many young homesteaders are embracing old technologies wholeheartedly as they learn about producing their own food. Unfortunately, this noble pursuit can be very physically demanding, and decreased efficiency spells poor results. The thing about working really hard, and never quite accomplishing your goals is it tends to have a demoralizing effect. The commitment to ‘the old ways’ has lead to many an aspiring farmer’s burn out. While we ourselves utilize many hand tools, and employ our animals to accomplish as much work as we can, I am a firm believer in implementing smart, simple modern technologies. I’ve tried to select tools that have a big bang for their buck, and will save you time every day.
- Sprinklers/Timers – I have this issue. . . Every summer, I get the garden all cleared, plants in the ground, I even keep it weeded for the first couple of months. But I SUCK at watering things. I’d say I’m in recovery now, but in the past I have SUCKED at it. Especially given that our garden is kind of inconveniently situated. Inconsistent watering results in slow growth rates, stressed plants, cracked tomatoes and poor yields. Setting up a sprinkler or drip irrigation is a great first step, as it is much easier to remember to turn on a hose than to hand water the whole garden, but I still have a bad habit of forgetting to turn the sprinkler on on the most inopportune nights. Timers allow for precise control of how much water your garden gets every day, which also prevents waste on those days that you may forget to turn the sprinkler off.
2. Float Valves – While a float valve is extremely convenient for keeping stock watered, it is no replacement for good herdsmanship. Animals should be checked on schedule regardless of the presence of a float valve, as these kinds of things can easily fail leaving your stock high and dry. The benefit is that it takes much less time to glance at the trough to confirm that it is full than it does to stand around waiting for it to fill, and the vast majority of the time, it keeps your animals from ever having to see the dry bottom of the trough. Another great place to implement float valves is in a gravity fed automatic watering systems for a rabbitry or for chickens.
3. Solar Fence Charger – For those of you who own your own property, and have the ability to immediately set up permanent fences, you can go ahead and replace this one with a plug in fence charger. Electrical fence is great for protecting more permanent fences and structures from pushy animals, and it also allows you to set up temporary or semi-permanent fences while you save up, plan for and build your permanent fence lines. For our purposes, even on our own property, we can never have enough solar chargers it seems. It is so convenient to be able to walk out to a paddock that hasn’t been used in a while, herd some sheep or cows into it and just clip the charger on and flip the switch. Sure it isn’t as powerful and sure fire as a traditional charger, but it generally gets the job done and offers so much flexibility in pasture management. Most of the summer our flock is on a lease property, and we don’t have easy access to electricity to run the fences, so this is where the solar charger really shines.
4. Electronet – A few years back we bought a few lengths of this fencing, and while it sort of worked, it was pretty darn difficult to deal with. In the last few years however Premier one has made some great improvements to their products that make them really nice to work with and simple to set up. The hard plastic vertical stays keep it from sagging, and the version with lighter weight posts is much more comfortable to carry to remote paddocks. We now run six 164′ lengths to contain our sheep, and it has opened up so much unused ground for grazing. Another handy use for this technology is the ability to set up small holding pens, or place your animals temporarily in areas that need clearing.
5. Barn Cameras – There are lots of options for surveillance cameras out there, and I don’t feel that I have experience with enough of them to make recommendation, I just know that they are great. We set up a movable camera with night vision and wifi capability (borrowed from a kind family member) for lambing season this year, and it was AMAZING. I was a couple of months pregnant at this point, feeling sick, and TIRED, so having this camera set up was a life saver. In the past I usually get up every 2 hours all night every night during lambing season, and by the end of those weeks my immune system is shot. This year I simply woke up every 2 hours, rolled over, scanned the lambing shed with the camera looking for any signs of labor, and if nothing was happening I just went back to sleep. If anything looked even a little suspicious I would head out to the barn to check in person. While I’m sure the risk of missing something is slightly higher with a camera, the risk of sleeping through alarms and missing entire checks is much lower. I fully intend to use a camera in the future in combination with live checks, even after I’m done being pregnant and exhausted.
What cool pieces of technology have you discovered that save time on your farm? I would love to read about them in the comment section below; there’s never enough time on the farm to get stuff done!