Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's New at the Farm? Innovations in Farm Equipment

This week we’ll talk about my favorite things and innovations in farming equipment over the years. Among the list of my favorite things are cordless grease guns. Relatively inexpensive and extremely easy best describes the cordless grease gun. The first major improvement in greasing equipment was the grease gun. I remember growing up on the farm, my father loading grease guns from a 5-gallon pail of grease with his hands.

Then I remember what a vast improvement it was once grease gun cartridges came around; you could almost remain fairly clean while loading the guns. Grease and roofing tar are two things I just have to walk by and they get on me; perhaps I’m an attractant!

After cartridges came along the next improvement was the pistol grip grease gun; you could hold the hose on the fitting and pump grease at the same time. Next came the air powered grease gun but you needed an air supply and air hose, but a cordless grease gun is a great addition to the workshop. It’s powerful enough to dislodge old grease, supply plenty of new grease, and it can go anywhere. It’s perhaps easier to use grease so equipment will now get an adequate supply of grease.

Next comes the air compressor; how many uses can I find for this one? The answer is unlimited! There are many air tools on the market; ones that do everything from inflating tires to cutting metal to sanding and painting.

Of course the first thing that comes to mind is using it to blow air; to clean tractor air filters, radiator fins and vacuum cleaner filters. You can blow out the dust from threshers and combines, seed cleaners and milling equipment. There are air powered drills, impact wrenches, die grinders, metal shears, needle scalers and sanders. There are also cutoff tools, air hammers and chisels, ratchets, and sandblasters.

With all these tools comes the need for impact sockets, air filters and regulators, paint guns and lots of fittings and accessories that we can’t live without. The air compressor can be powered by electricity or a gasoline engine, can be portable or permanently mounted, and can be a single or dual stage. They can be put in another room and piped into the workshop eliminating some of the noise.

The biggest innovation in the last 100 years is the tractor. My father and grandfather used horses and had many tales of them, but I have always known the tractors.  Operating a vegetable farm, we employ many tractors of different makes and uses. We currently have 10. The lineup includes 5 John Deere’s, 2 Farmalls, an Allis Chalmers, a Kubota, and a Ford. Each performs best under one set of circumstances and sometimes perhaps two. Of these tractors, four are primarily used for cultivating and weed control, two are general purpose; performing everything from laying plastic to spraying, and the three largest ones are for heavy ground prep activities and snow moving in the winter.

Another great invention was the tractor cab; especially in the winter. After plowing snow for 20 plus years with our John Deere 401C (I think C stood for convertible) we now use the Kubota with the heated cab and the radio. Much better!

Along with an array of tractors comes and even wider array of equipment. And as we grow bigger we are starting to duplicate some of this equipment. One is no longer enough to satisfy our needs. Everyone wants to use certain pieces of equipment at the same time. So, we added a second transplanter last spring and we’ll duplicate more equipment as time progresses.

I don’t think anything has changed farming more than the inventing of tractors. At least nothing I can think of. There have been many other additions that certainly have made their mark, and it doesn’t take much to name some of them off, but nothing so big as the tractor. It must have been quite something when the farmer switched from horses to tractors – something I shall never feel, for I have never used horses.

Until next week, spring’s coming.

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