An Informal Experiment in Keeping Tanks Thawed

Continuing with the theme of reducing time outside and preventing water tank problems over the winter, here is a video by Our Wyoming Life showing an informal experiment using different equipment and methods to keep tanks thawed. The experiment includes minimizing cost and maximizing thawing so you might find some helpful hints to save money. Having do deal with frozen tanks can be a major hazard in winter. You have to deal with cold exposure, trying to break ice while standing on ice, and trying to fix electrical equipment when your mobility is limited due to the cold and extra clothing. The less tank maintenance you need to do over the winter, the better. I also appreciate all of the safety equipment you can see in the background of the video; ATV helmets in the truck, cargo straps, fenced off electrical equipment, and overall cleanliness and organization. They seem to have a lot of neat videos so I’m going to binge watch a bunch of them and see what else I can pick out that would help with safety and prevention.

Video: Winter Cattle Care

Thought I’d share this video by the Nebraska extension on caring for cattle during the winter. Most of the video is about keeping cattle comfortable and well-fed over the winter, but a lot of strategies that are good for cattle are good for the farmer too. Planning ahead and dealing with any infrastructure problems before the really cold weather hits reduces the likelihood of having to deal with an emergency when the weather is awful. Some preventative maintenance on water heaters, pipes/hoses, fences, gates, feed systems, and light fixtures can prevent problems later on, and it is important to deal with any mud or standing water before it freezes. You can also think about moving feeders around to make them as easy to access as possible over the winter. The more you can take a preventative approach, the more problems you’ll be able to avoid.

Preparing for another bomb cyclone in the Midwest

I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather and it sounds like much of the Midwest might get another bomb cyclone in the next few days. Depending on where you live this could mean snow, freezing rain, or thunderstorms with high winds a lot of precipitation. This couldn’t have come at a worse time since we’re well into calving seasons and wanting to start planning.

The article I’m sharing today is from Beef Magazine, and it gives some tips on being prepared for the bad weather. High on the list is doing as much work in advance as you can to get cows who are about due to calve moved and doing as much feed prep as you are able to. Minimizing the amount of time spent outside when the weather is bad is the best approach, so if you’re in the path of the storm, try to get as much advanced preparation in as you can. For those who are getting snow and ice, also make sure that you have sand and salt ready for walkways. There were a number of reports of people being injured by falling on ice added to the database over the winter and a few minutes of salting/sanding can make a big difference in preventing falls. This might also be a good time to have a check-in plan in place so that something goes wrong out in the field and you’re not able to call for help other people know that there is a problem and come find you sooner rather than later. Make sure at least one other person knows where you will be working and when you expect to check in, and be sure to contact that person if your plan changes. Stay safe out there!

Here is the original article from Beef Magazine:

Product review: Warmfit rechargeable heated insoles

Several members of my family got Warmfit rechargeable heated insoles for Christmas and used them during the extreme cold this week so I thought I would write a quick product review based on their report.  At around $60 they were a bit of an investment, although their price is sort of mid-range for reusable heated insoles. The initial consensus seems to be that they do a good job of keeping your feet warm and if they hold up as well over time as they’re supposed to they were worth the price.

Overall, the insoles performed well even in extremely cold temperatures. Here is a quick summary of some of the feedback I got:

  • The insoles were warm but not too warm. The level of heat wasn’t noticeably warm, like wearing socks just out of the dryer or using one of those single-use heat packs, but they kept your feet at a comfortable room temperature even in extreme cold, and it made it so that you didn’t have to go in part way through cores to thaw out your feet.
  • The fact that they don’t get too warm might make this a good product for people with circulation issues whose feet get cold even on relatively warmer days.  Sometimes the single-use ones can be too much on days that are warmer so that you end up having to choose between cold feet and sweaty feet, but these are a nice medium.
  • The overall fit was really good.  The size ranges listed on the packages were accurate, and it was easy to trim off a little to fit smaller sizes within the listed range
  • The comfort level was good. Sometimes when you buy insoles, they’re too thick and cause your shoes to not fit properly.  These were thin enough that the fit wasn’t effected.  They also stayed in place really well while performing a wide variety of activities

The main limitation so far seems to be the battery life.  They only stayed warm for 5-6 hours, and the tendency was for one insole to run out of battery slightly before the other.  If you wanted to use these for a longer work day, you would need to consider buying at least 2 pair and switching in the middle of the day.

Another question that remains is how well they hold up over time.  Wearing them for a few days during the extreme cold worked out well, but it hasn’t been long enough to know how they will hold up with extensive use  or if they will continue to work well from year to year.

If you want to try them out yourself, they sell mainly through Amazon. (here is a link to the item page) Their Amazon reviews seem mostly positive too.  Might be worth trying out if you have a hard time keeping your feet warm.

Preparing for extreme cold

With much of the Midwest expecting extreme cold this week, I though I would re-post some tips for dealing with cold weather.  Click here for some general tips on working in extreme cold

In addition to these general guidelines, there are a couple of extra things to think about specific to farming:

As much as you can, try to prepare for the cold ahead of time to minimize how much time you have to spend outside. Make sure that animals have warm bedding before the cold hits, prepare extra feed, and take care of any urgent work before it gets dangerously cold.  A lot of times you can’t avoid going out completely, but cutting down your exposure by even a few minutes or hours by doing extra prep work now can be a big help.  Along similar lines, make sure that you have snow cleared and that everything is salted/sanded beforehand.  There tends to not be as much snow when it gets super cold, so you might even be able to get away with not shoveling or sanding if you have everything set up beforehand.

Also be careful if you’re using space heaters for shops and barns, especially if this will be the first time you’re using them this year.  Click here for some propane heater safety tips and here for electric space heater safety.

Hands and feet are particularly vulnerable to the cold.  This is especially true if your boots aren’t big enough to accommodate multiple pair of socks.  I’ve actually had good luck buying a second pair of work boots specifically for winter that are a size or two bigger than what I normally wear and wearing 2 or 3 pair of wool socks in them. I also layer my regular gloves with a pair of larger size fleece lined mittens.  Also there are a wide assortment single-use and reusable heated liners available to put in shoes and in gloves.  I’ve never tried the rechargeable ones, but I’ve used to use the single-use ones  and they seemed to help a lot.

Finally, consider taking breaks to thaw out while you’re working, and move to somewhere heated, especially if you’re experiencing shivering, fatigue, or numbness in your face or extremities . It’s better for a job to take longer than usual or be less efficient than usual than it is to end up with hypothermia or frostbite. Stay safe out there!

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Winter farm safety tips from the Maine extension office

Here is a link to a list of winter safety tips from the University of Maine extension office.  A lot of these are good advice for anyone going out in winter weather, not just farmers.  Be sure to stay warm and hydrated, make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you expect to be back, and watch out for slippery spots!

Click here to see article

For me, keeping surfaces clear of ice and well sanded/salted is my number one winter safety tip.  So many things that my family and neighbors encounter this time of year basically boil down to slipping and hitting something on the way down.  Keeping up with shoveling and salting can be annoying, but it seems like almost every year there are multiple injuries just in the group of people I know that would have been prevented by putting down some sand.

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National Fire Protection Association: Put the Freeze on Winter Fires

Here is an article and video from the National Fire Protection Association with some tips on preventing winter fires. A lot of the information focuses on hazards in the home; fireplaces, space heaters, candles, decorations….however many of these tips apply to the farm too. If you’re using space heaters in the barn or shop, make sure they’re at least 3 feet away from anything flammable. Don’t leave anything with an open flame or exposed heating coils unsupervised and make sure all of your equipment is functioning properly at the beginning of the season.

Carbon monoxide is another hazard associated with open flame. I know someone who narrowly escaped carbon monoxide poisoning from running a propane space heater in his garage.  Fireplaces can also create a carbon monoxide hazard if they’re not properly maintained.  If you’re regularly using a heat source that burns fuel (wood, propane, gas, etc) it might be worthwhile to get an extra carbon monoxide detector.   Sometimes fire departments, park districts, homeowners associations, and other groups offer free detectors so you might be able to pick up one for free if you check around.

Also be careful of holiday decorations indoors and out.  The number of fires in the US peaks on December 25th, December 31st and January 1st, and holiday decorations are often to blame!

Click here to see the full article



Hauling horses (or whatever else) in winter

Here is an article from Equisearch with some tips on transporting horses during the winter.  These tips are great for transporting other animals too, and for hauling trailers during the winter.  In icy conditions, it’s especially important to make sure that you’re visible to other vehicles. Make sure that all of your light are working and that decals and slow moving vehicle signs are in good shape.  Icy roads also make it more difficult to get moving and to stop. Make sure your tires and brakes are in top shape, and carry tire chains just in case.  Finally, make sure that human and animal passengers have enough food, water, and insulation to handle a breakdown.

Click here to see the full article

Invest in quality tires for your entire rig. Check tire pressure before every trip; comply with the manufacturer. Photo by CLIXPHOTO.CAInvest in quality tires for your entire rig. Check tire pressure before every trip; comply with the manufacturer. Photo by CLIXPHOTO.CAImage result for horse safety winter

Winter Weather Hazards: Slips, Trips and Falls

I think pretty much everyone has had the experience of slipping and falling on ice.  When I did my pilot study for this project, at least 5 of the 27 injury reports I collected had to do with slipping on ice or snow. Slipping on icy surfaces can be more dangerous on the farm than it is in other places.  If you combine a slip on the ice with carrying heavy loads, using tools, being near running equipment, working with tools,  or working with large animals, the potential for severe injuries goes up.

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The best thing you can do to prevent slips and falls is to make sure that the areas where people walk and work are cleared of ice and snow  and to use sand or salt for extra grip on surfaces. Be particularly careful about keeping stairways and elevated work surfaces clear.  One neat idea I’ve seen for salting and sanding is to use one of those lawn and garden  broadcast fertilizer spreaders to spread salt and sand. It makes the job go faster over large areas, and results in an even distribution. Putting shovels and buckets of salt or sand near where they need to be used can be a reminder to clear and salt walkways and  makes it more convenient to do the job.

If you have to walk on a slick surface, boots with thicker treads or ice cleats over boots can also help you get a grip .Using short steps with your center like a penguin can also help prevent slips and falls.

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The best way to avoid fall-related injuries is to prevent the fall from happening.  However, if you do feel yourself falling there are a couple of things you can do to minimize injuries.  Don’t catch yourself with your arms because it’s easy to break your wrist that way.  Try to bend your knees as much as possible so that the distance you fall is shorter.  Tilt your head forward, touching your chin to your chest and curl the top part of you’re body to prevent your head from hitting the ground.  Hit the ground butt first then rock backwards. Once your back has hit the ground you can use your arms to stop your momentum if you need to.  I’ve been doing aikido and jujitsu for a few years now and the single most useful thing I’ve learned is how to fall backwards.It takes a lot of practice to build up enough muscle memory to automatically fall this though, and it won’t prevent all injuries, so once again the best thing you can do is prevent slips and falls by keeping walkways clear and salted.