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FARM should be an Acronym for Fix And Repair More!
If there is one thing that I've learned while farming, it is that much of the work involves fixing and repairing things. It seems that there is always something that needs to be fixed or repairs. What I've learned is to prioritize the tasks and work on the things that are most important first. If you have perfectionist tendencies and need everything to be "just right", then you probably don't want to get into farming unless you are rich and want to do it as a hobby and have lots of time and money to spend. Sometimes, I have to turn a blind eye to things that are not ideal. I've come to learn that even if it's not pretty, but if it's still working, then sometimes you just have to leave it alone. There are other more important things that can come up that might be screaming for your attention. For example, one winter we had some very strong wind storms blow through the area. Since I knew this area is windy, my irrigation wheel lines were already secured to many fence posts hammered deep into the ground. Most of the time, that is more than adequate to protect the wheel lines; however, that year the winds were exceptionally strong. The winds were recorded over 100mph in places. The utility company had a lot of work that winter replacing over 100 power poles in the area that were snapped off like they were toothpicks. I'm not talking about power poles knocked down by falling trees. These utility poles just snapped clean off from the powerful wind pushing them over!
Hauling Irrigation Pipes Back to the Farm After Repair
My irrigation wheel lines did not fare the storms well. I had many pipes twisted, bent, and broken. Because I didn't have the necessary equipment to repair these large pipes, I had to take all the broken pieces and haul them to town to a irrigation shop that could repair the pipes. The trick was how would I transport such large pipes?? I didn't have a pipe trailer especially made for such long pipes. I did have an old stock trailer, and so I put an old comforter on top and piled the longer pipes on top. Shorter pipes were in the trailer and sticking out. The full length pipes were 40 feet and hung way over the the front and back of the trailer. I can still remember driving down the highway like this. Cars driving in the opposite direction were pulling over onto the shoulder when they saw my redneck contraption rolling down the road! I don't blame them. It looked intimidating and believe me that I didn't want to have to do it. I did not want to deal with any of the mess after the wind storm, but it was something that I needed to do. What those drivers didn't know is that I tend to "overdo" things, and I had the pipes very securely attached with many strong ratcheting straps. They weren't going to go anywhere, but it must have just looked intimidating with the ends of these long pipes bouncing up and down as I was driving along. If I saw something like that coming towards me on the road, then I'd pull over too! Especially since I know that some rednecks push the limits of how far they can "underdo" things!
Fixing Broken Wheel Lines - Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Back Together
One of the things I didn't realize when I got into farming was all the repairs that would necessary on piping. Over the years on our small farm, I have become a bit a of a redneck plumber. Partly because of my inexperience and ignorance, I discovered through the School of Hard Knocks a lot of the things you should NOT do with an irrigation system! Some of the problems were just a fact of life no matter how experienced or inexperienced I would have been, but a lot of them could have been avoided had I known what I was doing. The result was that I had a lot of geysers, gushers, and floods around the farm the first couple years!
OH NO, NOT AGAIN!!! Another Broken Pipe to Repair
The difference with the irrigation plumbing around a farm and the plumbing in a home is a matter of size. In a house, you might be dealing with 1/2", 3/4" or maybe 1" plumbing. On our small farm, the pipe sizes start at 1" and work there way up to 6" diameter. Ironically, I never liked plumbing of any kind. Seemed that there would always be a leak or drip that would come up to annoy me. Thankfully with farm plumbing, a tiny leak or drip is usually not a big problem. Sometimes, those small drips and leaks just become a little additional uncontrolled irrigation. They are just a fact of life. It's the big leaks that have to be addressed promptly.
Repair of a 6" Diameter PVC Mainline Pipe
The largest pipe that I've had to repair on the farm is a section of 6" mainline that comes out of one of my irrigation pumps. Because of water hammer when I would turn the pump on (you could feel the ground "thump" when starting the pump), there was a section of the large PVC pipe that started to pull out of a fitting and leak. At first, the ground just got wet over that area. Over time, a trickle of water started bubbling up out of the ground. A short time later, there was a stream that developed. Something had to be done about it. The mainline was buried maybe 5-6 feet deep in that area. Since I didn't have a backhoe, I had to just use my back. By the time I was done hand digging that grave sized hole, I almost felt like lying down in it and being covered up! After a couple failed attempts to fix the leak, I finally bought some special repair couplers that made the repair easier. I had enough sense not to bury the pipe until I was 100% sure the leak was fixed. Finally, after I was confident the leak was repaired, then I covered everything up. Thankfully, I had a front loader on my tractor which made backfilling the hole much easier.
Of all my plumbing repair around the farm, most of it has been smaller 1" PVC pipe in my cow pastures. I have maybe 100 sprinklers in my pastures that are mounted on 1" PVC pipe that comes up out of the ground. When I had more cattle, it seemed that there would be periods of times that there would be broken pipe every time that I tried to irrigate the pastures. Sometimes, there would be MANY broken off risers. Cattle like to rub themselves against things. They like to rub their front, their rear, and everything in between. They especially like to rub their head against things. So, the sprinklers were attractive rubbing points for their heads. You could see where the brass sprinklers were polished from all their rubbing. The plastic pipes didn't fare so well, and many of them would break off. I tried verbal threats ("How would you like to be made into hamburger?!?!") and hollering, but that didn't work too well. I finally used electric hot wire over some of the sprinklers and semi-truck tires around the risers of some. That helped some. The thing that helped most was getting rid of most of my herd of cattle. That's another story. But, with less itchy cattle around, there are much fewer broken pipes to repair now.
Trying to Straighten Some Bent Rails on my Bale Wagon
The other area where there always seems to be something to work on is with farm equipment. When you have old equipment, there will be things that wear out and break. That's a fact of life. Other than the repairs, there is also the constant need to do maintenance. Greasing is a big part of the maintenance I do. Get lazy and neglect the maintenance, and you will pay for it with more work later repairing things that have worn out or broken. Since grease and oil are relatively cheap (compared to equipment parts and repair), I tend to be generous with their application. For high wear areas, I'll usually pump grease into those fittings every cutting of hay. So, some of the fittings get greased probably after 5-10 hours of equipment use. Excessive maintenance in some cases, but again grease is cheap and I'd rather pay a little now than a LOT later. Farm equipment manufacturers must make the parts out of rare metals, because the prices they charge are outrageous at times. If you think car parts are expensive, you should try to buy parts for farm equipment!