On a farm, like any other business, you have to make sure you have the right tools to get your work done. Sometimes, that means replacing something that is worn out or otherwise not useful anymore. (i was going to say outdated, but then again, we work horses and are still using lots of equipment that is older than I am!)
One thing that has been on our list of things to replace for some time has been a manure spreader. While it is by no means the most fun or exciting piece of equipment on the farm, it just might be the most important. It's also one that we wanted to actually save up for and buy new. Although we love getting good deals on used equipment at auctions and such, spreaders generally go for almost as much as new if they are in good shape, or next to nothing for a worn out one. We already have one that has seen years of use, so we weren't interested in the latter. A manure spreader in good working condition is vital to the way we farm, because it serves two very important functions. The first is to keep the barn clean so the animals can be clean, dry & comfortable. The second function is to preserve the fertility of our fields, garden and pasture land. Manure, when properly managed, isn't toxic waste, it's black gold. By not keeping more animals than our acreage can support (unlike industrial farms), we can put their manure back on the fields without overloading what the ground can absorb naturally. No polluted runoff into the stream, no obnoxious smell, just healthy plants. It also greatly reduces or eliminates the need to buy fertilizer for the gardens. The problem with our spreader is that the beaters, which do the unloading, are worn out, and can't be rebuilt again, too many parts are past the point of being reusable. Because of this, we end up unloading it by hand, and piles of manure, even just forkfuls, don't break down nearly as well or as quickly as the fine layer that a spreader should be creating. It also makes for more work, besides unloading by hand, when we prep the fields to be planted, we need to drag a harrow around to spread out the manure, and extra step that wouldn't be necessary if the spreader just worked properly.
When I met up with Dan's mother last month while picking up some cheese, we talked about all kinds of things over lunch. One thing was how she had wanted a new spreader while they were still on the farm. Dan and I are still using the same one she wanted to replace, so I readily agreed with her. We laughed about how most women want to spend the big bucks on designer clothes or a new car, but no, we'd be so much happier with a manure spreader. (I'm thinking that could be one of the signs you're really a farmer, kind of along the lines of those Jeff Foxworthy redneck jokes!) And while the spreader is high on the list of investments to make into the farm, it's getting late in the season and I had started to get the feeling we'd limp though another winter with the one we have.
Imagine my surprise then, when Dan got home one day a couple weeks ago. He told me that his parents had gotten us an early Christmas present and then handed me the cell phone to show me a picture they had sent. It was a new spreader! Well, not brand new, but in like-new condition. All we had to do was come down and pick it up! So, one day last week, we borrowed a friend's truck and rented a trailer to haul our new treasure home. Everything went well, we got it loaded onto the trailer and home without incident. It's a New Idea 12A, a very good name in manure spreaders. Unlike the old one, this has only 2 wheels, so to move it we need to use the forecart. That isn't a problem and actually works out well, because it takes up less room in the barn aisle way while actually having a slightly larger box for holding the manure, which makes for fewer trips when cleaning out the barn. Dan got it out for the first time on Saturday, and it worked like a dream. We've put off cleaning out some of the run-in pens for awhile because we didn't want to waste the fertility of the manure, so now we have some work ahead of us. But actually, I'm excited about it. I always joke that either the barn or the house is clean, depending on when you visit me, but this will definitely make it easier to keep the barn clean.
Thanks again, Tom & Betty!