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Designing a Wild Home

What You Should Know Before Inviting the Public to Your Farm

Megan WildChoosing to open your farm to the public can yield great results — it encourages people to learn how farm work.

You can also give first-hand information, promote the farming industry and potentially make some extra money.

It doesn't matter if you're looking into a small farm store or full-on agrotourism, plenty of risks come with it. The public doesn't step foot on your farm with a handbook full of potential risks — you have to do that thinking for them. The common sense parts of your life won't come first-hand to them, so you'll want to take steps to keep everyone safe.

Source: Pexels

Make Guest Safety Priority Number One

When having guests on your property, absolutely nothing tops their safety. When people come, they will depend on staff to control certain aspects of farm life for viewing purposes — think animals appropriately contained and safety measures in place. You can't stop human error or abject stupidity, but you can limit the damage those two things can amount to.

At some point, you will have a guest who tries to climb a fence into a bullpen, or the wrong gate left open. Have a reaction plan set and make sure all precautions were set in place beforehand. Schedule walkthroughs into your daily routine, as time allows, and train tour guides to look for things that may appear off. Create a checklist of all the safety protocols on the farm and use it regularly.

Kids are especially prone to unfortunate accidents. If you have small family members, take them around for a tour before you open and see what they get into. They're almost guaranteed to find things you missed and make them a danger zone.

Decide What Is Off Limits

Some places on your farm should not allow guests. You should likely keep your home and skittish animals out of sight to avoid any mishaps. Depending on how your farm is set up, have a few pastures that visitors can't see. Keep animals that are close to birth out of the way, and always keep newborns out of the hands of inexperienced people.

Provide handwashing and sanitizer stations if you have areas where guests can interact with animals. Figuring out how to reduce the biosecurity risk is vital to keeping your herds safe. Additionally, some people won't know if they're allergic until it's too late, which can create a larger issue out of something seemingly harmless. You could involve hand washing as part of your tour, post any animal encounters, and use it to explain basic hygiene practices on the farm.

Set Up Bathrooms

You can't get around it — you will need bathrooms. Unless you want guests to behave similarly to your livestock, you will absolutely need bathrooms. They don't have to remain open at all times but should include an option for kids, elderly and emergencies. If selling anything, various laws regard bathroom availability as well. You will have to check your state's policies, but any business serving food is required to have bathrooms accessible to its customers.

Position Employees Strategically

Employees should remain easily identifiable either by a uniform, nametag or fancy hats. You want them placed in areas where they can be useful, both to guests and to you. Farm work never ceases, but you will also want staff members focused on guests during their time on the property.

Source: Pexels

Provide Good Lighting and Clear Paths

Obstacles might have become a part of your daily routine on the farm, but what you step over, a visitor might trip over. Consider the possibility of guests bringing strollers or wheelchairs and take seeing impaired guests into thought, for example. These are relatively simple things to adjust. Place good, bright lights in dim areas, have rules in place to encourage guests to leave before dusk, and provide clear, wide paths without weeds to make the overall experience better for guests. It will also take a load off your mind, because the clearer the paths, the less likely someone will wander into a questionable area.

Print Off the Rules

In a group setting, it can be hard to reach the entire group when presenting rules and regulations. If you tell a group the rules ten times, someone will still not hear it, especially people distracted by small children, ringing phones or the excitement of being there. For every section of the farm open to the public, have the rules listed and in clear view. This will also help anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing since they won't have to rely on an employee speaking clearly while looking in their direction. It can be hard to make the words out otherwise.

Is Your Farm Ready for Visitors?

Having visitors to your farm is a fantastic way to help people learn, add to your community and create an atmosphere of joy and friendship. But it also involves some risk. Learn the risks, minimize them and your farm will remain a hit in your community!


What You Need to Know Before Building a Farm Structure

Megan Wild 

What You Need to Know Before Building a Farm Structure

As E.A. Fowler, an agricultural engineer, wrote over 100 years ago, “Farm buildings are the farmer’s factory.” Therefore there is no more important component to a farm’s productivity than an adequate structure. While farm structures have been slow to evolve — largely because of the capital risk involved — the growing informational network means we know a lot more now than we did then.

There was a dramatic increase in farm productivity in the 20th century, largely due to steady advancements in technology and research, and improved effectiveness and efficiency of farm structures was part of this development. However, high capital costs still mean no decision to build a farm structure should be taken lightly. We have highlighted some key decisions farmers and homesteaders should consider when planning a new build.

What Is Its Purpose?

What is the reason for your new build? Is it geared toward improving animal welfare, facilitating a new enterprise, boosting returns or simply for the benefit of an additional building? Once you’ve confirmed this, strategically think about how long you need it for and how much flexibility will be demanded from it.

This will determine how resilient it should be, where it should be situated, how much should be invested in it, and the preferable building style and materials used to build it.


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What About the Future?

Is your building to store more grain or to shelter growing numbers of livestock? The general purpose will dictate size and other specifications, so take a long-term view on it. It may be cheaper to overspec now than to build again in five years if you expect an expansion.

Longevity comes in to play particularly around material specification. For example, wooden timber frame will suit a temporary structure whereas a steel structure will last far longer. Perhaps sacrificing short-term material savings will allow your building to be more flexible and resilient in the future.

Foundation Choices

You have a range of options for your structure when it comes to types of concrete foundation, including concrete pillars, monolithic or conventional. Luckily, laying a foundation should be relatively easy given today’s innovations — concrete pumps, for example, allow the most efficient and cost-effective options for placing concrete. A boom pump can navigate your farm to the decided pour-site, making transportation of heavy buckets and even crane usage unnecessary.

The Lay of the Land

Building a barn is exciting, but it’s also stressful — especially if you’ve never built one before. One consideration that is particularly costly if missed is land layout.

Sloping land, drainage and prevailing weather are key features in determining where to build your new structure. Water obviously needs to drain away from your structure and open stall runs need to face away from any wind. Furthermore, south-facing property will allow sun exposure to stave off any potential rot from areas used for livestock or grain storage.


Source: Pexels

Ventilation Consideration

Laurel Bishop, national sales assistant for a farm-building designer, asserts that “ventilation is one of the most critical considerations of barn design.” It’s important to avoid the buildup of ammonia in the air from feces and urine.

Once again, depending on the structure’s use, ensure ventilation is present for livestock by way of large openings, mechanical ventilation or natural ventilation.

Natural Light Trumps All Else

Siting for light will cut down on electricity bills and make your life easier. Optimum natural light is from the north, so where possible, locate your build with access to such light without shading from trees, slopes or other structures. Furthermore, extend the light consideration to your architecture through skylights to make best use of lighting. Use bright paint on the interiors to best reflect any natural light.

Access Your Assets

The general effectiveness of your structure and its positive impact on your farm or homestead comes down to the practicality of its location. There should be convenient access from your home to the structure, with a distance of about 75 feet.

What About Zoning?

Do you know the zoning requirements for your area? Even small invasions of zoning boundaries could put your entire build in jeopardy. On local land, restrictions known as development codes can dictate where you are and aren’t allowed to build. Certain design requirements may be on setbacks from property lines or access by emergency vehicles.

Project Management

Project management is one of the most important elements of barn or farm building construction, so consider the following tips:

• Plan ahead according to a set timescale
• Use drawings and other tools to help visualize the aim and facilitate quotes
• Be diligent about seeking the correct approvals prior to building
• Don’t diverge too far from your budget

Building a new farm structure is an exciting and substantial decision. If you take the necessary precautions, you will be adding a considerable revenue-enabling asset to your homestead or farm.

How to Protect Against Road Salt

Megan Wild 

If you work in the farming industry, winter usually isn’t your busiest season. In spite of this, your equipment might still be at risk of corrosion due to road salt and grime that accumulates during the colder months. What can you do to protect your equipment from the corrosion caused by road salt?  What steps should you take during the colder months to ensure your equipment continues to function efficiently throughout the year?


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Store Your Equipment Properly

Unused equipment is still at risk for wintertime corrosion. You can prevent this, or at least postpone it by storing your equipment properly.

Provide a climate- and humidity-controlled indoor location to store your equipment during the off-season. This could be a barn or other enclosed building that is equipped with dehumidifiers or air conditioning that removes the humidity from the air. This dry, climate-controlled environment takes away the one thing that is necessary for salt corrosion — water.

Controllers and other electronic equipment are also at risk in humid environments, so creating a dry storage area allows you to protect your equipment even when it is not in use.

Wash and Dry Your Equipment After Each Use

If you are using your equipment during the winter months and you live and work in an area where snow and ice are common, chances are your equipment has been exposed to road salt. At the end of the day, take the time to wash off and dry your equipment to remove any salt that has accumulated. Pay special attention to the undercarriage of your equipment and any plow equipment you may use during the colder months. Salt and salty grime can easily make their way up into the undercarriage and cause damage if they’re not washed away.

For work vehicles and other equipment with enclosed cabins or painted exteriors, it might also be a good idea to look into wax or ceramic coatings for your equipment. They aren’t a perfect solution to protect against road salt, but they can help to keep the salt off your equipment long enough that you can wash it off before it starts to cause damage.


Source: Pexels

Invest in Corrosion-Resistant Materials

Utilizing corrosion-resistant materials can help to reduce the overall effect of corrosion and road salt by keeping the corrosive materials from reaching the corrosion-prone metal parts. These materials will vary depending on the individual application but can include:

Oil or grease — This is a temporary form of corrosion protection, but it can be easily reapplied. It works as a form of protection for moving parts that might not be able to be shielded with other surface protectants.

Paint — When applied to clean surfaces, paint can help to prevent corrosion, but it’s not always the most durable option. Impacts to the painted surface can create chips and scratches that can leave the uncovered spots vulnerable to corrosion.

Powder coating — Powder coating refers to coating the surface of the equipment with a durable powder that is then cured under heat to create a corrosion-resistant skin. Some of the advantages include its resistance to corrosion, durability, and high-quality finish that looks good in addition to being functional.

If it is an option, you can also look into choosing equipment that is made from naturally corrosion-resistant materials such as:

• Galvanized steel
• Aluminum
• Titanium
• Stainless steel
• Fiberglass

These materials may need a higher initial investment, but they don’t require the same sort of maintenance or inspection that standard materials require. If you spend a lot of time working on salted roads, either as part of your farm or homestead or as a snowplow during the winter months, it might be a good idea to invest in the higher-quality materials initially.

There is no way to avoid exposing your equipment to road salt if you take it out during the winter months. The best thing you can do is take steps to protect your investment from the corrosion caused by road salt, either by washing it regularly, coating it with anti-corrosion materials, or reinvesting in new equipment that is made from naturally corrosion-resistant metals. You don’t need to stop working because winter has arrived, but you do need to protect your investment — and using anti-corrosion materials is a good way to do that.

Fire Safety In a Rural Area: How to Prepare

Megan Wild 

Once an isolated incident, wildfires advancing into rural and metropolitan areas are now a regular occurrence in the state of California. The latest wildfires devastating California have caused nearly $1 billion in property damage. Over 7,000 homes and buildings have already been destroyed, and the number is expected to rise as crews continue to work in areas ruined by fires that have killed at least 40 citizens.

While firefighters and other first responders remain the first line of defense against these natural disasters, the intensity and longevity of these fires have resulted in additional safety measures requiring attention. For some residents, the wildfires are so intense that evacuating the area is the only way to ensure their safety and the safety of their families.

Causes for Wildfires in Rural Areas

Fires in rural areas are caused by different situations than non-rural areas. Dry and brittle landscapes are already environmental danger zones, add in the threat of heat and you have one of the leading causes of residential structure fires in rural areas. In fact, over 30 percent of rural residential fires are started from malfunctioning heating devices.

Household elements such as fireplaces and stovepipes that have not been properly maintained are major causes of rural fire incidents. This unfortunate trend requires people who live in these types of areas to re-educate themselves on preventive measures against accidental fires. Ensuring that people know how to maintain their household equipment will go a long way in fire prevention, which in turn helps protect against the rising occurrence of wildfires in rural areas.


Overall Preparation

One of the first things to do to prepare for any emergency, let alone wildfire emergencies, includes creating an emergency supply kit and evacuation plan. Whether you live on your own or with a group, you should have immediate access to various necessities you can grab at a moment’s notice. Things like bottled water, emergency rations, batteries and chargers, maps of the surrounding area, and two-way radios are some of the things to keep stocked.

These initial preparations will serve you well regardless of the disaster you’re faced with. Pairing your kit with an evacuation plan focused on safely escaping the danger area will allow you and your group to remain clear-headed during the situation. Panic can be as dangerous and deadly as any external threat.

Emergency Options

While you want to avoid being trapped in an unfavorable situation, especially in regards to wildfire disasters, there are a few options to consider if you’re backed against the wall. For instance, a local river or dam can serve as a viable last resort option if you’re cut off from evacuation. In fact, with proper maintenance beforehand, even a residential pool can save your life or the lives of your loved ones until rescue arrives.

For several years, it’s been recommended for homeowners to prevent fire damage by wetting their home and surrounding foliage with available pool water. In the case of wildfires, if there are no available fire hydrants, then your (or a neighbor’s) pool is the next best thing.

Specific Measures

Fires, just as earthquake events, are especially dangerous because of the domino effect they can set off. Most rural areas are either full of flammable elements such as plants or trees, or wide open spaces that allow for ample air currents to flow and feed the flames. In fact, the true threat of fire disasters in rural areas will come from the additional threats that the event triggers and less from the actual flames.

If you’re faced with such a situation, you’ll want to keep yourself covered to protect your body from radiant heat. The smoke in the air can travel for miles and build up in the atmosphere, creating a hazardous environment for citizens with asthma or other medical issues — which makes a face/breathing mask a valuable item. For homesteaders and farmers, your livestock will suffer from these same threats so you should have a plan to protect and evacuate your animals as well.

Overall Issues and Goals

In the end, it all comes down to how quickly the threat can be extinguished. The longer a wildfire burns, the greater the damage. Homes in rural areas are more likely to be situated farther from emergency services than non-rural homes. Also, the lower the population, the greater chance a small brush fire can grow into a larger threat as it will go unnoticed for a longer amount of time.

It’s important to keep an eye on your surroundings. Know the signs to look for, have a route mapped out and commit it to memory. Also, have an emergency pack ready and available and do not procrastinate — if you’re given the order to evacuate, do so. Things taken by fire can be replaced, lives less so.

How to Prepare For Spring Building During the Winter

Megan Wild 

The seasons are a fact of life, but winter in particular can be an inconvenience for many with construction plans. Farmers sometimes need to carry out preparatory building over the colder months to ensure structures remain stable. Sheds and warehouses must be capable of storing grains and crops for spring.

Although snowfall can bring its own complications, construction in the wintertime is also thwarted by frozen grounds and freezing winds. For farmers preparing to plant as soon as the warmer temperatures hit, time is critical for maximizing yield. However, the cost implications of winter construction prove to be a real threat to both revenue and a sustainable farm.

We’re going to take a further look below at the issues to be aware of with winter construction and how to mitigate them, ensuring you as a farmer or landowner execute a build of reasonable cost and effort.


Why Is It so Difficult to Build in the Winter?

Costs are passed on, and one of the costs of winter building is lower productivity of employees, which can drop by up to 50 percent. Hard frost reduces capability, motivation, efficiency and accuracy of the construction team, and it’s unsurprising given that frost can reach up to 5 feet underground.

If frozen earth needs to be dug out, specialized equipment may be required and generic building machines may take longer to heat up. That means longer time spent on-site doing very little aside from freezing! Moreover, removing snow will eat into a considerable portion of a worker’s hours on the job, as before construction work even begins, snow must be shoveled.

Should concrete be involved in the build, certain types need to be heated to specified temperatures, as do the aggregates and water. Reaching the right temperatures requires a huge amount of fuel. Other, more specialized building materials could require advanced protection or more sophisticated storage facilities to protect them from the harsh weather, pushing costs upward.

Health and safety is another major consideration for winter building. Slipping in the ice or snow is common, and colds and influenza are even more so. Protecting a workforce from the elements involves investing in appropriate clothing, boots with superior grips and eyewear with better visibility.


How Can Construction Continue in the Midst of Winter?

Luckily, there is a way to continue construction during winter. Hydrostatic excavation allows a crew to remove cold or frozen ground much faster and more easily. This is the process of removing soil with highly pressurized water, and then the soil is transferred directly into a tank.

Hydrostatic excavation gained popularity in Canada in the oil and gas industries, as removing potentially frozen ground in this way is far less destructive and far more accurate. In fact, it is so advantageous to the construction world for winter building that has become the preferred method of digging. The most significant advantages of using hydro excavation are that it is safer, more easily controlled, limits accidents, and does a more thorough job of digging.

It is highly superior in its avoidance of underground pipes, lines and cables, which prevents interruptions to jobs, repair costs and further hours during which the workforce needs to be compensated. In the long term, however, the reduced charges for insurance and liability can save companies millions given the lower risks associated with this method of digging.

Farmers have an awful lot to think about, and that extends especially to planning seasonal activities. Winter building to repair or prepare crop and grain storage facilities can be thwarted with expense and complications, but there are ways to have hassle-free winter construction.

How to Prevent Snowmelt From Damaging Your Foundation

Megan Wild 

In places with heavy snowfall, farmers and homesteaders need to prevent snowmelt from damaging the foundation of their homes and any outbuildings.

Snowmelt is, of course, water coming from melting snow. When snow and ice begin to melt, the water will seep into the ground. But under many conditions, including heavy snow and warm temperatures causing rapid melt, the ground can quickly become saturated. When it does, the water from snowmelt has to have somewhere to go. Unfortunately, it can go through foundations, damaging them.

It’s important to understand that foundations do not always repel all the water from snowmelt. Concrete foundations are porous. If there is too much water on the neighboring ground, water will start to go through the foundation. It can weaken the foundation itself, causing structural damage.

If snowmelt goes through your foundation repeatedly, you may have to replace the foundation, which is a lengthy and expensive process. Water going through the foundation, of course, can also damage the basement and any equipment or property stored in the basement.

Insurance companies generally don’t cover seepage from snowmelt, so you can end up paying for foundation replacement, basement repair, and replacement of damaged property out of your own pocket.

How can you prevent snowmelt from damaging your foundation? Follow these steps.


Prevent Damage

  • Clear Snow Around the Buildings

The first and most important step in preventing snowmelt from damaging your foundation is to clear snow around all your buildings. It’s not enough just to shovel out the doors and the walkways. Experts recommend a 5-foot clearance around snow and your buildings. Keep the area shoveled at all times. Even if your area temperature is normally below freezing, a sudden warm day in the middle of December or January can start snowmelt. You want to make sure it’s far away from your foundation.

  • Fix Any Cracks in the Foundation

Inspect your foundations for cracks every spring and fall. Fix them immediately. Concrete will let some water seep through even if it’s not cracked. If it’s cracked, the water is going to seep through even faster.

  • Have a Sump Pump Ready

A sump pump can help with excess water. If you don’t currently have one, buy one. If you do have one, make sure it’s in working condition in the early fall, long before winter comes. You don’t want to have to use it in February, only to find out it needs major repair or has conked out entirely.

  • Don’t Try to Predict When Melt Will Come

You need to be prepared for snowmelt at any point after snow begins. Don’t confine your protection methods to the late winter or early spring. Some climate-change scientists predict that snowmelt will happen more slowly going forward. That is a general statement, but it may not pertain to your individual amount of snowfall and warm days. A 50-degree day in December can cause snowmelt.

  • Protect Items Stored in Basements

As part of a preventive strategy, it’s important to protect items stored in basements or next to foundations from the consequences of water coming in. Because, despite your best efforts, it may.  If you store family belongings in the basement, for example, place them on shelves so they will not be damaged by any water coming in. If you store feed on the ground in your barn, put it in waterproof containers. In a worst case scenario, you should always keep a running list of items you own and their value estimation for insurance purposes.


How to Fix Water Damage

If you go down some morning and find water in your basement, assess where it might be coming from. Snowmelt is only one possible cause. Your pipes may have burst, or an appliance may have ceased to function.

  • Remove the Water

Whatever the cause, it’s important that the water be removed as quickly as possible. You might be tempted to extract the water yourself. It’s far more prudent to call a water damage restoration company. Even if you get rid of visible water on the floor, it may still be in your foundation, where it can cause structural damage. Moisture may also remain on the floor.

  • Check for Mold

Water left standing can cause mold within two days. Mold can be toxic. It is very hard to remove and can cause damage to the building and danger to your family’s health. A water restoration company can also check for mold and give advice on removing it.

  • Repair Any Damage

Once the area is made safe from water, you’ll need to repair any damaged areas or items. Professionals can help with this as well. It’s especially important to repair any damage that could compromise your structure or property in the future.

Snowmelt is unavoidable if you live in an area with snowfall. If there is a lot of snowmelt, it can seep into your foundation and cause structural damage. Seepage can also cause damage to the basement of your buildings. Take steps to prevent snowmelt from seeping into your foundation. If you do find seepage in the basement, call water damage restoration professionals for the best results.

Put a Fork in It, You're Done

Megan Wild 

It doesn’t matter if you live just outside of the city or if you’re far out in the countryside. From meeting your composting and canning needs, cutting and gathering firewood, seeding, planting and harvesting, livestock care and equipment management, you hardly have any time for fun or frivolity. Plus the chicken coops, don’t forget the chickens.

Because of this extensive list of to-dos, it’s important farmers and homesteaders use the best and most reliable equipment possible. On any list by an expert, no matter the length or the purpose, one of the items under suggestion may include the forklift. While usually associated with heavy construction operations, this piece of equipment can be just as useful on dirt as on concrete.

Why Buy a Forklift for the Farm?

When you think of a farm or a ranch, the first thing that comes to mind are planted crops. Crops, dirt, a large red building with white doors, and a green landscape. That’s the universal picture of agriculture, and it rarely includes anything else, at least initially. Surprisingly enough, people don’t usually think of heavy machinery when they think of farming, but homesteads often possess a number of heavy pieces of equipment in addition to industrial-sized containers and items.

forklift attachment on farm

Make Basic Grunt Work Easier With a Forklift

Now you’re remembering tractors, aren’t you? Transporting heavy equipment and tools are one of the benefits of having a forklift close at hand on your farm. Work you can accomplish efficiently and effectively with the use of this particular machine includes:

• Lifting and carrying large or heavy farming tools, supplies or smaller-sized machinery

• Loading and unloading produce, bulk bags or animal feed

Alternative Use for Forklifts

This particular function of the forklift has long since been discovered in shipping ports, lumber and junkyards, open-air garden centers and even businesses that use external storage centers. Unlike their construction site counterparts, let’s call them alternative-use forklifts. They have special tires that distribute weight more evenly for the distinct terrain of farmland.

Off-Road Potential for Forklifts

You can’t just grab the first yellow vehicle from your local construction site and drive it to your homestead for use. You’ll crush any crops popping through the surface, ruin your soil and quite possibly get stuck in the mud. Rough terrain work requires the right model of forklift, one that’s adapted to the uneven and unstable nature of country landscapes. You even need the right kind of engine in order to ensure you don’t strain your equipment too heavily.

For alternative-use forklifts, the engine to beat will be diesel. Diesel engines already power a majority of farm equipment, partly because they are a greener option for agricultural use. Also, diesel engines combine efficiency, durability and performance for rough and uneven terrain use, a bonus when operating an alternative-use forklift.

Indoor Work for Forklifts

Anyone who has been to or worked at a home improvement store knows the usefulness of the forklift. Lifting and transporting pallets of items and heavy products or transporting stock materials — the forklift can do it all. If you need to work several levels higher than your legs and arms are capable of reaching, there’s a special type of platform forklift to meet that need. Thanks to the relative absence of harsh weather or uneven terrain, these particular forklifts help workers move and stack boxes and crates, and are modified with safety measures for worker safety.

Additional Uses for Forklifts on a Homestead

Other uses for your forklift, as you have undoubtedly seen the value of the machine while reading this article and have begun shopping online, include plowing snow, towing items and machines and various hay-related chores. You’re going to want to purchase the necessary add-on implements to the forklift in order to use it for these additional operations and make sure you keep your machine clean and well maintained to prevent rust or malfunction.

While purchasing or leasing a new forklift would be preferable, a used machine that’s well-kept and up-to-date can save you on shopping time and get you back to your farm work quickly.