We were always told that farmers needed to be true Jacks-of-all-trades, but not until we were faced with tangible projects, have we really come to understand the depth of that statement. We have spent the last year turning an old hobby horse farm and dog kennel into a commercial vegetable farm. In order to make this transition, we have faced many challenging projects along the way, some of which have tested our minds as well as our patience.
Last year we faced the dilemma of safely hauling produce into our barn loft to dry and cure. We erected drying racks for Alliums like garlic, shallots, and onions, yet the only means of getting the produce up to the loft, was to climb a ladder with a bin full of produce and lift it overhead; this was often precarious and challenging work. So with the prospect of many more onions and hundreds of pounds of garlic to haul up there this season, we faced the challenge of creating a system to easily and safely move the produce.
Ben, the resident handy man in-training, built a wooden ramp, on which we planned to slide a wooden box that he also made, up to the loft filled with said produce. He also rigged an ingenious block and tackle system to the upper beams of the barn, which gave us a mechanical advantage while hauling up the box. The box, when empty, moved easily on the ramp, so we thought we were golden and ready to move some cinder blocks upstairs with which we would be building more levels of curing racks. Yet, when it came time to load the cinder blocks into the box we had to lift them too high over head to get into the box, which defied the point of even having a ramp system in the first place. And, the wooden box was way to heavy to pull, even with the block and tackle. Ultimately we found it easier to resort to the good old-fashioned ladder method.
After rethinking the arrangement, and with some simple advice from Dr. Ed McDonald, who happened to be out at the farm assisting us with the new tractor, we redesigned the box to be much lighter, and to hold one of our own harvest bins. We also relocated the block and tackle, so that it was easier to pull, and low and behold, the new method worked! We were able to lift one cinder block at a time into the loft with nothing more than a few easy tugs on a rope.
The details of the system may be of little import to a non-farmer. Often, the simplest task can befuddle us, but by thinking through the details and being willing to try and err, we usually get the results we need. In moving from the city to the country, we have found ourselves needing to quickly acquire the skills of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and engineers, so that our daily operations are made efficient and save us precious time and physical energy. Having handy friends helps too.