(Gadgets, not kids, though they can be super helpful, too!)
In September 2020, I wrote about “apps for farmers” (remember – estimating protein & digestibility in forage… with just a photo of cow poop and your cell phone?) Now, let’s talk about a few super helpful gadgets that can make farming and homestead chores just a little bit easier. Besides the “heavy lifters,” like the tractor, utility vehicle, or my husband, these smaller implements may be useful for you!
First, a money saver gadget! If you keep chickens, you may be interested in a treadle feeder. While it takes some time to properly train them in its use, a feeder that requires your birds to stand on a platform and open the access to their feed may result in substantial savings when you aren’t sharing with wild critters! It sure has for me! These feeders can be purchased assembled, or you can find plans for a DIY design online.
Next, I keep a small dairy goat herd, which I have milked solely by hand for 10 years. Recently, I was milking up to 14 gallons weekly, and THAT chore was really causing some soreness in my hands and back. A small investment was made in a portable, battery-operated (A/C rechargeable) milk machine. The goats like it just fine, milking is even more hygienic, and I can reallocate my hands/back energy to gardening!
For all of our animals, we have found float valves for the water troughs to be essential in keeping keep them full of clean water. Tips: use a potable water hose (i.e. for an RV), and take them apart weekly for a good cleaning. Flat-backed buckets work well for water float valves and they come in all sizes, for chickens to goats to cows & horses!
Speaking of buckets… pails with handles and screw-top style lids are quite handy for toting, storing, mixing and stacking all the foodstuffs that come with feeding farm critters.
Ah, the critters… and not the ones we WANT to feed & water. For the mice and rats (and others) that follow the feed around, having deterrents and/or traps (and knowing how to use them!) is essential on our farm. We also have had great success using solar “night eyes” to deter bigger predators that may come after our farm animals at night. Besides having REALLY good enclosures, livestock guardian animal companions (dogs, llamas or even donkeys) may be a consideration for your farm, and what a fun “gadget” to employ! If strange things seem to be happening when you’re away or sleeping, game cameras may be worthwhile investments as well.
Some of my other favorite must-have helpful items include a rechargeable headlamp… hands free light at night is always so, um, handy; motion-activated solar lights inside structures that don’t have electric lighting are equally so; and I can’t imagine not having a trusty old-fashioned hand cart to tote farm & garden supplies around in. For my shorter stature, some favorite long-handled tools keep me safely on the ground, such as an apple picker, telescoping pruners, and an extendable net (great for fish – even better for runaway chickens and bunnies!)
What little helpers do you employ around your farm & garden?