GPS on the farm

A GPS comes in handy on the farm. We use it to plot farm infrastructure and maps, while contractors use them to fertilise and sow our pastures. Today, it did another very important job: science teacher for Zoe.

"We've got four, no, FIVE satellites!"

“We’ve got four, no FIVE satellites!”

With 250 cows drinking up to 200 litres of water each on a hot day, we need a pump we can rely on, so when the pressure began to fall, we were quick to investigate. Bugger. Faithful old Davey is getting pretty tired. An inch has been worn off his venturi and the jets need replacing. It’s a major overhaul, so we’ve decided to buy a second pump to keep Davey Senior company in semi-retirement.

To make sure Davey Junior is right for the job, it’s important to check how high he needs to suck water out of the river and then how high he needs to push it around the farm, which is where the GPS and its six-year-old pilot came in.

The GPS is magical to my little girl, and why not? It’s covered in buttons and talks to satellites whizzing through space at thousands of kilometres an hour. She was practically an astronaut today!

Simple stupidity reigns supreme

The paddock wrapped around the dam has suffered from months of saturation – to the point where about half a hectare has been unusable. It sits in the path of the dam spillway and the record wet of 2011 left the dam overflowing all year.

Spillway mess

The spillway "swamp"

Now, there’s a way to avoid this. A small manual diaphragm pump sits on the dam wall and allows us to siphon water over the edge through the natural waterway that runs through the heart of the farm.

It hasn’t been used for years but I have memories of my thin elderly father getting it going very easily. When Wayne and I had a go last autumn though, the thing just flipped up and down so ridiculously easily we knew it wasn’t sucking properly. A quick investigation revealed a perished rubber diaphragm, which we had replaced. Then the PVC pipe through the dam wall turned out to be broken. Fixed that. Ready, set, still no go. It was so hard to pump that Wayne turned beetroot red with the effort and finally, the cast lever arm snapped in the willing arms of Rob the plumber.

Turns out the diaphragm was upside down and now even Zoe can work it.

Working the siphon is much easier now

Working the siphon is much easier now

Hallelujah!

Flowing siphon

At last, the water flows (where we want it)

And the stupidity? If this whole litany of mini-disasters wasn’t enough, I was soooo excited to get it going today that I forgot I was flooding tonight’s paddock and had to stop it again a mere 45 minutes after doing a victory dance. Ah well. As @Sam_Grains would say, “Keep calm, farm on”.

I must have offended the tractor god

Zoe plays on an old relic while we prime the modern equivalent

Zoe plays on an old relic while we prime the modern equivalent

The more modern pump

Our almost indestructible pump

I don’t like spending money on tractors. They depreciate very quickly and, so long as it’s reliable and reasonably comfortable, we don’t need anything flash. Yes, so long as it’s reliable. Oh dear. This is the second tractor we’ve bought in four years.

The first one was nothing but trouble (spent half its value in repairs in 18 months) so we traded it in on one that a friend had owned and said was solid as could be. Less than a year later and after fitting a new turbo, its engine needs rebuilding. Aaaargh. Any suggestions for an offering to appease the tractor gods?

The farm’s main water pump, on the other hand, works away tirelessly without complaint. Occasionally, the foot valve on the suction line gets jammed open with sticks and that’s what happened today. There’s nothing more critical than water, so we were onto it straight away. Of course, water disasters only ever seem to happen at milking time – maybe water lines have pheremone sensors that can tell when you’re a little bit stressed!