Minnesota Farmer

New appreciation
October 23, 2016, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Corn, Farm, snow | Tags: , ,

So the other day when I said harvest was complete, it wasn’t quite accurate.  I still had some corn to hand pick.  Now that is done.


You see, I left a little corn out at the hog barn site to use as a snow fence.  It’s not a lot of corn, an area of about 15 feet by 200 feet.  Still it had corn in it and rather than let it hang out there until spring I decided to hand pick it.


For all of that, it is a bit of work.  I used muscles that I do not usually use.  It gives me new appreciation for those old timers who used to pick all of their corn my hand.  Mom was quick to point out that they usually were at it all winter.  Now I know that their corn was nothing like ours.  It did not have all of the genetics to stand tall and strong so I’m sure some of it was on the ground and some stalks were broken over.  My few rows will still be standing there after a winter of blowing snow.

So there it is, finally complete.  Let winter come, the snow fence of standing corn, minus the ears, will be there to keep most of the snow away from the barn.  Now I have to go take some aspirin.


One more snow fence
December 6, 2014, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Farm, snow, weather, winter | Tags: , , , , , ,

Even though we have already had two snow storms I just did not feel ready for winter.  Today I got to do some things that made me feel more ready for winter.100_3072

After the last two storms I decided that we needed one more snow fence.  Hopefully it will plug a gap that has allowed snow to pile up just west of the house on the pond electrical box.  I also tightened the end of one snow fence that was flapping in the wind.  That should get my snow defenses all in order.

I also finally got to put the snow blower on my tractor.  Up until now that tractor has been hooked onto a manure pump.  The early snow and cold had made cleaning the hog barn pits a problem.  Now after a few warm days that job is done.

The weather forecast is most un December like for the next few days.  No snow in the near future and some days that get above freezing.  This is my kind of winter weather.  I may just have to go out and do some more tree trimming.  Need to take advantage of the nice weather while I can.



Going viral
November 23, 2014, 11:15 pm
Filed under: snow, weather, winter | Tags: , , , , ,

When you blog, you always hope there will be that one day you write the viral blog, the one that is so over the top that your readership doubles.  Little did I realize that I wrote that one almost a year ago, and it had humble origins.  It was all about a snow fence. 100_2532

The art of the snow fence seems to be getting a lot of attention lately.  My readership has more than doubled in the last two months all over a blog I wrote a year ago.  So thanks to all of you out there building a snow fence for the first time who are reading about my humble efforts.  I’m glad I could be of help.

The art of the snow fence
December 2, 2013, 11:33 am
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, projects, snow, Trees, weather, wind, winter | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here on the northern prairie we know snow fences.  We have to.  When the cold winter winds start blowing around winters moisture the beauty of snow turns ugly.  That being said, there are good snow fences and poor snow fences.  There is an art to making a good snow fence.  Now I’m not saying snow fences are artistic, but that there is an art in the placement and building of a snow fence.100_2509Trees are natures snow fence.  Where they grow there will be snow deposited nearby.  A farmstead wind break, or a fence line of trees can stop a lot of blowing snow.  But trees or snow fences in the wrong place can be a disaster.

We had a non-prairie native move in near us a few years back.  They tried to put up a snow fence the way you would put up fences to keep livestock contained.  They had a line of snow fence on each side of their driveway about 5 feet out.  It happened to be a very snowy and blowy winter, and they had 4 feet of snow on their driveway anytime we got a whisper of wind.  Snow fences need to be placed back from the road 50 to 75 feet.  That gives the snow a place to pile up in the lee of the fence or tree line.

The best place for a snow fence is up wind of what you are trying to protect, but wind can be variable, so a long fence may be needed.  Our winter winds here in southwestern Minnesota are mostly from the north or northwest, but west and even south or easterly winds can blow in and deposit snow.  For us, snow protection is needed both north and west of the buildings.

We have a gap in the trees just west of our house that funnels snow onto our driveway.  Snow fences across that gap, or just up or down wind of that gap, can leave a good sized deposit of snow.  The snow is then stopped on the lawn, and not on the driveway.

Buildings can also funnel snow between them.  Anyplace the wind is compressed into a narrow space there will be less snow, but just down wind there will be large drifts.  A snow fence just up wind from that gap, not in the gap, will stop a lot of problems down wind.

We had a neighbor whose house was set just wrong for wind one winter.  The snow came around the grove of trees and deposited on the east side of the house.  Snow was piled to the second floor windows.  In this case a snow fence was needed where they could not put one since a major highway runs just west of the house.

100_2532A snow fence does not have to be solid.  Wood slats or plastic with holes in it will work better than a solid wall.  You are slowing down the wind so that it will drop it’s snow.  It does not need great height either since the ground drifting snow is what you are trying to stop.

Your posts need to be at least a foot taller than the finished height of the fence and can be placed from 5 to 8 feet apart depending on wind conditions and soil type.  I prefer to place my posts for the snow fence in late fall while the ground is still unfrozen.  If I did not do this, the winds will push my fence and the posts over before the snow comes.

Once the ground freezes I can hang the fence.  I leave a bit of room under the fence for the wind to clear out the snow.  This actually allows the snow to pile higher downwind of the fence.

Whenever possible, I like to anchor the ends of my fence on trees.  A tree has a much better grip on the earth than a little steel post.  If you cannot anchor on a tree, guy wires should be placed at each end of the snow fencing run. These guy wires should be run parallel to the fence and be secured to posts driven into the ground.  The guy wires should run from the top of the post by the fence to the base of the anchor post.  It is best to have holes in the posts to run the guy wire through.  Do not skimp on the guy wire.  The end anchor posts and attached guy wires are critical to the longevity of your snow fence.

I like to wrap my snow fence ends around the end anchor post or tree.  I then use a rebar to “stitch” the end of the fence to itself.  This also works for stitching two pieces of plastic snow fence together.

The snow fence must be placed on the up wind side of the posts.  This means the wind will help hold the fence against the posts.  It also allows you to use a lighter duty strap to hold on the fence.

I use a U shaped steel post that is at least 7 feet tall and plastic zip ties to hold the fence to the post.  If you place a piece of 1×2 or rebar on the up wind side of the fence the zip tie will press the fence into a U shaped posts and strengthen the bond between post and fence.  You may have to inspect your fence periodically during the winter to make sure the zip ties are still holding.

As I said, putting up a snow fence of any type is an art.  I have seen some really nice snow fences made out of split rails also.  The type of snow fence you need is dependent on so many factors.  You can make them permanent with trees, semi-permanent with heavy materials or temporary with lighter weight materials.  Some aspects are the same, and others different.  Either way, if the winds are blowing snow into the wrong place, a properly placed snow fences can keep at least some of the snow out of your way.


30 days: Getting ready for snow after the harvest
November 29, 2013, 8:21 am
Filed under: Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, snow, Tractors, weather, wind | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Here in southwestern Minnesota snow in the winter is a given.  We have had years with little snow, but most years have enough snow so you have to be ready for it.  So it’s day 29 of the 30 day challenge, let’s talk snow.100_2527We’ve already had three warning shots of snow.  The snow was beautiful and it melted.  Now the average daily temperature is below freezing and any more snow we will get is less likely to melt.  Lakes are freezing over and the ground has a bit of frozen earth also.  Our next snowfall is likely to last.

I put in the posts for my snow fence before the ground froze, soon I must put the fence up.  There is an art to snow fencing.  A snow fence does not keep the snow out, but stops it from blowing.  The area down wind from the snow fence will develop a pile of snow and less will blow onto areas where you do not want snow.  Notice I said less.  Here on the prairie wind will continue to move snow long after it has fallen.

Also on the list of things to get ready for snow are loader tractors and snow blowers.  I prefer a snow blower to a loader.  A loader tractor leaves a pile that becomes a snow fence, a blower puts that snow into the wind and deposits it far from where it was.images

It’s time to get the tractor hooked up to the blower and have it ready in the shop.  I’m not wanting snow, but when it falls I want to be ready.

So here’s to being prepared for winters worst.