Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pebble Smartwatch For The Farm?

For a while now I've been looking forward to getting an iWatch, or as it ended up being called, an Apple Watch.

Reserved for Apple Watch

When the Apple Watch was actually shown this month, I ended up being underwhelmed. The more I thought about it the more I realized that even if I wanted to spend close to $400 on a watch, the Apple Watch couldn't survive life on the farm.

Big, bulky, and expensive. That's a good description for a tractor, not a watch.

I decided to reevaluate why I wanted a smartwatch to begin with. Pulling my iPhone out of my pocket to check to see if I had a call, message, or notification has started to get old. Often, I'm on a loud tractor or around mooing calves and don't notice the rings, beeps, or chirps. When I've been expecting a call I've even carried my phone in my hand while I worked to keep me from missing it. That's not always safe for it or me. With the onset of winter and extra layers of coats and gloves keeping abreast of those messages and notifications will be darn near impossible.

Most of the time being late to a conversation or message isn't a problem. However, when my wife texts and I don't respond, well, that's not a great situation to be in.

I realized that I didn't need a full blown computer on my arm. What I really need is something practical. Something that works well. Something that solves my problems. I decided what I really need is a Pebble smart watch.

  • The Pebble displays notifications (texts and calls from my wife won't be missed!)
  • Is highly water resistant (which is a must for farm life!)
  • Readable screen in daytime (I'm always outside)
  • Replaceable bands (in case I catch it on something)
  • Scratch resistant screen (I'm rough on things)
  • Battery lasts for 5-7 days (!)
  • Affordable
  • Last, but not least, it tells time. 
Can the Pebble survive the farm, the cows, and the chores? Can it deliver on the notifications when I need them most? Dear Pebble, this is your chance to find out. I volunteer to put your watch through the paces in the demanding job of dairy farming. Dusty silos, spraying water, spattering cow manure, greasy tractors, and much, much more. Send me your smartwatch and I will gladly test it out as only a farmer can. If you are interested please contact me here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Moving Calves With A Song

Two bent corral panels and one dented truck later, we were finally able to move ten heifers from field A to field B. The last three of the group, and especially the final one, were a little trying but we managed to load 'em and move 'em.
Not all heifers were easily tempted, but we did get them up!

Sorta sounds like a country song. So with apologies to Kenny Chesney's American Kids.

Trying to move those bovine animals
Hoping they don't break no more corral panels.
Coaxing them along ain't no easy sight
A little bit sweaty but we got them alright.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weeds, Corn, and GMO's

Every year we plant corn to harvest as silage for the cows. This year's crop is growing well and so were the weeds. A few days before I took this photo we had our corn sprayed with Round Up. The GMO corn is not hurt, but the weeds do not survive.

Had we not been able to spray, the weeds would have taken over the corn and stolen nutrients, water, sunshine, and fertilizer.

What's real interesting to me is the photo I tweeted out of the sweet corn in my garden when the wind blew it over. Monsanto retweeted it and then I got a few negative comments in return.

The funny part is that the garden corn is Silver Queen sweet corn, and not anything special. What people's perspectives are based on what they've read or heard is not always true. Recently Popular Science put together an article about GMO products entitled Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked. Are GMO plants tested? Should we be worried? I'm about as worried about that as I am mutant cows.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Drones On The Farm Part 3: Family or Factory Farm

The Farmer's Wifee and Nurse Loves Farmer are the two blogs that brought the drone campaign to my attention. I wrote earlier about privacy and expectations in Part 1 and Part 2.

What these two farmers want to accomplish is to recognize that family farms come in all shapes and sizes. Aerial photos from drones don't tell a complete story.

If you've ever looked at a medical photo...

random 8 week ultrasound
....and not been trained in the medical field you would not be able to identify much more than "I think that's probably a baby ultrasound."

How then can you tell how well animals and the environment are cared for from an aerial photo? Does our farm look bad?

Are we a factory farm? We've got a lot of buildings? We've got a lot of cows? If you think a one hundred cow dairy is a big dairy, that is. Three family members and one hired hand. We're like a machine. A four cylinder motorized factory family farm. Do the cows think they live on a factory farm? You'll have to ask them that question.