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Introducing the Farm Hack Tools Wiki (beta!)

The Farm Hack planning team has been hard at work dreaming up better tools for our own farms, and also better tools that the Farm Hack community can use to share our ideas and information with one another.  

Image from the "Oat Dehuller" entry on the Tools Wiki

Up until now, we have profiled farm tools in blog posts and brainstormed new ideas at Farm Hack events, but we dreamed of creating a more interactive way to allow for documentation and development of farm innovations. This week we have reached a milestone in this pursuit with the release of our new Tools Wiki, in beta mode.  Beta means we are still testing it, working out the bugs, and making it pretty, but it is active and ready to be used by all.  

The Tools Wiki is a place where tools can be profiled throughout different stages of development–  ranging from “Concept”, to “Prototype”, to “Ready to DIY”, to “Commercially available product”.  The documentation about a tool can be changed by Farm Hack community members who are working on improving the tool by updating the Wiki.  But there are additional opportunities for Farm Hackers to interact with the Tools pages.  Our newly-tailored Forums are linked with the Tools pages, allowing community members to comment on, ask questions about, and add information about tools, right on the Tools pages.  In so doing we will record the living conversation and collaborative development effort that go into tool development, testing and field use.  

So take a look around the Tools Wiki pages, think about what tools you might want to profile using the Tools Wiki–  your own, one you saw on a neighbor’s farm, a farm robot you have dreamed about but not built, something from 1890 that you took apart . . .

Thanks to a lot of work by the team and especially programmer R.J. (who has logged weeks and weeks of volunteer time) for making this happen, to Emily who has added the first pieces of content, and to planning team members Dorn, Severine, and Mihaela.  And remember this is still in “beta” mode, so chime in on the forums if you see things that need fixing or have ideas for improvements, and Donate to the Farm Hack project so that we can move things forward more quickly (right now we are ALL volunteers!).  

Updates on Farm Hack Project

Some news on the Farm Hack project– where we’re at and where we’re going:

Events on the way

The event as RISD is just weeks away, and big plans are underway for the event at Intervale/Essex Farm.  More events are in the idea stages and we welcome suggestions for locations, new alliances, and topics.  

Looking ahead to our Wiki-based interactive tool library

There was great momentum coming out of our New Hampshire event to improve the Farm Hack site and to include a comprehensive Wiki-based repository of tools + ideas.  Volunteer programmer / developer R.J. has been hard at work developing a structure that can make Farm Hack into a collaborative site that allows for farmers and allies to develop new projects together, and document them solidly.  We will need funding to get these new plans off the ground, so spread the word and rack your brain for ideas on that one.  

Contributing to the current site

Until our interactive Wiki site is fully implemented, we are relying on our blog and our Forum to keep the information flowing, and we welcome your involvement to make that happen.  Right now Farm Hack is a totally volunteer-fueled project with no dedicated funding.  The blog posts, events, and web site building have all happened thanks to energy from motivated farmers and allies.  If you are enjoying the work of the Farm Hack community, please step up and contribute!  Document a tool you’ve built, or seen on a friend’s farm, with a write-up and photos, and submit them as a blog post.  Start a new thread in the Forum and add to other threads.  If you’re motivated to get really involved an make a commitment of several hours a week, get in touch about joining our steering committee or becoming a regular blog contributor.  farmhack@youngfarmers.org.

Inner workings of Farm Hack plumbing. (actually radiant heat system at Katchkie Farm greenhouse)

FarmHack: Using Google SketchUp to design equipment

When I go on a tour of someone’s farm, I am usually snapping photos of cultivators, measuring seeders, taking notes on techniques.  If I decide to copy a farm-built tool from a friend’s farm, it usually involves me making a bunch of phone calls or e-mail requests for info on how they built what they built, asking for drawings, etc.  I’ll be sure to ask for potential “pitfalls” in the design–  things they might modify if they were to build it again– and then I’ll launch my own effort at building a version for my farm.   Sometimes it goes pretty smoothly–  other times I realize only half-way into building it that I should have drilled this hole differently, or that I can’t mount that cultivator where I planned because the lift point is in the way . . .

Recently I’ve started using the 3D drawing tool Google Sketchup to create a mock-up of a tool before I set out to build it.  The great thing about this tool is that it’s free, relatively easy to learn, and  you can share plans with anyone who has a computer.  So, when I designed the frame for the tine weeder, and also the seeder frame, that I built for my Allis Chalmers G cultivating tractor, I modeled my tractor’s dimensions to ensure that my planned tools would fit properly–  have enough vertical clearance, not bump the front tires when turning, etc.

Here is a link to my mock-up of my Allis G tractor.  It’s a bit rough and simplistically geometric–  think super-early Pixar–  but it does the trick.  And it can be used by anyone with an Allis G.  The only caveats are that my G has a couple of spacer blocks that push the front wheels a few inches forward of a standard G, and this mock-up is for my G that has already been converted to run on an electric motor, rather than the gas engine, so that is represented in the design:

Allis G (converted to electric) SketchUp model

It would be great to get a team of farmers to model various tractors and implements and to build a library of them here on FarmHack, so that we can download one another’s designs and improve/modify/adapt each other’s tools to our own farms.

Welcome to FarmHack!

FarmHack is a resource for farmers who embrace the long-standing farm traditions of tinkering, inventing, fabricating, tweaking, and fixing things that they broke.  Open to farmers of all ages, it has special relevance for young and beginning farmers, who may want to learn from their peers’ and their elders’ successes, mistakes and new ideas.

Currently FarmHack is set up as a blog for farm inventions.  We welcome contributions from everyone:  whether you want to profile something that you yourself built, or document a neighbor’s good idea.  Please get in touch with us at farmhack [at] youngfarmers[dot]org with your idea for a post, and we will respond with details about the format for submissions. We also encourage comments on these posts, because they are all works in progress that may be adapted to many different circumstances, and improved upon by many minds.