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On The Farm

Preparing Your Farm for Winter

Getting your farm ready for winter is a big enough job that it's best taken on long before snow has arrived. With all that needs to get done, it’s hard knowing where to start. To get in shape for winter, review these tips to make sure your farm is ready for whatever the weather brings.

Steps to Winterize Your Farm 

Winterizing your farm should start with the big, highly important, time-consuming tasks and move to the smaller ones afterwards. That way, you’ll have the warmer weather to get those big projects done.

Make a list. In early fall, tour your farm and make a list of everything that needs to be done. This whole-farm review should be done in small parts to keep it manageable. Think “big picture” while walking around. Look at roofs, siding, windows that may need repair and doors that need fixing. While you’re out there inspecting, think about reviewing your farm’s personal property protection and see if any changes or updates need to be made.

Prioritize tasks. Fix and winterize buildings and structures first. Then, look at items that are key to next year’s success, like moving the combine to a winter-safe place.

Assign duties. Once you’ve got a good idea of all that needs to get done, delegate tasks out to workers. Ask others to jump in and help the job get done.

Fire Safety While You’re Preparing for Winter

When winter weather approaches, the use of utilities to heat your farm will also go up, so it’s important to know that your utility lines and the appliances that use them are in good working order. Also, now’s a great time to review other ideas on protecting your farm’s assets so your farm’s as safe as it can be.

Prevent fires before they start. Take time to move flammable materials to safer places, storing chemicals and gasoline in steel lockers if possible. Be sure there are no sources of fire near the lockers, like water heaters or furnaces.

Check smoke, carbon monoxide, and fire detectors. Swap out batteries for all systems in your barns and sheds as well as your dwelling. Use canned air to blow out dust and debris. That will help the sensors do their job. Then, hit the test button to be sure they’re all in working order. If they’re hard wired, look at the cords for cracks, breaks or other trouble.

Charge your extinguishers. Have your fire extinguishers inspected and charged in barns and outbuildings so they’re going to be ready if you need them. This is also a great time to review your farm fire safety plan so that your staff and family are aware of their role if something should happen.

How to Inspect and Maintain Your Fire Hydrant for Winter

When applicable, verifying that your hydrants are in good working order is a key task to take on at least once annually. Review these fire hydrant tips to know yours will be ready if they're called into action. (Note that most of these tasks will need to take place during the warmer months of the year).

Install a marker. Pick up brightly colored fiberglass hydrant markers and install one on each of your hydrants. This is a cheap answer that’s key to telling first responders where your hydrant is when it’s buried completely under snow or hidden behind brush. Painting large arrows on roads that point towards hydrants can also help them locate the hydrant.

Assign a winter hydrant manager. Give a worker the job of digging out the perimeter of hydrants as the snow begins to gather. Have them clear an access path in the snow so responders can get to the hydrant quickly.

Handle obstructions. Remove branches, debris or even dirt away from the base of the hydrant and be sure that wrenches have clearance to turn easily. Also consider line-of-site issues that may exist, pulling any obstacles that block the hydrant from first responder’s view as they’re traveling down your access roads. This is the time to think about raising the height of the hydrant if your wrench clearance is low.

Take inventory. Make sure your hydrant has all its parts. Replace pieces that are cracked, leaking or not operating as they should. Broken stems, flanges and other chains or couplings can result from lawn mowers or vehicles hitting the hydrant, so remember to inspect the whole hydrant for trouble. Repaint them to keep the rust away if needed.

Test the hydrant. Pressure and flow tests are key to knowing you’ll have water at the right psi to fight a fire. Be sure all operating nuts, hose and pumper caps will move easily with a wrench. Lubricate threads and exercise the valves so they’re easily moved.

Flush the mains. Getting that gunk out of the lines is really important. Rust, sediment and debris can block water from properly exiting the nozzle of the hose.

Implement and Vehicle Prep

A great time to perform maintenance on your fleet and implements is right before they're retired for the winter. That way, you’re going to know that next year, when you need to use them, that hard work is behind you.

Fill the fuel tanks. Take some time and fill the fuel tanks on all motors and other vehicles that will be dormant over the winter. Add a fuel conditioner too, as this helps the fuel from gelling up in sub-zero temps. After adding the conditioner, drive the vehicle for a few moments to help distribute the additive and get it into the fuel line.

Lubricate and grease. Look at your owner’s manual for info on where to apply. Exposed steel sections and unpainted metal areas can be wiped down with grease to help keep them from rusting.

Change the oil, check the fluids. Once the oil and the filter has been swapped out on all your fleet, start up each engine and let it run for a few minutes to let the oil cover the engine. Now’s a good time to change out the transmission oil and brake fluid too. Flush the radiator and fill it with antifreeze to prevent the water from expanding and breaking the radiator when it freezes. Top off the windshield fluid, and while you’re thinking about it, take a look at the wipers, swapping them out if necessary.

Fix what’s broken. Repair any physical damage to the fleet as this will really help to reduce rusting over the winter. Plus, you're going to feel great knowing everything’s ready for the year ahead as you store them for the winter.

Rinse down the outside, detail the inside. Wash and wipe down each vehicle in your fleet and detail the cabins.

Prep the engine block heaters. For the engines that will be called into action over the winter, think about getting the engine block heaters ready for those frigid nights ahead. This will help get the motor to turn over after a cold evening. Have an extension cord and outlet assigned for each block warmer as well.

Winter Clean-Up Tips for the Farm

Across the warmer months, you’re able to see where foot and road traffic hazards lay, but in the winter months, snow can cover these items. Taking time to tidy up and clear out these main access routes across your farm can help keep them safe when the winter snow starts to mount up. 

Manage the walkways. If large hazards are in the way, you’ll be doing everyone a favor by getting these items moved before they’re hidden under a blanket of snow. Another hidden risk that’s often missed is getting leaves off of walkways. They can make already tricky surfaces very slick when slush and ice are in play.

Collect scrap metal. One other big way to winterize your farm is to move the rusting scrap metal off your property. The benefit here is that once the thaw hits in the spring, your farm will look great for visitors and investors.

And just like that, winter’s on its way and your farm is ready. A big bonus of prepping for winter on the farm is that you’re able to get a real feel for what your farm is made of, and what’s changed over the past year. With these details fresh in your mind, take a few moments and contact your American Family Insurance agent to review your coverage. Your updated policy will better reflect your inventory and you’ll have more peace of mind knowing that your investments — and everything you’ve worked so hard for — is well-protected.

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Related Topics: Farm Insurance , Farm Safety , Farm Succession Plan