An Enlightened Farmer
In a charming and picturesque setting, sits an idealic farm, painted the classic white and red. This is where we meet up with Vachel, the herd's top performer cow. You would think she runs the place! But we're better off not letting her in on the secret, it would spoil her fun.
Moo yes, what's this? Who is this little fellow on two legs who thinks he is running the show here? Without my friends and I, he would be nowhere. I am proud of how we've raised him. He doesn't smoke or drink… Pardon? Why doesn't he smoke? Well just look around here: dust, hay, straw. Everything is flammable. The neighbour, who is owned by the hogs down the way, recently had the shock of his life. Liquid manure produces colourless and odourless methane gas. It spreads through the air and humans are unable to detect it. But, this gas you see is flammable. That's exactly what the neighbour discovered when he lit up a cigarette. Hah! hah! He proved how fast he could run that day! And it certainly caused a big commotion on the back road. All these little humans dressed in yellow aboard strange looking red tractors racing by at top speed. I believe they're called firefighters. They put out the fire while it was still in its early stages. Fortunately, since one in every two farm fires results in a total loss.
Installing a smoke alarm is an effective preventive measure, and carbon monoxide detectors provide added protection. There is no sense installing them in farm buildings because dust and moisture interfere with these devices. In the garage and office, however, they are extremely effective and save lives!
In my opinion, the human who lives in the nearby grey and blue farm needs some firm discipline. Blossom just doesn't have what it takes to whip him into shape. For example, he fills his vehicles with gas while the motor is still hot. Fuel can ignite on contact with heat. At our farm, there are two portable ABC fire extinguishers placed at a distance of every 50 feet. They have a minimum capacity of 4 kg. For old-timers, that 10 lbs! My human shakes the extinguisher regularly to keep the powder from settling.
Our farm is in good order. My human realized soon enough that the farm cats could not keep up with all the work around the place. What am I talking about? Rodents, of course! Hannah the cat is the head of the mouse and pest control crew. A cat can be graceful, but they are also remarkably skilled hunters. My farmer helped out the cats by cutting all of the scrub around the buildings. It makes their job easier. They have to search for prey a little further away now, but are happy the farmer continues to give them milk and table scraps!
Inside the building, electrical wiring through the walls and ceilings is protected by PVC or metal tubing. Statistics show that electricity is the cause of an estimated two-thirds of all farm fires in Québec? Something to consider, right? Incidentally, municipal firefighters gave a workshop for farmers on how to prevent farm fires. My farmer signed up and took part in the workshop. During the activity, he learned that farm electrical systems have to be cleaned and inspected regularly and that he should hire a master electrician to do all the electrical work on the farm. A farmer should never do it himself. After all, he would not want anyone else doing his job to milk the cows! Just the thought of it makes me nervous! He also had a bad habit of using twine for everything: to hang a lamp, tie wires together, etc. It doesn't take long for twine to wear out though! And metal chains are hardly better, since they conduct electricity.
My farmer, however, had dustproof electrical equipment installed in the mouldings. Which is good. He also airs out the buildings to reduce the amount of dust inside. I love getting fresh air.
He does not use the electrical room as a storage room and leaves at least one metre of clearance around the electrical panel.
In the hay loft, light bulbs are protected by globed light fixtures. A lighted bulb can heat up to 200 degrees Celsius. That's 400 degrees Fahrenheit for old-timers.
My farmer has removed the heater he used to have in the dairy barn. One day, the man who comes to collect the milk came into the milk house and noticed a burning smell. He shut off the heater and left a note for the farmer. I think that was a close call. Since then, there has been no heater in the barn. Incidentally, I recommended that he use unit heaters. They cost a little more, but are a lot safer.
Since the ice storm, several neighbours have bought generators. If you have a generator, a double-pole transfer switch should be installed. This type of switch requires the user to choose a single power source (generator of Hydro-Québec) to supply the electrical panel.
Firefighters wound up the workshop with a brief presentation about how to store products. They explained to farmers that fuel should never be stored inside a building. For other goods such as nitrogen fertilizer, lime and cleaning products for buildings and the milk tank, you should consult suppliers and read the labels. It's the best way to learn about storage standards. This also applies to propane tanks. To install tanks, follow the Natural Gas and Propane Installation Code and Propane Storage and Handling Code guidelines.
My farmer already clearly labels all pesticides and stores them in a separate building, which is the safest thing to do. And for those who are unfamiliar with the concept of spontaneous combustion, you should know that hay and straw that are stored while still moist can ignite for no apparent reason.
The workshop concluded with three golden rules that farmers should follow. First, always be careful. Which is clear enough! Second, what is temporary is never permanent. That's my motto! Third, you do your job… What I mean is that a farmer is not a master electrician. “You do your job and I'll do mine”, it's a human proverb. As cows, we certainly endorse these words of wisdom, because things would be quite different around here without us to do our job!
In partnership with the Service de sécurité incendie et civile, La Tuque