Sunday, July 31, 2011

How the other half lives

Regular readers will remember multiple years of whinging from me about our lack of a suitable livestock trailer and descriptions of various flimsy lash-ups, as well as outbreaks of outright bodgery to make up for lack of the same. To say this problem has driven me to distraction in previous years would be an understatement.

(Here's a selection of totally classic posts in this vein:
1, 2, & 3)

There's even a very fine wood craving made by father-in-law Dick Phillippi of one such incident.

Memorialized in artwork, no less.

But obviously, this annual tradition had to end somehow.
Something Needed to be Done this year, if the pigs were to be safely transported to the slaughterhouse, and if I were to keep my sanity.

After weeks of perusing Uncle Henry's and Maine Craigslist for a suitable trailer, I finally realized I wasn't going to have the money to get one that was ready made and perfect.

Therefore I would have to make one.

I've made a small livestock trailer before using plastic sheeting and two-by-fours, and it worked alright until I backed the flimsy trailer frame into the barn's concrete slab with the four-wheel-drive pick-em-up truck, in four wheel, low range, and, unhappily, made the previously rectangular frame more of a rhomboid.

After that, my fine trailer wore out a new set of eight-inch tires every twenty miles. Obviously the trailer couldn't be used on the road anymore, although I still use it regularly for hauling firewood out of our woods.

I removed the plastic cap and made that into a stand-alone livestock crate, which we still have and which works fine for sheep, but is too flimsy for big pigs.

I finally set aside $300 after paying bills one Friday and set out to shop for a trailer. I found one in Carmel, just up the road on the way to Bangor, advertised for just that price.

I was a bit suspicious of it at first, because the axle had clearly been struck and was bowed about an inch, but the tires weren't worn and the owner swore he has been using it on the road. The rest of the trailer was fine, and I figured I could get a replacement axle for it, if need be.

But I haggled harder than I normally would have, because of the bent axle. He and I settled on $230, but he threw in a new trailer hitch, and a secondhand 1 and 7/8 inch ball.

The seller had tarted it up a bit, probably with some black Rustoleum in a spray can. He hadn't bothered to remove the decking to get at the rust on the frame underneath, which I resolved to do as soon as I could.

I let it sit outside in the yard until I got to a good point in some of my other projects, and so today after finishing the second full side of metal roofing on our barn, I wrecked out the floorboard decking and chopped them up for winter kindling, removed the remainder of the floor screws, ground off the rust with the wire brush attachment on the angle grinder, washed away the dust and dirt (which is right about the stage I took this picture), and then finally sprayed the whole chassis with half a quart of black Rustoleum in the pneumatic sprayer.

I have new decking sorted already, the same treated wood we've used on the truck bed.

The trailer came with decent, solid hardware for crate sides, supposed to fit into 2 by 4 sockets built into the frame, which will do just fine for most loads, and so I'll make new crate sides with the same hardware.

However, we'll need metal sides and a metal roof for pigs, so I can foresee a trip to the metal yard in Bangor in my future.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the pigs eat and sleep and drink like happy pigs. They're on their last half-ton of feed, though.

Do you think that if they knew that when this lot was finished, they'd be off to the butchers, they'd eat a little more slowly?

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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