Monday, November 30, 2015

22 tons in the barn so far

ab-8b grain dryer
The grain dryer is pretty much the right size for the combine grain tank; when the combine is full it completely fills the dryer, and that makes things simpler.  While it's drying I'm out filling up the combine again.  The combine harvests faster than the dryer, though.    When people talk about grain they always talk about bushels, when I'm used to using tons.  for shelled corn, a bushel is 56lbs, but 56lbs of 30% moisture corn is not what 56lbs of 15% moisture corn is.  It shrinks as it dries.

This particular dryer is meant to run automatically; you'd have a "wet grain" bin on one end, with an auger into the dryer to load it.  On the other side you'd have an unload auger that would move the grain into the storage bin, and this unit can turn on or off all of the required equipment.

So right now it's go get a combine full of grain, come back and load the dryer and wait about 15 minutes.  The grain will settle and shrink as it dries, so for the first half-hour or so you keep feeding in grain, about another 300-400lbs until the dryer is topped-off full.

Once that's done it's off to the field again for more grain.  When I get back the dryer is done with the load, have the unload auger put it into the bucket of the tractor and add it to the 'dry' grain pile in one of the barns.  Fill the grain dryer, and repeat.

With a couple of bins, you'd just add the "wet" corn to the bin until it was full, and then this machine would just work all night to dry and transport the grain; in the morning you'd go out and fill the wet bin again, and repeat.

This particular dryer is about the same age as my combine; late 70s, early 80s.  It's even got a couple of vacuum tubes in it; I haven't seen a vacuum tube in maybe 15 years.

Automating the drying/storing process would make harvesting a one-man operation; this size dryer will dry 120 bushels of grain in a batch, which is 3.5 tons; with load, dry, cool, unload it takes about 2.5 hours per batch; roughly 10 batches in 24 hours.  So to have it work overnight the wet bin would have to be something like 600-800 bushels.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"what does this button do?"

Pretty frustrating day today.   Perfect weather; clear and cold.  Ground is frozen, which is great because I'd like to combine a bunch of corn.  

Yesterday I discovered that the fuel gauge on the combine is inoperative.  It reads 3/4 full no matter what the fuel level is, and I discovered that by running the combine out of fuel.  Now that's not a small thing when it comes to diesel equipment -- the take home lesson is that you should never, ever let the fuel run out, but it did, and the combine stopped, and I walked home last night really questioning why I never noticed the fuel level changing.

Someone added this.  the bad handwriting is mine

No matter, up early, with the diesel-out-of-fuel starter kit:  3 cans of starter fluid (ether), a bunch of small wrenches, an air compressor, air line, and a roll of plastic bags and a bag of rags.

I'm not going to go into the first two hours, but at the end the batteries were low, so back to the house, where I got the big battery charger, jumper cables and the gasoline generator to add to the pile of equipment on the back of the truck, and back to the combine I went.

this lever, factory equipment, works just fine.  why mess with it?

It's turning over, but won't sustain.  So I grab a soda and think about it, and decide that it's probably a blocked fuel line.  I detach the fuel line at the bottom of the tank, and sure enough, no flow from the tank.  Blow air into the tank, clear the blockage (make note to myself that I have to empty and clean the tank later) and then notice there's a shutoff valve right there.  And it's halfway "off".  So I open it, and optimistically hope that fixes it.  Back to ether, cranks but no joy.

So I've cleared the line from the tank to the sediment trap, and next I check the line from the sediment trap to the priming fuel pump - a little tiny fuel pump right at the bottom of the fuel tank.  it's fine.  Then I check the line from the priming pump to the main fuel filters (there are two of them), and I have fuel there.  
documentation is something i learned as a software engineer

I'm not going to go into how hard it is to trace these lines through the depths of this machine; everything is painted green, and it's all got dust/mud on it, and it's often behind things.  no  1 hour... two hours...

So then I check the line from the fuel filters to the main fuel pump.  it's good, fuel there.  Then the line from the fuel pump to the injectors.  No fuel.  What?

The fuel line goes behind the engine block, and there's some white and yellow wires going in there too.  I check the manual; nothing there.  What is that?

So I unscrew the fuel line on both ends, and carefully pull it out to find something called a murphy valve (I think that is what it said on it).  A 12v fuel cutoff solenoid.  When its got power it's on, and when it doesn't its off.    I pull it out, apply 12 volts, it works.  I check the wires with the ignition key on and off.  No power.  How did the combine work without power before?

So I look in the cab and find the red box that someone has installed.  And on that red box is a button.  And the red button apparently got pushed at some point, and that turns off the power to this thing, and THAT BUTTON WASTED A WHOLE WORK DAY FOR ME.  ARRGGGHHH!

So I carefully re-install the fuel line, but one of the ends is a bit stripped and won't thread back on, and so I end my day with a trip to the hardware store for a $1.30 replacement part, and I write with a sharpie, carefully, "fuel cutoff solenoid"

And I guess I'll finish that corn tomorrow.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Learning to farm, going against the usual rule

A lot of my early farming was spent looking at other peoples operations and learning from them.  Good and bad, true and false, I basically approached farming as a complete unknown, and 10 years ago it was.  My family history has farming in its background, but neither my mother or father farmed.
So I'd look around and see someone doing something, and genrally speaking I'd do the exact same thing, which meant I did some odd things.  Later, as my learning progressed those things didn't seem so odd anymore; it just took a while to figure out why it made sense.  

combining winter corn from bruce king on Vimeo.

And this applies to crops, too  If you look around in your area you'll see crops and farming activity, and usually it's because that particular crop or activity is well-suited to the environment.  So I never tried to grow pomergrantes here because I didn't see any.  

So this year I went against that basic rule, and planted grain corn, which is corn designed to be harvested for the corn kernels themselve, instead of the entire plant and kernels for use as animal feed.  I'm still going to use the corn kernels as animal feed (although they'd make great organic corn everything!) but I wanted a crop that I could grow somewhere else and only have to transport the highest-value portion - the kernel - to reduce my costs in bringing it back.

The grain corn that I planted this year was planted on a schedule so that it would be physically mature on september 1st - at least according to the seed vendor.  As you've seen, I watched and watched and watched the corn as it matured, and then dried.  

Despite having a warmer-than-usual year, the corn matured 2-3 weeks after the stated maturity date, and really didn't get dry enough to combine until 2 months later, around the second week of november.  

golden grain pouring into combine from bruce king on Vimeo.

During that time we had lots and lots of rain, and two floods, which I was sure would be the end of my corn, but surprisingly enough, the fields where I planted aren't in direct current -- the water rose and fell pretty gently, and for the majority of the corn, the water didn't get high enough to touch the ears.  Tall corn is good!

The corn is coming in somewhere around 23% moisture, but will keep best at 15%; so I'm using small grain drier to dry 5,000lbs of corn at a time.   The high-moisture corn can be  used as feed pretty much straight out of the field; the dried version will probably need to be rolled or ground or something to make it more digestible for the animals.  

I'm going to call this against-the-grain a success, and given that the corn is still in pretty good shape despite floods and rain... well, I think that I'll be planting corn somewhere on my fields from here on.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Farm venture fundraising - but what?

So I'm reading through the fundraising post of a farm venture, this one wants to teach people to farm, and I'm all for that, and I run across this:

First, I'm pretty skeptical that crowdfunding donors actually get good value for what they donate.  Dont' get me wrong - these crowdfunding efforts are GREAT for the farmer - they get the money and have few or no restrictions on it, and in my opinion don't have to ever complete their stated project, or if they do, they can do it on their own schedule -- like sugar mountain that has slipped their schedule between 3 and 5 years so far, and it's slipping further as time goes by.

"young female farm manager" - not the best qualified, or the best fit, but the age and sex is specified.  That's pretty amazing to me.  Imagine if I posted an advertisement like that for my farm:

  "Hiring a farm hand.  Males only, women need not apply, and no one over 20"

I'd probably get viral status, don't you think?  And the headlines would be great.  Maybe you can suggest a few in the comments.

With this sort of fund raising request, there's no backup for the things you'd normally see in a grant request, or a proposal to a bank for a loan.    Stuff like a business plan.  A copy of the most recent results.  Even the biography of the founder of this farm is blank:

If you want to rely on the good intentions of generous individuals I think that you have the responsibilty to use their funds in an appropriate manner.  Discriminatory hiring and black-box numbers don't really leave me with the impression that they've really throught this out.  And the leave the prospective donors with no way to verify if the proposed changes were made, or in fact if there's any progress at all.

Here's where I will give Walter Jefferies full credit:  Despite being years behind in the schedule he's doggedly pursued completing his project, and has posted many updates showing the projects status and the milestone passed.   And that's wonderful, and basically missing from most crowdfunded projects.

While I did donate to Sugar Mountain, I'm not going to be donating to Tricycle farms.  I'd prefer they get their training wheels first.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The cows reflecting on eating grass
I'm running 40 cows right now; 30 of them are dairy, 10 are beef.  Some of the 30 are kinda-beef; they're 50% holstein 50% angus cross steers that I've produced and am growing out.  

I looked at buying some steers in both 2014 and 2015 and just couldn't bring myself to pay the price that animals were getting at that time.  The market has gone done a little (it's still high to my eye, but its not in record territory like it was) and my reaction to that was to retain a few of my own steers to grow out.  

The steers are pretty tasty; the angus/holstein cross is efficient at converting grass to meat, and they're relatively docile and easy to manage.   If you've got the space and forage, cows are a pretty easy crop to bring to market.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

(video) 2015 Thanksgiving turkeys

These are the turkeys that are coming to dinner, for those folks who are curious.  They're free-ranged on our fields; we'll keep a few of them for eggs for next years crop, but the majority of these will be on the table this thanksgiving

001 from bruce king on Vimeo.

Combining the corn (video)

This is the first year we've had a combine, and it's a complex machine.   So after going through it and reading the manual and setting all of the various controls to the reccomended values, I'd take it out to the field and process a little bit of corn and then look at how it did.  This video is one of those "tuning" runs.

combining corn fall 2015 from bruce king on Vimeo.
I am so impressed with the concept of combines in general, and with this one in particular. Driving at 2 to 4mph, it picks the ears, removes the husk, schucks the kernels from the cob and deposits the grain corn into a tank. At 4 rows wide (which is narrow when it comes to combines; this particular unit can accomodate a 6 and 8 row wide corn head if I wanted) and 4mph, it's covering 6 feet of ground a second. With a corn plant spacing of 9" between the plants that's around 8 plants per row per second, or 32 corn plants per second, with 2 ears on each plant.
This video was taken when the combine was on the red line, facing the small end of the top field
So you're driving along and this machine is sucking up 64 ears of corn a second and processing it and all you have to do is make sure you keep the head centered on the rows. This particular machine is a john deere, model 7720 turbo. It's a 1979 model, originally used to harvest things like spinach and chard seed, and sometimes barley and wheat. The changeover to go from wheat to corn basically involved setting two main parameters: the feeder house bottom clearance and the concave spacing, and then fiddling with those settings until I got the results I wanted. There's a big fan that you can change the speed on, and there's a couple of other things that could be changed, but I didn't have to do any of that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

big flood today

Don't have any pictures as the river reached peak level after dark.  This one was much bigger than the previous; had serious water flowing on all sides of the house and barns.  The buildings are mostly high enough to be out of the flood water, but I had to move some equipment - again.  

Water peaked around 8pm tonight and is going down now.  I'm marking the high water levels around the farm to set the level for future improvements - mostly so that I can lay walkways that are higher than the water level I saw today.

I wrote a few days ago that I thought that this flood would be bigger than the last, and it was.  It doesn't seem like much, but the difference between a 14.72' flood level and a 15.09' flood level here is pretty intense.   I've got 2 to 3' of fast-flowing water over my fields at this point - my farm is at a bend in the river, and when that river comes over the bank it straightens out and barrels through my land.

This is the 4th biggest flood ever recorded for this river, since at least 1931.  This is a big deal.

I'll know more in the morning, but I have to say it's been an exciting night.

Flood effects

During flood event are pictures on left, 24 hours later on right.  Click on any picture for a bigger view

I left a bunch of crop residue on the fields as part of the seasonal management; some of the farmers in the area plow and cultivate, but I figured there was no rush to do it, and I didn't want to have loose dirt during the flood season.  I think it was the right call.  Had these fields been plowed I think I would have lost a lot of topsoil in this flood.  

But I did notice a grey mud, and I walked the field to where the flood water had entered, and found it on the upstream side.  So this material didn't come from my fields, but came from the river.  When the river floods it is either a light tan or slate grey, and I think it's related to what the river is eroding.  One thing that it is eroding is the site of the Oso landslide, about 10 miles upstream of me on the same river.  So there's hundreds of tons of sand and silt carried downstream, and during a flood, I get some of it.  

The material is deposited in lower areas in my fields - in the background of the picture above you can see a rough line - that's a tractor tire mark left when I planted the field a couple of years ago.  As the water flowed over it filled and leveled that tire track with this sand/silt combination, and effectively made my field smoother and taller.  I found deposits of the same sand and silt all over the field.  I'm going to guess that I received between 1/8 and 1/4" of this material across 40 acres that got covered.  

With a good soil cover I actually gain soil depth in a flood.  Who would have thought?  

Monday, November 16, 2015

it's flood seaon. Now for round 2

I've been watching the weather and we have another flood event forcast.  the last flood event was forcast originally as peaking around 12', but eventually ended up peaking at 14.72 feet, about 8" below the all-time record flood ever record.  that's pretty high.  It was the 7th deepest flood in the 80 or so years of records for this river.  That's a pretty big flood.

This coming up, the forecast graph is pictured above, is starting a lot bigger; it's forcast to be 14', and given that we exceeded our last forcast, there's some chance that it'll be bigger.

I think that it will be.  Here's why:

On the 12th the snow level dropped to 1500 or so feet; and the rain that's been coming down has been falling as snow in higher elevations (I'm at about 80' above sea level I think).  But the next storm forcast will bring in as much rain as the first storm - and the snow level will rise to an estimated 7,000' -- which means that all of the accumulated snow will be hit with a warm ran, and it's all going to come come the valleys pretty quickly.

Add to that the fact that the ground is absolutely saturated - some of the last rain soaked in and didn't make it to the river.  This one, and all that melted snow, will if the forecasts are accurate.

And they're forecasting 50 to 70mph winds.  Soaked ground and high winds mean trees are going down this time.

So a check of the house generator, put aside 10 gallons of fresh gasoline and extra chains for the chainsaw, and make sure that all of the animals are accounted for.  

video: Piglet interventions

Had a sow that was having trouble giving birth this afternoon; had 4 piglets live, and 4 stillborn, and was showing signs of distress.  A farrowing crate is good for these situations because you can make sure that the sow can be observed and treated if it's needed; most animals, given a choice, if they are feeling bad, will seek someplace isolated, and that could mean we'd lose the sow and her litter.

I make sure that she had food and water, although when a sow gives birth (farrows) she usually doesn't want to eat or drink for about 24 hours, and then went about doing other chores for a couple of hours, and came back to check on her.  She had delivered another stillborn piglet, and in examining her she had a piglet head that had emerged, but the pig was stuck.  A quick trip to the house for a bucket of warm soapy water, and a good scrub of my hands and a careful finger and I had the piglet out.  Unfortunately it was deceased; probably had its neck constricted, and the sow uttered a visible sigh of relief when I slid it out.  Relaxed immediately.

She's one of the oldest sows I have, and has always been great as a mother; and I'm sorry to see the stillbirths.  It happens with older animals, and I do try a round of vaccinations for illnesses that cause stillbirths but it's likely that she'll be culled after weaning this litter.

Each one of the four live had been put aside in a small warming pen, with a light and a heat pad while I figured out how to get mom to relax, and I carefully scooped each piglet up (and they scream like you're murdering them until you put them down!) and was gratified to see each one find a nipple and latch on.

  This first suckling is very important.  I waited a half hour, listening to the sow sing to her piglets; the deep gutteral grunting that a sow nursing makes, and watched her piglets vigorously push themselves into her stomach, and listened to the rain outside the barn.

There's a fair chance that she has another flight of piglets inside her - pigs give birth in two stages, one side of their reproductive tract, and then the other, usually seperated by a 30 minutes to an hour.  So I'll check on her in an hour or two to see if she's delivered the placenta, or possibly the placenta and another group of piglets.

I position the heat lamp so that it shines on the heat pad, put my hand on the heat pad to make sure that it's on, and warm, and feel the heat of the lamp on the top of my hand too.  Everything looks cosy for the little pigs.

piglets from bruce king   the four piglets I'm writing about in this entry

I walk around to the front of the crate and talk to the sow a little.  She opens her eyes a little,  lost in the nursing state.  she'll stay nearly absolutely still for the next 24 hours.  I scratch her ears and she grunts a little.

Livestock farming is hands-on.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Yep, we got a BIG flood

River level has exceeded forcast.   Flood photos at bottom of this post

Here's the forecast:
 The forecasts are usually a little conservative - they forecast what is probably their worst-cast likely flood.  So in the past the flood hasn't reached the forcast level.

This time not only did t he flood reach the level, it exceeded it, and they upped their forecast.  The river bank at my farm is right at 13 feet, so I've got water flowing into my fields right now.  at 14.5 feet, which is what is forecast now, we'll be on the news if it's a slow news day.
the new river that is flowing behind the neighbors house

turning around, where that water is coming from

standing with my back to the river, pointing at my farm.  big barn on left

i'm going to guess than about 50% of my fields are covered in 6" to 2' of water.

No issues with the farm; equipment and animals all safely tucked away in the barns.


River is now at 14.72 feet, which is a pretty big flood.  The all-time record high for the river was 15.6, so we're not at record levels, but we're less than 12" from them.  At 14.72 we're probably going to see the highway closed and major bank erosion where the river wants to move.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Living next to a river...

There's a USGS river gauge located about 200 yards from my property, and having it that close means that I can pretty much consider it to be my personal river level indicator -- pretty handy.  

I've been learning that the forecasts tend to be a little conservative - that is, even though the current forecast (the picture above) says that we'll have flooding, the actual river level isn't usually that high.  I can't blame the USGS for that - they'd get a lot of grief if it did flood when they didn't forecast it.  

But it's a reminder to make sure that all of the cows are in the barn tonight, that the equipment is parked on higher ground, and that the car is safely tucked into the carport, which is build above the flood level.  

the gauage level in this picture is the actual depth -- if it says it's 3' now, and 13' later, the river actually does go up the whole 10'; it's this regions version of a flash flood.  the water rises dramatically and then drops about as fast.  

Every year two or three fishermen or rafters drown on the river; when it gets above about 10' on the gauge, the speed increases dramatically, and there's usually a fair bit of debris -- mostly trees and stumps - that flow down the river.  

My old farm was completely in the flood plain, and I have to say that I'm liking this a lot better.  Just move stuff a few feet, and sit and watch nature rage.  

Farms depending on unpaid work: A canadian worker perspective

I've been very critical of farms who offer unpaid "internships" that appear to me to be mostly just low cost labor for the farm, and apparently farm workers in Canada are feeling the same sort of thing.  I recently ran across this article that talks about the situation related to organic farms in various provinces in Canada.

Don't get me wrong; I do train and teach the people who work for me -- but that's called training cost, and it's part of the responsibility of an employer, not some sort of special favor I do the employees.

What a lot of farms call "intern programs" I call the exploitation of the naive.   If you cannot pay your workers for the work, I'm going to say that you should sell your farm and let a more efficient, and fairer, operator take over.

That's the upside of a farm auction.  A less efficient operator goes, and a more efficient one comes in -- or they too, get auctioned.

When I talk about farms that have gone out of business, like Rebecca Thistlewaites TLC ranch, it's not obvious that the week that she moved off that land someone else moved onto it, and it's been farmed ever since.

The name on the gate might change, but the ground is going to be farmed if it's any good at all, and hopefully by someone who can figure out the profit puzzle.

Rebecca is available to teach you how to make a profitable farm, by the way.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bob Comis, his pigs, and guilt

from the fundraising page for "thelastpig" documentary
I first ran across Bob Comis when I read an essay that he wrote about how local meat prices are too high,  in Aprile of 2009.  If you look in the comment section of that post, I argued that Bob's quoted cost of raising a pig was way too low, and backed that up with figures from my own operation.   Funny enough, 2 years later there was Bob with his prices right up there with everyone else; he even wrote an angst-laden blog entry about how high his prices were in 2011, and I had a private laugh about that.  

Over time I'd see Bob write about something farming related, and honestly, some of the stuff he wrote was really...  depressing.   And not because of the usual farming stuff, but more because of the constant personal angst that I kept seeing in his posts.  Guilt, rage, conflict.  Like in this post.

One thing that is interesting to watch is drama, and Bob Comis is big farming drama.   A documentary director has decided to dramatize "the last pig that Bob Comis delivers to the butcher", and there's a dramatic trailer with nice lingering visuals.  It's pigs, but the disney version.  It's Bambi vs a deer hunting video.  I'm struggling for how to articulate this - it's not farming.

Not farming as I experience it.   After reading and talking to and knowing about Bob for the past 6 years, I often wondered why on earth he continued to farm if it bothered him so much.  But it's not just that farming bothers him, in my opinion everything bothers Bob.  He hates cubicles.  He hates Tractors.   If I were to summarize the vast majority of his life it would be "darn, life is sure a bummer!!"  I can't recall ever reading a post from him that I found hopeful, or joyful, or even happy.

I've been full-time farming for a while now, and I've personally probably killed more than a thousand pigs.  Maybe a few thousand, and I too love the animal.  Pigs are my favorite livestock, and I care for them by hand and live with them and I too do my best to offer them the best life I can while they are here.

But even with all of that, there are parts of farming that draw me, that provide me joy and fufillment, and that let me sleep at night knowing that i've done good work.  Back to the documentary...

Here's what I wrote recently on a social site about killing - which is the focus of this documentary:

"I run a pig farm, and sell direct to people who eat the pigs; we sell some live, and some processed. Some of the processing we do here on the farm; for bbq pigs, for instance. So I've probably killed around a thousand pigs.
now I like pigs; I started pig farming because I like the animal, and I enjoy working with them; we are a farrow-to-finish operation for some of our production; we sell most of our pigs as weaners.
Even after doing the quantity of killing that i've done, I still have feelings of regret-relief-satisfaction-remorse, some days more than others, at the act of the kill. it's particularly hard to kill animals that you've bottle fed, or to have to put down pets, or to kill an animal that you really-really-really hope will recover, but you know that it won't, and a quick end is the humane and kind choice for the animal.
it's different, killing.  "

If you go long enough we will all die.  It's a universal rule that we all have to abide by, to face, to contemplate, and eventually obey.  

It's the way nature is; it's the way we are.  I am conflicted but content.    

Friday, November 6, 2015

Gate design

I've been building and using gates on my farm for the last 10 years, and when I first started I believed (honestly) that an 8 foot gate was a good size. 

After bashing multiple 8 foot gates, I went to a 12 foot gate as my standard size, and after bashing a bunch of those, I finally settled on a 16'  minimum gate size for vehicle gates, and most stock gates.  

It seems like overkill to have a 16' gate, but I can tell you from personal experience that I've NEVER said to myself "gosh, this gate is just too big!", but I can't tell you how many times I've had gates magically shrink when I was trying to get through them.  Most of the time you're not straight-on a gate, and the loss of a couple of feet makes a big difference.  Yes, you can get a 6' wide tractor through an 8' gate.  No, you won't enjoy it.  

 The first thing I learned was to build small extensions to the base of the gate.  If you look at the picture above you'll see two gate designs; one that is flush with the fence, and one that is inset a little bit.  The inset requires at least one more post, and sometimes a brace, and is more work, but it makes for a MUCH more useable gate.  In the lower example  you can drive wide equipment up and use the whole fence width; in a pinch, you can trap balky animals behind it, and you'll get a full swing of your gate vs a smaller swing with the gate pushed against the fence.

The picture above shows two fence designs for a gate off a road.  I do these sorts of gates for field access anymore because it's safer and easier - safer in that I size the opening so that I can pull my vehicle/tractor/trailer or whatever off the road completely before I get out to open or close the gate.  Now this sort of gate is easiest (for me, anyway) when it's arrange as it is on the right hand side.  If you make the gate area square with the outside fence you end up with a very sharp angle at the point of the fence, and with less usable area for the gate.  if you put in a big gate, you want to be able to use every inch of it.  The design on the right has the area of the fence where the gate is mounted at right angles to the pull-out for the gate.  That means when I pull out and align myself along that fence I'm good and have maximum gate area.  
This final picture is a combination of these two gate techniques.  the gate itself is mounted where the little square is.  If you do it this way your gate can both block the road by swinging out - which is handy for things like herding livestock, and can open as wide as it can be.  The blue circle represents the swing of the gate. 

I'm a bit divided on whether or not having a short extension is worth it on the free-end of the gate.