It was not uncommon for visitors viewing the gadgets at the 42nd annual Minnesota Inventors Congress to suddenly exclaim, "Wow! Why didn't I think of that?"
Their amazement was testament to the simplicity and utility of the exhibitors' solutions to typical farming problems. Here are a few of the ingenious inventions: some for the field, some for the shop and a few that just make good sense.
No more spaghetti. One December, Kevin O'Rourke was helping his wife set up Christmas lights and was troubled with all the extension cords winding around on the floor like spaghetti. So he created the Multicord to eliminate the tangle and add convenience, with no loss in power.
The Multicord is a series of component cords from lengths of 2 to 10 ft. and a box with two outlets. A 220v adapter is included that is pulled off a circuit breaker. The first section of the Multicord fits into the adapter.
"I don't care whether you're a farmer, construction worker or electrician. It doesn't matter because the Multicord provides power and convenience," says O'Rourke, who owns O'Rourke Electricity in Waterville, MN. "You can use it single phase 220 or three phase, or it can be used as a single 110v circuit." For more information, contact O'Rourke Electricity Inc., Dept. FIN, Rt. 2, Box 4500, Waterville, MN 56096, 507/362-4896.
The right cut. Don't think you're the only one who has miscalculated the exact place to saw on a piece of wood. Dave Reisinger is a cabinetmaker who says he came up with the Exact-Cut out of necessity. "I was going broke throwing away lumber," he says. "Have you checked on the price of lumber lately?"
Exact-Cut is somewhat like the old protractors used in math class and might be even simpler to use. You can measure inside or outside corners or simple angle cuts anywhere. You simply lay the Exact-Cut into the corner and move the dual components flush with the two edges.
"This will give you the right cut the first time," Reisinger states. For more information, contact DC Trim Co., Dept. FIN, 1026 31st Ave. N., St. Cloud, MN 56303, 320/259-9469.
Air delivery. Steve McDonnell wasn't happy with the air reels of his combine, so he took the same concept into the shop and walked out with the Air Guard, a hollowsickle guard that allows a stream of air to keep grain heading into the innards of the combine.
Basically he tooled down a typical sickle guard, then drilled a port. "The air delivery system is the same," McDonnell says. He installed a PVC port into the guard that attaches to a high-pressure air stream blower. "We were pretty happy with the results," he says. "This should, once and for all, eliminate the loss of beans that shatter when they hit the cutter bar. It simply blows the beans off the bar and into the combine." For more information, contact Steve McDonnell, Dept. FIN, Box 163, Beardsley, MN 56211, 320/748-7751.
An end to reel flash. As they say in west-central Minnesota, "Uffda!" That was the typical reaction of those farmers who caught Grant Hanson's Right Light, an extended halogen light system for a combine. A bank of seven lights, 350W each, extends ahead of the combine reel, eliminating reel flash and allowing the operator to see what actually goes into the combine after dark.
"There is always a cloud of dust between the reel and the cab of the combine," says Hanson. "It's hard to see through that, but at night you start experiencing reel flash. That means that your eyes tend to focus on the shiny, moving parts. That is hypnotic, but also quite stressful. The Right Light eliminates that."
Extending the light beyond the reel produces a "back light" behind the reel so the operator can see the lighted crop. The dust becomes inconsequential.
To operate the Right Light, a circuit is pulled off the main box and wired directly into the light so there isn't a draw on the power source. Hanson says that, for added convenience, the boom is adjustable.
"So far we've designed one for the Deere combines, but that isn't a limiting factor," Hanson says. He is currently looking for a manufacturer. For more information, contact Glenridge Inc., Dept. FIN, 186 N. Hwy. 55, Glenwood MN 56334, 320/760-1522.
Compact wire stretcher. If you've ever tried to carry one of those heavy and awkward wire stretchers through rough terrain, then you will appreciate the Fence Buddy.
Dennis Fisher, who ranches in the Sisseton, SD, area, has designed a compact, lightweight, yet tough fence stretcher that comes in a small case that can be carried in a toolbox or hung over a saddle horn.
"Usually we're out for a few days checking cattle," says Fisher, "and those old fence stretchers got awful old carrying around."
He has combined some rather high-tech materials (extra-strength nylon webbing used in cargo strapping) with new-style wire grips that work equally well with smooth or barbed wire. You can tighten a broken wire for splicing or stretch wires to a post. The wire grip ends and ratchet are zinc coated to prevent rusting. Since the congress, Fisher has upgraded the design of the grips to give them a 30 percent higher tensile strength. For more information, contact DSLA Co., Dept. FIN, Rt. 3, Box 115, Sisseton, SD 57262, 800/387-3752.
Hay transporter. William Keller brought his original Hay Cradle to the Inventors Congress last year, but after a year of milking cows and doing some flank-side dreaming, the Belgrade, MN, dairy farmer returned to the show with an improved cradle with "value-added" components.
The dolly, called the Super Transport 2000, allows you to lift a 600-lb. bale of hay and tote it like a golf bag. "It's all in the axle," Keller says.
"We make the handle with high strength, ultra-light metal that is triple reinforced and electronically welded. We add a tough torque bar to give you leverage," he explains. He added a saddle attachment or tack attachment, a wood carrying box and a poultry box, which is popular with pig and turkey farmers. "We can come up with any configuration a person can conceive with this Super Transport 2000. Why, we're just scratching the surface," Keller says. For more information, contact Keller's Rocking WK Ranch, Dept. FIN, 12075 270th Ave. N.E., Belgrade, MN 56312, 877/957-2624.
Wheel adjustment. Lamberton, MN, farmer Tom Turbes is a frequent exhibitor at the congress, and this year he came with a neat add-on safety product he calls the Safe-Quick Wheel Adjustment. The threaded adjustment bolt configuration for a gauge wheel is quick and accurate and is sure to prevent pinched fingers or hands.
"If you've ever tried to adjust gauge wheels that you have to unbolt to adjust, then you can see the beauty in this," says Turbes. "There is none of that. All you need is a couple of wrenches and you can raise or lower the wheels to whatever depth you want, quickly and conveniently." For more information, contact Turbes Enterprise, Dept. FIN, Rt. 1, Box 255, Lamberton, MN 56152, 507/752-7713.
Hay puncher. Jerry Schmitcke was tired of wrestling with his baler when it became choked with hay.
"I did about anything you can think of to unplug a baler," says the Menoken, ND, farmer. "I dug them out. I pried. I kicked." Then he went and did something about it; he created a hydraulic add-on called the Inforcer that literally punches plugged hay into the baler.
"I had one on an older baler that worked really well, and I've made a few more for different balers," Schmitcke says. "Heck, these are even adaptable to new model balers. They're about as trouble free as possible, and, yes, I've got a couple of large baler manufacturers coming out to look at it."
The unit pounds the plug with a steady rhythm until it is taken through the baler. "Once it gets started the baler just pulls it in," Schmitcke says. For more information, contact Jerry Schmitcke, Dept. FIN, 2801 171st S.E., Menoken, ND 58558 701/673-3375.
Electric fence. Gene Boyes introduced the Dura Fast Electric Fence System, a unique and simple system that he says evolved over the course of several years. Make that 40 years. "Ever since I started farming, I thought there was a better way of fencing than with wood," Boyes says.
He designed a permanent electric fence that is fast and easy to install, yet durable, and is erected with just a few simple hand tools. It allows the use of steel T-posts for the whole job. "Everything else is bolted on," Boyes says.
The fence has post anchors and post stabilizers, an adapter plate, and corner and gate insulators made of Plexiglas. "If properly used, the system should never ground out on any steel parts," Boyes says. The key component is the adapter plate, which fits over the T-post and allows for adjustment in the brace and anchors. For more information, contact Gene W. Boyes, Dept. FIN, Rt. 1, Box 76, Tamarack, MN 55787, 218/768- 2136.