Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Portable Windbreak Thoughts

I've more or less decided how I'm going to build my windbreaks (as always, subject to change) which I'll go ahead and share. I decided to follow the design from the Ranchers.net forum post which I wrote about in my previous post.

I went ahead and built some little models to scale out of some foam board and wire to make it a little easier to show what I'm talking about, and also so I could huff and puff and try to blow them over to test how stable the design actually is.  I don't know how accurate my "huffing and puffing trying to blow them over" test is or if it even applies to real world conditions, but it was harder to blow them over than I thought it would be, so I'm satisfied they'll work. 

It's easier to look at the photos than it would be to draw and explain my plans, but the relevant measurements are: 

-the windbreak (foam board, sheet metal, wood, etc.) part is 8'x24',

-the width of the base needs to be 1.5 times the height of the windbreak for stability, so the legs are about 12' long,

-the lines on the foam board represent the framing that the sheet metal is attached to,

-there is about a one-foot gap at the bottom for enough air flow (it has something to do with snow drifting),

 -the pipe at the top is so that a tractor with a bale spike can be used to pick up and move the windbreaks. 

-the legs are removable and are simply a 2 3/8 pipe slid into a 2 7/8 sleeve (the Ranchers.net forum post has a picture of the assembly).

Since the windbreak has removable legs and is about 8' tall, I should be able to easily disassemble and load them onto an equipment trailer so that they can be moved longer distances (which is one of my design criteria).  

Two windbreaks attached together and angled for more wind blocking action

Legs need to be 6-feet from the ends so the windbreaks can be angled

Three windbreaks attached together for even more stability and wind blocking
I haven't decided if the windbreaks should be built entirely out of 2 3/8 pipe or a combination of pipe and 3" (or 4") c-channel purlin material (like a steel framed barn).  Right now, I'm leaning towards the pipe and purlin combination to make it less top heavy and easier to attach the sheet metal.

The material used to make the windbreak itself also needs to be decided.  Some sources recommend something like 2x6 lumber spaced a couple of inches apart to make a porous windbreak which is supposed to have an advantage over a solid wall (try going to the Portable Windbreak Fences publication for more info). Wood seems like it would be heavy, more expensive, and less durable.  If I could salvage some treated boards from somewhere, it might be an option.

I've also read about using used billboard tarps (available on eBay for reasonable prices) on a windbreak,  which sounds like it would work reasonably well although I'm not sure how long a billboard tarp would last or what it would look like out in a pasture if the printed part of the billboard tarp was still visible.

Solid sheet-metal (the same as on a barn) is another option, which at the moment, is the type of material I think I'd probably use for building a windbreak.  Sheet-metal is relatively light weight, pretty durable, and is affordable.  Sheet metal should also make it easier to move them on a trailer if I ever decide to.  I'm undecided about whether I'd run the sheet-metal horizontally or vertically.  The framing would need to be built differently depending on how the sheet metal is installed, so I'll have to do some thinking on what would work better, would be easiest to build, etc..

So far, I think that explaining in detail how I'd build my version of a portable windbreak might possibly be the extra shove I need to build one or two this winter, so stay tuned for the possible, maybe, if-I-ever-get-around-to-it building process (I'm still not making any promises though).


  1. Its interesting how someone can put unconscious constraints on a project. When you first mentioned the windbreaks, I was thinking of something that you would have to move by hand and thus prone to being blown over by wind or giving you a hernia. Now that I see ones that can be moved with a bale fork, I can now understand how they would work well.

    Not sure on price, but when we built our farrowing buildings for hogs, we lined them with sheets of PVC or similar plastic material. It allowed us to power wash the buildings between uses and not have to worry about moisture rot. It might be good to line those built of wood with something similar to increase the life of them. Of course it would be a pain in the ass if you didn't do a solid break and had to leave gaps in them.

    Having said all that, it would probably be much cheaper and easier just to paint the darn things every few years.

    1. I've seen one design that looked like it might be movable by hand or without any equipment that I thought about building at one time.

      Oklahoma State has some wheat fields they use for some wheat trials (different varieties and grazing vs. grain trials) about 10-15 miles away.

      The fields where they do the grazing trials have automatic waterers out in the fields and they put up little windbreaks close to the waterers. They took three 16-20 foot gates that are covered with metal, attached them to a single post and spaced them 120 degrees apart (it looks like the Mercedes emblem from above).

      It looked like a simple and clever design because it was relatively easy to build and with three wings there was always somewhere to get out of the wind. If you didn't have a fixed central post, it would also be easy to move around the pasture.