In The Shop: Hi-Tech Rock Locator

Published on: 09:25AM Apr 17, 2011

 I rode in a self-propelled sprayer with a customer this week. Every so often he'd grab a little yellow gadget from the armrest console and punch a button on it twice. I finally had to ask what the heck he was doing.

He was marking the location of rocks, broken tile intakes, and other things he wanted to be able to easily find at a later date. Every time he punched the yellow gadget, it locked into its electronic memory the exact latitude and longitude, give or take a few feet. When he wants to return to pick up the rock or fix the broken tile intake, the gadget will display directional arrows to guide him back to the exact spot.

He's an old-school farmer who anticipated what I was thinking: "Why do I need a gizmo to help return to a rock sitting on top of the ground in one of my fields?" His answer was that he can give the gizmo to his brother, his son or a hired man and they can quickly and accurately locate all the rocks and broken tiles he has marked. No more drawing maps. No more radio or cell phone calls, "Hey, I'm in Smith's 80--where did you say that broken tile is...?" 

Some of you are thinking, "But I've got a GPS autosteer unit in the tractor that can designate "flags" to mark rocks and stuff in the field." But that GPS unit is bolted in your tractor, and you'd have to take it out to hand it to the hired man to pick up rocks. Plus, that GPS unit cost you how many thousands of dollars...?

The Garmin eTrex unit he uses costs around $100. There are other brands on the market for a similar price. The more I think about it, the better I like the idea of being able to use a shirt-pocket-size hand-held unit to re-locate things. Like rocks, broken tile inlets, and weed patches. If a person wrote down the latitude and longitude of a few locations, he could map the location of septic systems, electrical lines and other buried utilities around the farmstead. Heck, I could even use it in the rowboat I use on a certain 5-acre farm pond to re-locate a couple hard-to-pinpoint hotspots I found for catfish and crappies...