Free Sand Pile

Sand and Hay for Winter

Hay and sand have both been delivered for winter. I took this photo earlier this month before the snows set in. Now this pile, with it’s roof which is not shown, is covered by an insulating layer of snow. Keeping the sand free of frozen clumps is very important. If it gets wet and cold enough the entire pile can freeze solid like a rock. At minus 20°F the sand feels like rock and can be difficult to dig out even with the backhoe.

We have studs on our tires which makes the sand unnecessary for us but the big milk truck isn’t allowed by law to have studded tires. Spreading from the bucket we use up to three and a half cubic-yards of sand over the 500′ length of the whey driveway which is about 16′ wide. There is also a large turn around at the top of the driveway for the trucker.

This year we have a sander which should quickly pay for itself by using a lot less sand. How much and how fast remains to be seen as we have not used it yet. The goal is to have spreadable sand throughout the cold season so we can easily spread it. This is even more important for the sander than it was for the bucket method.

We piled the sand in a shelter made up of hay bales. The bales help to keep the sand pile warm and unfrozen by keeping more ground heat in the pile. Not shown here is that there is now a roof with a tarp on it to keep precipitation and snow off the pile so the don’t penetrate the sand and refreeze.

We also mixed 100 lbs of calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) into the sand which lowers the freezing point. Salt is the traditional solution to winter freezing but has some pretty severe drawbacks despite being cheap. The salt kills plants and can kill pigs since they have a low salt tolerance and are not able to eliminate it from their system easily. Salt also rots steel, both in vehicles, equipment and the rebar in foundations. Not good.

In the past our sand pile has sometimes frozen despite the insulation necessitating using the backhoe to break it up. Last year I did some online research and found that several states were now using CMA to replace salt. It’s quite a bit more expensive but since we only need a little bit it isn’t too painful and it did keep the sand free all winter.

The brand of CMA I bought the last two years is Icex. Their literature says that it works best above 20°F however it works to keep the sand loose down to at least -25°F which is the coldest we got last year. I suspect that being covered, having a large thermal mass of 20 cubic-yards of sand, the insulating hay bales around it and the heat of the earth below the pile all help to keep the sand pile free.

Outdoors: 20°F/9°F Partially Sunny, 3″ Snow
Tiny Cottage: 70°F/67°F

Daily Spark: There will always be predators. The solution is having a bigger, better pack. Our pack is bigger and more protective than the wild packs. This is why the wild packs leave us and our livestock alone.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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4 Responses to Free Sand Pile

  1. Tom Jenkins says:

    Hay cool! I have wondered how the sand guys keep their sand from freezing up all winter. I tried keeping sand in a bucket and it just froze solid. Too much water in the sand I guess. I bet that calcium stuff would have helped. I checked out their web page and they sell small amounts so I am getting some. Thanks for the tips!

    • I’m pleased with the CMA after using it through one winter and bought more this year. I suspect the buckets of sand froze as they had so little mass plus probably had too much moisture in them. CMA or salt in the sand might have prevented that.

  2. Scott Baker says:

    Hey Walter,

    I was just curious how the CMA worked for you this winter. Did it (and the insulation) keep the pile from freezing? Also how did the new sander work out? Thanks for sharing all the great information!

    • Very well. We’ve now used it for two years and are very pleased with it. Our sand piles have not frozen where the CMA was mixed in and the ice pack on our driveway was thinner – an unexpected bonus. Normally that builds up to 6″ to 8″ of depth. The new sander uses only a small fraction of what we used when spreading sand by hand from the tractor bucket. I figure that in maybe three years or so the sander will have paid for itself. There are some modifications Will and I are planning to make to the sander to improve its design and we will eventually setup a hopper for filling it.

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