I haven’t written in the blog in a while mainly because the farmer in me and the marketer – 20 years in marketing – have been at odds. The marketer is – (read: must be) positive and the farmer is, well, it is what it is. The nice thing is I think I have found some middle ground and in the end know that I’m not discouraged or disheartened; if anything I have more knowledge and am chomping at the bit for the new season to begin.
There are many stories from the 2013 season and the saga of the tractor (read: Massey Ferguson 1959 vintage) is perhaps the most interesting.
Yes I broke down and bought a used (read: old, very old) tractor that naturally broke down. My bumping into (read: hitting) a tree was caused by, but not the cause of, the break down. After purchasing the tractor from a local fellow quite a few miles away, I then realized that I had to get it home. What followed was quite a story in itself, involving the Highway Traffic Act and Old Tractors and it’s a story I’m happy to tell to those that come out to the farm for a visit. But I digress. The break down was to say the least, frustrating. When I bought the tractor I informed the person selling it that I needed to put it to work as soon as possible and was there anything I should be aware of that would need fixing in the next 3-6 months? The answer was a definite no. So, with my trust in mankind clearly established, I went ahead with the purchase. After finally getting the tractor home (remember this is another story for another day) a neighbour offered to lend me his plow. I went over hooked up the plow and at that point the leveler arm on the 3 point hitch fell off. This was clearly not a good sign. After a struggle I was able to get it back together but I knew that in the next week I would have to pick up a new one.
It’s amazing how the things we learn as children stay with us. I’m not sure if I can explain this but that first day hooking up the plow was like I was a kid again. A three point hitch works very simply: it is basically three arms in-between the back tires; much like a glorified trailer hitch. There are two hydraulic arms, one on either side about one foot in from each wheel with one centre arm. So I back the tractor in to place, get off and go around to the left side and hook up the left hydraulic arm. I then went to step over the left arm to get to the right and that’s when childhood kicked in. A voice in my head started yelling – “What the #$@$# do you think you’re doing? (I think it was my Uncle’s voice) Do you want to lose a limb?” I just froze my foot halfway in the air – I must have looked ridiculous but I didn’t really care. You do everything possible to never put yourself between the implement and the tractor because if the tractor slips into gear or the break slips and the tractor goes forward or back well you can get caught under one or the other or get a limb pinned between the two. It’s like we all unhook the spark plug before we pull grass out of the bottom of a lawn mower. —
Slowly I put my foot down and walked around the tractor to the right side and hooked up the right arm, then reached over to hook up the centre arm at the top. As I got back on the tractor to take the plow back to the homestead and finally get to work, I remembered all those times as kids that I and my cousins got the lecture about tractor safety. It just all came back, so if you happen to come out to lend a hand, know you will get the tractor safety lesson.
So now the plow is on and I am off to work. After some struggles, a few words of frustration (read: mild profanity) and some thinking I got the plow to pull a proper furl. It was at this point that I noticed the clutch was not quite right. The old tractor I have doesn’t change gears like a car. You have to stop the tractor, pick your gear and then release the clutch. Additionally, when you stop it’s a clutch and breaks tandem and if when you push it down the clutch doesn’t disengage the transmission the tractor doesn’t stop. (Can you see what’s coming?) So I’m working away and I get the row I’m on plowed. It is now time to stop. I lift the plow, push the clutch/break down and… just keep going towards a big spruce tree. Now the old tractor doesn’t go that fast and luckily I thought to drop (lower) the plow, making it act like an anchor which slowed the tractor down enough so that I only bumped into the tree.
Now I have a tractor that has no clutch but not to worry. The great thing about this tractor is because you don’t change gears on the fly, you can turn it off, select a gear, turn it on, and off you go. Not a great solution but one to get it out of the tree. Still, I have to get it fixed and the big question is where? I’m not sure where to take it and the cost well between transporting it to get repaired and then the repair itself, well, I didn’t even want to think about it. As luck would have it, I was talking to some of the farmers at the Port Hope market and they gave me the name of a tractor repair company that will do the work on site: they were a father and daughter team. After a bit of a search (not many businesses out here are on the web), I finally found him. A couple of calls and a quick on site look at the tractor and my original diagnosis was confirmed. It was indeed the clutch and the tractor had to be split. You may not realize it (I didn’t but now I do), but a tractor is nothing more than a transmission, an engine and wheels. There is no frame.
To be honest it looked like some weird magician sawing a woman in half and then walking between the parts before putting her back together but to my amazement they came out and on the first day pulled it apart and made a replacement parts list and then on day two came back put the new parts on and put it back together.
Then Ken (read: the father of the father and daughter team) gave me a quick lesson in how to use a two stage clutch and I must say the tractor now is running just fine. With the tractor now working I was able to get the fields prepped for the spring. It’s going to make life much easier in the upcoming season(s).
Next up the bugs and soil of 2013