Equipment – Power

June 12, 2016 – Thanks for Your Support! Auction Day

Auction day! The worst case scenario did not happen. There was not a thunderstorm or rain and the weather was less hot than previous days. These photos are credited to neighbor Nancy.

Gathered around the auctioneer.

Cars in the yard and lined up on the road past the top of the hill.

More stuff we don’t have to move!

Auctioneer Fred Van Metre in the red hat. Fred did a good job for us.

Martin on auction day sampling from the food wagon.

More folks looking for treasures.

We all look on as our stuff changes hands.

The view from the pergola.

Can’t give this man enough credit – good neighbor Don. Brought his loader tractor over and helped folks load up heavy stuff.

Our first couple of life-long neighbors and friends.

The sad looking eyes on the JD 2510 say it all as we depart from the farm.

June 11, 2016 – Getting Ready for Sale Day and Reminisces

I didn’t do this post justice, so it is time for a “do-over.” This will be the 2nd to last post for this blog, Now that I’ve had some time and distance, the enormity of it all is more apparent. Nearly 20 years of “stuff” off to the highest bidder. The auctioneer came out on Friday and got most of it set up. Since there was a 0 percent chance of rain, we were good to go – until about midnight Friday night when frequent lightning approached. So, armed with tarps and car headlights, we covered as much as we could. It was a fretful and rather restless night as round after round of rain pelted most of our farm-related belongings set out in the yard.

This is the remains of the boxes that were rendered useless by the all night rain – about 2 inches worth that fell.

And of course, it was a nice Iowa summer day!

At any rate, here are some photos of the auction all ready to go. As kind of a farewell, I’m going to do a bit of “what strikes Mark about the photo” for each.

Aah, Silverball, the 2002 Prizm with over 250,000 miles. Trusty commuter car and freedom for Claire and Emma for school and at summer camp. All the bikes that have not been used much since the move to a gravel road. The motorized John Deere tractor that Martin loved and hauled garden produce and other things in his own loader bucket. And the mini-horse cart that was never pulled by a horse, but was pulled by people.

What strikes me about this photo is the familiarity of the shadows on the ground. I’ve come to know the patterns of the shadows throughout the days and the seasons on the farm. A way of becoming closer to a place through observation. The tiller and single plow were great labor-savers in planting garlic and preparing beds for planting.

The bees – livestock you really don’t “own.” I think of the challenges we had on our farm due to the pervasive ground and aerial spraying around our place. We finally gave up. Our best hives were at another farm that had acres of native prairie and a buffer from the spray.

On nearly any acreage, the time allotted to mowing can be substantial. Here is the collection of mowers form years gone by. A milestone for the kids was the first time they were allowed to mow using the riding mowers.

I see the barn here. The signature outbuilding on the property. In the time we lived there, seven barns within two miles of us were destroyed. This barn is something that will soon be rare on an Iowa farm.

I think of my father in this photo. I see an old woodstove he had in a previous house, a utility trailer of his that I rebuilt, and an old boat and motor that had set idle for 20 years after plying the waters of Minnesota for my entire youth.

Raising chickens comes to mind here. The portable grain bin and old cages used to transport the chickens to the locker before we butchered them ourselves. Gonna miss those meat birds in the freezer.

The old corn crib. I love the new white roof. All the outbuildings but the barn had bad to non-existent roofs. I remember being up on the roof and calling Linda on the cell phone to come out and lift up another section, then return to the house to mind the young children until I had that piece screwed in and call again for the next piece.

This is a collection of old things I didn’t use much, save the blade for plowing snow. I am grateful we planted the maple tree for shade for the animals in the cement area. Amazing how fast it grows (or how old I am)!

I see the struggling peach trees in the back of this photo. Peaches are iffy in this part of the country, but we usually got a couple of good years from each tree, which was worth it. I also remember watching tornadoes coming out of the clouds a few miles south of here.

The piles of old dimensional lumber to the right are from the original house on the property (the mortgage company almost didn’t let us buy the property with such a hazardous building). But we took it apart board by board and had lumber whenever we needed it.

I think of friend and neighbor Nancy in this photo – the dragonfly vase she found for us. This symbolizes all the “stuff” you can’t take with you, but the significance of the relationships can never be lost.

Unfinished business. That could be said for many of the photos. There is always something else to do on the farm. I see an industrial size light fixture that was never mounted in the machine shed here.

The “lumberyard” built into one side of the corn crib, with lumber from a disassembled garage.

The tractors. There is something about driving and using an old tractor. I was lucky enough to have a classic 1947 Farmall Cub and a 1960’s era John Deere 2510 with a loader bucket. I could attach tillers, blades, and plows. On a small farm, the loader is incredibly useful.

Here’s a collection of mostly hand tools. This hearkens to thinking about the market garden work we did. It was great for the girls to see crops from planting to selling at market. This will be the second to last post on the high hopes gardens section of the blog.

March 22, 2015 – Close to Having to Turn in My Man Card

Had a couple of vehicle incidents that both almost required I turn in my man card, but eked out of both. First, I buried the CRV in the field.

This is a bad photo taken with my phone as I walked away defeated. I USUALLY take a walk to make sure it is not to soft when I drive here, but since we’v had no precip in March and the pond and wet area in the pasture have been bone dry for a week or more, I thought things would be firm. Wrong – once the wheels break through the sod into the black gumbo, you are done. I tried propping boards under the tires to run up on. No luck.

I then went to get the tractor, but all I left with was making these ruts with the tractor. I was able to get the tractor out, but my chain wasn’t long enough to pull from a firm area. Had I buried both the CRV and tractor, I would have had to forfeit my man card.

Here’s the rut from the front wheel of the CRV. Our good neighbors came over with an even bigger tractor and even longer chain and said about dragging it out “The tractor didn’t even know it had a fish on the line.”

The other incident was a problem with the car. Emma reported that she thought she might have left the lights on, but got a jump and got home fine. Next day I drove her to Ames and when I went to leave, again, nothing, not even a turn over. I figured the battery was dead and was eager to get on with my day and called AAA and asked to use the “bring you a new battery and install it” service so I wouldn’t have to mess around with all that. After I made the call, I then popped the hood to indicate to the tow truck where we were. It was then that I noticed the battery cable had come loose from the battery and was resting slightly above the battery terminal. I just put it back on and everything was fine and cancelled the AAA call. Would also have had to turn in my man card if the AAA service man had popped the hood to put in a new battery and found it just unattached!

March 7, 2015 – There’s something happening here, What it is ain’t exactly clear

The basement door is open, the loader bucket is attached to a chain. What’s up on the farm today?

When we moved in about 18 years ago, one of our first upgrades was to replace the aging fuel oil furnace. While the furnace is long gone, the three fuel oil storage tanks are not. We’ve been using the oil left in the tanks to persuade bonfires to start over the years and finally the tanks are empty.

We tried manually moving the tanks up the basement stairs. No go. Wasn’t thrilled about cutting them in half in the basement. Enter a long chain, a tractor, and a three member team to guide them out without taking out a doorframe, door, or wall.

Victory is ours as tank #2 is dragged to the tank graveyard.

It’s a dirty, ugly, smelly job, but now they are finally gone.

January 30, 2013 – Ice, Thunderstorm, Snow must be Next!

No school today, with the howling wind and the snow.

Of course, the next thing is the dep freeze, and although it’s still blowing pretty good, I thought it better to get out and clear the driveway tonight rather than in the sub-zero morning.  I tried to put all the pile to the south and est of the driveway so i wouldn’t create a source for the snow to drift behind.  There are very few things more enjoyable than driving the tractor for purposeful work!

March 30, 2011 – Tractor vs Tree

I’ve spent a good part of the last few weeks cutting up firewood and hauling branches from the old maple tree that came down a couple weeks ago.  The day finally arrived to try to move the main trunk sections down to the burn pile in the pasture.  It was a true case of tractor vs tree.  Tree won the first round.  I needed to cut one part of the trunk in two as the tractor could barely budge it.  That was the first time the tractor had been denied.

So, here’s the first section, almost ready to be released to the pile.

More sign that the tree put up a good fight.  I now have an “opportunity” to reseed the area around the tree and the dragging path in the pasture

The big trunks all in their place.  It’ll be a warm December fire when these guys light up!

one year ago…”Winter Damage”

October 24, 2010 – Tractor Repair

I mentioned a few days back that the JD 2510 was barely running.  Fortunately it was a simple problem that did not exceed my rudimentary mechanical understanding.

I replaced the in-line fuel filter that I had added last year, drained out the carb, cleaned the carb fuel strainer and got it all back together without any leftover pieces and it once again runs like a champ!

one year ago…”Saturday Farm Work”

April 6, 2010 – Tiller Attached and Tested

The “new” tiller is finally attached and has been tested out on a 50-foot bed.

It was a bit of a long struggle to get it attached. First I needed a different category top three-point link. Then I had a lot of trouble getting to move the PTO shaft to extend it to fit on the tractor. I finally gave up and called in some more experienced hands – the neighbors. I had no clue whether the PTO shaft was beat up beyond repair. After a couple of hours of beating, sanding, greasing, and more beating, the tiller was attached and successfully field tested!

Now we can begin our transition to 4 foot wide plots with grassy strips between for foot and tractor tire traffic.

one year ago…”Top Shelf Middle Shelf and Bottom Shelf”

February 5, 2010 – New Tiller!

We’ve been thinking and starting to prepare for a while about a new way of growing our crops. We want to get rid of the monolithic blocks and instead garden in four foot wide beds separated by grass/sod strips. The mental and physical energy to manage 4 foot wide steps seems easier in terms of planting and crop rotation, weeding and harvesting. I’ve been looking for a 48 inch PTO tiller for a year or so and finally got lucky today and saw one on Craiglist that was listed minutes before I saw it and was the first one in to get it.

So here it, is ready for spring.

one year ago…”First Lambs Arrive”

February 8, 2008 – Bonus Poo!

What better to do on a 50 degree day than shovel out the barn.  Today’s photos are all courtesy of Martin!

The barn floor was getting kind of ripe.  Usually, it means adding another layer, but the warm day and melting snow afforded another option – removal!

Since some of the snow was gone, but still not the path to the main compost pile, I made a new pile close to the barn, as to not rip up too much soft ground.

Martin captured many salient features in this shot, the tractor operator, the wind turbine, and on the left-hand side, the newly piled “pile.”  All in all, doing it today makes the spring cleanout that much easier.

one year ago…”Smartest Cities in America”

November 19, 2008 – Tractor Repair

I called the John Deere dealer to see if they could tell me what was wrong with the tractor (the starter would keep cranking even when the key was out) and they said it sounded like a bad solenoid.

I’m not much of a motorhead, and only had a vague idea of what a solenoid did or where it was even located on the tractor engine, but I figured if I went in to buy the new solenoid, I would see what it looks like and then could find it on the engine.  I did and found the solenoid on the right side of the tractor and only had to remove one panel – the solenoid is the thing attached with the red cable. There is much skepticism in the family that I can make the repair myself without damaging the tractor.  My first step was to take a picture of the existing solenoid so I could see where the wiring goes on the new installation.  It was too cold today to do the work.

one year ago…”The Turkeys”.

October 29, 2008 – Tractor Repair

The last few times I’ve used the 2510, there has been a smell of coolant – I was able to see that it was a relatively small leak, so I let it go until a later time.  That time was today.

I hadn’t yet dug into the tractor, so I had to figure out how to get the hood off as I could remove one clamp off with the hood on, but not the other.  I was happy for the manual to show me how to remove the hood.

Here’s the offending hose with the clamp loosened.

The new hose clamped firmly in place.

one year ago…”City Smoke, Country Smoke”.

September 29, 2008 – Corn and Bean Harvest

Most of the neighboring farmers are out in force now harvesting soybeans.  The corn was planted very late and is not yet dried down.

The scale of today’s commodity agriculture is exemplified in this photo – a modern tractor and wagon to transport the beans to the elevator can l no longer fit in the barn built around the turn of the century – the doors are neither tall nor wide enough to accommodate this equipment.

one year ago…”More Folks Poking Around the Farm”.

August 25, 2008 – Good Old Small Town Life

There are some good things about small towns and knowing your neighbors.  This tiller exemplifies one such experience.

We share a small tiller with a colleauge of Linda’s at work.  He acquires the tillers and we store and maintain them and he comes out once a year to pick it up and use it.  He just got us an upgrade and it needed some work as the pull rope was broken and it hadn’t been run for a number of years.  I brought it to the neighborhood small engine man and he got it “back to good.”  I arranged to pick it up at a certain time, but when I arrived, he was not home.  So, I checked the shop, it was opened, the tiller was done and I poked around a bit and found the slip showing what I owed and left the money and took the tiller.

The car also needed new tires, so the neighbor down the road works at the goodyear shop in town and he just drove our car in to town in the morning, put the new tires on, and drove it home – saving us numerous jockeying back and forth with two cars and drivers and just leaves the bill on the front seat.  Likewise, we have the same trust with our customers – if we deliver when they are not home, like clockwork a check is in our mailbox within a few days.  It’s nice to have some relationships that are based on a handshake!

one year ago…”One BIG Local Meal Prep”

May 28, 2008 – New Car for the Girls!

I’ve been looking for a few months for a car for the girls to drive (very soon I hope!) and finally found one that looked like a good deal! I thought I’d use it as an opportunity to get a 4wd vehicle as we don’t have any all-wheel drive cars, and sure could use one on occasion (like all of last winter). My top choice was a Subaru Outback as they are all-wheel drive and get 30 mpg on the highway and will be easy for the girls to maneuver.

This 1996 model was purchased from Rochester Ford within the budget and I have 7 days to check it out.

one year ago…”Memorial Day 2007″

May 6, 2008 – Out with the Old, In with the New

Late last fall the old electric fence charger gave up the ghost.  I didn’t go to great lengths to investigate why it stopped working as it looks as though it dates to only a few years after the invention of the incandescent light bulb. 

I didn’t go to great lengths to investigate why it stopped working as it looks as though the charger dates to only a few years after the invention of the incandescent light bulb. 

Here’s the replacement tucked away inside the chicken coop all rewired and ready for action.

one year ago…”Portable Fencing”

April 29, 2008 – More Loader Benefits

I don’t have a long trailer, so when I fetch cattle panels (16 ft long), I usually put them on racks on top of the pickup and topper. It’s kind of a pain to load and unload from such a height, but it was the only way to get them home. When I went in to get the wood pellets, I saw them loading some panels in a truck without a topper by arching them in the box of the truck by pushing them in with a forklift. Of course, the problem is getting them out, as they are under much force and could really cause an injury if you just opened up the tailgate end watched them spring back.

I thought I’d try it. But I had a better, safer, and quicker idea than racheting them together before opening the door – I’d have them rest against the tractor loader and slowly back up to release the pressure.

It worked like a charm.

one year ago…”New (old) Bookcases”

April 15, 2008 – Utility Boy-to-Be?

The last cleanup from the March ’07 ice storm is taking place. I saw the utility trucks picking up some old poles that have been laying in the ditch and asked if they could bring some over (you never know who or when you could use some 20+ foot poles)!

They dropped some poles off at the end of the day and just left the truck parked at our place. It gave Martin a chance to see what it feels like to be behind the controls of a cherry picker.
one year ago…”Wendell Berry/Barn Burning”

April 6, 2008 – Tree Gone

After a day and a half of cutting, dragging, and hauling, I had removed all the portions of the tree g that are reasonable to handle for firewood.  I was left with a big long stump.  Since it is a soft silver maple, it is not good for lumber, so I needed to drag it away.

This is one of the invaluable tractor tasks!

I was able to drag it down to the near the burn piles, where we can sit on it for many years or throw it in the pile, however we see fit.  It was nice to get the site cleared and lots of wood added to the shed.
one year ago…”Cold!”

October 27, 2007 – Planting Garlic

Today was a catch-up day.  We missed the window of opportunity to plant garlic and fall bulbs early in the month, and it has just been way too soggy up to now to get in the garden.  So today we got the garlic in and some purple allium, and three kinds of peonies (Duchesse de Nemours -white, Sarah Bernhardt -pink, and Red Magic – red).  We also collected a bunch of seeds from flowers and beans, among other things.

A few days ago, I wouldn’t have bet that I’d be able to dig this trench with the tractor.  Our neighbor filled our two wagons with corn and I went out after I got home from work after dark to haul them back home.  On the way home, the tractor seemed like it was running a very rough and might not make it home.  In my paranoia, it seemed like the exhaust had a white tinge to it, but it was night, and I hadn’t yet run the tractor at night, so I wasn’t sure what it looked like normally at night.  My fear was coolant in the combustion chambers.  Or, I thought maybe the heavy load was straining it because one of the wagon wheels was nearly locked?  But when I got home and stopped the tractor, it still was acting up.  I turned it off and a few minutes later it wouldn’t start.  So I went and got the 2nd wagon with the truck (I felt some urgency as rain was possible in the forecast) and felt lucky not to get stuck in the soft waterway with a two wheel drive truck and gravity wagon full of corn and a dead tractor unable to pull myself out.

Over the night, ruminating about how much a cracked head or other major repair would cost, I remember an old mechanic telling me that if I ever put gas that had a mixture of ethanol in an engine that had not run it before, it would dissolve and break loose all kinds of gunk that might be in the gas tank/fuel system.  I may have grabbed a gas container that had ethanol in my rush to get out in the field.  So in the morning I thought I’d drain the carburetor and check out the gas, and if necessary drain the gas tank and start over.  But after draining all the gas out of the carburetor, it started up and ran just fine – so I am attributing the problem to a fuel line problem that has worked it self out.

Having the tractor to dig trenches to plant garlic, gladiolias, and potatoes is a huge back and time saver.


one year ago…

August 6, 2007 – Step into Another World

There’s a place in downtown Melbourne that hides its secrets well.  “Vern’s Implement” always has a yard full of old farm equipment along with an accesssory lot along side the road on the way to our place.  In the past, I’ve bought a thing or two from Vern.  He’s also got a small retail store complete with the old general store type wood strip floor, big wooden entrance door, and a couple of aisles of different size bolts, nuts, etc. in old wooden bins. A while back, I had a hard time finding a certain length bolt in a 5/8 width – not at big box stores, not at True Value – all the while, the right one was sitting at Vern’s.

Back in the shop it really changes.  I swear Vern doesn’t like to work on equipment made much past 1950.  I thought I might get him to work on my ’47 Cub, but he has other work he evidently enjoys more and said he didn’t have time.  (I don’t think he likes mundane repairs.)  He also has an older solar array on the front of his house – probably from the 70’s – so he is obviously a tinkerer.

Here he is, looking at a steam-powered, steel-wheeled tractor from the early teens.  He has fabricated missing parts, rebored what needs to be re-bored, and finally painted it.  It’s a massive hunk of machinery – you can see the back steel wheels are about 5 feet tall.  It takes about two hours of burning before the engine is ready to go.

This shows the back of the tractor and some of the gears – there is one “gear” – forward and back. This is in the way back of his shop and to get there, is like traveling through a tractor graveyard, with all kinds of other tractors in various states of repair/restoration – it’s got the feeling of an old blacksmith’s shop.  I’m sure there are other places like this (at least I hope so) but they are getting rarer by the day.

one year ago…

August 5, 2007 – And So It Goes…

Yesterday (doesn’t really matter what day!) brought a common occurence on the farm – something not going according to plan.  This isn’t particularly compelling story, but typical. Had some weed-trimming to do, so in the more relative cool of the evening (if 85 degrees and 75 degree dew point can be called cool) I set out.  I had previously outrigged the weed whip with a head that was a chain, so it really cut tough weeds and nascent mulberries, and lasted a long time – over a year by now.  It finally needed to be replaced and so I tried to turn the screw that kept it in place and it wouldn’t budge, even with penetrating oil and some time (as it is getting dark and no work is getting done).

Finally, the head breaks off the screw, so more extreme measures are needed.

Between a bench vice and a vice-grips, I was able to get the shaft of the screw out and replace the head.  The replacement head had a better design, which didn’t rely on a single screw to come out, but used the whole cutter head assembly to tighten onto the shaft. I guess the good news was I had a replacement head on time, but it was still not until after dark that the repair was made.  But at least it is ready to go for another day.

one year ago…

July 16, 2007 – New Tractor Tire

Usually 9 days away fror the farm leaves A LOT to do upon our return. However, we are getting better at it, by working extra hard the weeks beofre we leave to get as much done as we can. We were fortunate (or not) that there was not any rain while we were gone. Very few weeds grew and no need to mow the brown grass.

The first order of business was to take care of a leaking tractor tire. When I bought the tractor it had one new tire and an old one. The old tire finally started leaking a few weeks before vacation, and required frequent filling. It also had the fluid in to give the tractor weight and not freeze in the winter – that was hard on the rim (rust) and I don’t really need that extra weight – so I called the on-farm tire service – they came and sucked out the fluid and replaced the tire. It sure beat trying to jack up the tractor, remove the lug nuts, get the wheel off…

one year ago…

June 1, 2007 – “New” Equipment

Here’s the “new” belly mower for the farmall cub.  Well, “new” is a relative term when you are adding bling to a 1947 tractor.  Having a green mower under a red tractor will add a certain festive color aesthetic!

The Farmall is in need of some shop time, so the functionality of the new mower might not immediately be known.  The good folks at Morning Sun farm alerted me to this mower, and I was able to get it from a retired John Deere guy who now spends his time buying and selling equipment.

It’s a lot heavier than it looks – it sure was nice to have the 2510 and loader to lift it straight up out of the pickup and onto the ground.

one year ago…

January 21, 2007 – Snow At Last

We finally have a blanket of white after a winter of brown. The last week we’ve had two snowfalls. Just enough to warrant trying out the tractor with the blade for clearing snow.

It sure beats shoveling! I’ve still got some learning to do with the equipment, but right now it is a novel activity. This snow was folled by still and warm – not the usual howling wind, so it is once again nice to be outside.

one year ago…

January 7, 2007 – Gathering Mulch

The tractor came in handy again today. There was a small pile of the good mulch at the pallet factory, so I ended up with a couple of pick-up loads of “A” mulch – about 45 cu ft (not quite 2 cubic yards) for free. The pre-tractor method was to move it from the pickup and throw it 4-5 feet over the top of the wagon by hand with a pitchfork.

Now, It gets pushed once from the truck to the loader. (The loader is about an inch wider than the bed, so I can’t scoop it right out of the truck.

Then from the loader to the wagon. The wagon is still in the barn and this is the view from the tractor seat.

one year ago…

January 5, 2007 – Keeping the Cub in Use

It’s been a while since the ’47 Farmall Cub was used with the new tractor on the farm, so moving some cattle panels out to the pasture was just the job as it is lighter than the JD and the ground is soft. It starts right up and runs like new.

I love this little tractor – even the smell of the exhaust hearkens back to another time.

Linda took me out for dinner at the Phoenix Cafe in Grinnell – it was an enjoyable evening with good food.

one year ago…

October 30 , 2006 – Getting Soil Ready for Hoophouse

We have a small plot where we’d like to experiment with a small hoop house. The one we are looking at is 20×36 and 12 feet tall in the center. This fall, we ran the chickens on the plot to do their thing killing some grass and leaving some deposits behind. The ground where this is located is badly eroded. When we moved in, it was previously used as a cattle yard and as it is on a slight slope, most of the topsoil washed off, leaving clay behind.

Here it is after a few passes with the middlebuster to break up the remaining sod. You can see the loader ready with a load of compost ready to dump.

Here’s what the clay looks like. Other places of the farm range from a few inches to about 18-24 inches of wonderful black loamy topsoil before hitting the clay layer.

This is what it looks like after 8-10 loaderfulls of compost. In the spring we’ll plant a cover crop for a year to get rid of grass and further enrich the soil. It’s still novel for me to have the tractor and to be able to do this in about 3/10 of a tractor hour instead of lots of shoveling and spreading.

one year ago…

October 28, 2006 – Planting Garlic

Today was supposed to be warm, but that never happened! It was the first time to get the middlebuster, or potato fork on the three-point of the tractor. I needed to do some monkeying around to get it mounted.

The biggest lesson was learning that the drawbar needs to be removed; otherwise, when you lift up the middlebuster on the three point, the shovel gets stuck on the drawbar! So I needed to unbolt the shovel and then retract the drawbar.

Once that was fixed, it was time to try to dig a trench for the first time.

It may not be exciting to look at, but what a relief not to have to dig all those trenches by hand 4-6 inches deep! It will sure speed up garlic, gladiola, and potato planting.

one year ago…

July 5, 2006 – Working with the Cub

Today’s entry doubles as this week’s Photo Friday Contest entry. This week’s theme is “Summer.”

I had just a little bit of raking to do today on the buffer strip in the neighbor’s field. I borrowed the neighbor’s rake and hitched up the Farmall Cub to rake the oat straw.

Nothing says summer like making hay on a hot day.

June 30, 2006 – Martin/Daddy Matching Tractors!

Today is Martin’s 5th birthday. Many of his loved ones went together to get him a battery-powered scoop tractor, just like dad’s!

He’s having great fun helping around the farm – moving mulch, carrying tools, straw, or whatever else needs to be hauled.

He has not yet mastered the art of backing up with a trailer – maybe another day.

We also got for more lambs today.

Here’s Emma with one of the lambs. Now we have a total of six.

June 21, 2006 – Longest Day of the Year

Well, it’s over now – from here on in the days get shorter! Neighbors had a summer solstice gathering with potluck, fire, singing and everybody was invited to share a piece of poetry or other thought.

I’m hoping to save a bunch of time on wood chips this year. Rather than driving to pick up and load and unload by hand – the utility trimming truck came to the farm, I can load them with the tractor loader.


I saw these guys last week and asked them to dump at my place, but they never showed – they came this week and to entice them back they got a carton of freshly-picked strawberries!

June 13, 2006 – Martin Behind the Camera

I gave Martin the camera the other day and let him click away. Here’s a few of his photos.

We’ve got an old granary that was dragged out into the pasture – this is a piece of metal that was tacked on the corner at one time that the wind has seen fit to detach.
One of his favorite subjects is the “scoop tractor.”

I think one of dozens of pictures of the tractor will be sufficient!
There’s hardly ever pictures of the cameraman so Martin took this picture of me.

May 28, 2006 – Cleanup Begins

We spent a bit of time cleaning up this afternoon. We put the tractor to good use. The limb that fell on the machine shed was to big for me to budge, so… loader tractor to the rescue.

A chain, a tractor, no problem. We loaded a hay wagon with branches from the yard. Here is a photo Martin took of Linda unloading the wagon.

Stay tuned for pictures some day soon that Martin took today.
Here is the little guy on the biggest limb that we loaded on the burn pile.

It is probably not noteworthy to all you long-time farmers out there, but having the ability to lift up and move a log like this is just a treat and saves the back!

May 22, 2006 – No Flame Decals on that Tractor!

Today, the tractor was ready to be picked up at the John Deere Dealer after they fixed the problem that filled the crankcase with gasoline. They didn’t have the ticket written up, so they let me drive it home without paying for it (yet).

They drove it out of the shop and noticed some gasoline was leaking around one of the newly installed parts. They went to fix it and the service man was fiddling with it for a few minutes, when he suddenly runs away from the tractor and grabs a fire extinguisher to put out the flaming engine block! I’m sure that flaming tractors in the lot are not good for advertising! It was extinguished in moments. The gas that was leaking out was ignited when a wrench arced across a wire that was missing its plastic coating.

After it was all fixed, I had a 12 mile or so tractor ride home. I lost my fondness for ever participating in the “Great Tractor Ride Across Iowa.” Twelve miles was enough.

I’ll leave you with one picture for today – the minty new growth on the concolor fir.

The last 2 weeks, the trees have really taken off with spring growth – some of the black cherries and bur oaks already have grown 4-6 inches.

May 15, 2006 – Bye-Bye Tractor

The tractor ran strong and without any hint of problems until the last time. Now the crankcase has filled with gasoline and is dripping out the dipstick hole. Time for professional attention. Here it is getting loaded on the semi for a trip to the local Deere shop.

I wished I had a picture of the red Farmall Cub pulling the green out of the shed! Having this is a little like children, whatever happens, you’re stuck with them.

Today was a good day. The weather held off. Our first bulk order of broiler feed arrived – one ton loaded directly in the gravity wagon. I was able to get all layers of light-affirming goodness to the hardwoods planted last year in the pasture. Round one was with hands, pulling weeds around the trees. Then the weed whacker to a bigger distance, then the riding mower for between the rows, finally the push mower for the spots the big mower can’t get to. It was good to get something started and completed in one day. Also got about 1/3 of the raspberries weeded.

This evening a student from Grinnell College called wanting to bounce ideas about starting a co-op to provide food for the college food service. It’s a struggle to create a new food system and it was good to hear a young voice working so hard to make it happen.

May 10, 2006 – Things that Need to be Fixed

I heard a saying this week. There are two kinds of buildings/equipment on a farm. Things that need to be fixed and things that need to be fixed now! Today was one of those days. A few days ago the pipe between the muffler and catalytic converter dropped off, today the tractor started spitting black smoke and misfiring and leaking gas, and the riding mower hydrostatic transmission seems stuck. There are better days, but this is not one of them!

April 24, 2006 – Boys and Their Toys!

Today was a day long in coming – the arrival of a scoop tractor to high hopes! Isn’t it a beauty? It’s a 1967 John Deere 2510 with a nearly new Westendorf loader, a category 2 three point hitch, and wide front end. I’d been looking at tractors for a while and finally found this one. The arrival of a tractor ranks in importance somewhere between a new car and new house.

The next three pictures are a story of three photographers. The picture above was taken by Emma.

Mark took this picture.

Here’s Martin’s picture! As a young boy, he made sure to get all tractor and cut the people off the top!

I’m excited about the tractor for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my back. Lots less lifting and moving of heavy things with the back. Able to move a big bale when the time comes. Many folks made the tractor possible – “financing” by Grandma Jo, pre-sale inspection by Linda’s Uncle Wayne, and finally driving the beast home by Two Friends Farm. Curiously, the tractor was for sale about 16 miles away alongside Hwy 330. As we were driving it home, Claire was coming home from Des Moines with her TAG teacher, Grandma Jo and her partner for History Day competition at the State Historical Center in Des Moines and they passed us and waved wildly!

Also got five new apple trees grafted from the old near-dead tree in our yard onto new rootstocks courtesy of Two Friends farm. I just put them in the garden for this year to get established. It’s a very early apple – mid-July and makes great sauce and is in the right season to make raspberry-applesauce.

April 8, 2006 – Trees Tucked In

This morning after dropping Claire of for her ACT test (yes she’s in 8th grade, but was suggested to take it), we started to mulch the trees. I’ve gathered mulch over the winter and had two wheeled contrivances full.

The first step today is to put the landscape fabric into place (a great Costco bulk item and the 220 foot roll wasn’t long enough!) and cut an “X” where each tree is. Then the trees peek out and the fabric is ready for the mulch. Even though it was in the 30’s for a good part of the morning, it was still, clear, sunny, and the spring birds were calling.

Here’s the cattle shute, filled with mulch. See its conversion into a mulch wagon last October.

Martin helped get the mulch in and here he helps shovel it out.

Finally the boy gets a chance to pretend to drive the tractor.

In the evening, I dropped Claire off in Ames and got another load of mulch to replenish the area under Martin’s playground. We also made the “TCC” Total Chicken Containment area complete – those birds love to dig in the mulch and doesn’t make me quite to happy – so we stretched a bit of chicken wire along the cattle panels.

A note – I bought some of the newfangled plastic chicken wire last week to try – well – DON’T do it. The chickens pecked right through it.

November 23, 2005 – Good Neighbor/Unrelated Tragedy

During the big storm about a week ago, we lost one of the posts of the clothesline. Now, we use the clothesline a lot and this fact must not be lost on our neighbor. He noticed the line was not upright and just happened to be driving by with his tractor and post hole digger attached and stopped by to dig a new hole.

It saves a lot of time with the hand post-hole digger!

He told us a story of a 35 year old man who borrowed someone else’s tractor and post hole digger and went out himself to put in a new fence line just last week in the northern part of Marshall county. The next day, the tractor was found, with the post hole digger still spinning, and the man found dead about 100 yards away, missing his arm at the shoulder. I just hate to think of it.

October 28, 2005 – Green Machines

Our neighbor has finished up all his harvesting and brought some equipment over to store in our shed. Here’s Marty getting a ride in the tractor.

Today my Nikon digital camera went on the fritz. I bought the first one new and it had this problem, so I bought the same model used off ebay and it worked for a few months before developing the same problem. I guess Nikon digitals don’t share the lineage of their 35 mm SLR predecessors. So I will be without photos until the new camera arrives. I really want the Canon that accepts lenses from my old SLR, but the budget called for an inexpensive point and shoot.

September 5, 2005 – Making Hay

Today we helped some friends make hay! Hay making is one of those things that elicits fonder memories the longer its been since you’ve done it!
hay making
It all starts innocently enough, with the geometric patterns of cut and raked hay in the field. This looks comforting. Anybody who has made hay knows you can predict the hottest days of the year by the hay-cutting schedule.hay making
There is romance about the equipment. Here’s the New Holland baler that we used.
hay making
Of course, there are often numerous adjustments to make to fine-tune the baler. The expression that there’s nothing a farmer can’t fix without wire and baling twine, deals primarily with the baler itself.
hay making
Eventually, usually with the threat of approaching weather, the hay bales arrive safely to the barn. We are using our barn as a storage area for this hay.
This is the most unsavory part of the day. The day ended at dark, or at least the work did – then it is time for a drafty beverage, simple meal, and the feeling of hay in the barn good as money in the bank.

August 16, 2005 – New Mower

I’ve made an upgrade in mowing from the old riding tractor to the not-so-old mower. They are both green. This one when you turn a tight circle leaves about a 6-8 inch circle of uncut grass. The old one left about 6-8 foot circle. Mowing time is probably cut in half. The first time I rode it, I thought I might need some Dramamine to prevent getting dizzy from whipping around the trees.

August 3, 2005 – Big Weeding Day

We’re still trying to catch up from being gone on vacation, so today was a giant leap forward in weeding. We’re probably 75% back to where we were before we left. Martin and I started looking for a new riding mower. We bought an ancient John Deere when we moved in eight years ago, and now the mowing deck is no longer fixable, and a replacement one is anywhere from $700 used to $1500 new, so it is time for a new outfit. I spent one last time taking it apart and resharpening blades and bending metal back into position. Martin’s quote is a real farmer’s quote. “The mower is giving Dad too much trouble, he’s going to get a new one.”

April 1, 2005 – No Fooling

I guess I’m just still not all myself yet and unable to think of a clever photo or story to commemorate today. Stay tuned for next year. We put the last bucket of corn in the stove tonight – it’s supposed to be our last below freezing night for the forecast period.

Got the tiller attached to the lawn tractor this afternoon.

Putting this beast off and on is one of my least favorite seasonal chores. It’s an older belt-driven model, so the mower deck first needs to come off, then the tiller and all belts and nuts and bolts attached. It’s unwieldy and usually leads to at least one bloodletting. Even worse is my ambivalence towards tilling. I really would like to get to a totally mulched and undisturbed garden, but change is slow and this year I have an alfafa patch to till up for flowers.

This turkey vulture got the chicken’s attention – it’s amazing the way they skee-daddle when the bird of prey shadow flies over.

turkey vulture

March 27, 2005 – A Good Day’s Work

It was a warm calm day and a laundry list of things were completed. We moved 62 of the cattle panel fencing and some of the poles to the pasture. We had them on a small hay wagon, but it was dicey hauling it as the panels were too long and tractor couldn’t hitch to the wagon, so we had to drag it with a chain. But we got to a place where the wheels got twisted hard to the left on a hill and we had to stop since the tie rod is weak from a previous bent out of shape experience hauling hay on the road, flat tire and a longer story than I care to repeat, but we found that we could slide 10 or so off and just drag them with the tractor and chain.

dragging cattle panels

After spreading those around the pasture, we loaded up the posts we had and as I drove the tractor slowly, Linda threw one off the wagon every eight feet or so.

unloading posts

I was able to pound in the posts and put the fence up on the northern border, about 300 feet of fencing altogether.

The girls helped as well today, picking up sticks from the trees that were cut down last year, cleaning the aspargus patch, and general hauling. Linda got one row each of spinach, lettuce, and radishes planted in the garden and the statice (flowers) planted in the house. I had to bring Claire to Ames, so while there, took the truck and loaded up a pick-up load of free mulch.

It’s officially spring according to my definition – spring comes the day I see the first earthworm in the soil. That means the ground is unfrozen and life once again appears in the earth.