Sunday, January 23, 2011

Farm watch weekend

On the good news end of things at the farm, the tractor was back up and running last Tuesday, which meant no more hauling small bales and that G's cows could move back out where they belong, ending the livestock juggling act he'd been doing to make sure everything had access to feed and water. The ponies are very content with their new bale.

We fed critters for friends this weekend. Cows, horses, dog, cats. It's a much more pleasant task in the summer, although I don't mind doing it at any season.

But winter means bale-moving. And Friday night dealing with the often tractor turned what should have taken 45 minutes into a three hour marathon.

The entertainment started Friday a.m. at O-dark:thirty when, after we finally got it to crank, the power steering was frozen up. Since we needed it to actually TURN, that didn't bode well. At well below zero and still dark, I lobbied for trying again in the afternoon - the cows were okay, plenty of water and enough bale remains to scavenge for the day. And the weatherman said it we were going to have a heatwave - relatively speaking - nearly 20'.

At 4 p.m. and 17', the power-steering was cooperative, but it was too soon to celebrate. Unfortunately, the hydraulics weren't. No three-bar lift, no claw. Nothing doing. We let it run to see if maybe warming it up would help. Finally, after two hours in the cold monkeying with one thing after another - we could hear the pump trying - it finally whined slowly into action. Sluggish, but a start - the diagnosis? Low on hydraulic fluid, although it wasn't showing as low. Probably some water in the lines somewhere, but at least it was working.

Of course, by that time it was dark. The tractor doesn't have lights, and the bales are 1/2 mile down the road aligned along the fence in the hay field. The drive to which is completely drifted in.

I gave T my headlamp and waited by the cattle pasture gate with the big Maglite stuck in my sleeve and my hands buried under my arms, hopping up and down periodically to keep warm. At least the moon was nice and bright.

Looking down the hill I could see the shadow of the tractor, tiny light atop it blinking in and out of view as T checked for tracks to follow. Turning off the road... coming to a sudden stop, engine revving, and then a lovely streamer of sparks heading skyward. Ummm... bad word, bad word, did the engine just blow? No, I can still hear it running, say a prayer or two and cross my fingers, hop up and down some more... Hooray! It seems to be moving again.... Half an hour later he chugged back up the hill with a bale on both ends, trailed by a line of cows along the fence. The ladies were hungry!

They barely let us get a bale dropped and the strings cut before they were attacking it.

The horses were just as eager to dig into their new bale the next morning.

It being daylight (and slightly warmer), it was a lot easier to navigate.

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