Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Retrenching for Winter

Early in 2007, I had lost a good job with no prospects on the horizon for a new one. We were still providing elder care for Deb's mom, so Deb did not want to return to work full time. So we decided to find a smaller place and downsize our farm operation. To make a long story short, we put most of our equipment, our cow herd, and the farm up on the auction block. The cows and equipment sold, but our farm didn't. It was our worst nightmare. Now we still had the big farm, but no equipment to work it with. We are still on the farm and most of the stories from here on relate to our struggles to stay afloat while maintaining a semblance of good humor.

Mid November 07

We haven't had enough snow to shovel yet, but it has been enough to start us worrying about how we are going to keep our drive clear this year. Until now we had our pickup truck with the big snowplow on it. It was easy to climb into the heated truck cab, push the snow around with it, and then clear baths to the barn and paddocks with the walk behind snow blower. Both were sold at our auction, though. This year we decided to try to use a snow blower attachment on the riding lawn mower. So we bought wheel weights, tire chains and the blower attachment and had them delivered. The salesman assured us that it was no big problem to detach the mower deck and install the blower.

To mount the snowplow on the truck, all I had to do was line up the truck to the plow, connect two wire harnesses, pull out a couple of spring-loaded attachment pins, climb into the cab, put the pedal to the metal, and voila! We were set for a blizzard.

To prepare the riding mower to deal with snow, I had to find the manual and try to unhook belts and pins and mounting rods and brackets, some of which were described in the manual, but absent on my mower, and others of which were dangling from the mower, but not described in the manual. But eventually, off it came with parts eventually needed for remounting wired together and now hanging on the shop wall for next year. End Day 1 of lawn tractor conversion.

Day 2: Open the crate only to find boxes and bags of hundreds of parts along with an assembly manual. Step 1: unpack all parts and lay them out for easy identification and inventory against the manual checklist. I didn't expect to have to clean out my whole shop to find the room to spread everything out. So Step 1 took an entire day at the end of which I sat down to briefly scan through the manual only to find that 65 steps were listed.

Days 3-5: Suffice it to say, it took quite a bit of innovation and creativity to interpret and reconfigure the lawn tractor to look like the drawings in the manual and to make the parts that were supposed to fit to actually remain semi-stably mounted. At the end of Day 5, I drove it to the back door of the house, and Deb assured me that the blower auger turns when engaged. Now we'll see what it does in the snow. Hopefully it turns in the right direction. All told I count 49 extra pieces that I could not find a use for. Out of 65 steps, I figure that I must have 16 of them done as described. Time will tell.

The first of our holiday decorations are up. Deb and I mounted garlands of pine boughs around the front and back doors rendering them essentially unclosable, but they look festive.

That's all for this week. Hope that your Thanksgiving is enjoyable and that your belts are expandable.


  1. I am curious... how does a Ph.D. end up with a dairy (beef) farm in Crandon? I sense another story there that I would like to hear someday. Kris

  2. I cannot imagine how difficult that time in your life must have been with all the setbacks. It is truly a good thing you had your sense of humor to weather such storms. I am enjoying hearing your stories of life on your farm. Thanks.

  3. Love your writings. Please continue. Other people's lives are so interesting. We don't have snow to deal with. But I know about the lawn mower stuff and we self-service ours when we can and getting the mower deck off is always a challenge.