Lessons From the Tractor
As I did a quick walk around check of the tractor before cranking it up to feed the cows, snowflakes blew up my nose.
Forecasters had predicted wind gusts of 70 miles an hour. I think I just felt one of them.
I climbed up into the cab and realized my expectations were not being met. I was warm.
What a far cry from last December when I couldn’t get the cab tractor to move so I fed with the open tractor through two feet of snow on the prairie benches and coulee drifts deeper than the tractor tires.
This morning, I would cruise through an inch or two of blowing powder, spreading bales without dodging alfalfa stems that threatened to impale me.
What a cushy life!
I cross my fingers that the cab tractor keeps working.
As I cruise along in my warm cab, I count down the top lessons of 2018 I learned from this 4020 tractor.
Last winter, the motor would crank up, but the tractor wouldn’t move. Well, I got it started after I replaced the brand new junky battery for the second time -- after hours of freezing my fingers, toes and cheeks in frustration from not knowing why the dang tractor would not start when everything was right.
Lesson Learned Number 5: Test a new battery before I carry it out of the store.
I had no idea why the tractor wouldn’t move. I topped off the hydraulic oil. Nothing.
A mechanic friend checked the controls. Nothing.
A John Deere mechanic thought it might be the clutch, but it would cost $5000 to tear the tractor apart to find out.
My brother-in-law clued me in to a transmission engage switch that could have been kicked out of gear.
That solution was a lot cheaper than $5000.
The tractor moved that day, but quit again the next day.
My tractor was the hot topic of conversation and my friends finally came up with a probable cause: Ice in the hydraulic filter. Clean filters make a difference. The tractor moved from then on.
Lesson Learned Number 4: Start with the small stuff.
All summer, I used the open air tractor because the sun felt so good on my face. But the more I moved hay, the more the front forks resisted tilting and lifting. I cleaned one field of bales, but as I started on the next one, I had to hold the lever constantly just to keep the forks from flopping to the ground and dropping bales.
My first source of information when my friends are busy with their other lives, Antique Tractor.com, offered a clue. I couldn’t see hydraulic oil leaking, but it had to be the cylinders. I figured out how to remove them and carried them to the shop.
“What the heck were you doing, Lisa, holding the lever the whole time to keep those forks tilted?” my mechanic laughed in my face.
“How did you know?” My confidence in his ability to solve my issue jumped into the clouds.
Four days and $400 later, my tractor would lift bales again.
Lesson Learned Number 3: Fix it before it gets worse.
My friend was helping stack the last of my hay when the front end of the cab tractor collapsed. The cast iron housing had cracked.
No problem. I used my open air tractor to feed the calves and horses in the corral.
I dug around in the parts pile behind the house and found the very piece I needed.
Lesson Learned Number 2: I probably already have what I need.
It took a few days – nothing happens very quickly around here, -- we jacked the tractor up and slid the housing into place. That thing is heavy, by the way. Away I went, just in time.
The hydraulic tilt on the open tractor quit working again. I already replaced the cylinders so I tossed out that potential diagnosis. Advice from friends and the doom-and-gloom Antique Tractors website kept pointing to the hydraulic valve, but I could never get a consensus. Apparently, hydraulic valves don’t go bad very often. I wasn’t sure so I drove the tractor in to town for convenient, warm mechanic work. The 10 mile drive in 20-degree weather was exhilarating.
I got home in time to cook supper and noticed that the milk in the refrigerator was warm. The fridge had quit.
No problem. I have a fridge in the garage. My biggest problem while I wait for the repair guy to get here is that I have to walk outside to get cream for my coffee in the morning.
Compared to dodging snowdrifts in the howling winds from last winter, I think I can live with stepping outside to find cream for my coffee in the cold dark.
In fact, I think I can live with anything. My tractor taught me that.
Lesson Learned Number 1 of the Year 2018: Just keep trying.