Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Hate Farm Equipment

I have a publication called Amazing Farm Inventions lying open before me on my kitchen table right now. The theme of this month's magazine is, " Made it Myself; Ideas Born in Farm Shops". Some of the ideas are pretty off the wall and some are pretty impressive. Clearly the folks who did this obviously like working on equipment  in their shops AND they have enough spare time and brain power to think their way through some seriously complex projects. 

I find both of these things extremely impressive because I operate at a much more fundamental level than this when it comes to farm equipment. When I jump on a tractor seat early in the morning what I really, really want it to do is start and run for as long as necessary with no problems or interruptions along the way. Then I want to shut it off, go to the house and forget about it  until I need to use it again. When my baler isn't tying properly or the middle row unit on my corn planter inexplicably seizes up and refuses to drop seed or I manage to put a rock through the feeder house and sieves on my combine I tend to get angry and frustrated rather than creative. The same thing happens when tires go flat, batteries go dead, pto shafts fly apart or any of the other maladies that plague farm equipment occur on a somewhat regular basis. It's not that I can't fix most of the stuff when it breaks. It's that I get no joy whatever out of the process, especially when everything here is serviced on time and put away ready to go.

Gramps used to say that machines didn't break when they were parked in the shed. I agree but I will take that a step farther and say that machines don't break if you don't own them at all, either. If I could figure out a way to cost effectively custom hire every bit of machinery work done on my place I would happily do so. I'm not one of these guys who farms because I have an iron fetish.  Given that a lot of my full time farming neighbours are hiring more and more of their time sensitive machine work done I don't think I'm alone in thinking this way, either.

Don't even get me started on equipment that is so poorly engineered that it's difficult or impossible to service, adjust or fix without dismantling it. If folks like me who buy equipment have to contort ourselves into pretzel-like shapes to change a fuel filter or check the oil it probably isn't going to become one of our favourite tasks. When it comes time to replace it, we will probably be looking at a different brand. Speaking of fuel filters, why is it that none of the tractors I own have an easily accessible fuel shut off valve located on the line somewhere above the filter ? It's easier to soak my arm in diesel fuel every time I change a fuel filter than it is to find and turn the fuel shut off valves on both tractors at this farm. But I digress.

Truthfully, I can't really imagine what it would be like to farm with no equipment whatsoever. Four wheel drive tractors, front end loaders, round balers, bush hogs, manure spreaders, air compressors and innumerable other pieces of equipment make my life tremendously easier than it would be without them, especially when they run right. And when they don't believe me when I say I can turn the air blue with the best of them.

Monday, August 13, 2012


When I was in my fourth year of high school I served as the President of the Student's Council. One day I was sitting at our kitchen table preparing a speech to give to the student body at an assembly the following day. I always stood and read my speeches out loud before I gave them and my audience that night was, as usual my mom and dad.  When I got done I asked what they thought. Mom hemmed and hawed but dad cut right to the chase. He pulled me aside after mom left and said, " Son your speech was good in terms of grammar and syntax, but you're not smart enough yet to be that long winded." Although it took the wind out of my sails a bit at the time he was exactly right back then and twenty odd years later he is still right. When compared to giving speeches the great thing about blogging is that you don't have to be very smart to offer up long winded posts on topics you really have no business writing about. You just have to keep at it. After a long pause to deal with all that life was throwing at me it looks like I'm back, at least for the moment.

As all of you who read our Paradigm Farms blog already know, we lost Melissa's dad to cancer early last week. Melissa did an excellent and unimproveable job of writing a very moving tribute to her dad and I probably ought to let that topic rest. However, before I do I have one story I'd like to share with you here.

For a whole variety of reasons, we decided it would be best to send Melissa and her mother to Moscow on our third and final trip to bring home our new son Carter. During the week they were away her dad and I spent a lot of time together and he became more and more restless as the week wore on. Melissa, her mother and Carter were due on a late evening flight from New York the day they were to arrive home so I was somewhat surprised to find Tom sitting wide awake outside in his chair with every light in the house and garage on at 4:32 am when I left to start morning chores. He waved at me on the way by to let me know everything was okay....well, more or less okay anyway. I got through with my work and came home about four and a half hours before their flight was due. I stepped out of the shower and much to my surprise I found Tom waiting in my driveway ready to go get supper and get on to the airport. Supper took about fifteen minutes and the drive to the airport killed another three quarters of an hour. Tom spent much of the remaining time pacing the large mostly empty waiting area with a half full cup of cold coffee and telling everyone in the room that he was waiting with me for his daughter, wife and new grandson to get off the plane. When the plane finally landed and folks started appearing at the gate he was so worked up that the TSA agent working the control point had to ask him to back up several times. He was instantly smitten with Carter, but in truth he was no more smitten than he was with any of the rest of his grandkids. It just felt that way. I lost my dad more than fifteen years ago and in a lot of ways Tom became something of a surrogate parent to me. I will miss his presence very, very much.