Monday, August 29, 2011

Farming is Embarassing

It is safe to say that I don't know everything. I prove this to myself and others on a daily basis. This spring I proved it on my farm (not for the last time). There are just some abilities that seem to come naturally to rural folks. There is a knowing that goes with using a tractor to finesse a round bale into the last small corner of a barn. There is instinct in how to lift the mower "just so" to not scalp the hillside on that little high spot. There is a touch of the steering while plowing that makes furrows like lines on paper. I do not have these skills;  yet. I logged mile after mile mowing the lawn at my parents' house with this tractor when it was new. I never had the opportunity to use implements with it.

The lovely thing about a tractor is that it is always stronger than me. Thank God. We decided to facilitate the installation of the fence along the back line of the property (over 1000 feet), we would invest in a post hole digger for the Bolens. I did some research and found one that was designed for a compact tractor. The linkages are shorter, the auger is shorter and it was supposed to save our backs from all that digging. So I thought.

My Dad, who has "the Knack" or the uncanny ability to master all things mechanical or electrical warned me to take it easy digging with this thing. He warned me that it could get ahead of you and get stuck. We assembled the implement after uncrating, and this took the better part of an hour. Then I fired up the tractor and took off out of the barn.

I just drove about 50 feet from the barn which is on the back side of the property, and I lowered the auger, engaged the PTO on the low speed and started to dig. The whole idea was to dig in small bites. Down a little then up with the 3pt. I thought I had it made, and then I came face to face with the vagaries of hydraulics. Just a small touch to the elevator lever and the auger went down. Down way too far. I tried to compensate by lifting but it was too late. That auger took hold and buried itself to the shear pin. The tractor promptly stalled. Great. I tried to jog it, I tried to bump it. Nada.

So we shut everything down and tried to make sure that everything was not in tension and started to dig with shovels. The auger bit is designed to take a good bite of the earth and it didn't want to let go. We dug all the way down to the starter point on the tip before we could free it. There! now we had a first class post hole. It was two times wider than it needed to be and plenty deep, and right smack in the middle of the barn lot. William is great with a shovel. Better living through technology huh?
William looked at me finally and asked "why did you dig right here? We need the holes near the road for the new gate posts." It seemed strange to me that William, my sweet Chicago man would ask, because Ms. Cleda's picture window is less than one hundred feet from the desired post hole location.  I suspected this would happen and my tractor operator skills would be insufficient to prevent it. It was like destiny, like the surety of the sun rising in the morning. I was going to mess the first hole up, and in a big way. The first rule of country living; you are entertainment for your neighbors. It is a given conclusion. I wasn't about to give that dear woman the best laugh she had had in a month.


PS: I dug the second hole fearlessly, and right in front of Miss Cleda's window. Got that one stuck too. And yes, you are supposed to laugh, I did!