Sunday, July 26, 2015

That Time I Nearly Sunk the Tractor

I might just kind of suck at this caretaking thing. Or parts of it, at the very least.


Eric left last Saturday for the East Coast to go direct a YFC Middle School Camp. Now, I like kids and I worked with kids and all that, but if you think for a hot minute that I'm going to go to freaking Baltimore and spend a week's worth of vacation in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity with a bunch of smelly junior high kids, you've obviously been smoking the legal stuff here in Colorado. And yes, junior high kids smell. Especially in 90 degree weather. It's just a fact. That man is a martyr. Also a fact.

So, Sunday I get out and make a valiant effort at mowing the meadow. Now, I've mentioned that it has rained here. A lot. Like A LOT. The pond has been flooded out and the meadow has been half under water since May, and its only recently gotten dry enough to actually contemplate mowing. However, the fact that we haven't been able to mow has not meant that the grass hasn't grown. It has, and I'm pretty sure that had Josie Zolman, one of the seven Zolmans that came to stay with us over the 4th of July (I know, I'll post about that!) had gone into the meadow, we would have lost her and had to call search and rescue.

The grass was long.

But! I have a tractor. Well, a John Deere riding lawn mower left behind by the homeowner, but I call it a tractor and that's good enough.

So, I got on the tractor and went flying down the lane, and mow down the grass outside of the meadow fence. Feeling confident, I open up the meadow gate and head in.

Where I promptly stall out because the grass is so long that it clogs the air intake (look at me, making up technical words) and stalls out.

Never fear, I work out a deal with the meadow where I mow the parts that are short and mostly dirt, then slowly work my way into the long grass, cutting out just a bit at a time so that I don't stall. This works out mostly ok, and I get a little braver, and start around the hill in front of the trout pond.

And just as quickly, I roll down the outside hill and get that bugger stuck.

Like really stuck.

Like I had to go get the Subaru and a tow strap stuck. Fortunately, HailNo to the rescue.

Well, fast forward and I've gotten a chunk of the field done, but because of the need to keep the long grass clippings from clogging the mower, I've left weird crop-circles of unmowed chaos in the meadow, and I'm prevented from finishing by the weather.

I'm not sure exactly what happened this week, but I didn't actually get back to mowing until Thursday. In the interim, the battery on the tractor dies, and I have to get out the battery charger and power it back up. Also, the actual grass around the house has gotten long after the rain, so I mow that first, since after all, I am the caretaker and people are likely to pay more attention to the actual grass than the meadow, right?

I limp the mower through the meadow. We're hurting here. At points, in order to get through the longest grass, I literally turn off the blade, drive up hill, turn around, floor it downhill, and at the last minute drop the blade to go screaming (ok not screaming, more like moving at a fast walk...) through the tall grass because this seems to be more effective than the concentric circles I have been doing. The mower, throughout this process, and probably due to the battery's weakened condition, groans along and threatens to stall out frequently. I manage to keep it running, until...

That freaking pond again.

See, at the top of the hill on the outside of the pond is a telephone pole. However, there is enough space there where the grass has grown long where it really needs to be mowed. And I'm pretty confident that I can successfully get the mower through that space.

Which is true, except I don't cut the wheel hard enough past the pole and the hill takes a deeper slope just at that point (which I can't see because the grass is so long) and I end up at a funky angle and boom, I'm stuck. Facing roughly downhill toward the pond.

Do not put the tractor in the pond.
Do not put the tractor in the pond.

I don't even try to pull it up myself. I slog back up to the house, grab HailNo and the tow-strap, and off-road through the meadow. This time though, it's trickier, because this side of the hill is more narrow, with less room between the downhill slope to the pond and the downhill slope to the fence. I ease HailNo up there, and hook up the front of the Subi to the back to the tractor. In reverse, I start pulling.

Except the tow strap is  really long, and so instead of hauling the tractor back up the hill, I more slide it along the hill, still facing downhill. Which is fine and would have worked.

Except, remember that telephone pole? Well, it's not just the pole that's out there, but the two tension wires coming out from a 45 degree angle and screwed into the ground half way down the freaking pond hill. You can see where this is going, right?


Stop the car, get out and look. The wire has caught between the seat and the deck adjuster handle. I  do some pushing and pulling, but I'm not having a bunch of luck here, in part because I don't really have any grip on the muddy downslope, and not just because of the mud. I am wearing knee-high, no-traction, muck boots because I have this fear of snakes. I think that they will offer me more protection from snakes in the long grass that I can't see than my running shoes will. Seriously, that's why I went to the farm store and bought the muck boots. I might get nervous about bears, but I am Indiana Jones when it comes to snakes.

Anyway, I'm now even further stuck because that thick wire (which fortunately, is still both screwed into the ground and into the still-standing pole) is really, firmly wedged in there. There seems to be no option except to drive forward, allow the tractor to roll further down the hill so it is now perilously close to the edge of the pond while pulling on the wire to get it around the tractor, stabilize the tractor as best I can by putting the emergency brake on, unhooking it from HailNo, driving around the meadow to the other side of the pond, and attempting to pull this thing back up from the other side.

Except there is still that stupid telephone pole there.

I get as close to the pole as I can, get out, grab the tow strap, and go to hook it back to HailNo.

And I am exactly two inches short.

Are you kidding me? (By the way, you should be SO proud of me. I was so caught up in all this, I never cursed once. NOT ONCE.)

I go back to the car and realize, if I collapse both mirrors and drive completely straight, I can make it between the pole and the fence. Amazingly, I do this, keeping everything away from HailNo. I get the towstrap hooked up. I haul the tractor up the hill, and get it up as high as I can, then realize that I can't haul it all the way out because it won't make the turn and will smack into the telephone pole.

Seriously, this is getting (has gotten?) ridiculous. Stabilize the thing AGAIN, and drive around the meadow AGAIN to the other side, hook up the tow strap, and back up HailNo. The tractor makes it up the rest of the hill and...

Over the other side and goes barreling into the wire fence.

At this point, I may have gotten a little concerned that I had broken the fence. Fortunately, the "you live in a crazy house" protective angels must have been around and working overtime, because I did NOT break the fence. I hop on the tractor to try to back it up.

The tractor's battery is completely dead. It-won't-even-turn-over levels of dead.

I do some pushing and rocking of the tractor until I manage to slide it away from the fence enough that I can open the hood. I pull up HailNo, haul out the jumper cables, and, in the middle of the field, near the road, at a time when it feels like the ENTIRE COUNTY has decided to drive by, jump the tractor.

After approximately 9 million hours, I unhook everything, try the tractor, and it starts up. I leave HailNo in the meadow with the hood still up, and, while the tractor is running, drive it up the hill to the house. I then slog back down the hill, still wearing my muckers, roll up the tow strap and the jumper cables, and HailNo and I call it a night.

You bet I went back to the house and had a beer.

How do I get myself into these things??

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