Monday, June 24, 2013

Old machinery

We have old machinery. I think of our tractor as new, because we bought it new – in 1985! We decided on a new tractor rather than an old one because the new ones have a wide wheel base in front as well as in back and because of that, are less apt to tip over. But from then on, we bought our machinery used, mostly at auctions.  I usually had Amber and Laurel with me. We’d look at the machine we needed and try to decide if it was in good shape (For me this was a challenge.  In the 1980’s I was able to use a socket wrench to tighten sparkplugs. I discovered that shifting the little lever back and forth for each crank made turning it much easier. It was frustrating though because the plugs didn’t tighten until Dave came over to see why I wasn’t making progress and explained that the lever is supposed to stay in one position for tightening and the opposite position for loosening). If the machinery looked good, We’d scan the wagons for interesting household items and things for the kids to bid on and then we’d stake out a piece of lawn or pasture, spread our blanket, get out books and toys and lunch and wait for whatever we were bidding on to come up. Once we bought a bale elevator, once several long extension ladders. Another time we came home with a hand cranked farrier’s forge and several auctions garnered us hay wagons.

I think all of our big machinery (three very old balers, two old haybines, an ancient chisel plow, a disc, a chopper and a windrow turner) we either bought from friends or found in ads in the newspaper.  Used machinery is good because the cost is much, much less than that of new machinery. Used machinery is bad because it needs more upkeep. A lot more. In fact, used machinery is more of a life style choice than an investment. If you’re really unlucky, the farmer is selling the piece because he can’t stand the thought of fixing it one more time.

Dave has learned to repair machinery – over and over and over. I can change tires and replace decking and structural supports on the hay wagons. I’m a specialist. Dave has to be a generalist and every year he proves his skill (gets by) on the haybine, the baler and the tractor. Every year, he has to learn something new. The people who ask us if we don’t find farming beneath us because we are so well educated have never tried it. A major part or our education is what we have learned (and continue to learn) about machinery and ourselves. Even more important is what we learn to appreciate, by farming. The value of old machinery is one of those things.

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