Playing in the snow

Buckeye Farm Beat

Some of us are good with equipment and some of us should stick to writing.

Published on: February 14, 2010

With six or seven inches of snow on the ground and more falling I decided this week it was time to get the blade on the tractor and clear the quarter mile lane that leads to our farm house. I realized this when I came home from work in the dark. The wheel tracks the car had left in the morning were barely visible, and the drifts were getting high enough that the car was bottoming out as I drove up the hill.


Most winters I can get by without plowing, which is good, because the less time I spend cussing at a three-point hitch the better.


Actually the muttering started even before I got to the struggle of attaching the blade. For starters the snow from about 1,200 square feet of roof barn had shifted and was piled 3 feet deep in front of the sliding barn doors. So I had to do some shoveling before I could even open the doors to get tractor out. And it’s not like I could just shovel out in front of the one door that slides to the right. That’s’ only half enough room for the tractor to come out. I had to dig out the other three doors and to push them to the left.


Fortunately the tractor was facing out so I could use the front end loader to scoop out the snow once I got the doors open. Unfortunately the brush hog was on the back end of the tractor so I had to drive the machine out and maneuver it back in to a corner of the barn where I could detach the mower and keep it out the way. Of course that's a pretty dark corner of the barn, so I couldn’t really see what I was doing. No I didn’t back into the patio furniture my wife has stored back there, but I came close.


My Montana tractor has detachable sway bars which are supposed to make removing the hitch bars easier, but that means crawling under the hitch and pulling pins, and not losing the pins on the barn floor while you hold a flash light with your teeth. Ultimately, you need a sledge hammer to handle this delicate operation. The same goes for nudging the pins back into position. Brute force is a great tension reliever.


Then there is detaching the power take off drive shaft. Push the little pin in and pull and kind of twist and pull and push the pin in harder and pull and twist and give a fierce yank and when it suddenly comes off, brace yourself as you fall backwards onto the mower.


Of course I had to take the tractor outside again so I could back up into an area where I could attach the blade, which I had to drag from another corner of the barn where it was stored to keep it out of the way. On the way the sliding door got a little bump from the loader bucket. Still no damage. However, I forgot I had taken the category 2 pins off the blade and put them on the roto-tiller last fall. The tiller is back in that dark corner of the barn somewhere.


Miraculously, I finally got the blade on the tractor and headed out into the wintry night. The tractor’s headlights were not much help because the loader prevented them from lighting up more than the back of the bucket. When I raise the loader and there was plenty of light out front, but the bucket was directly in the line of vision. Never mind, I could still see the wheel tracks and the blade was rolling snow off to the side making a clean white path.


Compared to putting the blade on the tractor, the plowing was simple. I shifted into second gear and charged ahead. At the bottom of the drive I faced the tough decision of where to put the snow the blade had scraped up behind me. Once in a winter long ago, I had gotten a little greedy in trying to drag the pile of snow off toward the side and managed to stick my Deutz tractor in the ditch. No way I was going to get close to that ditch this year.


But just how far could I get with that front tire before it was too much? Yep. I inched my way over there and then shifted into reverse and started spinning. Simple. Just brake that right rear wheel. Still spinning. Rock it forward a little. In deeper. Gun it backwards. Still spinning. Brake the left wheel. Inch it forward again. Still spinning. Back and forth. In pretty deep now. Maybe I can just drive it right out of the ditch? Gun it.


OK. I got half the drive plowed that night. The next morning my very good friend David McCandlish came with a chain and pulled the tractor out of the ditch. I got the other half plowed that day. I’ve managed to scrape the drive a couple of more times without incident since then and with another 4 to 6 inches on the way tonight, I’m figure I am way ahead of the game. At least I have the blade on the tractor. I'll probably put off putting the mower back on until August.