Category: Equipment


I’ve been fighting this weather long enough, it’s time to quit spitting into the wind.

One of the things a person has to learn when working in a trade that is controled in large part by the weather is humility. Instead of railing about the weather, which I can not control, I need to be more flexible in how I work with the weather. I’ve known this all along, but I’ve held out hope that it would warm up and dry out eventually, and while I still hope that will happen eventually, I really need for it to happen right now, which means setting up tunnels.

Given that the weather doesn’t seem to be cooperative in the near future, it’s time I took matters into my own hands. I had really hoped to be able to raise a lot of crops over at the Canby location and I do indeed have potatoes, tomatoes, beans, chick peas, beets, radishes and carrots planted over there, but I think I’ll raise the rest of my crops over here at the homestead. Perhaps I can keep the Canby location in production for the crops I already have over there (the potatoes are doing exceptionally well!) and just work on growing more of those types of crops already doing well over there.

Here though, I’m going to go with another strategy. On Monday I decided to convert the arena, which is located directly behind the corn and garlic/onion gardens, into a new growing area which will add almost another full acre to the existing growing area, bringing me up to about 1 1/4 acres for crops.

There are several reasons I decided to do this. The horses have been using the existing arena for 4 years now, and between them, their manure and all the wood chips we’ve put in there, the ground is rich and black like the corn and allium gardens. I was really impressed when I rototilled out there on Monday. Also, I need a large area to set up low and high tunnels for the warm weather crops like the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash and herbs. And, because tunnels need more attention, they need to be home where I can keep an eye on them all day long.

Yesterday, one of my last projects before milking in the evening, was to prep the tent frames for removal. I use long, 10′ X 20′ tents for horse shelters in the winter, the current bank is 10′ X 60′ and sheltered 4 animals. They’re innexpensive to buy, easy to set up, are movable (I can break one down, move it, and set it up in a new location in less than a day), and have the added advantage of sacking out the horses as far as tarps go. Once they are used to them, the horses have no problem with sheltering in a tent, even in relatively high winds.*

Today I’ll be breaking the tent frames down into their components. This will allow me to make any minor repairs, replace bent parts, etc. The tents have been up for the past 3 years in that particular location, and they are looking in need of a bit of TLC. In a month or two I’ll set them back up in the new arena with a friend of mine and I will be laying out next week. It’s going to be nice to have a new area to prep for the horses’ winter quarters, and I’ll be able to prep them using the hind sight I’ve aquired from the performance of the old arena. For the time being, the horses can use the trees in the back of the pasture for shelter. Even when it rains fairly hard it stays pretty dry down there. And the weather is still fairly warm, even if it is raining a lot. When I set the frames back up, I’ll probably add another 10′ X 20′ section to accomadate the heifer, who will be joining the horses in the next couple of weeks.

After getting the tent frame down I’ll use the scythe to knock down the thisle, set up a composting station for that area, and then start rototilling. Kind of makes me want to get the big tiller for the tractor fixed and hooked up. I finally have an area big enough to turn the thing around in. I might do that tomorrow. Harold said the tiller needs some kind of small repair or adjustment.

After I get everything tilled up over the next few days, I’ll set up the low tunnels for the peppers and eggplants, and I’ll set up the big greenhouse for the high tunnels that the tomatoes will go in. I’ll set up the herb garden for the basils and other herbs as well.

*I just wanted to add a note of caution if you ever decide to use tents of this type as livestock shelters. While these tents are phenominal and I’ll probably always use them, there are some guidlines and tricks to keeping everyone safe around them.

I sink 7′ steel T-posts at every leg aboug 2′ into the ground and then use a hose clamp top and bottom to secure the tent leg to the post. 3 clamps is best, but two will do the job.

Also, never, absolutely never, and I’ll say this for a third time – NEVER – lock a horse or other animal in a tent. The primary reason why our horses out here are so comfortable in the tents, even if a gust of wind shakes the tar out of the thing while the horse is standing in the middle of it, is because they have 100% freedom of access. They can come in or leave as they see fit, which builds confidence and gives the horses control of their situation. Tents are not like a regular stick built runin shed. They flap, they shake, sometimes a line will snap. That all can be terrifying to a horse, even one who’s used to the tents if something really unusual happens. Horses need to be able to make the decission, on their own, whether to stay or go, otherwise you’ll just cause a wreck and maybe injure your horse(s) in the process.

Even when I’m handling a horse in the tents, if things get too dicey, and I can see the horse is probably going to ‘loose it’, I’ll take the horse out, walk him/her around a bit, and then when things calm down, we’ll go back in. This turns a potential wreck into a training session that will strengthen the horse’s comfidence in him/herself as well as you and your judgement as herd lead.

Lock the horse in the tent and something bad happens, the least you’ll probably do is traumatize the horse, which can cause more problems in the long run even than can a physical injury. Mentally sound and emotionally stable horses have far less potential to hurt themselves and especially their human handlers, capish?

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The big Horse and the little Pony Troy Bilt rototillers

When working on a farm (or anywhere else for that matter) it’s handy to be handy. Being able to do things yourself not only saves you money, but it can also save time.

I was out tilling the corn garden. After waiting so long for the weather to warm up and the soil to dry out, I’ve been anxious to get the ground preped so that I can plant the sweet corn. There are only so many months that I can grow corn, the corn takes a certain length of time to mature enough to eat and I’m running out of time to get seed in the ground. So I was very happy to be able to get out and chew up some ground with the large rototiller, a Troy Bilt Horse. It’s a great piece of machinery, and is so easy to use.

The sun was out, the ground was soft and dark, I had a few chickens running loose, following to grab up the occasional worm. And all of a sudden, what’s that? A loud grinding noise coming from the ’tiller!

The big Horse with a hanging pulley rope and ready for surgery

I shut the thing down and noticed that the pulley rope (this ’tiller is a pull start) was hanging. I gave it a pull and sure enough it was a no go. Looking in, I could see that the cord had come loose and snarled on the pulley. What to do?

I’ve never worked on this type of equipment aside from opening up the air intake for the carburator and shooting starter fluid in the thing. I took a look at the front and fortunately the pulley housing is just held on with screws. I got a screwdriver from the tool shed and opened her up. Then it was off to the internet to figure out how to deal with this situation.

The rope back on the pulley

Back to the greenhouse, where I’d set the pulley and housing on a work bench so it’d be easier to work on. I was able to get the cord unsnarled and wound back on the pulley, then went back out and installed the pulley/housing back on the front of the ’tiller. The cord still hangs as it won’t completely retract. I’m thinking that the spring is getting worn out and will have to be replaced. Not suprising as this ’tiller is a 1979 model. I had to have work done on it before we could use it this spring (carburator), and then one of the tires developed a fatal crack so it was off to Les Shwab for new tires. Nothing lasts forever…..

If I had waited for the repair to be done at the shop in Molalla, where I usually have work on the ’tillers done, I would have had to wait untill Tuesday as they’re closed on Mondays. It also would have cost some money, although probably not much.

As it was, a few minutes on the net and about an hour to take the thing off, wrestle with the cord, and reinstall and I was back up and running and finished the tilling I had planned and a second area that I hadn’t thought I’d get to that day.

The layer hens after getting off work in the hen house relax in the freshly tilled earth, scratching, dusting, foraging.

The layer hens after getting off work in the hen house relax in the freshly tilled earth, scratching, dusting, foraging.

The ’tiller will have to go back into the shop sometime this summer. That grinding noise I heard? It was a gear being stipped. But that can wait till all the tilling’s done. I hope…..

Stripped starter gear on the Horse