News from the Field at Harvest Tide

The business and life of running a farm is intricate work - a balancing of many priorities, challenges, and adventures.  We believe that part of the benefit of any CSA should be access to the daily practices and hard decisions that combined make a farm business viable and sustainable.  

Equipment Notes; Winter Work!

               Removing the rear gate in order to gain access to the tines underneath.

               Removing the rear gate in order to gain access to the tines underneath.

Equipment gets abused. Its the nature of farming with tractors and equipment; it gets beat up through normal operation, it gets left outside through different weather, and it probably doesn't get the proper amount of TLC (or PM, Preventative Maintenance). Thankfully in Maine, vegetable farmers have a natural season in which things slow down a bit; winter! Snow and ice cover frozen ground which, unless covered by a greenhouse or high tunnel, cannot be worked. The abused equipment can now be gently coaxed back into a state of proper functionality. And thus the farmer doesn't get as much of a break as she may have thought. Winter is the time of repainting, rust removal, new tines, new oil, new filters, and all small repairs that may not have been detrimental to farm in season, but will lead to bigger issues down the road.

I enjoy this part of the season. We were lucky enough to get some space in our landlord's unheated garage to store our tools and have a protected space to work on our equipment. This means I can enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, work on the computer for a bit (hopefully allowing the sun to heat the garage a bit), and then walk over to the garage to attack whatever project is inside. Currently I am working on out rototiller. We bought it from my former employer (like much of our equipment), and it was in need of some attention.

Tines are removed, rotors ready to be stripped and painted before new tines are put on.

Tines are removed, rotors ready to be stripped and painted before new tines are put on.

Some of the tines underneath were missing, many had worn down to a nub, and all had lost there original shape and functionality. New tines are on order! Removing the old tines was surprisingly easy (years old bolts, turning through soil, sitting for years....how were they NOT corroded to the tines themselves?), and the new tines should fit in nicely with the old nuts and bolts. 

Next I drained the oil from the gearbox. Kind of obvious, but oil is critical to ensure lubrication and to prevent catastrophic failure (ie broken gear teeth). Oil should generally be somewhat transparent, free of contaminants (any other material other than oil) and have some viscosity to it. With the chilly temperatures inside the garage, I used space heaters to heat the gearbox prior to opening the drain valve. However once opened, a slow stream of white ooze poured from the drain valve; water was in the oil. It took nearly a full day for the gearbox to expel the heavily contaminated "oil". This type of contamination likely was caused by condensation and the lack of changing the oil regularly (every couple years). Filling the gearbox with fresh oil should help the machine run better and have a longer life.      

Once the oil and tines have been replaced, I will go through the a wire brush and strip off the peeling paint. This will expose bare metal, which can be painted over with a rust preventative, to protect the metal from moisture and exposure in the future. New tines, new oil, new paint and this unit will be ready to till up our beds for the coming season! And now on to the next project; the bed maker.