One more farm story for this week

Sorry for the back to back farm stories but I was relating the Fire! story to someone the other day and remembered another story I hadn’t shared.

As a cattle farmer, I go through a lot of hay – about 300,000 lbs per winter.  Spring and late Summer are the seasons for cutting, baling and storing hay.  In the past I’ve had to buy a lot of hay because I didn’t have enough land to make enough.  A little over a year ago I bought another 35 acres of hay fields and this year I was able to make all the hay I needed.

The new hay fields are about 6 miles from my “main farm” where I keep the cows and store the hay.

In August I cut and baled hay on those hay fields – got almost 100 rolls (100,000 lbs).  I haul the hay back to the farm using a Ford F-350/550 dump truck and a trailer.  I can fit 11 rolls on the trailer and 2 in the dump truck for a total of 13,000 lbs.

I hauled the hay over the period of a few days and, on and off, was having trouble with my dump truck.  The battery died a couple of times over night and I had to recharge it.  I was hoping to get all this hauling done before I had to deal with a more permanent fix to the battery problem.

Unfortunately, as I was driving the last load back from the hay fields, the truck died (just plain cut off in the middle of driving it) about a mile from my farm.  I was going up hill at about 45 miles per hour and managed to coast to the top of the hill and then down the other side.  By the time the truck coasted to a stop, I was about half a mile from the farm and stuck in the middle of the road (there were no shoulders to pull off on).

I called my house and got my 16 year old son.  I asked him to get the farm utility vehicle and come meet me on the road.  While I waited, cars kept coming up and I was waving them around this huge truck, trailer and mountain of hay.  Once my son showed up, I left him on truck duty to go get my John Deere 4320 tractor and some chains.

My thinking was that I was going to pull the truck and trailer the remaining half mile with the tractor.  I wasn’t sure it was going to work.  People think of tractors as incredibly powerful machines and, in a way, they are – but it’s all about gearing.  The engine in this tractor is only about 45 horsepower.  By comparison, the engine in my little Hyundai Sonata is 190 horsepower and my dump truck is about 330 horsepower.  So you can imagine why I might be a little concerned 😉

I brought the tractor back and used the tractor to take the two hay rolls out of the back of the dump truck and set them in someone’s yard 🙂  I wanted to lighten the load but I didn’t want to unstrap all the hay on the trailer.  I hooked up the tractor.  The chains I have are huge and I’ve used them to pull all kinds of things.  I think the steel in the links is about 3/8″ and I used 2 chains.

My son rode in the truck to steer and to operate the brake so that the truck didn’t run into the back of the tractor in the event that I had to stop.

I put the tractor in low gear, revved up the engine to about 2,000 rpms and proceeded to pull the truck and trailer 1/2 a mile at 1.8 miles per hour (full speed in low gear – did I mention tractors are all about gearing? :))  To my pleasant surprise, it worked like a charm.

I went back and picked up the two rolls I left behind and afterwards headed to Autozone to get 2 new batteries (big diesel trucks have 2 batteries, not 1 – they pull a heck of a lot of current when they are starting).

In the end everything worked out.  It was an adventure and I learned one more thing my little tractor can do.  I have a bigger 95 horsepower tractor that I was sure would have been able to pull this with no trouble but it was still back at the hay fields, 6 miles away and at a top speed of less than 20 miles per hour that would have taken a long time and been quite a nuisance to everyone else on the road :(.  Yay for my 4320 – the little tractor that could.

Brian