Seven tractor lessons

My first year of tractor use has brought experiences worth remembering as well as a few I’d like to forget. The deep parallel furrows and scattered remnants of black plastic mulch left on most of the Bluecircle land are reminders of the years it was used to raise tomatoes and perhaps squash or similar vegetables. Accordingly, a slick red 38-horsepower McCormick tractor with 4-wheel drive, a front loader bucket and brush mower were among the first tools on the inventory of the new farm.

The furrows demand slow travel from place to place on the hill, but this reveals field mice, rabbits, snakes, and reluctant groundhogs and allows them plenty of time to get out of the way. The tractor’s combination of a clutch, 4 separate shift levers and both hand and foot throttles contrasts with the “steer and go” of our SUVs and makes driving a skill again. During its the first 100 hours of operation the McCormick diesel has been trouble-free, starting easily whether moving snow or in August heat. Every month there’s been a new use for the front loader, and new respect for the skills of construction equipment operators.

I learned to respect April mud when it and the tractor’s weight threatened to “sink the Bismark”. Fortunately a combination of 4-wheel drive, the front bucket, sand and some old-fashioned shovel work got us out of this predicament. The same tire treads that helped out in this situation created trouble later. After a heavy rain a shortcut over the lawn left deep footprints – months later the turf was still in recovery. The lesson here, that the McCormick is “just not a big lawn tractor”, was repeated the day George and I decided to change its 6+ gallons of oil in the garage. A shallow plastic tub for cement mixing looked like a good place to drain the oil, and might have been except for the crack in one corner. As oil poured from the tractor into the tub it formed a rapidly-growing pool on the floor! Only twenty pounds of kitty litter kept the entire floor from flooding with tired oil.

This entry would not be complete without acknowledging the mentoring and support of my neighbor George, whose substantial wisdom and experience with equipment are matched by his willingness to share the fun and work of using and maintaining the Bluecircle tractor.

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