More Tales From the Farm

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More tales from the farm, which is a project with no perceived end.

  • I am slowly learning how useful a tractor can be, not just for mowing but for hauling limbs to the burn pile and pulling up downed fence line. Our medium-sized machine has a bucket as well as the bushhog and a separate box blade. Last Friday, I paid a fellow to build new fence on the piece of land behind our house. Glade Creek, which cuts through the east side, overflows its banks on occasion and took down a wide swath of fence before we bought the place. Several hundred feet of fence remain in disrepair. Fixing up this place is like eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

It was my job to pull up the bent T-posts, hog wire and barbed wire, all covered in debris after the flooding. We plan to move a donkey into this roughly one-acre lot, now that this particular fence is fixed, and can’t risk him getting tangled up in the wire. So on Sunday afternoon, I fired up the tractor and chugged down there. About 50 feet lay buried under leaves, dirt and debris. I tied a thick tow rope behind the bucket and began working, slowly extricating the T-posts, hog wire and barbed w

ire by raising the bucket and putting the tractor in reverse. It usually took several tries to extricate the bent, rusted T-posts from the ground, the tow rope slipping off and having to be retied.

That was my Sunday workout, hopping on and off the tractor, tying rope, using bolt cutters to cut the wire and rolling it all up to eventually go to the metal salvage yard. It was tedious and satisfying at the same time.

  • Deer are visible most mornings, warily creeping across the freshly cleared acreage. The other morning, I was walking to the shop, which also houses the modest gym pad where I work out. Across the fence, a six-point buck and doe froze when they saw me. I stopped as well. We engaged in a staring contest for about a minute before the buck broke for the woods, followed closely by his girlfriend.

The deer are safe from us on our 57 acres. We are working on a wildlife management plan with help from a state biologist. We will plant food plots and build nest boxes for owls and other birds, leave some dead trees standing as snag for birds. I took a photo of one recently that was riddled with woodpecker holes. We hope to lure ducks to the small natural pond in the woods, where we have seen a blue heron alight.

The only critters we are working to, if not eradicate, at least control are feral hogs. For now, the hogs have retreated to the back of the property.

  • A few weeks ago, before the tree mulcher cleared out some overgrown former pasture, I was bushhogging and ran the tractor into a steep unseen rut because of the thick brush. Its front wheels spun in the sandy soil. So did the back wheels, which weren’t in the rut. (It was in four-wheel drive.) I was stuck like Chuck, as they say. I killed the engine, got out and surveyed the situation, wondering who I could call to help pull it out — and how to do it. This was going to be a major inconvenience.

Then I thought of something, got back on the tractor and started it up. I pushed the front-end bucket hard into the ground, lifting the front wheels out of the rut so they dangled in the air, pushed down on the reverse pedal and managed to extricate the tractor from the rut with the rear wheels only. Cool! A new tractor trick.

I’m slowly learning.

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