[From 29-Jul-2012] Tiny tractor: More rototiller repair, taking it apart to replace a bearing housing. These jobs either go fast or take exactly 5x as long as your worst case expectation because of little snags. (It would be quicker if I did this stuff all the time!) Here, I’m fixing the chain, a straightforward mission that involves lots of little nuts and bolts (remove and replace the housing) and a lot of grease. The caulking gun is for running a bead of silicone to between the two halves of the housing to seal it up. Concrete blocks and cardboard make a surprisingly workable instant workshop.
Tiny farming: Building & Fixing
[From 18-May-2013] Yeah, my bicycle. Since I don’t drive (except for the compact tractor, and the occasional riding mower and ATV), it’s one of the ways I regularly get to the field (from the farm where I live, down the road to the farm where I farm). The bike is a major means of transportation for me, and for that reason, I consider it essential farm equipment. Here, changing a tube and tire took only 10 minutes… Nice!
At work on water: Rochelle changes an shutoff valve—a tap!—to the 1″ header pipe that runs from the well through the field. Not exactly a big pipe by irrigation standards, OK for our low volume use. You could call it a hybrid setup, a mix of commercial and home garden gear, with a healthy amount of manual labor thrown in to make it all go (dragging around hoses to where they’re needed and the like, hand watering from 55-gal barrels when necessary). Full drip irrigation has been on the to-do list for years, all the gear has been here, but I’ve never quite got round to it, which sounds odd, I’m sure, but we’ve done well relying on rain, and working with minimal gear when the rains don’t come. Kinda…satisfying! :)
Finally got around to at least getting the base of the hoophouse anchored. This whole decision of whether to build it now or wait till spring has been up in the air for a while. At least, with the 4×4 rough cut cedar beams that hold up the steel ribs positioned and the anchor posts set, it’ll be relatively easy to get the frame up and then skin it…whenever. Even on a warm day in February or March! Flexibility! Options! Or maybe just…putting it off. I do want to purchase new plastic—what’s on hand now is around five years old, gotten milky, past its prime… In any case, today, I pounded in six 3′ T-bars, three per 20′ side. That little screw is only for the moment, it will all get bolted together with metal strapping or brackets. I’ve done this before… :)
It’s getting dry! A few parts of the field are still wet below the surface, but most of it has gone from pretty well waterlogged a month ago, to dry a couple of inches down, and there’s no rain in sight. The forecast is for heat and sun for the next week at least, with a 60% chance of “showers” on just one day—no holding breath for that. So it’s time to think about spot irrigation.
Step 1, finished this afternoon, is to run a water pipe from the well right through the L-shaped garden. Our watering methods are quite slow and labor-intensive, by hand and with soaker hoses, but on the upside, there’s no huge volume requirement , so the 1″ black plastic pipe already on hand will do fine. Part of the line was already set up, and I added the last 200′ today, for a total of length of about 800′. Taps with quick release connectors are spaced along the line: just plug in a hose as close as possible to where you want to go, drag it out, and there you have it, a little water…everywhere.
A great chance find at the library, lying there on top of a returned-book cart. This isn’t a book review or recommendation, although Barns, Sheds & Outbuildings is a cool browsing volume, full of clear explanations, instructions, and photos. What it did was remind me, as my year of living mainly in town has its effect, how little most of us (I’m talking about the majority of North Americans, at least, living in cities and towns) have to do with actually building things. And how kinda HELPLESS we are, not knowing how to put together and repair the structures we need. I read somewhere that in the 1950′s, around half of the houses in Toronto (so, I assume, in other big cities as well) were built by the owners. Who’d think of doing that now?
The interesting thing is, like growing food, building basic structures IS NOT HARD. For me, working alongside Bob to put up a wood-framed, winterized, 450 sq. ft. barn extension clued me in to that a few years back. Not a huge project, but it was basically a tiny house constructed to withstand cold Canadian winters. We leveled land and poured a concrete pad, built a concrete block retaining wall, framed, installed a metal roof, windows and doors, insulated and wired…everything. Being warm and dry in the middle of winter inside a structure I knew literally down to the nuts and bolts was satisfying and fundamental. Working alongside someone with old-school farmer skills, following his lead, doing whatever he did, made it…simple.
There aren’t that many old-school farmers left to learn from, but we do have books! :)