Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Amish

Pam and I went to a farm auction yesterday.  I was hoping that there would be some implements for Bessie the Tractor, but besides a manure spreader, there wasn't.   But there was a lot of horse related things there.   Not only for riding, but for pulling farm equipment.  As a result, about half the crowd there was Amish.

I'm fascinated by the Amish.  In the 21st century, they live in the 19th century.  They were all dressed similarly.  The men wore straw hats and the married men sported full beards, but no moustaches.  Single men shave until their wedding day.  They wore long sleeve shirts with the sleeves rolled up above their elbows, and vests.  Every man except one wore a vest.  Their pants and vest were blue, and their shirts mostly blue.

Being a bald guy, I'm a big fan of hats.  I've got to get me one of these Amish straw hats.

The women all wore full length dresses that went down just above the ankles.  The dresses has a Vee shaped thing front and back, and all the women wore bonnets.  The dresses were either blue, green, or brown.  The bonnets black or brown.

All of their clothing was hand made.

The children?  All, without exception, were barefoot, but otherwise dressed the same as adults.  All were as cute as a button.  It was Huckleberry Finn come to life.

Parked alongside the road among the cars and trucks were horses and buggies.

No, no photos.  I thought it would be rude and intrusive to photograph these folks.

While all the Amish that I conversed with spoke perfect English, among themselves they speak a form of German.

The Amish do not participate much in modern society.  They don't pay social security taxes or join the military.  They may marry only within their faith, a type of Baptist religion.  They run their own schools and educate their children until the age of 13 or so, at which time they work their farms.

I've always admired people who live their faith.  90% of Amish teenagers are baptised into the church and continue living the Amish lifestyle.  It's estimated that there are about a quarter million Amish, and New York has the fastest growing Amish sects.

While at the auction, which lasted for five hours, at least a dozen Amish wagons passed by, some hauling some kind of farm implements on their way to work a neighbor's field.

The Amish didn't bid on the electric powered routers and table saws, but bought up all of the horse drawn farm equipment, including the manure spreader.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rain Rain, Go Away

I've never seen so much rain here in upstate New York.  Since we arrived in the middle of May, it's rained every day except for a few.  I normally don't mind rain, except it's made our property a mud bog.   As you regular  readers know, the trailer I had delivered is now sitting in the middle of our cleared lot because the truck hauling it got stuck.

So yesterday, Pam and I went to the property to mess about.  I took my camera along.

This is the creek along our driveway at our rental cabin.  It was flowing real good.

Pam surveying the place on our land that has never dried out, even when we had three days straight of no rain.

I decided to drain it by digging drainage ditches.

See?  Yuck.  While I was digging the Bleecker Canal, Pam took a walk with the camera.

Ruby loves to blow bubbles in the water.

Me.  I'm out standing in my field.

Some of you might be thinking that I'm exaggerating about the rain we've gotten.  The pic above and below is Fort Plain, down in the valley not far from here.

We're headed to a farm equipment auction in a bit.  This should be fun, especially since I don't understand what most farm equipment actually does.  I might buy what I think is a manure spreader and come back with a cotton gin.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Three Point Hitch

Most of what we're going to be doing building our unabomber cabin and making a little farm is all new to me.  We're learning as we go.  Not knowing what I'm doing has never stopped me before.  Why start now?

Take Bessie for example, our 1952 Ferguson tractor.  I never owned or operated a tractor before.  I did a bit of research on Al Gore's interwebs, found it on Craig's List, and bought it.   It has a manure bucket on the front that's very simple to use.  Pull a lever back, the bucket goes up.  Push it forward, it goes down.  I had that mastered in no time.  There is also a release lever for the bucket that dumps it.  Easy.  I've been loading the bucket with kindling, rocks, and fill and dumping it in piles here and there or my rental cabin's driveway.

The three point hitch is more of a challenge, as evidenced by the fact that I've bent the steel struts on it twice, and actually breaking one once.  It is hydraulic and goes up and down.  What I've figured out is that it shouldn't be engaged when the drawbar is mounted.  It's not designed to go up and down.  

There are many implements that can be mounted on the three point hitch that can go up and down. The first one I bought was the back blade. which I wrote about here.  Attaching an implement to the three point hitch is pretty simple.  There are two bottom links that attach on each side of the implement.  The third, the top link, can be a little tricky.  One end attaches to the tractor and the other to the top of the implement.  When attaching the back blade, I simply raised the two bottom links with the hydraulic control on the tractor until it lined up.  The top link also turns just like a turnbuckle on a sailboat, shortening it or lengthening it as needed.  Connect the top link, level the implement with the crank on the starboard bottom link, and you're good to go.

In the pic below, you can see the two bottom links connected to the blade.  The top link is not connected yet.

The pic below shows me aligning the top link.

What is really cool is that the three point hitch, invented by Harry Ferguson in 1926, was standardized across all makes of tractors by the 1960s.  The parts are all the same for each category of tractor (0 through 4), regardless of make.   Bessie is a category one, which is 20 to 45 HP.  I waltzed into Tractor Supply and bought a category one 25" top link and a 3/4" pin right off the shelf.  For a 60 year old tractor.  Imagine doing that for a 1952 automobile.

These little tractors are impressive machines.  They're really not much more than an engine and transmission with wheels bolted on.   Bessie only has 30 HP, but is all torque.  The geometry of the three point hitch and the drag force of the implement creates downward pressure and gives the little tractor more traction, enabling it to do what would require a much bigger tractor previous to Harry's invention.   And what it can do is very impressive.  I used the back blade to knock down the middle hump on the dirt and gravel road leading into our property, which is about a quarter of a mile long.  It took about three minutes.

Yesterday, before it rained AGAIN, I filled the bucket with two loads of sand and gravel and drove the mile to our rental cabin to fill in the driveway, and then smoothed it out with the back blade.

So I'll leave you with two thoughts.  If you're considering buying some land and being a mini-farmer, find yourself an old category one tractor like a Ferguson or Ford with a three point hitch and PTO (power takeoff, which I'll discuss in a future blog post).

And the second thought I'll leave you with.  I'm not a hillbilly.  I'm not a woodchuck.  I'm not a redneck.  I'm an Adirondack American.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stuck Truck

Two days ago, I had a call from SLA Transport, the place where I bought a tractor-trailer trailer.  They would deliver it between 7:30 and 8 AM the next day.  When I awoke yesterday morning, it was raining.  I told them to not deliver the trailer if it was raining because of mud.  I went to the land at 7:15 anyway and was using Bessie to grade the road when the trailer arrived.  Ugh.

A nice young fella was driving.  I showed him where I wanted it.

"Do you think you can get it in there?"

"I'll try", he grinned.

Well, he got it down the road with no problem, but as soon as he hit the mud on the cleared land, he stopped.  He didn't bog down and sink, mind you.  He just didn't have any traction.  It was like he was on ice.  The clay mud was slicker than snot on a glass doorknob.  I tried pulling him with Bessie but that got us about two feet.  This was a job for Earl and the backhoe.

So I drove Bessie over to Earl's house and fetched him.   He came over, looked at the truck, looked at me, and took a puff on his pipe.  I know what he was thinking.  "I don't need this shit."  We spent about two hours of pulling every which way.

Try pulling up!  Nope.

How about pulling with the backhoe blade?  Finally, that did it.  We moved him a couple of feet...

and then Earl towed him with the backhoe, and he was gone.

So now we're left with this huge trailer in the middle of our property, right where the barn is supposed to go. The kid said he'd come back in dry weather to move it, but...

1) When will we have dry weather?  Rain is forecast everyday for the next week.

2) Where I want it to go, I don't think he can move it.  I've got to think on this.  I'm thinking pulleys and a big honkin' winch.  I need to turn it 180 degrees and move it to where I was standing when I took the above photo.  Any ideas?  Besides a Huey helicopter?

Anyway, I was drenched and soaking wet by quitting time, which was about noon.  I went home and hung my work clothes out to dry.

This morning?  We have brilliant sunshine with nary a cloud in the sky.  It would have been a perfect day to deliver the trailer.  Oh well, no biggie.  I've dealt with problems before and have always sorted it out somehow.  After losing both engines on our trawler in rough seas off Sandy Hook, this kind of thing seems pretty minor.  A challenge, actually.

I'm sure Earl can figure it out.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Best Laid Plans...

It's getting hot here in Bleecker.  Not Georgia-I'd-rather-live-in-a-pizza-oven hot, but really hot,and humid.  So Pam and I decided that we'd get up at the farmer's crack o' dawn for working on the land.  Which we did.

We weren't there at o'dark thirty, but we were there by 8 AM.  Pam started landscaping our tear drop shaped turn around for the driveway, and I hopped in the tractor.  Deader than a door nail.  It seems that some goofball had left the ignition switch in the "on" position, killing the battery.  These old tractors didn't start like a car.  To be sure that it wasn't in gear when started, you'd turn the ignition switch to "on" and then move the shifter to "start".  I thought this was a great idea until yesterday morning.

The battery is six volt.  I know Earl doesn't have a six volt charger, so I hied myself off the mountain (again!) to NAPA and bought one.  Back up the mountain, hooked it up, and waited.  And waited.

Our more astute followers are thinking WTF?  You don't have any power in there yet.  What are you plugged into?

The Kia.  I have an inverter plugged into the Kia, and an extension cord into the inverter.  The cord runs to Bessie.  So I go 12 V DC to 110 V AC to 6 V DC.  There must be some loss there somewhere.  

It's a positive ground, so I had to disconnect the ground strap.

The pic above shows how nicely the land is taking shape.  The mess in the left of the photo is the big wet spot, possibly a spring and future duck pond.  To the left is where it was graded, smoothed with Earl's invention, and then the back blade.  Next will come the rake.

This is to the right of the big wet spot.  To the right is the little wet spot, where maybe the underground spring surfaces again.

Pam made a little wattle fence.  See it in the pic above?  I have to admit, it took me awhile to find it.  Behind it is Wintergreen.  Whatever that is.  It's in the middle of our turn around is all I know.

After a couple of hours, Bessie's battery was nowhere near charged, so I pulled it and took it home.  

It was after lunch and I still felt the need to accomplish something, so I took the hand scythe and started trimming back weeds around the cabin.  After whacking off a fern, I saw something scamper away and then stop and look at me.  It was a baby finch.

I grabbed it and cupped it in my gloved hands.  It thrashed about for a few moments and then got still. I peeked at him.  He peeked back.  I called Pamela.  She took it and I went back to whacking weeds.  A short time later, Pamela came outside to announce that it was a finch fledgling.  Fledglings leave the nest as soon as they have gliding feathers.  They live on the ground and their parents find them and continue to feed them.  As you can see, the fledgling was quite at home with us now and wanted to be fed.  We put him in a bunch of ferns and left him for mom and dad.   We raised our kids.

Now, almost 24 hours later, the battery is 75% charged.  It might not take a charge.  Starting batteries aren't designed to be totally discharged like a deep cycle.  I might have to go buy another battery this morning.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bought A Back Blade for Bessie

We've been smoothing our land for a couple of days now.  The contraption that Earl made out of the front end of a mobile home frame worked great, but it was time to take it to the next level.  A back blade.

Tractors pull things much better than pushing them.  Harry Ferguson's invention of the three point hitch made it possible for little tractors to do big tractor things because of the hitch's geometry.  When you pull something like a back blade or a plow, more pressure is put on the back tires giving more traction.

I decided to buy the back blade because it might be a tiny bit better at smoothing the land than Earl's gizmo.  Instead of a V shape pushing debris off to both sides, I can "plow" the debris in one direction just like plowing snow.  Plus, I can use the back blade for plowing snow in the winter.

I was looking for a used blade on Craig's List but not finding much.  I checked out Tractor Supply online and found that they sell new ones for $299.  I called the local store and they had one, so Pam and I, and Earl's trailer, hied ourselves off the mountain to buy it.  When I got there, I was told that it was $349.  No way.  Yes way, they said.  No.  It's $299 on the TSC website.   Well, then order it off the website.  No, they don't sell these on the website.  They only sell these in stores.  So after a call to the manager, I bought the blade for $299.

This is one advantage of being in business for many years, and being 62 years old.  You know how to work the system by being assertive.  The kid at TSC didn't have a chance.

The TSC kid loaded it on with a forklift.  Now, I needed to get it off.  It weighs about 250 pounds.

I fetched Bessie and used the manure loader and a chain to lift the blade off the trailer.

Earl supervised.  Yes, he's in his bathrobe.  He's 83.

Off the trailer and hooked up to two points of the three point hitch.  I had the foresight to buy the 25" top link, but not the foresight to buy the pin.

This was remedied with a carriage bolt from Earl.

The blade worked great, and the land is looking good.  All except for that wet spot in the middle.  We may turn that into a pond if it doesn't dry up soon.

We also decided that this tree, below, will be the center of a tear dropped shaped turn-around  in our driveway.  I'll fill that area around the tree with rocks and dirt, and Pam will plant wild flowers there.

Bessie and the back blade did a great job.

What a workhorse this tractor is.  For anyone considering working land, I recommend  buying an old tractor highly.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Took A Day Off

I've been working on our land pretty hard lately.  Not just riding around on the tractor, but getting on and off it picking up rocks.  Lots and lots of rocks.  I was looking forward to a couple of days off and we were supposed to go horseback riding with friends, but something came up at the last minute and that fell apart.  Being cruisers, Pam and I understand schedules and last minute changes of plans, so we simply did the next best thing.  Something different.

We decided to take a ride.  I've always enjoyed just taking a ride.  Get in the car and head out.  We first have to head off the mountain, of course.  Everything is downhill from here, and there's only three ways to go actually.  North, south, and east.  We can't go west because there's a mountain in the way. Once off the mountain, we drove to Saratoga Springs where we stumbled onto a farmers' market.  These things are getting more and more popular as people get more concerned about the quality of our food.  The place was packed.  Pam bought some honey based balsamic vinaigrette and made mental notes about selling at farmers' markets.

From there, we took roads I hadn't driven on in decades, down to Mechanicville and then to Waterford where we stopped at the Canal Center to see if there were any boaters there that we knew.  There weren't.  But we chatted up a nice couple who, like everyone else there, were waiting for the canal to reopen.  There is a damaged dam by Amsterdam that needs to be repaired, so everything has stopped.

Want to experience life on the water?  You can rent canal boats like this one.

At this point, you might be thinking WTF?  I came here to read about life on Bleecker Mountain, and I'm seeing boats.  And no Bleecker Mountain.  Well, you'd have a valid point, I guess.  But like my Drift Away blog, which wasn't a cruising blog nor a liveaboard blog, this is a lifestyle blog.  It is what our life is like as we build our little farmstead on the mountain, but also what we do off the mountain.  It is background information about us so you can understand things like why we don't flip out when plans suddenly change.  If someone hands us lemons, and we make lemonade.  Unless it's fatal, it's no big deal.  Insert any other cliche' of your choice here.  Or better yet, in the comments section down below.

We hit up a few antique stores in Waterford.  Pam bought some kind of glass jar thing, and I scored an older grinder for only $30.  If you haven't figured this out yet, I really like antiques and old stuff.  It's better made, and has a history behind it.  It's only a grinder, but it's heavy and will last forever, unlike the cheap Chinese made junk you find at the Walmarts and Home Cheapo.  Pam and I intend to spend a lot of time in antique stores, garage sales, and Craig's List over the next year or two looking for deals.  Bessie the Tractor was a Craig's List find, for example.  Why spend $20,000 for a crummy new tractor when you can spend $3,000 for something made to last for the next 100 years?  In addition, Bessie has decades of experience to compensate for my incompetence.

Afterwards, we had family over for a BBQ.  As God intended, it was pouring rain when it was time for me to cook.  And yes, it stopped immediately after I was done BBQing.  That's just how it is.  But I'm a cruiser, so I roll with the punches.

See this little guy, second from the left?

That's Nate.  He's three.  He loves tractors.  He loves to ride on his dad's garden tractor (that would be Eric, to the right) and was looking forward to riding on Grandpa Dave's tractor, Bessie.  The rain had finally stopped and so we all hied ourselves over to our property.  Nate's eyes grew wide... two tractors!  No Nate, Bessie is a tractor.  The other is a backhoe.

So I fired up Bessie, and Eric passed me Nate and we rode around for about fifteen minutes, Nate on my lap.  I asked Nate, "So how do you like it?"

Nate pointed to the backhoe and said "I want to ride on that tractor!".

Sigh.  But being a cruiser, I roll with the punches.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Leveling and Smoothing the Land

The past couple of days have been serious work days on the land.  After grading with a bulldozer, despite the great job done by Briggs & Rowback, the place was covered in ruts and holes, and there were still rocks everywhere.  Now it's a job for Bessie, our 1952 Ferguson TO-30.

For you observant, regular readers, you might be thinking "Hey!  You posted before that it's a '54!".

I know.  I did.  That's what I was told when I bought it.  But an online check of the serial number shows that it's a '52.  I was ripped off!  Bessie is 60 years old, not 58.

But you wouldn't know it.  What a workhorse!  She has absolutely no problem towing Earl's custom made land leveler which is the front end of a mobile home frame with cinder blocks on top.

It cuts the high spots and fills in the low spots.

There's a huge area that's too wet and muddy to level, so I did the "outside of the donut".  After getting that pretty good, I decided to hook up Earl's homemade rake.  It too worked great, although it may be a bit premature to rake the land.  There's still too much in the way of rocks and... crud.

Speaking of rocks, does anyone need any?  We have many more than we need, and would be happy to part with some.  We have large ones, small ones, and everything in between.  Just come help yourselves.

Tech Support Corner:
Some of our followers have told me that this blog "doesn't update".  It doesn't show when a new post is made.  The only thing I can think of is that they're following one particular post, and not the blog itself.   

Delete whatever you're following.  Go to the top of this page and click on the Bleecker Mountain Life header.  Or, go to your address bar and delete everything after "".  Then follow it.  Hopefully, that will correct the problem.  If it doesn't, please give me more detailed information and I'll figure out what's going on.