Sheepish Sunday Struggles

February 23rd, 2009

The nights are cold but the days are warming, a little.   The spring peepers have quieted down for now, but will be back in force in a week or two.  Walking around I noted the leaf and fruit buds of most trees and shrubs are becoming much thicker now.   Yesterday we heard the cry of a redtail hawk and saw it land among a rough nest of branches in a tall oak tree in the forest.   And little green shoots are poking their way above the ground now- daffodils, crocus, peony, day lilies and more.

I spent the afternoon in the barn working on removing a 19-year old 5 foot mower deck from my father’s old 23hp tractor.  It had not been off for many years, and took me a few hours of fiddling around. My last big winter goal is to try and restore it as much as possible before the growing season.   I lit a fire in the woodstove to take the edge off the cold and the yellow lab paced around the concrete floor impatiently, wanting to run and explore.  He finally settled down, realizing I wasn’t going anywhere.   I turned the radio on, listening to two fellas pontificate  about the economic challenges we face and that we’ve been here before.  I kind of laughed as I saw my father laying underneath the same tractor years ago, about the same time as the last recession.  I know we’ll get through this, and things do go in cycles, but it doesn’t make it any easier for a lot of folks when it comes around again.

After a while I had most of the deck unhooked except for removing a wheel or two, but couldn’t disconnect the drive shaft from underneath the tractor’s mid-pto shaft (power take-off).  Sometimes it’s hard to get your arm under there with any strength, or the couplings are really stuck with old grease and grime.  I struggled for fifteen minutes on one side, and fifteen minutes on another, pulling the 250 pound deck this way and that and banging my knuckles on every sharp corner the darn thing had.

The lab kept coming up to lick my face like he wanted to play…  so we took a break and wandered around outside a bit.  That morning I saw a lone mallard drake on the pond, which was unusual.  I’ve seen wood ducks on the pond but only one mallard here before.   This guy was probably taking a rest enroute to somewhere else.  It was still here as evening approached and he didn’t seem to mind us watching him swim around lazily.

 Mallard drake on the pond

Time to head back inside the barn and try again.  I got back down pushing and pulling this way and that…  and all at once I had the idea that maybe I should consider something else.   I stared at the thing and finally realized sheepishly that I had moved the heavy mower deck backwards just enough that the driveshaft was completely compressed against the tractor’s pto shaft.  Which meant that all the pushing in the world with one hand on that slip collar wasn’t going to remove the drivesaft from the pto… I was trying to push 250 pounds of metal along the floor upside down with one hand and a poor grip.

I shook my head feeling quite silly that I wasted a good half hour or more struggling for no reason, and then I got up and went around to each side to drag the deck forward, extending the driveshaft a few inches and relieving the pressure.  Then back underneath as I reached around to the pto, gave it a good push and “thunk!” off came the driveshaft like it should.  In my mind I could see my father smiling and telling me he did the same thing once before long ago.   How many times in life have we tried and tried to do something, only to realize later on that there was a much easier way?

So with the tractor’s deck off, my hands greasy and the sun settling behind the trees, we walked out the side door shutting up the barn and turned to walk back to the house.  Zoom! A little brown rabbit shot right in front of me and the yellow lab, racing around the front of the barn and into the pasture beyond.  The yellow lab looked up at me as if to say, “I don’t know what his problem is, but I’m not going after him!”  And then we heard “huffa, huffa, huffa” as our little Shiba came racing around breathing heavily, about 5 seconds behind the rabbit.  He paused at the corner of the barn, having lost sight of it, and looked back at us.  “Give it up Kuma” I said, “the little guy is long gone.”   He didn’t listen, and trotted off around the other side of the barn.  That rabbit had this really funny look in its eye as it raced past like “Where the heck did you come from!?”

7 Responses to “Sheepish Sunday Struggles”

  1. It’s funny how a little fresh air and a breather can clear up things. I can think of so many examples just like yours but I won’t bore you with them. As an engineer, I am always trying to find a way to think outside of the box I always seem to build around myself. It is so much harder than it seems.

  2. Nice view of your day and your connection with nature–the signs of spring comes earlier, it’ll be another month and I’ll wake at 6 AM and hear the birds chirping… but now, we have our flickers and woodpeckers that love my peanuts in the feeder outside the kitchen window and the cardinals and assorted other birds that come to breakfast nook window feeder…

  3. Ed- I like that, “the box I build around myself..” I imagine you’ve fiddled with a few tractors and such, but I didn’t even think of the engineering problems you must think about.

    Sage- Peanuts! Never tried that… still getting the bags at the feed store. But I did figure out that most of the songbirds don’t like millet. It just lays on the ground. The mourning doves however do enjoy it, and seven showed up the other morning for a little feast.

  4. My favorite question to ask myself, “In what way am I limiting myself,” stems from an early brain teaser problem that someone showed me.

    Make a 3 x 3 grid of evenly spaced dots for a total of nine dots. Place a pencil on one of those dots and without lifting your pencil, draw four straight lines to connect the other eight dots.

    I tried this for quite awhile without success and then the person asked me in what way was I limiting myself. The answer of course was that I was limiting the length of my lines to within the boundary created by the grid of nine dots. After I stopped limiting myself, the solution came within minutes.

    I find life, whether on a farm or in an engineering capacity, is like this. We often limit ourselves to obtaining certain solutions. Those people who are wildly successful and have made millions inventing simple things, are obviously better at obtaining solutions than I will ever be.

  5. Wonderful comment and example Ed. I remember that puzzle now… yet the question you pose is even better. Going beyond limits has always been a personal credo of sorts, but I really like the idea of using it in the form of a personal question. Thanks for sharing your thoughts-

  6. pamela

    I like your yellow dog’s attitude. My all-time-favorite-dog bothered no creatures except opposums, who threatened the welfare of her poultry.
    One day my peaceful dog and I watched as my two insane dogs hunted a rabbit under the shed. Back and forth and back and forth they went in a frenzied effort to outsmart the rabbit–like that was probable. Maya and I watched as the rabbit darted from the front of the shed, and ran to safety while the crazies guarded the back; they had no clue. Maya watched the rabbit as it escaped, then looked back at her goofy friends. I’m pretty certain she was smiling.

  7. Pamela- That’s a funny story… what a neat dog. She must have been pretty smart. Stories like that are priceless as memories, huh? I’d like to say my lab is that dignified and peaceful, but he’s too young yet. He’s smart, doesn’t get worked up, and is pretty calm, but he’s such a puppy he loves to play all the time too. I think he was more mystified than anything. :)

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