A couple of years ago, when my aunt died, she left me a fairly worthless piece of farmland about sixty miles from my home. I know the land is worthless because my Grandpa said so in his will. A third of the original farmstead [the rich flat land] went to my father, the other two thirds [the rocky, cedar-tree-infested land] went jointly to my two aunts. That’s the part that I inherited with my brothers and sister. Basically, I own one/nth of one/half of some acreage.
We hired a local farmer (Little Steve, son to Big Steve – a friend of my dad’s and the only farmer we knew) to plant the fields he could. The rest is rocky, hilly and covered in trees.
In the plus column, at the highest point, you can see for miles. I’ve spotted dozens of deer and turkeys and coyotes. In the early spring we even had one little lonely duck on our sad tiny pond and after I parked my vintage camper out there and spent the night, I heard a mountain lion.
In a fit of Crazie, and against the advice of every attorney I talked to (more than six, less than twelve) we all decided to keep the land. Why? you might ask along with my husband who asks constantly. Maybe because it is two-thirds of the farm I grew up on and although as a kid I never once wanted to do a single farmer thing on it, now I can’t wait to get my hands dirty.
Besides, I had a vision. Simply remove all the invasive cedar trees and we’d be left with unicorns dancing in the starlight or possibly just rolling hills covered in prairie grass and wildflowers.
We worked and slaved (for one weekend) and then paid someone to bulldoze acres of the prolific cedars. After two days
we ran out of money he finished. But I was determined to keep going. I had a vision after all.
I started out with a hand saw and then graduated to a reciprocating saw, which required the purchase of a generator, extension cords, gas cans.
I borrowed my nephew’s chain saw (don’t tell Husband) and cut down every cedar I could reach.
Overwhelmed with nightmares of cedar trees, I learned from Little Steve to hone in on the female of the species, easily distinguished by the thousands of blue berries covering her branches.
In the process of tidying up the land, I uncovered spectacular deciduous trees; walnuts, red buds and pears. Next to the hundred year-old-dump — a dry creek filled with rusted tin cans, stoves and old tires — I discovered a hundred-year-old oak tree with a seven-foot circumference.
From Little Steve, I also learned that baby cedar trees pop up wherever there is open grass so the cleared area would need to be mowed. Rather than pay someone, I thought it would be more fun (?) to buy my own tractor and a brush hog — that’s a mower to you city folk.
From a friend of a friend of my brother, Rick, I looked at a 1949 Ford 8N tractor. The owner was kind enough to deliver it. Sure there were a few issues, like I had to disconnect the cable after every use or the battery would run down and the steering was so loose I could turn the wheel a foot in either direction with no reaction. But it was a tractor and it was destined to be mine.
In Crazie Town, the women/girls stayed in the house and cooked while the men/boys ran the equipment, so in all my years on the farm, I never once drove a tractor. I gleaned a little bit of farm knowledge so I could probably tell the difference between a plow and a harrow, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, tell you what a harrow is used for.
But, now, I had the possibility of my own tractor and I was in farmer heaven. I puttered around learning how the gears worked. I drove the tractor fifty yards one direction, changed gears and drove fifty yards in the other direction. Number one lesson learned: don’t drive over rough terrain in third gear with the throttle full out. Until I could get my foot on the clutch long enough to downshift, I bounced around on the seat like a piece of popcorn in a hot pan.
After that harrowing (hey, maybe that’s what a harrow is for?) experience, I coasted up to the owner who was trying very hard not to laugh. I paid him and with a shaky hand I waved goodbye and he drove away. I turned off the tractor and…it never started again. I left it where it landed and drove the sixty miles home, composing a story in which I could tell Husband about the tractor without actually mentioning that I’d probably just purchased a very expensive lawn ornament.
The new plan was to meet my brother, Rick, the next day to see what we could do to get the
!@#$#@! thing running. But the next day it rained and then it rained…and rained…and rained. It was over six weeks later before Rick and I could get out to the farm and see what repairs we could make. This is the condition of the fuel filter when we arrived.
It appears to have been eaten by some
rats cute little field mice.
With the help of Rick and his wife, Shelly, we took a trip to the Tractor Supply store, where (as every woman has experienced) the salesclerk would only talk with my brother. He informed Rick that my vehicle was so small that bona fide tractor parts don’t fit. He sent us to the lawnmower department which I found quite insulting, but less expensive.
Once we installed the fuel filter — right side up — the tractor roared to life. Hurray!
However, it is just a moving lawn ornament until I can buy the brush hog to do the mowing.
Stay tuned as I find myself in Billy Bob’s Death Compound.