In For Repair

My Oliver 550 needed a little work.  Not only was it missing horribly on cylinder #2, it didn’t have any oil pressure.  Oil is the stuff that keeps the metal from touching metal…preventing the engine from wearing out.  “Missing” means that the four-cylinder engine was running at 75% capacity.  And it sounded bad.  And I had gas in my oil…you know, the stuff that’s supposed to protect my engine.  That’s not a good thing.


Fearing the worst I took my tractor to a local machine shop, asking him for a worst-case estimate.  He said if it needed an overhaul it would be $2,500.  I only paid $3,000 for the tractor to begin with and there is another in better shape on CL right now for $4,500.  So, now what.  At what point do you pull the plug?  When do you send your equipment off to become scrap and parts?  What happens when I get worn out?!?!?

Three weeks later it turns out that the top end of the engine looked fine.  The shop put in new rod and main bearings, rebuilt the oil pump, replaced the relief valve and are sending it home.  All for much less than the worst-case scenario.  This is work I probably could do.  But there’s only so much I can do.  It’s not the best use of my time to wrench on my tractor.  Heck, it’s not the best use of my time to move a chicken tractor either.  I’ve written about this before.

My tractor came home.  We mowed a little bit with it to get ready for grandma’s funeral.  I used it to pull some logs and move a few things and …guess what!  It died.  I can’t even get it started.  I haven’t determined if this new problem is a fuel issue or an electrical issue.  It’s just dead.  I’m hoping it’s something simple this time.

At what point do you decide it’s not worth repairing?  Is it better to have a payment on a depreciating tractor that probably will work or no payment on a depreciated tractor that may or may not work?  We are really working to embrace option #3: no tractor at all.

Goumi and Apples

In working to establish tree guilds around the dwarf apple trees I planted I ordered goumi.  Near as I can tell it’s pronounced gwammee, not gummy.

The book Gaia’s Garden lists plants appropriate to an apple tree guild.  The guild includes bee balm, comfrey, daffodils and a few others but let’s just start with what we have.


I have apple trees already.  Thanks to Sandusky Valley I now have goumi.  They don’t look like much now but they should take off in the spring.  Toby Hemenway suggests you fit Goumi anywhere you can to help establish new trees and boost production.  The idea is that goumi (a nitrogen-fixing plant) grown next to and in proximity of trees will provide nourishment to the trees.  He even suggests you plant your apple and goumi in the same hole, cutting the goumi back each year to half the tree size.

Goumi is propagated by cutting.  The cuttings I got were bare-root and well rooted.  I made a mix of well-composted horse manure, sawdust, perlite and a greensand and planted the goumi at even spaces between the apple trees.  The trees are planted 8′ apart so I planted 2 goumi in a line at the 4′ mark.  This should keep the plants in sufficient sunlight as the guild develops.

Let me know if you have any experience with goumi or recipies you can share.

The Steel Hay Wagon – Wagon Series Part 3

Part three of my series on hay wagons is less for the woodworker and more for the welder.  I can’t imagine building this at current steel prices but, in a pinch, it would do and seems it will last forever.  This too is a guest post from my father.  I’ll hand it over to dad now.
Back to the farm auction.
Here I am hands in pockets, lots of temptations at another farm sale.  This time a neighbor is selling his equipment. He is cleaning out his sheds as he is quitting farming and has rented out his farm to a high rent farmer.
I am doing pretty good, I only bought a sloppy joe and a soda so far.  Then there is this old flat wagon with a steel bed.  The tires are holding air.  “Alright boys what am I bid for this wagon? $250, 200, come on what will you give? $100, $50, here 50 now 60,70,80.”. Who bid $90?  Oh that was me!  “$90 once, $90 twice, sold for $90 to that fellow.  What’s your number sir?
There you go, a $90 wagon that has hauled thousands of bales through the years (maybe 15 years).  And has been a work bench, a storage unit, hayride wagon…you get the idea.
We had our first flat tire on this wagon this year and that is the only repair we have had on it in maybe 15 years.  This wagon has a diamond tread on the deck but it still gets slippery, especially with loose hay.  [Editor’s Note: the deck can also get hot!]
Someone told me once every auction has a soft place, this auction had a cheap hay wagon.
The construction is simple and straightforward.  Instead of wooden runners they used a pair of I-beams.
There is a frame of bent steel around the perimeter and the tread plate top supported by U-shaped joists on 14″ centers.  In the rear we bolted a 2×4 to each I-beam to support our headache rack.
The headache rack is also held on by a couple of brackets up top.  It’s easy to remove the headache rack this way…just 4 bolts.
One of these days we may go crazy and paint it. Who knows.