Sunday, June 24, 2012

tractor time

 Spent the day today mowing a neighbors field.  It was a poplar plantation for the last 15 years and was recently harvested, leaving 6" tall stumps every 5 feet in rows.  over that has grown blackberries and grass and other vegetation, and the fellow would like to see what his land is like. 

I'm a little amused by this; I've been down here on this ground for going on 7 years now, and it took me a few years to work out how to deal with the terrain here.  It's wet and boggy, and the water table is high.  He tried using a small rental tractor to mow this, but it didn't have enough clearance, and it kept getting stuck; high centering on the stumps or just stalling out when the brush hog hit something thick. 
The kubota 9580 is my older kubota, and it's a pretty good mowing platform.  about 18" of ground clearance, 4x4 and the front load lets you paddle backwards out of the mud if you get into something deep, and there are deeps on this land. 

I'm doing the work for $25/hour, which is mostly a neighbor rate.  It's interesting to see what it takes to mow it.  With the stumps completely hidden by the vegetation it's a bit of mowing by Braille; I move forward in low gear and listen to how the brush hog sounds.   It's an 8' dual-rotor brush hog, offset to the left, and it hums a little when it's at full RPM.  the worst thing to hit by sound is an old tire; it sounds bad, but it doesn't hurt anything.  The stumps are pretty solid though, and I have to be careful not to snag the front edge of the mower deck on them as I pass over.  So I'm mowing about 12" above the ground. 

I put the front loader down so that it's just above the weight mount on the front, so I don't run into something tall by accident, to guard my radiator from damage.  It makes it hard to see in front of the tractor, but there's not much to see.  an 8' tall wall of solid green.  

It's not a pasture; the rows were the trees were are raised a little.  Mowing across the rows is a little like going across a corduroy fabric; I can feel the wheels go up and down.  Slow and careful; the brush hog whirs.  My hands on the lift control; I bring it up when I hit something hard, down when I'm over it; up when I feel the tires slip into the depressions.

my hand and ears are occupied, and I can think about things.  I've got NPR on, and they're talking about the internal politics of some nation.  I can't work up interest; I can't even remember the name of the nation.   the brush hog lets me know it's hit a stump by jumping up an down 2' and the percussion triggers my hand.  I look behind to see if it was a stump; sometimes it's some bit of debris from the house that used to be in this field, or flood debris from sometime in the past.  yes, it was a stump this time. 

The fellow I'm mowing for is a new landowner; and I don't think he knows what the math will be here.  He wants an acre mowed, which is fine, but with the stumps and soft ground and debris, I'll do a pass over the entire property once, but bypass debris and soft areas, so the mowing will look incomplete, mangy. 

I'll keep at it until his budget tells me to stop.  the tractors right front tire dips, and the tractor comes to a complete stop.  lift the mower deck, reverse, look to see what I hit.  A tall stump, hidden by the grass.  24" tall; it hit the weight guard in the front of the tractor; I move around it. 

Beautiful day.  new cut grass smells great.  kinda peaceful.

7 comments:

becky3086 said...

This was a good post. All sorts of things I know nothing about (those are the best posts). I wonder what this person will do with the land once it is mowed?

Hostetter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hostetter said...

I made an earlier comment and then deleted it since I looked up some information. Since you have pigs why not have them do the work for you clearing the ground. I have never seen one in practice but I have read for full clearance of weeds you can fence (electric) 1 acre to 5 acres and put in a density of 20 pigs to the acre. 6 to 10 weeks later the ground should be bare. I have also read that the old timers used to drill holes around tree stumps and add corn to the holes to get them to work the stumps out.

N2WAVE said...

Hi Bruce

Try mowing North/South insead of East/West ... it will be much easier cuz trees are lined perfectly.. so mow in the between.

N2WAVE said...

Sorry... my error - just do the opposite sides :)

John Schneider said...

$25/hour??? Jeesh Bruce. That is a neighbourly rate. Add a 1 in front of that number for man/machine custom work of any kind up here and you wouldn't be far off. He's a lucky neighbour!

Bruce King said...

It is a neighbor rate; the guy is a recent immigrant, and conditions are different here than in Iraq -- and I'd actually like to see him make a go of this. The Iraquis across the street from me seem to be pretty happy with their sheep brokering, and this guy wants to do something similar. I've been a bit surprised that Hussein stuck it out -- the winter conditions for animals usually chases folks off the land, but he was out here in sandals in the snow and toughed it out. I'll do what I can to help Ahmed. Plus it was an interesting challenge to mow around and through those darned stumps.