Monday, August 31, 2009


One of my ruined drivelines, twisted like liquorice

I've had a bad experience with a farm sitter guy. The fellow I paid to look after my farm seemed to have struggled with the whole thing, and ended up causing $1200 damage to my tractor and $300 to two implements. Details follow.

His job was to feed the chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, and to make sure that the electric fence was on and working. I left him with a chore list, and walked him through the chores, timing it as we went. It was about 20 minutes a day, with 40 minutes once a week.

Feeding the poultry was putting a bucket into one sack of feed and transferring it to the feeder right next to it. The poultry feeders hold 200lbs of feed each, so you only need to fill it every 3rd day or so. You throw a bucket of feed out for the ducks and geese, and you're done.

For being on call to handle any animal emergencies and the 5 hours of work a week, I offered to pay him $200 per week -- for a total of $600. Yes, I could have found someone to do it less, but I trusted the guy, and he seemed to be an animal person.

I left him the key to my tractor and my dumptruck -- sometimes you need to move stuff or the equipment itself, and my brother showed up once a week to do various repair jobs and fill the pig feeders.

I returned a day earlier than planned, and found the poultry feeders empty, dead poultry around the yard, and that two PTO drivelines had been ruined by this guy trying to use my brushhogs to mow some land of his. He'd also used the tractor to clear part of his land and do some scraping of junk, and somewhere during the last week the drivers side door (made of glass) had been broken. I also had a voicemail full of messages from neighbors and friends that the cows had been out repeatedly and that there were random people at the farm at least 3 different times. When I counted the chickens and ducks I'm missing a bunch of them.

The drivelines for the implements are $150 each. The door glass is $600. (yes, that seems excessive for a tractor cab door, but everything kubota is gold-plated, so that's what it costs). It kills me that i had just replaced that door glass this spring, and here in the summer I'm replacing it again.

2 PTO driveshafts ruined: $300

Door glass: $600

Poultry losses: $400

Dead sow: $300

I was pretty mad about this, and confronted the fellow. He claims that the door on my tractor was "shot out". I'm having a hard time believing that. His explanation for going and hooking up my brushhogs and ruining two drivelines? "the bearing was dry!!". woof. "Look, I've treated you fairly, and I am asking you to tell me the truth here in return. Just say what you did and we'll go from there", I said, but he had his story and he's sticking to it.

I think he broke the tractor door lifting a hog panel that I asked he put on a section of fence that the cows appeared to be hopping over. So that $600 loss I'll just eat, as I would for any workman doing a job for me. Silly me for telling him to use the tractor to do that, but that's part of the job of being a boss.

The drivelines are a different matter. He had to go find the brushhog, find the driveline, hook it up and go and break it. And while he talked to me several times before I returned, he didn't mention a word of this destruction to me. If you borrow someones tools you should return it to them in the same shape you borrowed them. I think it's fair for him to replace both drivelines. That $300 is on him.

The sow really wasn't the farmsitters or pig feeders fault. It died for some unknown reason, and while I'm sad that it went, there's really no blame there. I'll just add that to the cost of my vacation.

The poultry losses are a bit odd. Two different people reported the farmsitter had people over to my farm, and I'm a bit suspicious that he was selling chickens or ducks to folks, but that's all I'
ve got; is a suspicion at this point. So on the vacation tab that one goes.

This is one of the downsides of farming -- you really can't take a vacation. If you do it right you are doing something you love and you don't need a break.

I don't have a conclusion here. Just saying what happened.


Dave said...

This guy sounds like a real winner, sorry you came home to such a mess. Pity I did not know you were looking for some help.
I am kinda having a similar experience trying to help someone out.

Adam said...

Sorry to hear that. Any chance you'll get that money out of him? Did you end up not paying him for the 'work' he did?

Bruce King said...

I paid him $100 upfront, with $500 due. We'll see if he agrees to pay for the drivelines.

MMP said...

It sucks to be disappointed in people you trusted.

Robin J. said...

Wow, that is horrid. I would have been so mad. Not a nice way to come back from vacation that's for sure.