2022, Week 15

Sunday was, well, Sunday. I worked my rent-a-cop shift and recalibrated the Benelli’s instrument cluster. Nothing else worth mentioning.

Monday got me two tractor job contacts. One was for a driveway across town, and the second was a neighbor’s garden. I agreed to take a look at the driveway on Thursday and quote it then. I quoted the garden sight unseen. It’s a tiny tenth-acre plot that hasn’t been planted in four years, but was in regular use as a garden for quite some time before then. She got my $50 minimum, scheduled for Tuesday evening after she got home from work. Beyond that, the day was spent organizing my storage building/workshop. I made progress, but the finish line is still a good distance away.

I had big plans for Tuesday before the tractor job, but that all went to shit after I struggled to sleep. After that, I had absolutely zero motivation or energy, so I knew I was going to sit on my ass and do exactly jack shit. Wife wasn’t feeling her diet, so we hit our usual Mexican joint for lunch. After we got home, I gathered an even dozen eggs. Normally, I gather them first thing after I get up, but with the poor sleeping and the restaurant run, I was later than usual. Hence the twelve eggs from nine hens.

I finally got around to letting Wife list my utility trailer on one of her buy/sell/trade sites that afternoon. I’ve been meaning to sell it for a couple years since I bought the big trailer for the Kubota, but didn’t feel like going through the hassle. We got more than twenty bites in the first hour after the listing went active. Clearly, I didn’t ask enough for it, although quite a few people did ask if I’d take less. Nope, firm means firm. Three hours later, I had cash in hand, the trailer was gone, and we had an appointment to do the DMV paperwork Wednesday afternoon after the buyer’s work shift. My state requires titles to be notarized, otherwise I’d have just signed the title, sent him on his way that night and promptly forgotten him.

I also attempted the garden job that evening. And promptly broke the tractor. It was completely my fault. I have a quick hitch for ease of implement attachment. Before leaving the house, I hooked up the tiller, connected the PTO, and promptly forgot to close the bottom two latches on the hitch. No problem as long as it’s in the air and gravity is working. As soon as I got to the site, lined up, set it down, engaged the PTO and started moving, the tiller folded backwards, and was being dragged by the top link only.

This separation also pulled the PTO shaft apart, and the tractor-side half continued to rotate and bang around. No problem, ag equipment is robust. I’ll back back under the tiller, lock the fucking latches this time, slide the PTO shaft back together, and will be back in service lickety-split. Wrong! The triangle-shaped tube that is the power transfer part of the PTO shaft assembly had gotten buggered up during its abuse, and simply would not slide back onto the implement-side half. After fighting it for almost fifteen minutes and getting grease everywhere, I told the lady that the tractor had broken and I needed to take it home for repair. She insisted on paying me in advance so I could come back at my leisure after the repair and do the job. Nice lady.

I brought it home and did everything I could to try to make the two halves mate together. Two-foot long channel locks wouldn’t bend it enough. Beating the fuck out of it with a punch and a sledge hammer also failed. As did filing down the damaged side and grinding a little metal off the corresponding side of the implement-side tube. Finally I gave up and disassembled it. The tractor-side yoke lost its locking pin some time ago and none of the replacements I located were right, so it’s held onto the tractor’s PTO output shaft by a bolt. I’ve been meaning to replace it, but like so many other things, I have yet to get around to it.

This was my opportunity to correct that. While they do make replacement tubes, nobody seems to have that particular one in stock. Fuck it, I’ll order a complete generic unit and will attach the implement side to the slip clutch already bolted to the tiller. Assuming that the yoke on the new shaft is the same size as the one on the clutch, and it’s supposed to be. I found a good deal on the unit, paying less than ten federal reserve notes more for it than I would’ve had to pay for just the tractor-side replacement tube – had it been in stock. UPS promised Friday delivery.

Wednesday had me running errands, including meeting the purchaser of the trailer at the next town over’s DMV office to finish that paperwork. That was neither as smooth nor as difficult as it could’ve been. For the record, I ignored the “no concealed handguns” sign on the door. μολὼν λαβέ The Benelli was lots of fun on the trip. Errands were unremarkable.

I did have a misunderstanding and difficult follow-up conversation with Wife that night. She’s all by-the-book and I’m all stay in the gray area. (Example: private firearm sales in jurisdictions where such is legal. Legal, yes, but how do you know you aren’t buying a stolen gun or selling to a prohibited person? She’d only buy from a FFL dealer if she were a gun buying sort of person, which she isn’t. I’d prefer private sales to avoid paperwork.) This difference in mentality occasionally leads to such incidents. I think this one is resolved. I hope so, at least.

On Thursday, I went to look at the driveway job. It wasn’t the “need potholes filled and fresh gravel” that she described in the initial contact. At least, not just that, although that’s part of it. The driveway barely qualifies as such. It’s more of a vehicle width trail through the woods. Lots of erosion along the sides for most of the estimated 700′ length, and running across the path in a couple places.

I recommend that she contact someone with larger/more equipment and a crew. I told her that I could band-aid it by leveling what’s there and add a thin dressing layer on top, which is what it sounded like she was asking for initially, but that it wouldn’t last. What it really needs is serious grading, a rip rap base (to help prevent future erosion) and a couple inches of regular gravel on top of that. I can do that, but it’s a big job for one person and a compact tractor. I figure between the multiple stages of work and scheduling the material deliveries, I’d have their driveway tied up for a week. She discussed it her husband and they decided to reach out to someone else. That was a relief. It would’ve been a much bigger of a job than I want to tackle.

On Friday, since the promised rain on Thursday didn’t materialize in the quantity forecast, I was able to get a little bit done. I finally got the second cultivation of my raised garden done – the first being months ago when I added the chicken shit. Then I reinstalled the “drip” sprinklers.

My rainwater collection system is on the side of the house opposite the garden bed. Last year I ran garden hoses from it to the sprinklers (two zones, each with its own timer and hose) as the quickest way to get it operational. On my list for this spring was to hard plumb PVC pipe across to connect the two. I’d bought the pipe and fittings a while ago. That finally happened too. I also re-plumbed the pump and pressure tank interface to fix a few leaks, including the check valve, that kept me from being able to leave it on and let the timers manage it.

Post-repair, there is one tiny, very occasional drip from one connection. I put all the ass I had on it when I put it together, so I’m just going to live with it until it gets worse. The sprinklers work. Or worked, for about two minutes until the input screens on the timers filled up with rust. Such happens in iron pipes, especially when not in regular use. I ordered an in-line sediment filter that arrived on Saturday. I’ll install it next week. Hopefully the bottom won’t blow off of this one like the last one did, causing the system to empty and then the pump to burn up when there was no more water.

The crack-head neighbor directly across the street for whom I did a small garden last year interrupted my irrigation work and asked if I could do her garden again this year. She wants an initial till, then they are going to do something (fertilizer, weed-and-feed, no idea) and then have me come back and do it again. Whatever. If they’ll pay, I’ll till. I told her I’d do the initial till early next week after I fixed the tiller.

The Brown Truck of Happiness delivered my new PTO driveline as I was cleaning up from the garden irrigation work. Miracle of miracles, the yoke is the same size. I popped the universal joint off, removed the new implement-side yoke designed to connect to a smooth shaft with a shear pin, and connected the assembly to the tiller clutch. A quick measurement indicated that I needed to shorten both halves about two inches. Done. I cleaned off the metal dust from the cutting, greased the shaft and hooked it up. Then I greased the u-joints. And promptly found out that I hadn’t gotten one of the c-clips holding the caps onto the joint all the way into the groove. I fixed that, ran a quick ops check, cleaned up, and called it a day. I thought.

After a shower and supper, I realized that I had enough daylight left to do the nice lady’s garden as long as I didn’t run into any problems. I grabbed a clean pair of overalls and headed out. There were no issues, and it turned out beautifully. Less than an hour later, I was back home with my feet propped up.

Saturday was my usual rent-a-cop shift. They actually observe Good Friday, so we had the place to ourselves. Unfortunately I had to work with Officer Busybody. She’s quick to check the logs and see if others have done their prescribed rounds, etc. and will bitch nonstop about any discrepancy. So I got to listen to her whine off and on for half of the shift.

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