Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leaves and Tractors

Just a quick post today, as I'm off to San Francisco in a few hours to Oracle OpenWorld. Normally a trip I'd be looking forward to, as it's one of my favorite cities. But I'll be going out alone, this time, and in this case, the trip is also eating up time that feels scarce on several fronts -- time with the house, time with the girls, and time with a good friend who is moving away.

The girls and I did have a good day yesterday, at least. After Ava's soccer game, the three of us went to Tougas Farm in Northborough, MA, to pick some apples and find some good pumpkins. We filled two peck-sized bags. I largely stuck with softball-sized Cortland (and I'm totally serious about their size, btw) and smaller MacIntosh varieties, while Juli and Ava pretty much sprinted between rows grabbing whatever sounded interesting. We'll be in apples for weeks! We made out well from a pumpkin perspective as well. I got a good pie pumpkin and each of the girls has a Jack-o-lantern pumpkin, too, that we can carve in a couple of weeks, then set out on the porch.

In any case, leaves and tractors. Yesterday I finished assembling my leafing contraption. I'd gotten the box built a week ago, and installed the truck loader onto the front of the trailer yesterday. I filled the old Gravely 430 with the blown engine with gas (and oil), did the same with the truck loader, and they both fired up right away. Well, I first had to figure out that the fuel petcock on the truck loader was off, but it was fine after that.

The girls were outstanding stick collectors while I was finishing up the rig, and each of them took several laps around the yard on the tractor with me (in earplugs). I managed to get the grass cut and leaves vacuumed in the back yard and out along the road and driveway, which is a good start. Next weekend I'll have to mow along the fence to get the leaves and grass away from it, then do the whole yard.

The nice thing about this setup is that in 2-3 hours, I can clean up the whole property, save for flower beds. I just repeat the process every weekend once the leaves start to drop, until they've finished and the leaves are all in a pile.

Previously, I'd brought the leaves to our local transfer station, but starting last year, I've been using them to mulch my garden beds, mulch around trees, and to offset erosion at the edges of my leaching field. The worms are happy, and since nearly all of my trees are maples, the composting leaves are not chemically offensive to other plants. Not that I can tell, at any rate.

The rig is working well, or about as well as it always does. The stovepipe pulled apart yesterday, so I'll need to put it back together then tape it up again. And the tractor has a blown engine and a leaky main seal, so it really needs to be replaced at some point soon. But the replacement engine I installed on the vacuum for last season is running great, and apart from having to lube up the throttle/governor linkage yesterday, it's required no maintenance at all.

Once I get the leaves up, I'm going to start offloading some old Gravely equipment. I have two Gravely snowblower attachments that I'm not going to keep (don't ask why I have two extra snowblower implements). I have a home-made plow blade that I'll either scrap at the metal pile at the transfer station or send off as a freebie with one of the snowblowers. There's a rotary hoe that is a fine rototiller, but not likely something I'll need or use at my next home. And then there's the 430 tractor. I tried to Craigslist it last season to no avail, so I think I'm going to eBay it this time. I paid $430 for it, and assuming it survives this season, will have gotten I think 4 seasons out of it. I really don't expect to or need to get any money for it, but it would be a shame to just scrap it.

I'll hold onto the truck loader and other leafing rig components just in case I'll need them for my next home ownership experience, whether that's a year or more away. I'll also be keeping my extremely reliable Gravely walk-behind tractor, though it's been leaking a bit this season as well. Also not going up for sale are a snowblower attachment and the 50" deck that I bought new maybe 5 or 6 years ago. I can always shed these later, if I don't end up needing them at my next place.

All for now,


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