I Don’t Care Who You Are, This Is A Pretty Sight…

Where's the pot of gold?

The WildBlue satellite spot beam 35 was out for most of the day, so I have not had access to the internet until this afternoon.  So this photo is being posted a day later than I would have liked.

We were fortunate enough to receive 2 inches of rain Friday and into Saturday.  With the 2 1/2 inches we received the prior week, it looks as if our pastures and fields will be growing like gangbusters.  Once dry creeks are now flowing again, and the catfish pond will regain it’s previous glorious fullness soon, which is a big relief to me (not to mention the catfish).

After the rain stopped, we were again fortunate enough to be presented with a superbly brilliant rainbow.  I figured that, no matter how you happened upon this page, you would appreciate a moment to enjoy a beautiful rainbow with us.

PS – In case you were wondering, I raced over to this pasture to find the pot of gold, but somebody must have beat me to it!

The “Ouch” Factor

Diesel fuel containers

The photo above shows how we obtain our off-road diesel fuel to supply the needs of our tractor.  In order to purchase off-road diesel (which is devoid of state road taxes), we must travel 16 miles each way to the nearest supplier.  Safe fuel handling practices dictate that fuel containers be removed from the bed of the truck before filling, so we place the cans on the ground to pump fuel into them.  The containers are then lifted back into the bed of the truck for the journey home, where they are off-loaded from the truck and carried into the barn for storage.  When it is time to fuel the tractor, a container is carried from the barn out to the tractor, where it is emptied by hand into the tractor’s fuel tank. If I were to attempt this feat while standing on the ground, then the fuel filler neck would be at eye-level, which is not a particularly safe way to fill a tank with hazardous liquids!  As you can see from the photo below, by elevating the bush-hog into the uppermost position, I can accomplish the refueling from a position that affords eye safety.  On the other hand, it isn’t a position that is easy on the back!   Ouch!!!

Fueling the tractor

Now let us do some math.  Ouch!!!  Okay, I’ll do the math, you just follow along with my reasoning.  This tractor burns 1 gallon of fuel per hour.  According to the tractor’s hour meter, I have run the tractor for a total of 1200 hours in the past 5 years.  That amounts to 1200 gallons of diesel fuel.  There seems to be some controversy over the weight of diesel fuel, but assuming a conservative 7 pounds per gallon as the factor, that translates into 8400 pounds of diesel fuel that the tractor has consumed.  Each gallon of fuel had to be handled several times; 1) loaded onto the truck for the ride home, 2) transferred from the truck to the barn 3) carried from the barn to the tractor 4) lifted and poured into the tractor’s fuel tank.  So now we have determined that I have handled a total of 33,600 pounds, or nearly 17 TONS of fuel!  Ouch!!!  No wonder my back sometimes hurts.

Now for some more math.  Ouch!!!  As you can see from the first photo, I fill 6 fuel cans at a time, because that is the number that will fit across the back of the pickup bed, affording lateral stability as I wind my way around the Ozarks landscape on my way to the filling station.  I fill each container with 4.5 gallons of fuel, therefore each round trip to the station yields 27 gallons of fuel (4.5 X 6).  We know from the paragraph above that we have used a total of 1200 gallons of diesel fuel, therefore we can conclude that there has been a total of 44 round trips made to obtain this fuel (1200/27=44.44).  Now if we multiply the 44 round trips by 32 miles, we obtain 1408 miles traveled to fetch diesel fuel.  Dividing by the abysmal 16 miles/gallon that my truck manages to achieve (he admits, covering his face in shame), and then multiplying by an average fuel price of, say, $2.00/gallon, we can determine that I have spent close to $200 just to fetch the fuel!  Ouch!!!  No wonder my wallet sometimes hurts.

As an aside, well, I’m almost too embarrassed to share it with you, but here goes.  Over the years, I have been purchasing off-road diesel fuel for use in my tractor.  As mentioned previously, off-road diesel fuel is devoid of road taxes.  Sometime in the past (I don’t know when), the state legislature decided that off-road diesel should be subject to the state sales tax of 7%.  So now, using today’s fuel prices, the calculus (ouch!!!) goes something like this:

Off-road diesel (16 miles away)= $2.65/gal + 7% sales tax = $2.84/gallon

On-road diesel (available locally) = $2.79/gallon

Price of my embarrassment = ???   Ouch!!! 

But I digress.

My father used to frequently say “Son, the legs go first!”  But then, he spent the better part of his life running a factory.  He put many miles on the soles of his shoes, so one would expect the legs to go first.  While I do lots of hiking around the property here, I find that I am called upon to perform heavy lifting much more than I recall doing since my younger days.  And so I would have to say “Dad, the back goes first!”

So the question that nags at me is this – is there a better way to accomplish this task of fueling the tractor, which, while seeming to be a trivial task, can wreak havoc on the backs of those of us who don’t feel as young as we once were?

One popular option that many farmers turn to involves the installation of an elevated, above-ground fuel storage tank, which is periodically replenished by a local fuel distributor.  These systems are gravity driven, which is both a blessing and a bane.  A blessing, because pumping equipment is not required.  A bane, because gravity cannot be shut off.  There are many potential points of leakage in a fueling system.  With gravity continuously at work, any leakage, no matter how slight, will eventually empty the tank.  There was an incident that occurred about 5 years ago in an area around Beaver Lake, about 75 miles away.  A fishing resort owner had a 300 gallon elevated tank installed for the convenience of his guests.  The tank valve developed a leak sometime during the night, and approximately 200 gallons of fuel seeped into the water table.  To make a long story short, 5 years later there are about 100 households with contaminated wells.  Their water has to be delivered weekly by truck and pumped into plastic holding tanks placed on their property.  The owners of the resort had to declare bankruptcy when their insurance policy reached the limit of the insurance company’s contracted liability.  Ouch!!! 

And this scenario, with some slight variations, is played out repeatedly across the country.  As I was driving down the road this winter, I saw these tanks on a neighbors  farm, so I stopped to take a picture.  To me, this looks like a disaster waiting to happen. 

Elevated fuel tank

Were I to install a fuel tank, it would have to be built of quality parts.  I would have to keep the tank, fittings, hose, valve and nozzle in tip-top condition.  And the entire assembly would have have a seepage-proof containment system with capacity at least equal to the capacity of the tank.  All-in-all, this would be a safe and effective system, which would certainly relieve the pains in my back, but man, would it be costly!

So it’s off to the station to fill those darn fuel cans.  Ouch!!!  Ouch!!!  Ouch!!!

Flashback Friday #2

Let’s turn the clock back to the year 1966.  If you were around in 1966, you would have found the following to be true:

Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States.  The new Medicare act was implemented.  The Supreme Court issued the the well-known Miranda decision.  It was a bad year for Los Angeles sports fans, as the Baltimore Orioles swept the LA Dodgers in 4 games, and the Boston Celtics bested the LA Lakers in an extremely competitive 7 game series.  The Oscar for Best Picture went to “Sound of Music”, and Frank Sinatra walked away with the Grammy award for Best Album of the Year.  On the economic front, you could buy first-class postage for a nickel.

But the most important 1966 event in the agricultural world was the introduction of the John Deere model 1020 industrial tractor.  The significance of this tractor is that it signaled to the tractor world John Deere’s intention to compete vigorously in the low cost utility tractor market.  To be price competitive, John Deere needed to cut production costs, and to that end, they developed a three-cylinder gasoline engine, which was put into their new model 1020 tractor in 1966.  This tractor is credited with starting the 3-cylinder utility-tractor engine configuration, which is so popular  among tractor manufacturers today.  Here is a picture of the John Deere model 1020 tractor, which sold for $4500 back in 1966-

John Deere 1020

This is a 1966 John Deere model 1020 tractor that is owned by my neighbor Jimmy.  This is not a “coddled” tractor restoration by any stretch of the imagination.  This is a work-a-day tractor that is put into hay production and bush-hogging use regularly.  Periodically, this tractor needs to be “convinced” as to who’s the boss.  Jimmy stores a large, heavy hammer in the tractor’s tool box for just such occasions!

Our late neighbor Boots used to cut, rake, ted, and bale the grass in our hay fields until he passed away several years ago.  Now, Jimmy is doing this for us on a share basis.  Here is Jimmy hard at work cutting the hay in preparation for baling this past season-

Jimmy cutting hay with a sickle-bar mower

The hay field pictured above is one of the fields that Retta and I have decided to take out of hay production this year.  It is our hope that by keeping the fields that are close in proximity to the house and barn areas short, we will reduce the effects of predation on our fowl (see previous post).  It is also our hope that the short grass will help to create a fire-defensible zone in the areas around our house.  You may already know that we have been plagued by a spate of wildfires recently (see posts here and here).  I have read claims on other farming and ranching related blogs that tall grasses will not burn, as long as they are lush and green.  I have seen otherwise,  and until the firebug that is running around in our area is apprehended, I will rest easier with short grass surrounding the house and paddock areas.

Like all other land-use decisions a property owner faces, this decision involves various trade offs. Short grass means less cover for predators, which is our goal.  But it also means less cover for the wildlife that have learned to make effective use of the tall grass.  Birds of various species use the grasses to nest in.  Deer use the grasses for browse and for cover.  Grassy areas along the forest-field transition are used by the deer to give birth to their young.  Wildlife of all types will use the tall grasses to bed down in.  And who hasn’t heard of the proverbial “snake-in-the-grass?  The long grasses, which the wildlife have utilized up until now, will no longer be available in these fields.  Not to mention the production of several hundred square bales of hay that will be lost.

Wildlife cover

In conjunction with our decision to take several hay fields out of production, we will be compensating by allowing several other fields, such as the field shown in the photograph above, to grow to their full extent and remain tall throughout the year.  These fields will be cut on a rotating basis, such that, at any given time, long grasses will be available for the wildlife to utilize.

Some crazy, eccentric people will sure go through a great deal of trouble just to raise chickens and guinea fowl, won’t they?