Another Steamy Ozarks Morning Sunrise

Steamy Ozarks sunrise

Retta took this photograph at 5:41am this past Wednesday morning, after rising with the sun to let the dogs out of the house.  Having recently returned from an unexpected trip to congested southern California to pay my respects due to the passing of a dear loved one, this photo serves to remind us of the beauty that we are fortunate to wake up to each and every day.  For this, we feel truly blessed.

Equipment Maintenance Chores

Now that the Fall season is rapidly approaching, it is time to get the Bush Hog rotary cutter into shape, as there are many acres to be cut in the upcoming months.  After greasing and inspecting the various components of the rotary cutter, the most common maintenance task is to sharpen the blades of the cutter. 

Bush hog blade sharpening

During the course of cutting pastures and fields the blades of the rotary cutter will become worn and dull, primarily from impact with rocks (see previous post entitled Dang Rocks!).   You can see what a worn rotary cutter blade edge looks like in the following photograph.

Dull, rock-beaten blade

Before working underneath the rotary cutter, I would like you to take a look at the upper link assembly of the three-point hitch, which is the means of attaching the cutter to the tractor.  At the top of the link assembly you can see a bolt which acts as a pivot for the upper link arm.  This bolt is prone to breakage.  When it breaks, the entire rear portion of the rotary cutter comes crashing down to the ground.  If you happen to be underneath this rotary cutter (which weighs 1247 pounds) when this bolt snaps, it would certainly ruin your day!

Upper link of 3-point hitch

To prevent the possibility of an accident occurring when working under or around the rotary cutter, I use several heavy-duty axle stands to support the implement, as shown in the photograph below.

Heavy-duty axle stand

Once the cutter is properly braced, the next step is to remove the two blades from the flywheel.  In the next photograph you can see that the manufacturer has provided an access hole for the blade bolts at the top of the cutter.  This is a sturdy and massive 1-3/4″ bolt, which requires the use of a heavy duty socket set.

Blade pivot bolt access

In order to even begin to budge this bolt, brains must take precedence over brawn, and so you see me resort to the use of a “cheater” bar to coax the retainer bolt into submission.

Cheater bar in use

Eventually, the nut for this large retainer bolt will loosen and come off, but the bolt itself will be firmly stuck in the flywheel of the rotary cutter.  At this point, a sledge hammer and a length of galvanized pipe can usually persuade the stubborn bolt to part ways with the flywheel.


The photograph below gives a good indication of the size of the rotary cutter blades.  Each blade is 5/16″ thick and weighs in excess of 20 pounds.  The blade on the left is the blade that has just been removed from the cutter, and the blade on the right is a sharpened replacement blade.

Blade sections

Sharpening the blades is a simple matter of running the cutting edge along the surface of a grinding wheel, as shown below.

 Sharpening blades

While it is not necessary for the two blades on the opposing sides of the flywheel to be exactly equal in weight after sharpening, they must be reasonably close to avoid unnecessary vibration and premature wear to the rotary cutter gearbox.  To achieve this result, I use a simple self-devised method.  I hang each blade from the end of a bungee cord and measure the amount of stretch that the bungee cord undergoes.  When the cord stretches an equal distance for both blades, than I know that they are approximately the same weight.

Sharpened blade

The photograph above shows the sharp edge that is obtained from grinding the rotary cutter blades.  It is not as clean looking and smooth as a kitchen knife, to be sure, but it is now plenty sharp enough to tackle the grasses, weeds and brush in the pastures and fields scattered around our property.

Now that the blades are reasonably sharp and balanced, the only thing left to do is re-assemble the blades onto the flywheel of the rotary cutter.  This is a simple task, however it is now that you are required to venture underneath the implement to install the blades.  I always double-check the axle stands before sliding underneath the cutter, and as the photo below shows, I make it a point to coat the bolt with a good anti-seize compound before re-assembly.

Anti-sieze compound used on retaining bolt

Now that I have finished sharpening the rotary cutter blades, it’s time to fuel the tractor and go bush-hog some fields.  Adios, amigos.

Photo Collages

Collage of sponges and barracuda

FloridaCracker, the author of the informative and always interesting Pure Florida blog, inquired in a comment yesterday about two photographs that are to be found hanging on the wall in the background, as I hang precariously suspended, upside-down in Retta’s inversion chair.  The two photographs depict fish that I shot with a Nikonos underwater camera while scuba diving some 16 years ago.  Or should I say, the two photo-illustrations, because those prints on the wall are digital collages that I created back in the early days of my experimenting with scanned slides and Adobe Photoshop.

Before I show you how I created these collages, I would like to point out what was involved in creating these simple works some 16 years ago.  First, the hardware that was in use back then was abysmally slow by comparison to today’s standards.  Second, the shear size of the digital files required to generate a decent result from a film recorder (which was used to create the working negative of the finished product) overwhelmed the amount of RAM that standard operating systems and PC hardware could provide.  The trials and tribulations of such endeavors are outlined in a previous post, Bridging The Generation Gap, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll just say that it used to take my computer 7 minutes just to open up 1 image file.  The creation of just one of these collages usually involved at least a month of manipulation on my part, whereas today, with the tools and hardware that are available, the same result could be achieved in a matter of hours, if not minutes.  So now that I have apologized, sort of, for the amateurish results of my labors, here’s how it was accomplished.

Background image

The first step in creating the collage is to find an interesting background.  It is absolutely amazing to see how much the background of a photo affects the quality of the overall composition.  The slide of the bait fish school above, taken off the island of Bonaire, is not a particularly compelling photograph.  While it is technically adequate, it seems to lack a central subject.  But as I studied it, I realized that it might make an interesting background for a future project, so I filed it away with the many other background slides that I was accumulating.  After deciding to use the slide as a background for the project which resulted in the slide that begins this post, I decided to add other visual elements.

Purple sponge

This slide of coral and a purple sponge was taken off the island of Cozumel, and it also is a technically adequate photo, but with no pizazz.  Maybe this would work in my collage.

Purple sponge

If one purple sponge is a good thing, then why not two?  So off I went to find another slide of sponges, this one again from Cozumel, but taken a year later than the first.  So now I had everything in place, except for a main subject.  Searching through my slides, I came across the following mediocre picture of a barracuda.


Without going into a detailed critique of this slide, I’ll just point out the obvious – it cries out for a better background.  Since I had all of the other element already in place, I added the barracuda to my composition, adjusted the various layers to my satisfaction, and created the photo-illustration that begins this post.  It is not the greatest composition in the world, to be sure, but it does manage to take some otherwise bland photographs, and blend them into a picture that is pleasant to view.

The second photo-illustration hanging on the wall is a collage that was assembled from various undersea life in the waters of the Pacific off the coast of California.


Again, I started with a slide taken from my collection of possible backgrounds, which in this case are some sea fans found at Anacapa Island.

Sea fans

The next element that I chose to add to the composition was an egg sack from a swell shark, which is a common small shark that inhabits the sandy tracts near shore.

Nurse shark egg sack

The final element in the arrangement was the main subject, a treefish, which is a type of rockfish that was once common around the Channel Islands of California.


Let me take this opportunity to stress one thing.  These photo-illustrations are quite crude by today’s standards.  Never the less, the point to be made is that a photograph you might decide to toss just might be a “keeper” when you view it again in the context of a photo-illustration.  Maybe it lacks a central subject, but would make a good background.  Maybe it is a technically adequate photograph of a subject, with a terrible background.  Don’t throw it away!  If it is properly exposed, and if it is in sharp focus, put it away, and maybe some day in the future it will become an element in one of your prize-winning photo-illustrations.

NOTE: This would be a good spot to post my Photoshop policy – any photographs that you see on this blog are undoctored photographs (photos which have only undergone minor cropping, exposure and sharpening procedures, similar to what normally occurs in the darkroom process), unless I indicate otherwise with the term photo-illustration.  If I call an image a photo-illustration, then it is understood that anything goes!