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Keep calm and carry on

Some years, it seems, you spend more
time standing at the parts counter than you do sitting in the tractor
seat. It’s been one of those years around here.

Spring seeding started off with an
incredible 10 breakdowns in five days. Granted, a couple of those
problems were caused by things I should have noticed before going
into the field. But one of the challenges for those of us who need to

divide their time between farming and a day job is it’s hard to get
all those preseason inspections done. Sometimes there just aren’t
enough hours in the day. There are years when you just hook up,
grease it and hope it works. I certainly paid the price for doing
that this spring.

But I won’t take the rap for all the
problems. Of those 10 spring stoppages, there were a couple of
I-never-would-have-guessed-that-would-happen breakdowns.

Then came harvest. This time I learned
my lesson. I went the full nine yards on preventative maintenance.
But things didn’t get much better. I bought and installed about $600
worth of new parts on the swather. Despite that, the machine suffered
a major breakdown. One of the two draper drive rollers failed in
spectacular style. The damage was so severe it challenged my
fabrication skills to repair the frame in order to get new parts to

But aside from having a shop full of
tools capable of getting tough jobs like that one done, I had another
secret weapon up my sleeve (not literally, of course). It was, simply, a new coffee mug. Normally, a breakdown rate like I
experienced this season would have me so frustrated I could bite one
of my wrenches in half. That didn’t happen because of the “Keep
Calm and Carry On” approach the cup helped me adopt early on.

On a trip to the city I noticed the mug in a store. It had those words printed on it, along with an image of
the crown of King George VI. According to the tag on the cup, the
“Keep Calm and Carry On” phrase was one of several created by
those in charge of keeping the moral of Londoners up during the blitz
of world war II. These words were put on posters intended for display
in public areas. Suspecting I might have a need for that kind of
moral booster some day, I bought the cup.


Good thing I did. With each morning
coffee, the cup reminded me to take a Zen-like approach to problems I
would encounter throughout the day. Calmly, I got down to work on all
the breakdowns, including the swather. I worked late into the night,
fixed it and went back to cutting.

When there are both old and new
machines in the farm fleet, breakdowns are simply a fact of life. But
when the parts counter guy softly suggests it may be time to buy a
new swather, you know you’re pushing the lifespan of that machine
well beyond what engineers originally intended. But with so many new
parts on it now, it ought to last another season or two, right?

Nope. With barely four acres left to
knock down before finishing for the season, the swather packed it in
again, with an identical problem on the other draper driver roller.
And just to prove it isn’t only the older machines fighting me this
season, the low-engine-oil-pressure warning light on the
three-year-old tractor powering the swather stayed on too long after
start up as I pulled the broken swather back to the yard.

I stayed remarkably clam, parked both
machines in front the workshop and walked back toward the house. As I
did, I glanced at the baler and noticed a lot of oil and dust
clinging to a hydraulic hose, indicating it was about to burst.

I think I need another coffee.


About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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