This is a bit after the fact, but every so often I (Steve) get to post on the blog. Now, it might be hard to believe this, but I wrote Santa Claus a letter this year asking for just one thing – a new orange tractor. Some farmers are “brand loyal” and only buy one color of tractor. We’ve never been that way and have had more of a nondenominational philosophy. We have Old Green (John Deere), Old Blue (Ford), New Blue (Landini), and in the past have had a few Reds (Massey Ferguson). It only seemed right to ask Santa for an Orange Kubota to round out the rainbow.
Given this cadre of tractors, why ask Santa for a new one? Well, first the average age of our tractor fleet exceeds twenty years. We don’t coddle our tractors and we expect them to work and work hard. Most of all we need them to work when we need them. When fields need tilled and planted, we need it done now. When sprays need to be applied, timing is critical. Then there is brush to chop, grass to mow, fruit to pick and things to move around. Down time is expensive and frustrating.
To minimize downtime we try to do a lot of preventive tractor care in the winter. Last year we took Old Green in for an annual checkup and got all the leaks, groans, aches and sparks fixed and overhauled. So, imagine my distress when less than thirty hours of use later, the engine spun a main bearing, made unpleasant screeching noises, and up and died. Down one tractor. Then Old Blues’ brakes went out. I grew up driving tractors without brakes and learned the fine art of dropping the rear implement as an anchor to stop when needed. But, that probably isn’t so good for our employees or for the integrity of our buildings and trees. Down two. One left. Fortunately New Blue helped pull us through despite several electrical and hydraulic issues. We were able to lease another Blue from a neighbor to get through the season. But with two tractors in the hospital I decided it was time to put pen to paper and write to Santa.
Imagine my delight on Christmas morning when I came down the stairs and there was an orange Christmas present under the tree. I don’t know how Santa got that thing down the chimney with nary a scratch or broken hydraulic hose. Then reality set in – how do we get this out the door? Santa has his magic and I’ve read all those books, so why not try the same thing. I put a finger beside my nose, winked, and out the door the tractor rose. Wow! That new tractor landed in our shed and has been used to push snow while the other tractors are going through rehab. It starts when it is cold, everything works and it is fun to drive. It’s real workout will start this spring with brush chopping, plowing the ground for the new 3000 trees, and spring sprays. I’m looking forward to having a new color around.
This winter, Old Green is getting a “new” engine and Old Blue has new brakes. We are going to let New Orange shoulder the hard work and let the elder tractors do the easier things. The best part? As I am out plowing snow and the engine heats up, it has that new tractor smell!