Father’s Day on the Farm

IMG_20170618_101932If, last year, you’d given me a multiple choice quiz on how I would elect to spend this Fathers Day, I might have suggested

  1. Cooking waffles for friends and family
  2. Flying
  3. Hiking up some glorious mountain somewhere.

Crawling around under a greasy tractor, hammering away on a bolt with a wrench as long as my arm would not have made the short list.

And yet here I am, scraped, bruised, and caked in a sort of papier-mache of all the debris that was on the barn floor but is now held together (and to me) by the layer of machine grease I’ve picked up squirming around under the suspended brush hog. It’s a fabulous Fathers Day, and it’ll be even better if I’m able to get this bolt off.

It’s embarrassing how gratifying I’m finding work here on the farm. I can try to do push-ups, sit-ups and the like back home, but five minutes in, I’m bored out of my skull and yearning to go check email. Out here, it feels natural to just go out each morning and pull up thistle for an hour, or tromp down to the pond to check on the egrets when I wake up. I return invigorated and not at all missing the internet. Plus, there’s less thistle.

But back to the tractor: turns out that one of the reasons that first field I mowed looked like such a mess was that the blades on our brush hog (think five foot wide lawnmower) were about as sharp as a wiffle bat. It didn’t so much cut the grass as beat it into submission. Sharpening the blades means removing them, and removing them means the aforementioned crawling, scraping, banging and papier-mache’ing.


The blades (and recalcitrant bolt) in question. The tire and two-by-four there are braced under the frame to prevent it from going all Wicked Witch of the East on me if the hydraulics on the three-point hitch go out for some reason.

I’ve been to three different hardware stores this morning (twice to Henery), acquiring advice, calipers,  rubber tubing, the wrench in question, more advice, a steel tube to extend leverage on the wrench, and all the various hardware store impulse aisle items you realize you can’t live without. For the folks at Henery, it really must feel like watching the Indy 500 from the track level, checking their stopwatches to gauge when I’m going to come around for another lap.

But – no surprise – it’s enormous fun, and feels like an entirely appropriate way to spend Fathers Day. I mean, think about it: society expects us, as dads, to be competent. The archetype of dadliness is “Oh, you poor dear! Go find Dad – he’ll be able to fix your broken computer/bicycle/heart/cryptographic protocol.” Isn’t it? So getting to fix things, especially big manly things like tractors, lets us feel like we’re doing a great job of dad’ing. Even if we have skipped back up to the farm solo, and our wife and kids are making do without us back in California. But let’s ignore that part. Upshot is that it’s been a great Fathers Day.

And it’ll be even better if I can get that %$(@$*! bolt loose.


Hey, also: remember how when I was on the NBP last time, I figured I had to put in a picture of some penguins with each post, regardless? Well, goats. They’re smarter and friendlier than penguins. Here are some of the girls playing “King of the Abandoned Farm Utensil”:


I think we’re gonna have to get a dedicated goat cam.

6 responses to “Father’s Day on the Farm

  1. Congratulations! You have real machinery to maintain. You need an air compressor and an impact wrench for it to drive.

    On Sun, Jun 18, 2017 at 9:24 PM, David Pablo Cohn wrote:

    > david pablo cohn posted: “If, last year, you’d given me a multiple choice > quiz on how I would elect to spend this Fathers Day, I might suggest > cooking waffles for friends and family flying hiking up some glorious > mountain somewhere. Crawling around under a greasy tractor, ham” >


  2. 50-50 blend of acetone and automatic transmission fluid is the best penetrating liquid for stuck bolts. From a 5 year old post:

    Machinist’s Workshop Magazine recently published some information on various penetrating oils. The magazine reports they tested penetrates for break out torque on rusted nuts.They are below. They arranged a subjective test of all the popular penetrates with the control being the torque required to remove the nut from a “scientifically rusted” environment.

    Penetrating oils ……….. Average torque load to loosen

    No Oil used ………………. 516 pounds WD-40 ………………… … 238 pounds PB Blaster ……………….. 214 pounds Liquid Wrench ……………127 pounds Kano Kroil ……………….. 106 pounds ATF-Acetone mix…………53 pounds



    • Brilliant – science for the win, again! I’d used liberal amounts of Tri-flow and let it settle in, but in the end it was sheer leverage that got it. Sad thing was that removing it revealed a whole clockwork of internal star nuts. And while I was doing that, Mark ambled over and asked if I’d tried peering through that access panel on the top. The one I hadn’t realized was an access panel. The one designed specifically to let me remove the blade bolts without messing with all that crazy stuff for the center disk…

      But I’m stopping by Henery again this morning for some transmission fluid and acetone – a factor of 5 over WD40?!? Yow.


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