Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sticking the tractor

Perhaps winter, and my hibernation from blogging, is over. Dismal cold weather produced nothing but mundane thoughts in my head and severely curtailed my activity, which was frustrating to the extreme. Mundane thoughts and feelings of frustration are two things I do not care to share. Today, the sun is shining and it is HOT outside. Somewhere along the way between now and last October, when we started down the path of 30 inches of rainfall, a big chunk of the driveway near the house here caved in. It was on the edge of the driveway, and far enough over that none of us regulars were likely to drive into it, but close enough that a delivery truck or some of the folks that drive in to look and see what is blooming could definitely find it. For several weeks we have been tossing chunks of concrete, broken brick, broken flower pots, and assorted other non-biodegradable stuff in the hole. The fill had just about reached the top. I had put the front-end loader on the tractor a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of getting the dirt to fill in the hole and some other tasks that the front-end loader make easy. I decided today was the day I could finish filling the hole. I planned to go down the to the bottom of the slope below the washed out place and get some of the dirt that is constantly building up as it is washed out of the hill. I headed down the trail with the tractor. That path involves crossing a ditch in two places to reach the area that I can access the fill dirt. I didn't have any problems going down, of course. I got a bucket full of dirt and started back up the hill. I did a little slipping and sliding on the steep part in the layer of oak leaves that covered the path, but made it up to the top and dumped the dirt in the hole. I figured the path was good for one more trip and went back for another load. Coming back out with my second load, the rear wheels began to spin on those oak leaves and the wet slope underneath. I maneuvered around, trying to find a spot I could get a grip on without success. Now this steep spot is just above one of the ditch crossings. The trail is a loop, and I decided perhaps I could just back down the hill a ways and bring the dirt out the other end of the loop. Everything was fine for a few feet--after all, gravity was my friend going down the hill--until I reached the ditch. I got the back wheels across, but at that point, I was parallel to the hill. Slipping and sliding around, trying to use all the tricks I had, I managed to get a front wheel off of the ditch crossing and into the ditch. At this point, it crossed my mind that I might have to summon the backhoe to bail me out. Then I remembered the the first three people on my list of backhoe-drivers-to-the-rescue were kicking up their heels in California wine country, ostensibly shopping for equipment to bring all communications to my house via fiber optics. I had to dig myself out of this hole on my own. I had already given up on moving the dirt and dumped it out of the bucket to get rid of the weight. I was already getting tired. Driving this tractor, you are straddling the stick shift, with your right foot on the brake and left foot on the clutch. The brake is separated so that you can brake only one wheel, which is very useful when one has a good grip and the other wheel is spinning. No help at all when both are spinning. The brake is not a power break and at times like this I end up standing up to put enough weight on it to hold the tractor in place. When that happens, I also am standing on the clutch. Doing that puts it all the way to the floor, and in that position, the hydraulics don't work, so I can't operate the bucket. The bucket is what has to get me out of the hole. It is quite a wrestling match, mentally and physically. After several instances of bringing the lip of the bucket all the way back and down to the ground, then straightening, causing the front of the tractor to lift out of the hole and be shoved backwards I was able to once again get an a position where gravity was my friend. I headed to the other end of the trail loop with an empty bucket and the knowledge that the hole would not be filled today. I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the top of the hill since there was some spinning climbing on that end of the trail also, but nothing major.

Species-type daffodils are in full bloom this week at Kalorama. I noticed the snowflakes, which are not nearly in full bloom were looking wilted in the hot wind. Got to be the sunshine and heat. They have plenty of water. The bulbs pictured are called Texas Star or Tazetta. They are a natural cross between Sweeties and Paperwhite types.