Last night I was plowing the driveway with my old tractor. It’s an antique. It’s older than Eric Clapton but younger than Clint Eastwood. The average suburban snowblower is half the age (and roughly the intelligence of) Lindsay Lohan. I recently rebuilt the tractor. (I’ll discuss the mechanical rebuild elsewhere…suffice to say it is no longer yard art.)
My concern was sharing the three point hitch between the backblade and my wood wagon. It’s a hassle to hook the backblade to the three point hitch so once it’s mounted I don’t like to take it off. Meanwhile I move firewood in a little wagon that’s towed with a crossbar rigged to the three point hitch. Two implements, one tractor. Shall I just pretend the problem doesn’t exist? No. Unlike politicians, I must accept and work within the limitations present.
The obvious solution (to men) is another tractor. Alas the axillary backup tractor is
deader than a doornail off line big time temporarily. Accepting grudgingly and provisionally a single tractor lifestyle, I needed the most efficient way to make it pull mutually exclusive objects.
Homesteading is all about efficiency. You must find the most efficient way to do the things you’re planning or you’ll discover that a 24 hour work day is insufficient. Paradoxically homesteading includes inherent inefficiency built into the system by your (and nature’s) constraints. For example, I could hire the driveway plowed (which sucks and is expensive) or buy a new tractor (a cost which compares to hiring a plow guy like buying a Bentley compares to buying a Honda). But I’m not a politician so I pay real cash for my decisions. The cheapest alternative is to whine at the end of a snowed in driveway (the Occupy Wall Street Option). I could move to Florida (The Retired Snowbird Option) but my dog likes it cold.
Driving a slow old tractor gives you time to think. Everyone should spend hours driving at 5 mph. It’s especially enlightening in 5 degree weather. Freezing weather hones the mind and kills the weak. I like winter.
While plowing I conjured up an idea that would work. I’d use bolts, a clevis, pins, swearing, and disregard for design parameters to simultaneously pull both the backblade and the wood wagon in a big creaky redneck parade. What a clever solution! I think I deserve a medal. Unfortunately the Nobel committee will never know.
How to test my new arrangement? I could haul firewood from the woodpile to the house but I was getting late and the other family members (which greatly speed up the wood moving process) were camped in front of electronics in the warm house. If I evacuated them to the woodpile I’d consume a lot of goodwill…like all of it. I don’t want Santa pissed at me.
Then I remembered a small pile of wood I’d
left cached in the forest two years ago. (Note: when I stack crap in the back yard it’s cached and if I can use it someday it’s an asset. And I don’t want to hear any crap about it from folks with manicured lawns surrounding their underwater McMansion.)
I decided to use the small remote pile as a test case. It might be getting rotten by next winter and it will be inaccessible in the snow soon. Also there is no chance in hell anyone but me would go get the wood. (Most Americans will not walk more than 50 yards. I think it’s in a manual somewhere.) The time to strike was nigh! I shouted “Charge!”, shifted the tractor into high range, and careened out into the darkness at a blistering 12 mph.
Ten minutes later I was peering through the dark forest looking for oak firewood. The tractor’s dim 6 volt lights were just right for the task. The lights were toast when I bought the old machine but I fixed them; another prizewinning action nobody will notice. You’ll also note that if the tractor died I’d be stranded in the woods, alone, and in the dark…homesteaders are not afraid of nature!
There wasn’t much wood but it was well aged oak limbs. The finest vintage of the firewood world. Yay me!
Driving back with a partially loaded wagon, I pondered my payload. The tractor is pretty fuel efficient so I burned maybe a quarter’s worth of gas. I’d filled 1/3 of my small wagon and three wagon loads make a face cord. (Roughly.) It takes 3 face cords to make a full cord. (Approximately.) A full cord (cut, split, and delivered) is worth $150. (In general.) Meaning I had about 1/27th of $150 or about $5.50 – $0.25 = $5.25. Figure that’s half a cheap cheese pizza? Or one pint of good microbrew?
I pulled up to the house and started stacking firewood while babbling to my long suffering wife. I was in high spirits. I’d won the redneck lottery. “I’ve got half a pizza here! Tax free pizza! It took ten minutes. I’m making fifty bucks an hour right now. How’s that for a return on investment?”
She smiled and nodded her head. She didn’t even ask about the cached forest oak to pizza exchange rate I’d developed.
That’s why folks keep blogs. To share their genius empirical scientific discoveries with the world. If the Nobel prize committee is listening I’m available; just drop my a line.
My heart leaped (leapt, leapted?) with joy when I thought you had resurrected your tractor. I didn’t remember you had another. Anyway…
Free wood! Yay!
Nope. This is the tractor. The axillary backup tractor is off line for…uh… a couple election cycles. I’ve been meaning to write a conclusion the the tractor saga but just can’t face it.
Clearly, the perfect summary to the oak:pizza conversion would be to put pizza dough ingredients in the bread machine, then bake it over an oak fire – but the back of a cast iron pan would work well, too. And the money saved by making your own pizza means you could get far more than just a half a cheese pizza – for free!
Clearly, she’ll only understand if you explain in terms of applesauce, though. She must not be pizza-motivated.
Applesauce! Bwa ha ha ha ha!!!!
Congratulations on the running tractor, the working solution and the half pizza!
Thanks. The tractor took a lot of effort. I’ll post about it later.
My wife doesn’t get the exchange rate either. Last year she looked at my wood pile and asked how much I would get if I sold it. I figured about $1200. She got a gleam in her eye’s. But, I said, that is about $3500 worth of propane;.Her answer? “Well you can always cut more.” Funny how easy it is to cut more when you aren’t swinging the spitting axe.
So in addition to the exchange rate there is also the “someone else did the labor” discount?
Love the Pizza exchange rate you’ve developed.
I’m going to start using that.
I loved you reasoning. Next time I reload a hundred rounds I will (try to) explain to my wife the amount of pizza I saved in the effort. Wives don’t always understand economics from a guy perspective. Merry Christmas, Randy
I have a different way of looking at wood. I use the grocery store exchange rate. In front of all the grocery stores they sell little shrink wrapped bundles of firewood.
You’ve seen ’em. Look like kindling for a good sized wood stove. Shrink wrapped so that the purchaser doesn’t have to touch the product, I guess, or have something like an actual piece of dry split wood get on the carpet in the back of the Expedition.
They usually sell for about five dollars. If you divided my woodpile into similar sized bundles and multiplied by 5, I have…um..lemme see…let’s use face cords…and think about the bundle size…don’t cheat…count the leftover from last year we have finished yet…holy cats, that a lot of money!
Makes me want to buy a shrink wrapping machine and go into business.
I’ve never used the pizza exchange rate, but I’ve often rationalized things by estimating how many cases of beer it was worth.