Archive for the ‘Tractor’ Category

New Tractor

May 6, 2017
I had to share the excitement of getting our new tractor with you!  Our old 1967 International has a terribly stiff clutch and Kim is the only one confident enough to use it, whereas this one is SO much easier to drive and we should all be able to drive it.
I have to admit that new machine is a bit unusual to look at, it is a 1983 Mercedes Benz  MB Trac 700.  For any of you who might be interested (and know what it means) – it is 4WD, 68HP and has some cool things like 2 seats in the cab, power steering and brakes, a quick release forklift on the front, 240V power plug on the back, 3 point linkage, front and rear PTOs and front and rear remotes – all of which makes it very versatile as to what implements it can use.  It has an air compressor plug on the back too which needs a replacement hose, but it will be very useful once it is fixed as we use a lot of air tools.  Kim had the fun of driving it home from Deloraine.
It still needs a few jobs done on it before Kim will be really satisfied, but in the meantime it is already being well used.
The upgrading of the water pickup area has been finished and seems to be working well.  We still have to run all the pipes down to the house from it, but we have a nice trench to bury the pipes in all ready and waiting.  Now if we can just find the time to do the work, and have some good weather to do it in….
Our Pond
In other news Lydia has bought herself a cat!  It is a 1 year old female rag doll called Fee.  She is a pretty little thing and although she was a bit shy at first she is settling in well.  Lydia has a big multi level cage for her which the cat likes a lot.  She obviously feels safe there and uses it as her home base as she explores the caravan and annexe where she has been installed.  Having her there means that she is not bothered by the dogs and also Lydia can have her snuggled up on her bed at night.  There is nothing quite as nice as a purring cat!  Fie wont be allowed outside to chase the birds, but to be honest I think she is perfectly happy staying inside as she does not seem to be the adventurous type.
Fie In Cage
The Targa Tasmania rally came through recently.  Our road gets blocked off so Kim and a friend took the opportunity to take lots of photos from the end of our street.
Targa 2017
Kim also happened to be in Sheffield one night this week when they had lit the place up with coloured lights.  It was quite a sight!  They are putting on a laser light show on Mt Roland at the moment too.
Sheffield lit by coloured lights
It seems to be fungus time of year at the moment.  I do love the red ones with the white spots!
Orange Mushroom
We enjoyed having some visitors last month, my auntie and uncle and an old school friend with some of her family came by.  It was really great to catch up!  I am now looking forward to having my parents come to visit for 2 weeks.  They arrive on Thursday evening.  We have organised to put them up at the local Guest House where they can be a bit more comfortable than they would be at our place, but they will be spending the days with us at home.  There is a lot that we want to show them as I think it is 7 years since they were last here and things have changed a bit since then.  We have a few day trips planned too and Lydia has organised to have most of the time off so all of us will be here to catch up.  Hopefully we can keep them warm enough as it is a bit cooler here than they are used to!
I juiced 3 small sacks of apples today which produced 20L of apple juice which I am going to make cider with.  I hope it turns out nice as there will be a bunch of it!   Anyway, I gotta go.

Getting a Few Things Done

January 14, 2017

We have had a few things happening since I wrote last September that I thought I would share.  The most important has been the fact that we finally became fully off grid last Spring.  We had a couple of weeks of ‘heads up’ before the power pole was disconnected and cut down and we were on our own!  We scrambled to mount and wire up more solar panels on the roof ready to be connected.  Our little roof is now crammed with solar panels!  There are 3kW of solar panels at the house and 1kW at the caravan with another 1kW awaiting connection there.

House with 3KW Solar Panels and 24V Batteries
We struck a problem when the new deep cycle batteries we had ordered did not arrive as promised, so we had to rely pretty heavily on the generator for a couple of weeks.  Finally, after being messed around way way too much, we cancelled our battery order and bought a second hand, but very good, 36V forklift battery pack.  We pulled all the individual batteries out and set up a 24 volt set at the main building and joined the remaining 12 volts with our old 12 volt set to create another 24 volt system over at the caravan.  These batteries have actually worked out better for us than the ones we had been going to use as we got more storage capacity. The batteries are very heavy, so we moved the old ones using the tractor. 
We were able to change from our original 12V plans to two 24V system because we managed to pick up a brilliantly priced secondhand 24V 3000W Latronics inverter for the house and a 1800W one for the caravan.  A bunch of GSL MPPT controllers manage the solar panels.  Both Latronics and GSL are Australian brands and seem very good.  It is all working well so far, though Winter will definitely challenge us, but we do have the generator for just such moments.  Kim has plans to buy a Victron 24V 100A charger which we can use to charge the batteries from the generator, which should help too.  It is all a bit of a learning curve having to be careful with the use of the power at times, but Kim bought some Victron battery monitors that are a real help for monitoring how the systems are going.  It is rather nice having the two separate systems as we can draw power from either or both of them, which gives us the option of resting one if it’s battery power is getting low.  There is still more work to do before Kim will be happy with it all, but the house system is almost done and the caravan system is working, though Kim wants to move and modify the inside wiring somewhat.
We want to put in a micro hydro system as well and now have plans for the water pickup spot for that, and even a man with machinery lined up to do the work, but that is still a job that must wait for the future.  Meanwhile it is nice it think we will never have another bill from Aurora Energy!
You may have heard that my lovely Mum gave us all a fright last year when she became very unwell.  We thought she might have had a stroke as she had developed neurological symptoms, but it turned out to be caused by high calcium levels in the blood.  After a few weeks in hospital she returned home much improved, though still weak.  My sister from America, Linda, was able to travel over and stay with Dad and Mum for a few weeks and help them out during this period, which was a real blessing.  The folks are back on their own again now and are managing fine, though my other sister, Alison, is keeping a close eye on them.  
I managed to get a picture of Kim with our current fleet of cars.  We have gone very French with one peugeot, two citroens and the VW caravelle van.  We still have the VW beetle too but it does not get used very much.  Kim does all the maintenance and repairs which consumes a fair bit of his time.  In the last few months he has had to deal with a broken windscreen, a chipped windscreen, re-gassing an air conditioner, fitting an air flow meter, replacing an alternator, replacing a starter motor and replacing a fan control circuit as well as oil, filter and tyre changes.  With all the travelling for Lydia’s work and other things we do an awful lot of kilometres!
Lydia recently had local man do some clearing so she could have a nice level area to ride her pony on.  Rod spent two days in his little excavator pushing down trees, cutting off the tops and roots and putting them onto a burning pile.  He also dug out some large stumps and buried them, then roughly levelled the whole area.  He did a great job and having all the branches, roots and scrub burnt at the same time was a bonus I was not expecting.
We dragged all the logs away and lined them up to make it easy to cut them into rounds and split the rounds into firewood.  Another bonus of the job.  Sadly the tractor blew a tyre in the process, rather terminally – another repair job for Kim to add to his list!
The area cleared is about  25m wide and 42m long.  Lyd finds it good to ride on with plenty of room for circles and jumps etc.  There are a few small roots and things sticking up but they don’t seem to bother the pony at all.
We have set up a small soccer goal at one end for the boys to use (if they ever get a few minutes when they feel up to it!), so they can enjoy it too.
Immediately after the new year we had my sister Linda and most of her family come to visit after spending Christmas in Perth with our folks.  They did a bunch of touring around and we tagged along as best we could.  In this photo we were doing the Dove Lake circuit at Cradle Mountain. It was really lovely to spend some time with them all and the time passed all too soon.
In order to accomodate an extra 5 people I had decided we needed to get busy working on the old bus, so we towed it up close to the house with the tractor, which was fun in a hair raising kind of way.  It was actually quite uneventful to get it roughly to the spot we had planned, but trying to get it sitting exactly where I wanted was rather a challenge with no brakes to speak of in a 6 tonne bus.  There was only so much control that the tractor had with just a bar between them and when the bus started to roll down the slope past the tractor I confess I was a bit concerned, and Sam and Josiah, who had been watching from the trampoline in front of us, sensibly took off.  It might have been my shriek that made them do that!  LOL.  The bus did stop okay though and we managed to back it up again and decided that it really didn’t have to be exactly where I had planned – close enough was good enough after all.  🙂
Then we did some scrubbing and re-flooring and general prettying up.  We did not have the time or funds to line the walls properly but managed to pick up some wallpaper at a charity and temporarily covered up the walls with that and made some curtains to keep out the 5am morning light.  Then we jury rigged some fly screens to the large gaping side and front windows and made some drop down blinds from greenhouse plastic.
Inside the Bus - ready for visitors
Finally we moved some beds into the main room, made a custom fitted narrow bed for the back room (the old smoking compartment), ran a power cable across and it was ready.  The reports were that it worked well, and since the visitors left our family have been using it quite a bit just to hang out in.  The large open windows make it quite airy and pleasant in the late afternoon/evening of a warm day.  It still does leak in a heavy rain though, so we need to do more riveting on one of the sides.  Ultimately we hope to install proper windows on the side and front and some floor coverings would be nice too.  One day…..
Inside the Bus - ready for visitors
We have also just had some hay baled.  We do not have enough grass to do it on our own property, but a friend of a friend has some pasture land with no animals to feed on it.  He had been just slashing it down but last year he offered it to us to make hay, since hay was so very scarce, and we were keen to have it.  We only got 3 rolls of hay last year with the bad conditions after the drought so we had no idea what to expect this year.  It was a pleasant surprise to get 16 rolls.
Then we had the challenge of getting them all home.  Last year we used a hand winch to pull a bale up some car ramps and onto our small trailer. Then we tied the bale down and drove it home.  That was okay for just a few bales, but 16 was going to be an awful drain on our time and the hand winch is not easy to use.  A more polished plan was needed.  In the end we borrowed a friend’s large trailer which has high sides and proper loading ramps and we set up an electric winch on it which could be run from a spare battery in the back of the van.  We can now winch the bales in with a minimum of effort, and it was great to find that the trailer fitted 2 rolls per trip.  It is much easier to find time to do 8 trips rather than 16, especially since we still have all the running back and forth to Lydia’s work to fit in.  So far we have moved half of the rolls home before being interrupted by 23mm of rain.  Now we are waiting for the paddocks to dry a bit before getting the rest as the caravelle’s traction on hills of wet grass would be a bit challenged, especially towing such a heavy load!
Meanwhile I have tomatoes, cucumber and corn coming up well in this year’s vegetable cages, and more corn planted at Paul’s place.
We may have mentioned before that we need cages to protect the plants from cute fiends like this possum!
Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus Vulpecula)
Pademelons are happy to eat their share too of course.
Bennett's Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus)
The cold frame worked well for raising my tomato, cucumber and corn seeds to a good size in time for planting.  Hopefully the warm weather will last long enough this year to get plenty of produce ripened – but over here you just never know.
Kim has done some wheeling and dealing on the second hand market to upgrade his camera again.  He now has to learn how to to get the best out of his new camera.  Also the programme that he uses to store and edit his photos is no longer supported and he has had to change to a different one, which is being even more of a steep learning curve to learn how to use.  However he still manages to get some great shots in my opinion.  Just the other day the insects were busy at Nawawntapu National Park near Lydia’s work and he got some lovely shots of a butterfly
Yellow Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa itea) on white flowers feeding
 and dragonfly.
This coming week the pastor’s wife and I are organising a Kids Craft Day at the church.  The main crafts will be jewellery making for various ages, cactus planting in cups and an adaption of marshmallow shooters that I am calling Sheep Shooters, as well as general paper craft and play doh.  It is the first time we have done anything like this and we have no idea at all how many children will turn up.  It will be interesting to see.  🙂
Well, I think that is most of our news for now.  Best wishes to you.

Growing Grass

March 13, 2016

We have been working steadily for quite a few months now, to get our middle 2.5 acre paddock ready to grow some good grass for the stock.  There was more work involved than I had realised, and it was definitely a learning experience!

Firstly Josiah and I steadily worked our way through the paddock with a brush cutter, slowly cutting back the sedges that were quite thick and tall in places.
Cathy brush cutting middle paddock
Then we paid a local company to come and spread lime.
Kim spent many hours on the tractor, getting all the 50 year old parts to adjust as they were supposed to – no easy task.  When that was done we set about the task of ploughing.  It was a slow job, with numerous stops when the shear pins broke because of underground obstructions, but we worked our way through it.
Ploughing the middle paddock
The plough digs under the dirt and turns it over.
Ploughing the middle paddock
Ploughing the middle paddock
Once the ploughing was finished, Kim ran over the paddock with our old discs, to break up the clumps of dirt and roots.
Discing the middle paddock
Then it was back to work on the tractor again to get the power take off to work.  We needed the PTO working so that the rotary hoe would function as it should.
It was about this time that the bush fires took off in Tassie, which fairly hampered our progress.
It was hard to focus on projects when we were constantly surrounded by smoke, watching the fire website and being half packed ready to evacuate if the fires threatened.  It was a very unsettling time, and we were glad to have the ploughed paddock that we could put the pony and cattle in when we did evacuate one night.
Silk in the plowed paddock with smoke
They were constantly telling us that embers travelling in the wind might take off ahead of the main fire front in Tasmania’s unusually dry conditions.  Thankfully the wind died down most evenings and the fire never came through our place.
Twinkles with her calf in the ploughed paddock
Mole Creek turned into a fire fighter focus point.  They set up a camp in a paddock, had the helicopters on the footy oval and used the hall for co-ordinating.
Firefighers (1)
We were so relieved when we finally had some decent rain – we had been praying hard for it!  We had 220mm on our property and 150mm in Mole Creek town over a 24 hour period.  Tassie had drought, fire and flood all on the same day!  It didn’t completely stop all the fires but it certainly helped, and some follow up showers and lots of hard work from the fire fighters has finally gotten the bush fires all pretty much under control now.  In fact the camp was packed up last week and most of the interstate firies have gone home.
But back to the paddock!
Kim ran over it twice with the rotary hoe to further break up the clods of dirt and roots before the rain came.  We really wanted to get the roots of the sedges exposed over summer so that the old plants would die, leaving the ground ready for our chosen grass seed.
The first couple of times Kim did the hoeing, it was very dry and dusty – this is what he looked like when he stopped.  🙂
Kim covered in dust after rotary hoeing paddock
We had been advised to sow the seed at the beginning of March, so we did one more run over with the rotary hoe to loosen up the soil again last week.  It was after the rain and not so dusty, for which Kim was very thankful.  Then we got all hands on deck to hand sow the seed.
We put in a mix of rye grass, cox foot and white clover.  Even the dogs got in on the action.
Then the final task was to run over it with the harrows, which covers up most of the seed and just generally smooths it all over.
After that all we could do was wait.  And it is wonderful to see the grass coming up now!
Grass growing in the new paddock
I think I will leave our other news for another email – this one has become rather large!