Maintenance matters – and there’s more maintenance to do than you think. Putting the time and money into maintenance makes certain that when the tractor needs to work all night, it can. And maybe more importantly, it means that when you need the tractor to start because the crew is waiting for you or the rain is on its way, it will. Too often, I see clients skimping on the necessary maintenance over the winter due to financial or time constraints – that’s a mistake that just costs more down the road, in increased repair expenses and lost opportunities.
When a tractor’s off, it’s off. On the flip side, a tractor doesn’t do the work half way. It’s either on, or it’s off. When you’re off work, be off work. Find something to do , even just for a few hours a week, that isn’t farming: take Taekwondo, join a reading club, go bowling. Find something to do that allows you to turn off from the farm.
It’s either the gas, or the spark, at least on a gas tractor. I have all the mechanical aptitude of your average ape, so dealing with old tractors isn’t easy for me. However, a neighbor helped me understand early on that you have to go after root cause – if your tractor isn’t working, it’s either got a problem with the amount or quality of the gas the engine is getting, or it’s got a problem with the spark that fires the pistons. Once you know that, the detective work to figure out what’s wrong becomes a lot simpler.
Unless it’s the muffler belt.
In an emergency, step on the clutch. The third farmer I drove tractor for told me that, unless you’re in road gear or going down a hill, if something starts to go wrong with the tractor, just step on the clutch, and you’ll come to a stop. Then you can start to deal with everything else. Despite the generally slow operating speed of a tractor, things can go wrong in a hurry. Stepping on the clutch, killing the PTO, and dropping the forks brings everything to a stop, allowing the operator the chance to take a moment to consider the situation – not a bad lesson in any situation, no matter how fast-moving it seems.
Not everybody can drive straight – especially in the creeper gear. It actually gets harder to drive straight the slower you go, and not everybody can maintain that kind of focus. But it’s exactly the focus you need as a farmer – every bit of attention you pay to keeping that row straight pays off when it comes time to seed, so you figure out how to keep the tractor straight and the beds evenly spaced. Care and attention matter, and the little things add up.