Fear is unreliable – left unchecked it spreads like an electric current to every nerve, and does all it can to shut down reason. When Todd came to the back door to ask if I wanted to get back on the tractor to deliver a 500 pound bale to the West Field, fear (that was soundly dormant) kicked up somewhere in the back of my chest. Not awful, just awake.
Forty round bales were delivered to the farm in October and with enough frosty nights to wither the grass, we have the two groups of breeding ewes and rams on those bales. To date, Todd has brought the tractor to the bales, chained one to the bucket, lifted it and delivered it to the sheep. My total fear of tipping over doing such maneuvers has given me a family pass on the task. But for our wedding anniversary, Todd bought me a John Deere green ballast box that gets affixed to the back of the tractor and once weighted down, is supposed to make the tractor tip proof. (Todd calls it “the three wheel club” when one of the large back wheels lifts off the ground. That is not a club I wish to join.) We’ve had the box for a few weeks, but until Sunday, Home Depot wasn’t carrying the “stuffing” for the box. On an errand today, we discovered the sixty pound tube sand bags had arrived.
While I was finishing up a knitting project, Todd put the box on the tractor, the four sand bags in the box and chained a bale to the bucket. And then he came to the back door. Cue the fear.
I pulled on boots, coat, scarf, mittens and hat letting reason assure me this was going to be great. And in fact, driving the tractor across the back lawn was a breeze. The trouble started once Todd opened the gate and I moved the tractor forward. The chute leading to the West Field is sloped and a good sized tree sits about halfway down making the passage a bit narrow. I slowed way down, foot on brake and gas, inched along, lowered the bale as close to the ground as I could and bumped the bale into the tree. It was like my brain had completely evaporated. I’ve backed up trailers, turned, anticipated, and in general been a great driver, but I was incompetent.
Todd yells over the tractor but I can’t hear him. I can’t remember if just backing up will be enough or if I need to narrow my turn. While the pitch of the slope is minor, it has become a double black diamond in my mind. In a vortex of creeping fear, I back up, go forward, back up and try again. I maneuver around the tree and continue to descend to the top of the West Field, which is almost flat, but again, the sensation is that I’m on the edge of a cliff. I lean hard to the right, like my weight would make a difference, knowing if I lean too far and my butt comes off the seat, the engine will cut off. As I creep on, I think, “I’ll have to swing wide and turn the tractor around to plant the bale on the pad but that will mean, turning, sloping, skidding, tipping, crashing, falling and crushing.” Sheesh.
Once the bale is planted, I back up, put it in neutral and help Todd remove the plastic wrap and secure the moveable grates that ensure the sheep can eat the bale, but not climb up on it. With no giant load to worry about, I put the tractor in gear and truly zip back up the chute and park the tractor like I’d been farming forever. Not. There are 37 round bales remaining. We’ll see how many I move this season. The ballast box was a thoughtful gift (if not romantic), we’ll see if I can learn to trust it. Click below for brief video of the beginning of my ride.