Friday, January 5, 2018
I get that there remain many lessons for me to learn on this hillside in Vermont, but discovering them in arctic conditions. Well. Sucks.
In 22 mph wind and temps hovering around 2 degrees and a wind chill south of negative 30, I bundled up in wool, layer upon layer, headed out to start up the tractor and begin to try to clear out the barn yard of concrete snow that had drifted two and three feet deep all across the gate and barnyard. The fuel gauge indicated that I had a little under half a tank. I opened the barn yard gate, and drove the tractor’s bucket deep into the snow and then tilted it up, brimming with hard chunks of blue and white snow. I reversed, turned and dumped the load on the other, downwind side of the driveway. After two more loads the tractor died. I thought, “don’t trust the gauge in frigid conditions.” I fought the instant urge to call Todd and instead went to the back porch for the five gallon plastic canister of diesel, loaded it on the four wheel handcart along with a funnel and trudged up the driveway to the dead tractor. Staggering a bit, I slowly hauled the canister up on the John Deere yellow seat, got myself up on the side board and dragged the canister across the steering wheel so that I could tip it into the funnel that was lodged in the fuel hole. The nozzle for the canister has a button in the back to release liquid. With the canister tilted I pulled off one layer of mittens and pressed the button. The diesel was a thick sludge that burped its way out and into the wide mouth of the funnel. As it discharged, I thought we should have had this in a warmer place. After a few more belches, I tipped the canister back, slid it down to the seat and eventually on to the ground. I turned the key and nothing happened. Call Todd. Stop. No, call the tractor store.
Trottier’s is about 20 minutes south and they answered right away. I told them my tractor was dead and that I had probably run out of diesel. And so, my class began. Lesson #1: Never let a diesel tractor run on empty. Turns out if you do, you have to bleed the fuel pump to replace the air and I still don’t know what that means, but simply pouring diesel into the tank was not enough. Oh, and lesson #2 slammed in on heels of #1: never use plain diesel in the winter. Always use an additive to prevent the diesel, ready? From turning into sludge!
Over the course of an hour I bundled up, tried what they recommended over the phone, unbundled and called again. Each call brought on more god damn painful lessons. #3? Using an extension cord to keep the heating block warm which makes starting easier should never be done for more than a few hours. So much for always plugging in the extension cord, night after night. Sledge hammer Lesson #4 pissed me off because it didn’t show up until phone call number four. “Miss, if the diesel was like sludge when you poured it, the tractor will never start unless you replace the fuel filters.” Which they didn’t have in stock but could get by tomorrow. And sidebar Lesson #5 is that kerosene can help make the diesel less sludgy. And so I quit for the day.
Tomorrow I will head to Trottier’s where they say they’ll have the filters brought in from another store. I’ll pick up a gallon of Kerosene at Dan & Whit’s, a general store with the trustworthy slogan, if we don’t have it, you don’t need it.
Todd will help me recharge the tractor’s battery and trust me, the sucker will not start. Why? Because after more than an hour outside in this frozen tundra trying to believe I could solve this problem, I have been beaten to a pulp by lessons I should have sought out, say, when leaves were on the trees?
Did I mention that tomorrow will make today’s weather seem like a cake walk? Sheesh.