27 March 2017 – Sunny and highs in the mid 50’s

It has been a challenging week at the holler, but we are doing our best to be countrified and take on each problem as it comes. We got the tractor, Babe, last week and after one day of use, moving rocks, moving dirt to the garden, moving slash piles etc. two of the bolts that hold the loader onto the tractor frame broke.

This tractor is 21 years old, so we were expecting some problems and maintenance, but these things are built to last as long as they are taken care of well. Some busted bolts aren’t unusual after 21 years of use, but it has led to some tests for us.

Bolts broken off inside tractor

The remaining rusted pieces of the bolts are in the tractor and need to be removed so we can reattach the loader. Dave and our friend Matt have spent the last four days trying to get the bolts out. They drilled, then they drilled some more. I played gofer running to Rapid to at least 3 different stores trying to find replacement bolts. Still, the bolts remains in place. We are discussing what to do next; probably drilling the holes bigger and re-tapping the bolt holes for larger size bolts.

Loader detached from Babe in the driveway

Anyway, the men have felt a bit of a time crunch to get the tractor out of the driveway because we are having a garage put in first thing this morning. We spent the weekend trying to determine how to safely move the detached loader (weight somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300lbs) so the building project could commence this morning. We were able to get it moved on Sunday morning with the help of Cowboy’s tractor and some serious stubborn-goatedness and innovation on the part of Pilot Dave. He hooked straps to the forks on Cowboy’s tractor and kept the loader from swinging using a 2×6 board. He stabilized it in place with a fence post so it should not tip over. Good job, guys!


Then we discovered Babe would not start. Ugh…. I remember a conversation I had with my cousin Patti, who farms with her husband in Iowa. She said, “Stuff just breaks. There is always something broken but you just have to figure it out and move forward.” I get it now.

So if we couldn’t get Babe started, we were going to have to move the tractor without any power to the brakes or steering. Reef did some trouble shooting and determined it was either a battery cable or the battery and off we went on a Sunday to Hot Springs, in hope that the CarQuest Autoshop was 1, open and 2, stocking what we needed. Success on both accounts!

We returned in the 40-degree rain and Reef went to work replacing the cable and the battery. Miserable working conditions ensued, and so did the pain as Babe refused to even turn over. The rain increased and the temperature decreased and we decided to come into the house until the rain subsided. Thank God we have a warm house! Life is good inside the house on a cold rainy day, and the wood stove warmed us right up.

We discussed what to do as it was nearing 5PM, still raining and very cold, and the builders were supposed to be here at 8AM the next day. Babe was still in the driveway. The plan was to hook her up by chain to Truck Norris and drag her out…. SLOWLY…. as there was no hydraulic assist to the brakes and steering and we were going to pull her down a bit of an incline to get her out of the way.

First thing this morning, we got up and went out and chained the truck to the tractor. Mind you, I have never towed anything with a chain before, but Reef talked me through the route and the plan. He got in Babe, I got in Truck Norris and we put our cell phones on speaker so we could communicate.   A brake check, a steering check, and down the hill we went. Mission accomplished…..and we didn’t drive into the house or solar panels or off a cliff. Now we just have to get the tractor running and the loader reattached. We have work to do and it looks like another busy week ahead on Hoten Holler.

I hate to be complaining; this is a blog, not a BLERGGG….so here is the good and happy part. Spring is showing up here in the black hills. The meadowlarks have returned so we have music to work to, and the plants for the garden have begun to sprout!

Cucumbers and Maters