Rain-Soaked Challenge

Raindrops splatter on the windowpane and slide down the glass. The sky is dark and lowering. I sigh. Not another rainy day. Yesterday, the water poured from the sky all day leaving an inch of water in the rain gauge. I was hoping for a better day today, Friday, as the lawn is growing lush and green heralding the need for a mowing. I wanted to get the mowing done before Saturday as we are going into the Memorial Day weekend. Oh well, it may just have to wait until tomorrow.

 Surprisingly, by noon, patches of blue sky with peaks of sunshine begin to appear and a renewed hope rises within me. I know the yard is slightly damp yet and our trails through the woods are probably soggy, but I am going to give it a try. With a roar of the engine, I am off and soon going around and around shaving that lush green grass into a mat of fresh smelling clippings.

The last part of the task is to clip the overgrown trail through the woods. I make my first pass from the house winding through the trees down to the gravel road. The last fifty feet of the trail is downhill and culminates in a steep headfirst dive to the road ditch. Sliding down the hill sideways is not my idea of fun so the wise thing to do is to avoid that. My plan is to turn around and go back the way I came before the steep descent. Even then, I am uncertain of being able to ascend back up the incline I came down. The X540 John Deere that we own has rear tires with lug tread but even with them, I have learned it tends to be extremely helpless on an upslope. I hold my breath as I back around and head out of my precarious position. Just a few spins of the tires and I am wheeling along back towards the house. Whew! Made that one.

Bluebells

The next section of trail winds through the forest on the north side of the gravel road. Hubby and I have built a 20-foot bridge over the road ditch which extends from the ditch to the woodland opening. The bridge is just wide enough for the tractor, so precision is required with a little speed to make the slight incline at the other end. The hope is to not end up in the ditch here either. Traveling this portion goes off without a hitch. I do have a little problem with spinning on the trail which should have been my first clue that this whole operation is not a good idea today but hey, I am not one to give up what I have started. Use of the differential lock seems to overcome most of my difficulty. About ½ mile along this trail, we have installed another bridge that straddles a large washout. It lies at the bottom of a V slope in the trail. I know that if I descend into the V that I will not get out either way with it being as wet as it is so I turn around and head back. Without a problem, I am able to mow back to the road at the beginning. Now all that is left to do is mow the last section of trail that comes in from the opposite way to the V.

My confidence growing, I speed to the opposite end and begin again. I can do this. As I approach the treacherous section again, I am apprehensive. I have to be careful and not let myself get down into the valley or I am done. Falling into the wash would be disastrous as well. I roar up a little incline and position myself to turn around but there is not much room, and the terrain is inclined. Turning around requires backing uphill with the tractor. Not only do the back tires want to spin, the front tires do not want to turn the machine to bring it back around to the path. They just slide further off the trail. Between accidently hitting the forward foot pedal instead of the reverse more than once, I am soon helplessly positioned off the path and stuck against a tree with the mower. I have dug a big hole with the back tires and wedged the front against a log. Oh No! Frustrated, I sit there. I am in the middle of the woods. No one else is around and we have no other vehicle to pull with that will fit down the path. I have no idea how we are ever going to get this out of here. I might just as well walk home. It is 3:30 in the afternoon. I was doing so well and now I am dead in the water.

“How late r u going to be?” I text Dave.

“Not late. Around 4:10.”

“I will wait for you then. I got the tractor royally stuck in the woods.”

Right on time, Dave’s white pickup rolls up the drive.

“How are we going to do this?” I question him.

Confident, he replies, “We will take the tow rope and a Come-Along. Hopefully, we can find a tree nearby to pull from.”

This is a solution that has not ever even occurred to me. It infuses me with optimism.

Soon we are hiking up the path carrying two sets of tow rope and the Come-Along. My heart sinks just a little when I realize how few sturdy trees there are close to our predicament spot. There is no tree to be able to pull backward or forward from. The only available tree is about 25 feet away and off at a 45-degree angle. We come up with a plan to hook onto the front frame of the little tractor and to try and pull the front end around onto the trail. Within just a few minutes, my competent Hubby is slowly ratcheting the front around to face the trail.

“Now get on it and see if you can drive it out,” is the command.

I have my doubts, but I stomp on the differential lock and push the gas pedal to the floor. With a roar, it rises up out of its hole. Hurrah! I am off.

Irises

Since, I was almost done anyway, I decide to finish that last pass on the path and make a couple of passes along the side of the gravel road. That should only take fifteen minutes or so. I have just about reached the hardtop road when the mower abruptly and unexpectedly stops and the engine stalls out. The engine starts without a problem but each time I try to engage the mower, the tractor stalls. So now what’s wrong? I might as well give up. I turn around and head the tractor for the house. But on one last thought, at the end of the drive, I stop, get off and peer under the mower. Ah! There is the problem. A 5-6” diameter rock is wedged between the mower blade and the deck. I knock it out and climb back into the seat. With a screech, the mower whirls to life without killing the engine. Soon I am done.

Dave is laying on the lawn soaking in the sunshine when I return. Claire dances around him waiting for flying toys.

I sprawl beside him and kiss him on the cheek, “What would I do without you? I had no idea how we were ever going to get that tractor out of there.”

“Oh, I had time to think about it on the way home,” he responds.

Life is so much easier to tackle when one has someone to help shoulder the challenges. This year we will have spent thirty years helping each other deal with life. It reminds me of the Bible verse, “Two people are better than one because together they have a good reward for their hard work. If one falls, the other can help his friend get up. But how tragic it is for the one who is all alone when he falls. There is no one to help him get up.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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Growing and Mowing

 

Summer in Minnesota– tis the season for mowing grass. With an abundance of rain, that means that the lawnmower needs firing up every week. Since our daughter has graduated from college and moved home for the summer, Mom has stipulated that the required 4 hours of mowing each week will be her job in exchange for rent. And just last year, we bought a new – well a slightly used- green John Deere riding mower. On the farm, we always had John Deere tractors and so I am somewhat prejudiced towards this brand. My thinking is that we should be able to have trouble free mowing for at least a few years.

“MOM!” My in-depth concentration in the book I am reading is interrupted. “I can’t get the mower to go around. I was just mowing along when it stopped and it won’t restart.”

Alright, this is a new mower with less than 100 hours on it so there can’t be that much wrong with it. “I’m coming. Let’s go see what we can figure out.”

I plop in the seat and turn the key. The tractor motor snaps right off so no problem there. The brake is on, the mower up. I disengage the still silent mower and re-engage it. I do it again. Nothing. I know nothing about this tractor but I flop in the soft freshly mown grass and begin to inspect the various working components on the mower deck. The belt that drives the mower seems looser than it should be and I soon discern that the belt has come off the pulley. On our other mower, it was pretty simple to replace the belt. Certainly, we can fix this. I just need to find the place where I can loosen the tension on the belts and slip it back on. But no such place seems to exist.

The sweat has begun to pour off of me in the 90-degree heat. I guess it is time to find the owner’s manual and see what it has to say. I can’t find anything about the mower in the troubleshooting section. Frustrating would be an understatement.  Finally, I find a section that says, “disengage (tension) rod from the retaining bracket by rotating rod counterclockwise.” Nice thought. But how am I supposed to do that. There is a huge spring that I can’t begin to budge holding it securely. This is ridiculous. “It can’t be that hard,” I say to Daughter. Finally, I have a brilliant idea. Forget taking anything apart or turning it any way. I lay down on the ground and prop my right foot against the offending pulley and push with all my strength. “See if you can get the belt on now,” I instruct. And just like that it is fixed. Yahoo!!

“And so this is why I can’t depend on a man to fix things,” the insight dawns on Daughter, “because the men are never around when things need fixing.”

“You are so right.” I confirm.

Without another hitch, the lawn soon is looking prim and neat. But as I walk behind the lawn mower in the garage later in the day, a puddle of oil is enlarging drip by drip onto the concrete floor. Closer inspection reveals that the transmission oil pan is empty. Oh no!

“Will you help me hook up the trailer and load the lawnmower on Monday so I can take it to the dealer?” I implore my daughter. I don’t see any other solution to this problem.

Monday morning, dark ominous clouds grace the western sky and soon buckets of rain come pouring down. Well, I am not about to get wet hooking up the pickup to the trailer so we can haul this lawnmower. Within the hour, the clouds have parted and the sun comes peeking out. Time to hook up the trailer. I grab the truck keys off the key rack and turn to head out the door.

“Hey, I thought I was going to drive the truck,” demands Daughter.

No problem. I no longer, in this life, feel a need to prove my proficiency in these kinds of pursuits. These tasks sometimes just feel more like a struggle that needs to be done especially since my neck no longer is flexible enough to actually turn so I can see to back a vehicle. It is time to let the younger generation develop their skills and prove themselves. I have always told my daughter that there is no excuse for being a helpless woman. And today, she proves she is not helpless. With only a couple of corrections, she does a pretty efficient job of backing up that trailer with the pickup.

With the lawnmower safely deposited at the dealer for repairs, we wait while the grass grows tall and green again.