1880 Farm is still in hay (dormant for the winter) as we work on infrastructure and equipment to prepare for livestock. The big jobs are fencing, animal housing, our garden, field water pipes… and a tractor:
The old Kubota L3000F labored in 1st gear low range to ascend the ramps in to the 20′ shipping container we use as our mechanical workshop at 1880 Farm. The L3000F is well known as a small workhorse of a tractor that uses very little fuel in respect to the work it can do. Due to them being a desirable tractor I wasn’t able to find a used one for a price that we could afford. I bought ours at an auction. When an auction employee ran the tractor it looked that it would need a clutch (jumped ahead on throttle idle down) as well as some other work, but the clutch job was the largest in time and money to fix. The bad clutch is why it had such a hard time getting up the ramps to the container.
Our shelter rescue dog Toffee loves the farm more than anywhere else we have been with her. She also loves watching me work on projects, she stared and took it in when I changed the brakes in our car, installed the tow gear on the Ford F450, and when I do any maintenance jobs around the house. She is so intent on watching me I have to put her inside when I set up to weld because she would stare at the arc and damage her eyes. This clutch job would go on long enough that for the first time I saw her get restless and leave me to work alone.
I started taking parts off the Kubota, the orange paint reminded me of the Kubota my father had on his farm when I was growing up. I turned hard bolts on the L3000F that hadn’t been touched in years, crawled under it for better angles and took pictures every step of the way to use for reference to make sure I reconnected everything properly when put back together. When changing a clutch in a tractor it has to be split in two halves, this requires draining the hydraulic fluid before it can be unbolted and split. The smell of the fluid reminded me working on my uncles lobster fishing boat on an island off the coast of Maine. I had a sort of ‘surf and turf’ experience growing up, dad had the farm and my grandfather and uncles on my mom’s side of the family were commercial fishermen.
While I worked I would pause the podcasts I was listening to and watch YouTube videos in the underappreciated genre of tractor repair to make sure that I was doing everything properly. The job would have gone faster if I had the pneumatic tools from the videos, but my old hand tools still worked. All went well in the separation process, I stopped to have a sandwich, throw sticks for Toffee, and take in the great view of the farm and neighboring countryside from the back porch. When I installed the new parts everything fit nicely and it looked like I was on the way to success. I finished bolting the two halves of the tractor back together and made it whole again. The tractor wasn’t running yet (The fuel was still disconnected at this point). I hooked up the clutch pedal, depressed it fully with my foot, and pushed on the tractor. It didn’t move. Fully depressed clutch and tractor was still engaged in gear, this wasn’t a good sign. I pulled the gear shifter in to neutral and pushed the tractor and it rolled freely. Realizing that the clutch repair did not work it felt momentarily like the solid floor of the shipping container was sinking beneath my feet, a quick glance out the open door anchored me from that sensation but it still was not a great feeling that all that work didn’t fix it. I took the tractor apart again, split the halves, and pulled out the new parts. Comparing the new parts to the old I realized that the new PTO clutch disc was not the same as the old one. It slid on the spindle but had a much wider base than the old one. I sat down and wiped the grease off my tools revealing their shine as I sat in thought. All I could do at this point was return it (mail order) and order a new one. When the replacement comes I’ll put it all back together and try again. In hindsight it is not as big a deal as I initially made it out to be, actually I am grateful for the opportunity to learn as much as I can. I feel it is preferable to be in a position to make mistakes and work through them than to be ‘protected’ from making mistakes in a corporate environment like the one I am moving on from to farm.