Between a [lot of] Rock and a Hard Place

We’ve had a hard time finding a well company to help us with our off-grid pump and line install.  We’ve been strung along all summer by two different companies who in the end decided off-grid was not their area of expertise.  Thanks for wasting our [very little to spare] time.  We are on to well company number three – they actually carry the particular type of pump we want to use and so we are keeping our fingers crossed they will come through for us.

While we wait for the well stuff to get worked out (fingers crossed) we decided to switch the order a bit on some of the other tasks we need to complete asap, so I started getting the materials together to button up the curtain drain.  That seemed easy enough.  Or so I thought…

I had to head down a day early as plumbing supply and gravel yards are only open during the week. Then I had to pick up the supplies from three different places enroute to the farm because, of course, none of them had all of the items we needed in stock. The gravel pit ran out of 1 1/2 inch drain rock and was short a truck but said they might have 1 inch rock and would try to find a contract truck. They would call me back the next day. It wasn’t until 5:05 pm the next day when I realized they never called back. Dang!  We are over two hours away, plus there were the three stops along the way. In order to be at the farm in time for 60 yards of rock to be delivered (5 dump truck loads) – I would have to leave by 630 am that morning just in case they could deliver.

Needless to say I was a stressed out mess, trying to coordinate everything (which includes the usual weekend prep work of packing everything we might possibly need including tools, food, supplies, getting the animals that were staying home set up, filling propane tanks and diesel tanks, etc… ) – but in the end they did find a truck and had enough 1 inch rock. Whew! Another crisis diverted.

I get down there in plenty of time to meet the driver. The bit of rain we had earlier in the week made the ground just mucky enough that the truck was unable to dump the rock at convenient locations along the curtain drain and so had to dump most of it in a single location.



Mid-way through rock deliveries the driver was called off for a “rock emergency” (must have been the county project that used up all of the 1 1/2 inch rock!) and they asked if they could bring the rest of the rock the following Monday.  Aaaarrrggghhh!  If we lived there – no problem, but ding dang it – I’m going to wear myself out before we ever plant a vegetable! They must have sensed the panic in my voice (I had not been well all week and had not slept well either – making things seem a lot more dramatic) and was able to squeeze in another delivery at the end of the day (I hope the driver got OT for that one) for which we were extremely grateful and much relieved.

Over the weekend we were able to get all of the drain cloth in, all 380 feet of drain pipe installed, plus a couple of feet of rock on top of the entire run.



The next step is to fold the drain cloth over the rock, secure with landscape staples and top off with more rock.  We were able to do this step on about 1/3 of the curtain drain before we had to pack it up and head home.  Not bad considering things seemed to be falling apart at the seams (no pun intended!) a couple of days earlier.


The following week I planned to head down again on Friday morning so I could pick up a box scraper from the tool rental place. We would use it to re-level the site so we could then backfill the curtain drain with the excess dirt and hopefully have it ready in time to sow the 100 lbs of cover crop seed I ordered a while back.

Again – simple enough. The weather was cooperating and it felt like we were getting back on schedule. I planned to get there early enough on Friday to put a big dent in closing up the drain cloth and topping everything off with the rest of the rock, leaving most of Saturday and Sunday for re-leveling. Since the rental place is closed Sundays, I would have to stay over to Monday morning to return the box scraper.  When I have to be at the farm on a Friday to take rock deliveries, etc…, M rides his motorcycle into the office and then heads down to the farm after work. We have a motorcycle carrier that hitches up to the truck so we can ride home together on Sunday evenings if I don’t also have to stay over to Monday.

So far, so good. I pick up the box scraper, button up most of the curtain drain and spread a decent amount of rock. M will be pleased when he gets here.



M called that evening and told me that as he was heading out the door at 4:58 pm he was waylaid to do a last minute project at work.  He didn’t get down to the farm until 1030 pm that night. That is a long, cold ride at night –  but he arrived safe and sound.

Saturday morning we are finishing up the curtain drain when my back goes out and I’m in excruciating pain. I’m trying to take it easy but it’s hard as I’m [again] so frustrated and stressed out about everything that needs to get done. See how pain and lack of sleep change your perspective?  M assures me not to worry – he finishes up the rest of the curtain drain that afternoon and gets ready to take the backhoe off of the tractor to hook up the box scraper.  Despite the pain, I’m starting to feel better and better about getting get caught up. We are making progress. We always make progress – in spite of the bumps in the road along the way. I just have to keep reminding myself of this.


What’s that saying – don’t count your chickens before they hatch?  Arrgghhh.

The hydraulics that operate the backhoe suddenly quit working and he can’t get the backhoe off. Even if we could somehow get the backhoe off without the hydraulics, the PTO isn’t working either so we can’t use the box scraper. The weird thing is – the front hydraulics are ok. It doesn’t make any sense.  M checks everything he can think of but being new tractor owners – that knowledge is somewhat limited at this point.

Well, maybe things got a little overheated and it just needs a cool down. We wait awhile then try it again but it still won’t work. It’s pretty late in the day at this point so we might as well call it “beer-thirty” and enjoy the lovely evening. After all, tomorrow is another day and by then the tractor will be completely cooled down..

Next morning – Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Crap. It’s a Sunday, so no tractor shops are open.  I remind M that his little brother (who lives in Illinois) is a diesel repair guy and didn’t he work on tractors when he was in the Marines?  M eventually gets a hold of him and they troubleshoot several different scenarios throughout the day over the phone but still nothing.

Now it’s late Sunday afternoon and M needs to hit the road. He’ll have to call the tractor dealer Monday morning and see if they have any ideas. We are still hoping it’s something simple that we are missing and that M can fix it because the logistics of hauling this thing out of here to the dealer is a nightmare at best.

Well, to make a short story even longer – M talks to the tractor guy who suggests it may be a pinched line or a blown seal.  M grabs more tools so he can take the seat off to access the rest of the hydraulic lines and heads back down to the farm after work on Tuesday evening. He has to use a headlamp to take the tractor apart and inspect the lines for pinching, blown seals, etc… as we don’t have any power in the barn yet.  Good times.

At 1030 pm that night I get a call saying he can’t see that anything is amiss so we will have to take the tractor back to the dealer. As it is still under warranty, we need to go to the dealer we purchased it from – a good 2.5 + hours from the farm. And we don’t have a trailer yet. M rode down on his motorcycle and I am at home with the truck. Blerg.

So, I get up at 500 am, feed and secure the animals and head down to the farm. We borrow our good friends (and constant saviors!) S & J’s trailer (they live about 15 minutes from the farm), load, strap and chain the tractor up and hit the road. Me in the truck hauling the tractor and M on his motorcycle heading to work.

I dropped the tractor off about 1230 pm Wednesday.  The tractor guy says it might take them a few days as they have never encountered an issue like this before – the front hydraulics operating but not the rear. I don’t leave there feeling too confident about getting the tractor back by Friday so we can use it this weekend.  I try reciting my new mantra “we always make progress – in spite of the bumps in the road along the way”, but man the bumps lately have jarred me so much I have a constant buzzing in my head (and low back pain too!).

Oh well, there’s a super awesome taco truck across the street from the tractor dealer. A couple of tacos and some sopes will set me to right. Then it’s back in the truck and the long journey home…



About La Femme Farmer

Starting up a small farm is the goal for the second half of my life. It's a late start I know, but better late than NEVER! Growing food, cooking and eating are my passions and now I get to do it full-time (and then some). and yes, that's a tomato from my garden!
This entry was posted in Construction, Farm Machines, Homesteading, Preparing the land, Water Management and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Between a [lot of] Rock and a Hard Place

  1. DM says:

    that is a lot of random stress all coming @ you, one after another..just the commute in the dark on a motorcycle would be enough. (do you guys have deer or other large 4 legged creatures out there?) Reason I ask, there are usually several accidents a year in our area of motorcycles encountering deer after dark. Never a good outcome. Sorry about the hydraulic breakdown. I am out of my element when it comes to things mechanical like that as well. The fact that both the power takeoff and hydraulics went out is fishy. Thanks for the detailed update. Always enjoy hearing the details..the good as well as the not so good. DM

  2. Thanks DM. Yes – we have lots of deer around here. The truck and bikes have deer whistles – so far they seem to work. No accidents – knock on wood!
    Glad you appreciate details – I just can’t help myself when it comes to detail. I worked almost my whole life in law firms and it’s just the way I’m wired, Just to give you an idea – I edited out A LOT of details before posting! ; D

  3. I was wondering how things were going. That drain looks like a lot of work, but I know it will be worth it in the long run. I am always impressed at how carefully you guys have thought out the infrastructure details of your farm. I know that’s part of permaculture design, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone else’s account of this stage of building their farm that includes mundane stuff like drains – they might be mundane, but they’re important, and people are apt to toss them off in a single paragraph – we had the dozer guy come in and whip up a swale for us – kind of thing. With your account, I’m getting a very real glimpse of how much really goes into such a design, so thank you for that.

    Your poor back. I’ve been having trouble with mine off and on all summer. In your case, I can hear that it was at least partly because of the stress, and possibly you had a bug of some sort as well that affected it as well. Take care of it when you can!

  4. Thanks for stopping by SSF! I started this blog to literally document our journey to the farm – the good, the bad and the ugly. Probably not the most interesting or thought-provoking farm blog out there, but I hope that other newbies like us can at least benefit from our trial and error. It’s been a huge learning curve for us. I also like to think that at some point down the road when this all ancient history [for us] that we can look back on it and laugh our asses off!
    I love following blogs like yours, Practicing Resurrection and Throwback at Trapper Creek (just to name a few) – real farmers doing real farm work so that I can learn from you what the actual day to day activities are and the choices you have to make. It helps steer us in the right direction more often than not.
    Knowledge is power but if you don’t know what you don’t know – well now, that’s the scary part!

  5. Bill says:

    I’m slow to get around to commenting on this, but I’m sure sorry you’ve had such headaches to deal with. We’ve had our shares of times like those around here too. Especially when we were in the early stages of making the farm functional it often seemed like one step forward, two steps back. But it all came together over time and it will on your place too. In the meantime, take care of your back. I threw mine our earlier this year and came to realize that without a good back there isn’t much I could do around here.

  6. Thanks Bill. I know what you mean about having a bad back – not much a farmer can do with a bad back so better take care of it or find a new line of work!

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