You may have read, somewhere in the archives, how I killed my tractor. But to save you looking for the details, it went something like this:

o I stalled the tractor while cutting some grass.
o Before I re-started it, I thought I might as well check the oil level, which I’d never done. It read: “DANGEROUSLY LOW”.
o I bought some oil. But not straight away. Which meant the tractor sat where it was for a while.
o I added the oil. But I still didn’t start the tractor. Because one of the tyres has no thingymajig in the wotsit. Which means it needs pumping up once a month (to save the tyre becoming dangerously low, too). But I didn’t have a portable compresser to put the air in. And in an effort to save €50, I waited for my friend Claude (who does have one) to drop by. He didn’t drop by any time soon. So the tractor sat there for a while longer.
o I bought a compressor and put air back into the tyre.
o I tried to start the engine. There was a bubbling sound and then… nothing.

Over the next year or so, I conferred with a number of people on what had probably happened. And the conclusion was: rain.

You see, my tractor has a vertical exhaust pipe. It turns out this is a very good way of catching rain. And while the tractor had been sitting there all that time, it had rained quite a lot – as much as several inches, to be imprecise.

When I tried to start the tractor, some kind of suction had drawn water into the engine, mortally wounding it. It might have survived if I’d contacted my friend Claude straight away. But I didn’t get him to look at the engine for about a year. By which time, it was a solidly ex-tractor. I felt terrible. The engine is a couple of years older than me. And it had died for want of an empty baked-bean tin (or equivalent) placed over the top of the exhaust.

It is one of the most expensive mistakes I have ever made.

So when I borrowed a tractor from a neighbour a few weeks ago, I was at pains to assure him that I would put something over the top of his equally vertical exhaust, in the event of rain.

Bernard’s tractor is magnificent. Me and Ed (one of this year’s last and loveliest guests) loaded several tons of rocks into the bucket on the back, which can be emptied by pulling a handle. In one afternoon, we moved the equivalent of about 80 wheelbarrows of rock from one side of écovallée to the other, in preparation for the new road and parking area.

But as I haven’t come close to making you aware, that wasn’t the only thing we’ve had to do recently. With the arrival of our two first (and equally lovely) HelpXers, our winter yurt platform leapt to the top of the list.

We cleared the site, dug away some hillside and put recovered concrete blocks into the ground, despite the rain (which was only really heavy one night).

A couple of days ago, I woke up early in the morning. I wondered why I had woken up and then… panicked. Because despite my promises to Bernard – despite a very expensive and easily avoidable lesson – I hadn’t put anything over the exhaust of his tractor.

I went down to the field, hoping that I had reversed the tractor into the woods far enough to stop the rain getting in. Or that a leaf had blown down to sit perfectly over the exhaust, saving me the cost of a re-build for which I would have to sell… something.

No such luck. The exhaust was open to the air, inviting all interested precipitation to enter and travel down the manifold straight into the engine.

I worried.

I resolved to call Claude and get his advice. But I still worried. And I thought it would be outrageous for me to get my tractor doctor in to strip someone else’s engine, without that someone knowing anything about it.

So I took half a dozen eggs round to Bernard’s house and confessed my stupidity.

He took it very well, as it goes. He told me not to worry and said he’d come round the next day and have a look. Which was yesterday.

We walked across the field towards the potentially stricken machine. He climbed in, sat on the tractor, turned the key and… no problems at all. Started first time. (TFFT.)

I think I’ve learnt my lesson now.

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