Fathers Day on the Farm

If, last year, you’d given me a multiple choice quiz on how I would elect to spend this Fathers Day, I might have suggested

  1. Cooking waffles for friends and family
  2. Flying
  3. Hiking up some glorious mountain somewhere.

Crawling around under a greasy tractor, hammering away on a bolt with a wrench as long as my arm would not have made the short list.

And yet here I am, scraped, bruised, and caked in a sort of papier-mache of all the debris that was on the barn floor but is now held together (and to me) by the layer of machine grease I’ve picked up squirming around under the suspended brush hog. It’s a fabulous Fathers Day, and it’ll be even better if I’m able to get this bolt off.

It’s embarrassing how gratifying I’m finding work here on the farm. I can try to do push-ups, sit-ups and the like back home, but five minutes in, I’m bored out of my skull and yearning to go check email. Out here, it feels natural to just go out each morning and pull up thistle for an hour, or tromp down to the pond to check on the egrets when I wake up. I return invigorated and not at all missing the internet. Plus, there’s less thistle when I’m done.

But back to the tractor: turns out that one of the reasons that first field I mowed looked like such a mess was that the blades on our brush hog (think five foot wide lawnmower) were about as sharp as a wiffle bat. It didn’t so much cut the grass as beat it into submission. Sharpening the blades means removing them, and removing them means the aforementioned crawling, scraping, banging and papier-mache’ing.

The blades (and recalcitrant bolt) in question. The tire and two-by-four there are braced under the frame to prevent it from going all Wicked Witch of the East on me if the hydraulics on the three-point hitch go out for some reason.

I’ve been to three different hardware stores this morning (twice to Henery), acquiring advice, calipers,  rubber tubing, the wrench in question, more advice, a steel tube to extend leverage on the wrench, and all the various hardware store impulse aisle items you realize you can’t live without. For the folks at Henery, it really must feel like they’re watching some rural Indy 500 from the track level, checking their stopwatches to gauge when I’m going to come around for another lap.

But – no surprise – it’s enormous fun, and feels like an entirely appropriate way to spend Fathers Day. I mean, think about it: society expects us, as dads, to be competent. The archetype of dadliness is “Oh, you poor dear! Go find Dad – he’ll be able to fix your broken computer/bicycle/heart/cryptographic protocol.” Isn’t it? So getting to fix things, especially big manly things like tractors, lets us feel like we’re doing a great job of dad’ing. Even if we have skipped back up to the farm solo, and our wife and kids are making do without us back in California. But let’s ignore that part. Upshot is that it’s been a great Fathers Day.

And it’ll be even better if I can get that %$(@$*! bolt loose.


Hey, also: remember how when I was on the NBP last time, I figured I had to put in a picture of some penguins with each post, regardless? Well, goats. They’re smarter and friendlier than penguins. Here are some of the girls playing “King of the Abandoned Farm Utensil”:

I think we’re gonna have to get a dedicated goat cam.

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