Friday, February 25, 2011

Spring Gardening Update

Its February...its spring! We had saved up for a tiller for the tractor but had been putting off the actual purchase until we researched all of the brands, found the best deal, and figured out how we could get it home (they weigh about 600 lbs). So we ended up with a King Cutter II 48" tiller that has a geared drive instead of chain and it came with a slip clutch for the PTO shaft. Its not all shiny like a Landpride or one of the Italian makes but its built like a tank, works great, and we ended up getting it new for $300.00 off the list price.

We had them load it on our quipment trailer with a forklift towards the front so it would ride better on the trip home (remember its 600 lbs) and then we had to use a bunch of Rube Goldberg efforts to get it off the trailer. It was in a wooden shipping crate and the loader on the tractor couldnt go high enough to lift it from the trailer. We looked at driving under a tree and using a come-along or a block and tackle but ended up tying a rope to the tiller and loader and then dragging it to the back of the trailer. Then we used the loader to help slide it down the ramps but the crate started to come apart and it got hung up. Needless to say we jimmied and pryed and in the end I was actually able to lift the thing off the ramps myself (and didnt pull out the hernia stitches!!). Holly got onto me about it but you know, digging all those post holes by hand is helping.
The tiller was at the front of the trailer and we pulled it to the back and then finally got it down the ramps and off loaded. In my mind the trailer was lower to the ground when we had them load the tiller and the loader was taller or I would have planned better.

Its a mud bog all over rural Missouri right now and in another indication of my lack of planning I never got around to getting the gravel laid last fall. Thats still an upcomming project.

And the machine in question.

6 heavy duty and replaceable tines per wheel. Tilling depth is adjustable down to 8" deep.

At the same sale we were able to pick up a middle buster for less than a C-note.

In addition to greasing the zerks on the tiller (green grease of course) and adding high pressure gear oil to the gearboxes the PTO shaft needed to be cut down. I took it appart, carefully measured for the maximum and minimum distance from the tractor PTO shaft and tiller at various lifting points, cut an equal amount from each half of the PTO shaft, trimmed the shield and then reassembled the thing and hoped I didnt royally screw it up. It worked perfect and in this photo you can also see the slip clutch just to the right of the saw handle.

I dont have live PTO so the tractor has to be engaged for the PTO shaft to work. I put it in 1st gear low, let out the tractor clutch and get the rpms up to about 2800 which is the 560 rpm point for the PTO and then come up to the tilling point and slowly drop the tiller.

I always keep the tractor in 4WD when doing ground engagement activities and I still need to add fluid to the tires but the tiller really didnt need any help and it worked flawlessly. The slip clutch even worked as it should when I hit a rock.

This was set at 6" depth and it came out like you had just layed 6 inches of topsoil on the ground out of a bag. We will be using it to prepare planting fields and tilling in various organic compost and green manure.

We just tested it for now. This is two passes side by side and the reason there are no tractor tire tracks is because the tiller is offset to the right to cover the right rear tire track.

And we have some of our onion starts planted already and doing well.

We seriously underplanted onions last year and this year we aim to correct that. We have several bags of onion sets to plant yet.

Our spinach patch from last fall survived and is producing again (yes we need to weed it).

The thyme is already going strong and we have planted other herbs in the greenhouse.

We plant many different varieties of vegetables and herbs for our own use and sale in addition to fruit trees and berries but we also plant a lot of flowers and ornamentals. Additionally, this year we have continues to expand our foray into grains and plants to act as deterents to animals and insects like castor beans, marigolds, etc.

Our early seed starts are doing well in the greenhouse even though its still getting below freezing at night (the greenhouse is heated).

We like the peat cups for most things as they can be planted directly into the ground and its less stress on the plant. They are also environmentally sound which is never a bad thing.

Many, many , many more to go.

And finally, we have a skunk and rabbit problem and we will be relocating some with these live traps.

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