Winter at the farm is well… cold and boring.  The basic routine holds, we get here on Friday night (well after dark),  sleep in a bit since the sun rises late, and do what needs to be done.  Typically that is limited to feeding the cattle and running the fence lines to fix anything the deer have destroyed – maybe 4-5 hours of outdoor work a weekend. 

We have fallen into a routine of eating brats from the local HyVee for Saturday nights dinner – we are particularly fond of their pineapple ones.  Cooking them, especially when its snowing, can be a bit of challenge – since brats MUST, by definition, be done on the grill.  For the record, if it gets cold enough, propane grills don’t work, or at least not well…

Lets see, probably the three most memorable events from this winter were getting snowed in once (which the dog thought was great!).  It took me too hours to try and make it to the asphalt highway, about a mile away.  Ended up having to tow the pickup truck, with family on-board, with my tractor.  Ever time we got started rolling under its own power, we would get stuck.  Thought we would be OK – I have new M&S tires on the truck after all.  Just to make sure, I moved the truck up a few feet without problem.  Loaded the family, and spun in place.  Towed the truck a few hundred feet to the electric fence gate (mostly uphill), and managed to drive it our main gate – stuck again.  Got it onto the county gravel road and we managed to make about a 1/4 miles before we went sideways.  Walked back to farm, got the tractor, again, and towed it a bit farther.  Made it to within about 50 feet of the state highway… ALMOST couldn’t even tow it up that last 50 feet, but eventually we made it.  Of course, that meant I had to drive the tractor back to the farm and walk back to the truck – but a mile or so is just good exercise.

The next two are both Kubota RTV (seen parked next to the house) related.  We have a bad habit of leaving the keys in the tractor and RTV when we are here – its convenient, and you always have them when you need them.  Unfortunately, the RTV is Vixens (the dog’s) best buddy.  She sleeps on or under in, runs with it, barks at it, and rather demands we take it out of the storage shed the moment we arrive, even if it is 1am…  Well, apparently, while getting onboard, she rubbed against the key and turned it on.  By morning: dead battery (and another dozen hours on the engine meter, which is electric and doesn’t care if the engine is actually running, just if the key is on).  No problem… figured I’d jump it with the tractor.  Brought the tractor over and discovered that last fall I apparently ran a branch through the front grill and broke the battery.  For months, the tractor had been starting short one cell!  Not sure why, but I couldn’t jump.  Oh well, decided to focus on getting home and worry about it the next trip.

The next trip’s priority was getting into town on Saturday before the local auto shop closed (~2pm ish).  We always try to work with the local family owned stores rather than the chains, and work with Missouri chains like Orschelns vs. the Home Depots and Walmarts of the world.  Turns out this was Valentine weekend, my mother-in-law was visiting from Russia, and agreed to stay in the city with the kids so that Evia and I could have a quiet weekend together.  We made the shop by about 1pm, and was greeted by a knowledgeable young man who ID’ed the battery from 10 feet away and offered me a replacement, walking into the back and grabbing one.  Bought a charger while we were there for the RTV, and then proceeded to the movie theater – the cows could wait until Sunday.  We ended up spending the rest of the day at the theater, watching 3 movies.  Evia is a big movie buff, so this was a great day for her.  Dinner was popcorn, hotdogs, and pickles washed down with soda (and I think beer with those dogs).  Of note, this was good timing.  Although it tried, the damaged battery had given its all, and could not start the tractor.  The replacement worked fine of course and Sunday saw to the feeding of the cattle.

Finally, the last chore of the season:  Figure out why the Kubota RTV was having such problems.  It was pretty apparently that either I was having a fuel pump problem, or something was clogging the line from the tank.  I never found any reference to an in-tank fuel pump online (although surprising, Google was failing me pretty badly on help with this issue), so I decided to remove the fuel tank and take a look.  That was pretty much an all day event (given the shortness of winter days), and involved disassembling the seat area of the RTV – seat had to come out, and the head rest, and the side panels, and finally access was available to get to the tank strap bolts and work it out.  Sloshed a half-gallon or so of diesel in the tank and dumped into a bucket… and out came a small pile of semi rotted leaves!  Rinced and repeated a few times until I didn’t see anything new coming out, and put it all back together again.  RTV started right up and has been running fine every since.  Vixen was thrilled, having been quite confused on why her friend wouldn’t run with her.