Friday, June 24, 2011

10 Lessons from G the Skid Steer


My first day on the Big Farm I learned how to drive a skid steer to move large round bales of hay from the field to the barn.  It was my very first time driving a large piece of farm machinery by myself. This week I got to take the skid steer out to move water for the girls' pasture.  Between these sessions I learned a lot of things.

Lesson #1: Going over ruts too quickly will bounce the skid steer so badly you'll rattle the pallet forks enough to jiggle them into a new position on the bar.  This maneuver will result in not being able to get close enough to a bale to actually pick it up, but you will have the ability to slide a bale across the field instead. This will only happen when your friendly farm mentor comes out to the field to check on how you are doing.

Lesson #2: It takes a wee bit of practice to get the hang of the controls.  Many times I've lowered instead of lifted, turned the wrong direction, and tilted the attachment the opposite way I intended.  Be prepared to be patient with yourself.

Lesson #3:  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  When faced with moving G (short for Gehl, the manufacturer of the skid steer) out from behind the rock pile, trapped against a fence, a task that appeared to me to be akin to threading a camel through the eye of the needle, do not just assume that since someone got her back there, it must be possible to get her out again.  Although I succeeded, my attempt provided several minutes of entertainment value to the owner of the skid steer.  The following day, I asked for help.

(This advice also goes for asking someone to remove a very large spider from the tub so you can take a shower.)

Lesson #4:  A fifty-gallon water trough full of water will yield about 35 gallons of water once you move it from the pole building to the field.  This is OK though, since the trough in the girls' pasture happens to be 35 gallons. I don't recommend going too quickly over the bumpy road on the way out there, or you may have to make two trips to get enough water.

Lesson #5: When Justin tells you during your instructional session a week ago not to park G on a hill because she has no parking brake and therefore she will tend to roll, it is best to file that piece of data away in the front of one's brain where it can be easily retrieved.  Failure to do so will result in the startling, adrenaline-jolting conclusion that the now-nearly-empty water trough in G's bucket is no longer heavy enough to act as a parking brake, and in fact, G is now pushing both the nearly-empty water trough and you backwards down the hill towards the fence line.

Lesson #6: Don't assume logical thoughts will occur under the above scenario.  They won't.

Lesson #7: A 66 Kg woman cannot stop a 4000 pound piece of machinery from rolling down a hill. 

Lesson #8: Don't attempt the above maneuver with a full bladder.

Lesson #9: After completing your task and avoiding a major catastrophe with the fence line and realizing you now need a shower and a change of clothes and are probably too shook up to attempt to park G back behind the rock pile where you retrieved her from back when your nerves weren't quite so shaken, it is wise to look for a level place to park her near the rock pile to avoid the above scenario repeating itself.

Lesson #10: Hearing the words 'She's gonna roll,' while standing with the owner of the skid steer and garage that G is now rolling towards because you yet again didn't park her on level ground, is even worse than realizing G is pushing you backwards down a hill towards a fence.

Gratefully, the Radloffs have a great sense of a humor and a lot of patience.  I even heard a story that one of them accidentally let G roll into a creek once.  I felt a little better after hearing that. 

I highly recommend finding someone similar to mentor you if you have the same crazy dream that I have of someday running a farm of your own.

What new skill are you tackling lately?


Frances said...

There are definitely lots of things you could learn from operating a skid steer.

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