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Broken farm equipment
2 November 2009

Sparks

Sometimes farming Kona coffee is cool, other times it really sucks.  My latest headache is all the broken equipment.  Even though much of the farm work and all of the coffee picking is done by hand, there's still plenty of equipment to break and it always seems to break at once.  The list of farm equipment that is currently broken includes the tractor, the mower, the manure spreader, the weed whacker, all the trailers and my truck.

The tractor being broken is nothing new.  I got the tractor working after the last overhaul then tried to sell it but apparently I've complained about it too much on this website so nobody wants to buy it.  It was all clean and shiny too.  At least it was until I had to use it again.  And now it's broken again.

ORings I was moving some rocks and mulch around when the steering gave out.  In order to drive in a straight line I have to slowly turn the steering wheel constantly to the right.  It's the hydraulic steering cylinder that's bad.  A new cylinder is $220.  A rebuild kit, containing a couple little o-rings, is $25.  I'm going to try the rebuild kit first and hopefully I won't need a whole new cylinder.  The rebuild kit should arrive in a couple days.

The mower still works but only sometimes.  It's the starter that is causing problems on the mower.  Occasionally it will spin without cranking the motor.  I can't get at the starter enough to see exactly what's going on and if I remove the starter that's a guarantee that it will work fine.  So I'm going to wait until it breaks a little more before I try to fix it.  Hopefully it just needs to be cleaned.  Hopefully.

The manure spreader is what I'm working on now.  We just had the largest round of harvesting that we've ever had.  The harvest wasn't all that big, it was actually depressingly small, what made it seem big is the number of pickers we had.  We normally only have five or six pickers here at a time and that limits how much coffee cherry we get per day.  This time the local mill was closed and since I pulp my own coffee, all the pickers showed up here.  It was like a giant party with cars parked everywhere.  They picked almost the entire farm in a single day.

All that coffee went into my pulper and all the discarded pulp went into the manure spreader.  I was careful to not get it too full because I didn't want the axle to bend or break.  The axle held up fine, instead it was the chain drive that broke.  Of course it snapped when totally full, it's not like it would break when sitting there empty.  Luckily I had a couple helpers that day, John and Matt.  They both got shovels while I drove the truck.  Good deal!

After emptying and cleaning out the manure spreader I disassembled it so I could get at the broken part.   The chain snapped not just because it was old and rusty but because it was attached to gear that was so old and rusty that it had seized in place.  Penetrating oil, pipe wrenches, pry bar, heating it with a torch, pounding it repeatedly with a sledge hammer... nothing worked.  Finally I cut the thing off and took it down to the local machine shop to get a new one fabricated.  When it's ready, hopefully soon, I'll weld it back on then reassemble everything.  If all goes well the trailer will be working in time for the next round of harvesting.  Hopefully.

Next on the list is the weed whacker.  Little two cycle engines are almost always temperamental and this one is no exception.  Lately it's been refusing to start.  Sometimes it will start but not have any power.  I think it just needs a good cleaning.  Instead, I decided to set it in the barn and hope that it cleans itself.  That's worked before.  A little time out will sometimes correct its attitude problems.

Trailer I own several different trailers and they're all broken in one way or another.  Most of the trailers need some welding before they can be used again.  They're sitting out back waiting for them to weld themselves.  In addition to needing some welding, the little ATV trailer also has two flat tires.  They're so flat they came off the rims so I can't simply inflate them again.  Rather than haul the trailer to a garage to remount the tires, I've decided to let it sit there and rust.  That'll teach it.

My big trailer still works fine, I just have to shovel out its load of dirt so I can take it to be registered.  Renewing the registration costs $57.25 plus the inspection fee and all the hassle.  A ticket for no registration costs $70.  It's tempting to risk the ticket.

The scariest item on the list is my truck.  I need the truck so I have to keep it running.  Recently it has started acting up at odd times, like it's going to stutter and die.  I'd suspect something simple like a fuel filter or condensation in the tank except that the check engine light is also on.  I looked up the error code and it says "Internal Control Module Memory Check Sum Error."  Unplugging the battery to reset the computer didn't help.  I checked at the dealership and the price of a new control module is more than $1000.  Stupid truck.

You can help fix all my farm equipment.  The best way to help is to buy some of our Kona coffee.  Buy lots and lots of coffee.  Then go buy some more coffee for your friends.  The holidays are coming up soon, I'm sure you know someone that would like some fresh 100% Kona coffee.  If not, maybe you know someone that would like to buy a used Chinese tractor.




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