Ian's purchase at the auction
There was big excitement around our place last week. Ian bought a new tractor at an auction. I should qualify “new.” It’s a 1959 Case tractor, but that’s a decade younger than our other tractor — a 1949 International Harvester.
When Ian pulled into the driveway with that tractor on a trailer behind him, he was marking the victorious end of an epic quest. This spring, in pursuit of the most useful machine at the best price, he visited a wonderful elk farm, got stuck in a treacherous driveway out by Waconia, and choked on smoke in a huge machine shed in Iowa. He’d spent countless hours doing research. He had decided he wanted this tractor that would be sold at this auction, but bidding was growing close to the price he was willing to pay. Then, the other guy stopped bidding, and the tractor was ours.
Now all we need is a machine shed to go with our tractors. In the mean time, our new machine is sitting out by the driveway, waiting for some repairs. I teased Ian that he was announcing our good news to the community by parking it there, just as certainly as if he were to mail little “new member of the family” announcements to all the neighbors and the people who drive down our busy country road. Nothing goes unnoticed, so parking something in such a prime place for viewing seemed quite forward to me.
Ian responded that he wasn’t trying to make a statement. He was just trying to find a place for everything. Besides, he said, he had obscured the view of the tractor by parking our poorly functioning minivan between it and the road. So our modesty was being maintained.
We also bought a mixer mill and placed by the driveway as modestly as possible, obscured from the road by one of the big metal gravity wagons we use to hold chicken feed. Our mill is also covered by a large blue tarp to keep the rain from dripping inside it and rusting out the mechanisms. The enormous, billowing blue tarp gives a sense of mystery to the thing, which is a full story high. Our friend John, who helped wrap it in the tarp, said it looked like a prize on a game show. A game show host could clap a smiling winner on the back and bellow, “For your fabulous prize, you can choose to open Door 1, open Door 2, or take whatever is under this enormous tarp!”
I would willingly choose the thing under the tarp. At the peak last summer, I sometimes was carrying 700 pounds of feed in a single day. As much as I love exercise, we decided our operation had reached the size when we should consider using machines to move that feed. The mixer mill, together with our “new” tractor, will help us do that.
It wasn’t easy to find the mill because our small scale of farming is so old-fashioned. Our good friend Chuck knew an elderly gentleman who owned a mill though, and the guy was willing to sell if Chuck came down to see him. So Ian, Chuck, and a friend with a bigger pickup than ours met up in southern Minnesota to eat pie, drink coffee, and buy the mill. Then, they drove home at about 30 miles an hour because they were hauling such large, awkward equipment. I don’t think the slow pace bothered Ian because he was chatting the whole way home.
Who needs to invite friends over for a party when you could take a road trip and buy a feed mill instead?
The feed mill will eventually need more protection from the elements than our tarp can provide. We will eventually need a machine shed, and we’ll be working toward it too, a little bit at a time, just like we worked toward the purchase of all this equipment.
In the meantime, we’ll manage with what we have, knowing that our machinery is not just there to make our farm run more efficiently. It might also be a source of entertainment for the whole community. And most importantly, it can occasionally be used as a reason to eat pie with friends.