The day started chaotically enough--we had errands to run; a payment arrived, express mail, from the gentleman making restitution for taking our deposit on the driveway and disappearing1; we had movies to drop off; we went to visit RS and pick up some hearing protection--we thought it was in our gun bag, but no such luck. We make dinner plans with RS. Then it was off to Tractor Supply Company to get a Diesel can [and some Vetrap], and to pick up some Esso Diesel at the Exxon. How quaint! Somewhere along the way, Quinn got his wish and we stopped for Chicken Nuggets and Apple Dippers. Off to the farm--the more I thought about it, the more I thought to myself "We just paid [mumbledy] dollars for that mechanical contraption, and, by gum, I want to operate it." At some point along the car ride, prettypammie said something like "Mommy's gonna cut the grass," and--sensing one of those, now or never moments--I cut in with, "Actually, if I may, I think I'd like to." I think Pam was surprised, but she acquiesced without complaint.
So, we get to the property and drive up and...no tractor. Uh-oh. I start looking around, and a see a speck of blue in the trees, across the field...behind the neighbors house. Sure enough, they didn't park it on our lot, as discussed. Okay, change of plans. Up to the driveway, to drive it down. Hop on, figure out which end is up, and...turn the key. Nothing. Pam and I went back and forth, her trying it, me trying it, pushing buttons, pulling switches, engaging push-stops. We lift the hood...mmm...this battery is ancient, but we knew that. After much deliberation, it's agreed upon that I will keep trying while Pam and Quinn go scare up a new battery.
Shorty after this, the tenants--in the process of moving out--drive by. "Please don't mind my tractor." Words my high-school class-mates most likely never envisioned hearing me say. I don't have any luck getting it started, despite calling various people in the know for advice. Eventually Pam shows up with a socket wrench set and a battery. I work the old battery out, discovering the missing battery vent cap in the process. Those suckers are heavy. I drop the old one a couple of inches, splashing myself in the face with battery acid. Luckily, it had been recently diluted, as along the way in troubleshooting, I'd attempted to refill the open cell from the pond, figuring that it's contents had evaporated. With a little help from their remaining tools, including a pry bar inserted between the rusted battery terminal's nut and the terminal to keep it from spinning, I got the new battery installed. At first it still wouldn't start, but eventually I found the right combination [HLR gear select in neutral; 1-8 gear select in neutral, clutch in, start assist depressed, fuel cutoff disengaged, brake on, all hydraulics down, NOW turn the key to start].
Off to the races. The new 72" bush-hog or ("Brushbull," complete with imposing picture of an angry steer] does a great job, and I'm mowing down grass, sticks, shrubs, survey stakes ["whoa! what was that?! WHOOPS...oh well, too late, press on!"] A three-foot grass snake and a fox elect discretion over valor and head for the hills as I make the first laps. Good call. I suspect without proof that other snakes were not as lucky, and I'm not looking underneath that thing for evidence of ocher to prove me right. At one point, Quinn and Pam climbed to the top of the "dirt mountain" from the driveway grading--Quinn was cheering me on enthusiastically. Later, I saw them drive the truck down to the port-a-john for a bathroom break, and, so I'm told, a nap. I get into the groove, figuring out the gearing options, getting the feel for raising and lowering the cutter to avoid gravel and dirt. I do a better job avoiding pin flags and survey stakes, but I still catch at least a couple more--they're impossible to see in the tall grass ahead, hard to miss, lying in tatters in the cut grass behind. I "discover," [experienced tractor operators are probably chuckling at this point] that it's faster to clover-leaf the corners rather than cut hard...cutting hard around the corners tended to leave ragged edges and bits and pieces behind, whereas on my loops, I could turn a little tighter or looser to clean up any bits I'd missed on earlier passes. I'm having fun, but the appointed hour to have dinner with RS has passed, I'm getting dehydrated, and a little munchy. The upper field, basically everything on our side of the line, is all mowed.
I hand over the controls to Pam, thinking that she'll just want to clean up a little bit and get a feel for it. After a little adventure up in the woods with Quinn, I come back out to help her refuel it and get it re-started. She starts making loops of the entire lower pasture--as much grass, if not more, than I just cut. My life starts to pass before my eyes. Quinn and I run around a little bit more, but my heart's not in it. I mave goodbye to Pam and take Quinn down to Hillsboro for a snack and some serious rehydration. We come back, and I see that Pam has had a change of heart and is cutting a smaller chunk out. Yay, prettypammie, my beautiful, talented, SMART sweety-girl! We finally wrap up, take Quinn for a quick ride [after disengaging the Power-Take-Off, and raising the cutter, safing it somewhat--probably would have been better to remove it entirely, but neither one of us was up to figuring that out] It was Quinn's bed-time before we even left the property. We all got cleaned up, and Pam and Quinn passed out. I was too keyed up from the day--played PlanetSide until 0100.
Now I'm going to clean up, walk the dogs, and head out to meet them at the Warrenton Pony Show.
1. I tell you, it's amazing what an unequivocal and enforceable order from a judge will do--although he's been occasionally late with payments, ever since the court order he's been doing his best and keeping up. We've been flexible on payment dates, so long as he doesn't skip a payment. I don't want the father of a young girl put in jail; that said.