The past two days, we’ve been working on the poetic project of converting an antique tractor into a piece of horse drawn, ground driven machinery. We bought a 1941 Case VC from a retired guy with a barn of fifty tractors, pumped up the tires, moved a couple pieces of machinery out of its way, and pulled it out of the dirt that had flowed around the wheels and hardened, cementing them to the floor of the barn. Roger was kind enough to trailer it to our farm the next week. When we parked in front of the shop at Northland, Donn hopped into the seat to steer and, not sure whether the brakes worked or not (we still don’t know), we pushed it down the ramp and onto the driveway where it rolled to a stop.
Less than a week later, on Saturday morning, a small group assembled around the tractor to begin. Our event was a part of FarmHack, an open-source community of farmers, engineers, tinkerers, computer programmers, artists, and others who work to share innovations that support the small scale, sustainable farm revival in this country. Ours was the fourteenth Farm Hack event since the inception of the organization in 2010. Most of the events are a mix of project showcases, design charrettes and brainstorming sessions, good food, project builds, and the opportunity to meet like-minded people in your region. If you’re interested in sustainable agriculture, I highly recommend seeking out and attending a FarmHack event.
On day one of our hack, we split the tractor in two, removing the front end (engine, clutch, and steering), from the back axle, rear differential, and transmission. We wrapped chains around the Case, put a jack under the transmission, broke free the six bolts that hold the front and back together, and, slowly backing our other tractor away, split the Case in two. We propped the front end up in a bay of the barn and turned our attention to the transmission.
The week before, in the first five minutes we had the tractor on our property, we shifted through the gears, marveling at how well it worked for such an old machine. We had to see whether when we pushed the tractor forward, the PTO shaft would spin (this was what we were counting on to power our hay tedder or rake; as the horses pull the tractor along the ground, the PTO shaft should be driven by the wheels). We pushed and it spun! We wondered if we could shift it into reverse, push it forward, and have the PTO spin the opposite way. We did, it didn’t, and suddenly we could only shift into reverse. All of the other gears were completely locked. It took us a couple of hours, a cup of tea, a search of the google machine, and a couple of phone calls before we solved this one—with the transmission cover off, we manually moved the gears into the neutral position, with none touching each other, set the forks, slipped the cover back on and were able, again, to shift into all four speeds.
It was great to have people on the farm to work on the forecart—the group was small the first day but people came out for the paella party (thanks to Maryrose) Saturday night and we had more people arrive, including Severine of the Greenhorns, Sunday afternoon and another delicious dinner Sunday night with that crew.
In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be finishing the cart, welding up the frame, bolting on the tongue, building our bench seat, hooking up and pulling it with horses. Keep an eye out for more updates about our progress and many more photos which are soon to come!
|Explaining the project|