I've been going round with a rented backhoe for a week plus, and it seems just when I start to get some traction, it throws rain at me and everything gets sloppy again. I've got the project and pictures at www.permaculturebob.org the Construction Updates are current and describe the process.
I have a plan to extricate myself and leave the dam in a state where hand work and/or machine rental at a later (dry) time will do a better job at finishing but I'm really open to other experiences with weather related hassles. Any little tricks or techniques working with the hoe in bad conditions would be welcome.
I'm lucky in that i have spare material in a second, nearby contour dam where the subsoil is drier and I've been mixing that in with the wet clay to try and stabilize the situation but that can only go on so long before i run out of soil.
I wasn't going to put in a drain pipe, but the situation being what it is, if I don't want to be putting water wings on the backhoe I'm going to have to install the drain pipe, see if the ground hardens enough in the coming freezes to put the dam in some sort of reasonable shape before I leave it for the winter.
Except for the solidity of the soil, the dam, keyway, spillway/swale all seem to be coming together pretty good, but this backhoe just wants to slide on the slightest slope with the smallest amount of moisture.
Sorry for your troubles. I rent a lot of heavy equipment for the custom land clearing I do for other farmers and myself, and without question, as soon as the machines are delivered, the rains come.
I tend to rent machines with tracks and cabs so as to get the most use out of rented equipment even in bad weather. Most of the time you run out of days before you run out of allotted hours, meaning you must get a lot of seat time to make a rental worth it. My wife has since learned, when I rent machines, she is going to be a heavy Equipment Widow because I am going to be on the machine all day and most of the night.
It depends on the rental shop, but the one I deal with the most extends rental automatically. In that way it is often cheaper to just run them over on hours and pay the difference later and save the hassle and cost of having them delivered.
I also budget in 30% over the rental cost for damage to equipment that I must pay for. I rented an excavator this fall, a 34,000 class Hitachi 160 and I:
Busted the front window tearing down a house
Folded in a shroud door on a tree
Broke the bucket Smashed a mirror (same tree)
Lost a track
And on the 700G John Deere Bulldozer (mid-sized) I broke a track literally in half, and shattered a drive sprocket.
I did not have to pay for the repairs, but I must admit, I am glad they were not my machines on the top of that mountain!
Wow Travis, sounds like you really get into machine operation. If I start designing for others, they will have to pay another operator and take responsibility for the machine.
I lost two teeth, and the backhoe arm almost came apart at the elbow, but that stuff is all covered by the insurance--I think they would charge me if I smashed a windshield.
I did get the drain in, and a couple days where I could drive around and clean up the bottom of the pond, get a little more material, and then hustle out before the next rains.
I also hit a gravel seam that started to feed water into the pond, and with rain and such it has two or three feet of water already (plus ice on top of that)
I also got a week on the upper gully dam which is actually much bigger, if it doesn't fill with water it will at least push the water into the ground.
I put in one long swale, and my advice to any who read this, is clear the corridor of trees and such by hand first, the backhoe cleaned everything off, but there's still lots of hand work follow up before the swale will function at peak, and having all that above ground debris where it belongs before breaking ground would have made the job cleaner, faster, and easier.
That was my intention at first, but as the calendar moved through November i decided to go for it, and finished none too soon for this year's rainy season.
Backhoe went back about two days before the snow, That thing would have done some real damage slipping and sliding around.
i've been looking for tracs and wrists but no one seems to carry the wrist and the tracs are about double or triple the backhoe cost
I got enough done this time to stop the priimary water loss down the gully, and hope I can keep up with the ponds and rain as they fill- my spillways are almost non existent, and I hope I can get away without them till August when I may try another go around with the monster.
I think I left 20+ hrs on the machine this time out of 160 so that was an acceptable loss. of course I lost at least that much time to slow going with the rain.
Thanks for confirming the rain making power of renting a machine, I thought it might be all in my mind.
Yeah it used to be rental companies gave you 210 hours, then reduced it down to 200 hours, then cut it to 180 hours, and now 160 hours. Jeesh, cut a man a break. I won't say cost is out of control. If you can put the hours on them, and get the work out of them, renting is a cheap alternative. Oh I will never give up my bulldozers...no way, but for the occasional job, renting is a great alternative.
As for size, I know cost is always an issue, but sometimes you cannot afford to go smaller even when you can't afford it. Yes a 34,000 pound excavator might cost 3 times as much as a backhoe, but if you can get 4 times more done with the bigger tracked machine, you are well ahead of the game. Send it back early and recoup your money, or keep it to the end of the rental agreement and get a lot more done then you thought. Easier said then done though I know.
I move a lot of stumps every year, thousands, so I cannot mess around with small equipment. Stumps require a heavy machine to keep them planted to the ground. It does not matter if it is a excavator or bulldozer. That 700 John Deere I rented this year was far too small, yet numbers can be deceiving. A 850 John Deere, just one size bigger is almost twice the machine weight and cubic yard wise over the 700.
I never fully explained the true cost of delivery though. What I meant was, it is often cheaper o just go over on the hours. Lets say you rented it for 160 hours and are at 155. You still need it for another week, so just keep it and do the work. Yeah you owe them another $3000 or whatever the weekly rate is, but if you let it go back, then get it again next year, you have to pay the transport fee again. Where I live I am an hour away from their hop, so I have to pay $120 an hour for delivery (wide load: low bed). Delivering the tractor here, then going back empty, then coming here empty and picking it up...that is $480!! That is a lot of money spent before production even begins to happen. That kind of chaffs my skin because most of the time the truck does not go back empty to the shop, they are on their way to another client so you end up paying for a trip they never make. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!
All I am saying is that when renting, every cost must be accounted for. Another one that gets missed is fuel consumption. For people used to filling their Kubotas with 7 gallons every week, it is a might different dumping 94 gallons of diesel in an 850 John Deere bulldozer EVERY NIGHT! That is a $200 daily fill-up. Best to plan ahead for it.
(I am not saying you did anything wrong letting it go back as you were hampered by the weather, I am just saying to others that when renting you need a sharp pencil, that is all). Glad you got done what you did. You did well, you deserve to relax a bit!
Yes, I really don't know that much about the nomenclature on the machines vs their actual ability to do a job, so I spent a half hr or so talking to the guy before (and after) about the advantages of the different machines.
Just depending on what's going on next year I'm hoping to get away with just a week's rental, but I'll definitely want the weather in my favor.
I do have a little (and very old) Alis Chalmers WC that has been retrofitted with a front loader, but using it has always taken a day of work to get it running, plus I really appreciate the peace and quiet of no machinery, so it has tended to sit idle.
After this last rental though, and with several major projects to finish up, I see the wisdom of making an investment in getting this machine in really good shape,even if it means spending several hundred (a thousand?) dollars and hiring someone to do it professionally.
The convenience of being able to turn a key and grade a driveway or lift a load of topsoil and the ability to then turn the machine off and not have to do a million other things right away is well worth the investment in maintenance at this stage. Often those tasks that require the extra muscle hold up other projects, and waiting for once or twice a year rentals slows things down and can be quite inconvenient. Heck, just having it parked and not moving next to the house blocks easy access and causes numerous extra steps.
I'd rather be spending money on plants, but right now it looks like the machinery is still demanding its attention if I'm going to get to that point where I can finally put away those machines for good and just wander through my gardens.
It was one of the things I underestimated when I began farming full time. A lot of the equipment I used, began to break, because before I went into full-time farming I just did not have the time to fix it right if it did break. I patched it back together, but as I began working the equipment hard 6 days a week, the strain was too much. So at least for 2016 my repair costs were pretty high. Another thing that contributed to that was now having the time to fix things right. Where as before I might not take the time to run to the store since I only had a few holidays, weekends, and vacation days to get everything done, I just cobbled it back together and tried to get by. Now I just go to the store, get the parts I needs and try and fix it right the first time. So thus I am hoping the repair bill was just a steep curve this first year.
Yes, it sounds like you may get some rewards down the road from being able to actually repair your machines (like go turn them on and have them start and run without having to find a new piece of bailing twine ).
I'm still very slow with my tractor repair, mostly from my own internal resistance, but partially from the cold weather. Periodically I gather the fortitude to go out and look at it, and so far I have found a defective solenoid, which now means it at least turns over when I turn the key. I also took the sediment bowl off completely and flushed out the gas tank which was half full of water anyway. Then had to buy a new sediment bowl which took about a month to find.
Now I'm into the coil and plan a trip to Auto Zone tomorrow bright and early to replace it, and then we'll see if it might at least start with some starter fluid sprayed into the air hose, and if that works, we'll see if it will run on the gas in the carb, then the dry rotted tires have to hold,....
I'm hoping that I can get by for a while just repairing the things that actually are already broken, or in the process of breaking, and leave all the preventive maintenance for a time when I have more money.
I really could use the tractor right away on the one pond, since the dry weather has really lowered the water level, but i guess I'll see if I'm riding the tractor tomorrow or repairing a tire or broken hydraulic line, or cleaning a carb.
I broke my skidder yesterday. Its been going for awhile; the winch controller has been messed up and would often constantly winch in when it should have been on hold. Yesterday though the charge pump in the tranny that drives the winch let go so now it won't release. Having a winch that is constantly winching in and failing to release is useless and makes a skidder a skidder. So I am back to pulling wood with my bulldozer. I thik I actually prefer logging with a bulldozer though.
Even then I got fuel issues myself. I was clearing land last year and knocked down a house for the people I was working for. The house had oil heat so they said I could have the fuel, but in retrospect I should have refused. It was teeming with water so I have been changing $21 fuel filters a lot. DRAT!
The starter is going on the bulldozer as well. It will eventually start, but like you I have been putting off working on it in these cold temperatures, but come Spring it sure would be nice to be ready to go. I got a few major earthwork projects to do, and as always, land clearing.
I got a major breakthrough yesterday, the engine actually fired and started to run, a friend was spraying starting fluid while I turned the key-- then of course when I turned on the gas, it just started running steadily out the carb onto the ground, so I'm onto the next repair.
We're supposed to have some sun this afternoon, I see a carb cleaning in my future, but it was pretty neat to hear it running after about 4 years sitting still. I'm starting to think about inflating tires to full pressure
I'm actually thinking about how nice it would be to do Permaculture on a nice suburban property with the biggest machine being a posthole digger. The bolt would likely still fall out and the thing would jam knowing my luck, I picked up a rake yesterday, took two pulls and broke the handle in two.
Listening to you talk about clearing land makes my troubles seem minor though.
Good luck with your skidder winch, and bulldozer starter--you must only have two machines, at least that is my experience, the number of machines is equal to or less than the number of problems at any one time
I got quite a few pieces of equipment so I usually have something available to move things with. Usually it is my tractor that has flat tires, but its been sitting idle a lot since having the bulldozer and skidder doing the grunt work (logging).
I did get the winch controller fixed on Saturday so now my skidder is going which means more wood out, which is always good. Then I started tearing into my bulldozer. The radiator has leaked a bit since I bought it; nothing bad, just a pint a day if I worked it hard. Well then it got worse and when you are spending more money on antifreeze then diesel going into it, its time to fix it. I tore into that after the skidder got fixed. It took me 2 hours to pull the radiator out, but I had to take the nose cone off, shrouds, pump, etc just to get at the thing; so I called myself blessed. I am going to put a block heater on while I am at this point too as my bulldozer is always around the farm and starting it in the cold will be much easier. Then of course there is the starter, the sloppy blade controller, the slop in the blade itself...
It is never ending, but with big machines, you get big jobs done so i can't complain, and they feed my family.
Well, it seems you may have more machines, but the only reason I couldn't predict that is cause you only mentioned the two problems.
I actually got a nice surprise after I wrote that post. I went up with the intention of pulling the carb, but decided to check it again just for fun, and the blessed thing started and ran till I either choked it out or finally turned it off.
Didn't even have to hook up jumpers.
Now I need to fill the tires, change the oil, fill the gear box with oil, check the water / antifreeze, see if the radiator is still holding .....
One thing though, while it was running I put some pressure on the hydraulics (knock wood) and so far I haven't seen any obvious hose leaks.
We're looking at rain likely tomorrow and weds, but maybe I'll get lucky and get some of the more routine maintenance out of the way and do a little work with it Thursday.
Good luck with that radiator, the starter, the sloppy blade controller, the slop in the blade itself...
Well I failed to mention that I was impressed. After 4 years of being idle, I might have given up on it myself.
I actually like mechanic work, took 2 years of schooling to be a diesel mechanic, but ended up being a machinist/welder instead. Now retired from that nonsense, I just farm, and while I wish I could do more repair work then operating; it is operating equipment that makes money. Rebuilding it...that gets expensive.
And of course a person never has the right machine no matter what they are doing. I often rent heavy equipment, but I really need my own excavator, a much bigger bulldozer, and of course a grader...
I still didn't get round to that maintenance--got distracted by a friend putting a couple fingers where they shouldn't have been when the shed they were moving suddenly dropped a foot or so. The tips of two fingers flattened and I lost a day driving him to the emergency room, then I spent a couple more days helping them finish the move because he was incapacitated.
Also of course normal garden stuff, Maybe tomorrow.
Anyway, one thing and another and another- keeps life interesting.
We did have some rain and everything worked pretty good, raining again now, and after a few tweaks I'm hoping for even better control of the water flows. It was working better at dusk, but morning will tell the whole tale -- knock on wood.
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