Busted, again

Our ‘new’ lawnmower had a catastrophic failure a couple days ago. It started by throwing a belt. I replaced the belt and couldn’t see anything wrong, but when Dave took it for a test run it started making horrible noises, so I took another look and found the bearing had blown apart on the big double pulley that runs the deck.

That assortment of bearings, snap rings, and spacers on the floor is what used to be the bearing assembly. The pulley itself got pretty chewed up too, so I ended up buying a new pulley as well. A bit of shopping around on the net brought the price from about $175 down to $120. I just have to figure out how it all goes together when the new parts arrive.

Just one more thing to keep me from working on the pony…

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What to do with those giant brush piles I made

The backyard was full of giant prickly brush piles after all my work last week clearing blackberry vines. Now we need to get rid of them. We don’t like burn piles, so we prefer to haul them away, but to do that, we have to move them around front. First, get a tarp, and tie it to the tractor. Oh, and a husband is handy to have around too!

After letting the piles dry a few days, they are fairly easy to move. Kind of like velcro – they all stick together. If you’re lucky you can just about roll the whole mess onto the tarp.

Away we go! I follow behind and grab the back corner to steer it a bit if necessary, or use my pitchfork to push stray branches back onto the tarp.

All the way around the house and shop…

Line it up with the pile on the driveway, and lift up the tarp to throw the new load on. 

And off he goes for the next pile. I think we moved 5 or 6 piles of brush this way, and now there is a very big pile on the driveway. A friend offered to let us use their farm truck to haul it away, so that’s the next step.

It’s sure nice to have the back yard all cleaned up and mow-able again!

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Garden update – 1 more row

One more row done – that’s three down and one more long row and one more short row to go. And of course this is just the compost layer. As soon as we get a chance to mow I’ll be laying on a layer of cut grass. On this latest row, halfway through I ran out of the chicken compost and had to switch to the llama compost.

And I moved the llama compost from the driveway to the garden with my new lawnmower! Yay! It also mowed a little path through the field to pull the trailer through, and did fine. Too bad it can’t shovel compost for me – I’m afraid I’m the weak link in getting more work done around here!

Rain, rain, rain and a new lawnmower

It’s that kind of day – wet and windy and sort of miserable compared to the beautiful week we’ve had. So no working in the garden. Can’t do much anyway because the van is gone and it has all my cardboard in it, and I can’t go pick up bales of peat moss  with the car.

But I can thin out my tomato sprouts and figure out what else I should be getting started in the house to plant when the time comes.

Out in the garage:

Our new mower! Not exactly new, in fact it’s at least as old as the last one, but it doesn’t have the baggage of years of frustration to go with it. I have decided I’m going to like it, and take good care of it so it will last a long time. It’s almost kind of cute.

Same kind of engine as the last one, except this one is 18hp with a 46 inch deck, so a bit stronger and wider than the old one. Automatic. Pretty much identical to the old one in every other way.

We struggled for a long time if we should spend the money on a used one, or twice as much money for a new one with fewer features than we wanted – but at least it would be new and have a warranty. That’s why I spent yesterday driving around looking for Sears refurb models, and visiting the local tractor dealer to check out their deals. The van breaking down sort of pushed us to do the cheapest thing we could get away with for the time being. This one came from a guy who repairs mowers on the side and resells them, he’s a friend of a friend, so they recommended we go see what he had, and this one looked good and had all the features we wanted. Either way, we had to get one soon, there’s just no way to maintain 3 acres without a lawn/garden tractor of some kind.

More lawnmower blues…

My lawnmower, which I HATE, seems to have finally bit the dust. I had a pro out to look at it yesterday and his conclusion was that the crank was hosed due to overheating – apparently the mower used up it’s oil on the last mowing session, and it got low enough the engine overheated, causing the crank to get bound up. So it turns, but just barely. He said I might get it running again, but he couldn’t recommend spending much money on it.

So now I’m looking for a nice used mower, hopefully not as used as this one was, to hold us over until we can afford something newer, or we sell the place and move 😉 Whichever comes first. Having a working lawnmower would certainly help push back the second option!

More drama with the lawnmower

Last week Dave was mowing the lawn while I was at work. Partway through the day he called me and said ‘it’s sitting in the driveway smoldering…’ Hmm, that doesn’t seem like something you want your lawnmower to do! He had doused it with water, and parked it out in the driveway far away from anything else flammable, and left it there while he came to the shop and traded places so I could check it out. I was thinking a wheel bearing had gone bad, but it turned out some grass debris had gotten into the front frame member and caught fire from the muffler being so close. We dug all the grass out and determined it was good to go and he finished mowing the field that evening.

Now, the lawnmower is in pieces again.

This time I took it apart because it won’t recharge the battery during use, so everytime we want to use it we have to plug the charger in a few hours before to get the battery charged back up. I suspected the alternator.

Last year I bought a new battery for it after replacing the starter (which was major surgery) and stupidly plugged it in backwards (the posts were reversed from the previous battery) and fried a number of things including a fuse and the original red battery cable, which I replaced last year. But it’s inability to recharge properly was still related to that incident.

This is the alternator. There’s not really much to it to go bad, but it turns out there’s a diode in the connector that acts like a one-way valve for electricity. I think it got blown out. At least it would make sense, and there’s no way to tell without an expensive test meter. So I ordered a new alternator for it, $30 from the John Deere shop, and hopefully I’ll have it back and running again soon.

The Lawnmower rides again!

I’ve once again gotten the mower running. It had thrown a belt, the tranny was acting up, and it was making a horrible metal-on-metal noise which made me very uncomfortable last time Dave used it. I thought for sure it was time for a new mower. But we stopped and looked at them at Lowes the other day and the cheapest one equivalent to ours was still $1000!

So I pulled the deck off and found a brace under the deck had rusted through on one end and gotten bent in so one of the blades was brushing it every go-round. So I removed the brace, replaced the belt, sharpened the blades, greased whatever needed greasing, and put the deck back on (with Dave’s help, that thing is a bear to wrestle around). He took it for a test drive and mowed the grass along the road and it did fine, and didn’t even make any funny noises. It still needs to be hooked up to the charger before it will start, because I think I burned out the charging system last year when I hooked up a battery backwards, but other than that, it sounds like it might just make it another season.

Mowing the lawn

I have spent the last couple weeks fighting with the lawnmower. I think I mentioned last year how much I hate my lawnmower. I still hate it. This year the bearings the blades ride on wouldn’t turn (same as last year). Once we beat those into working we had to change the belt, and the new belts we bought online that were supposed to be an exact exchange, and cost a lot less than the OEM belt ($12 vs $50) didn’t fit. Luckily I had a spare OEM belt that was only partly worn out which I had taken off and hung in the garage last year, so I put that on. Replaced the battery and gas. Cleaned the gas filter. Took a flat tire to the tire place. Finally got it running last night. It makes some clanking noises it didn’t used to, and the steering and brakes need some work still, but it goes forwards and backwards and cuts the grass, so that’s all we can ask for right now. Can’t afford a new one, and without the sheep we have the whole 3 acres to maintain, so I’m glad we got this one working for one more season (I hope)!

I felt like I was running a race to get the mower running before the grass got too high to cut. It was close! We have a deal – I work on it, Dave mows with it. Works for me.

I hate my lawnmower!


This is the bane of my existence. A 2000 MTD Yard machine lawn mower. I admit we have not given it an easy life. It could have ended up at some fancy house where it just went out and mowed a civilized little flat yard and spent the rest of it’s time in a heated garage, but instead we got it. We have flogged that poor thing, making it mow 3 acres of pastures, ditches, the edges of the gravel driveway, occasionally running over brush and large twigs, and just to really give it a workout, tow a little dump trailer. Then we park it in an open shed and tell it it should be happy it’s not being directly rained on. So life isn’t easy, but does it have to be rebuilt EVERY YEAR?! Really? I have had the engine apart so many times I could put it back together in my sleep. We regularly have to replace the belts and pull off the deck. Every year it needs a new battery.

This year it needed a new battery, and even though it was the same brand and size we always buy, the poles were reversed, and I didn’t notice before I had hooked it up backwards and caused some electrical damage. I replaced the starter, and the red battery cable. I found the fuses and replaced those. I replaced the battery, because it wouldn’t hold a charge after that. I still couldn’t get it to start. Finally I pulled a plug and grounded it to the engine and cranked it over – there was a weak spark. So I replaced the plugs and tah-dah – it started up! What a relief! It had already been out of commission so long we’d had to have a friend come over and brush-hog the fields.

But Dave drove it out to the field and took it for a test cut, and when he put the blades down he was enveloped in blue clouds of smoke! So it came back in the garage and I discovered the blades would not turn, the bearings were rusted solid. I just replaced those last year. The original equipment had made it 8 years but these rusted up in a winter! So I pulled the deck, cleaned it, applied some Kroil, then beat the blades with a hammer until they started spinning again. Luckily they weren’t too stuck, else it probably would have been time for a new mower – I’m not rebuilding that deck again!

So we fought with putting the deck back on, wrestling and swearing and pinching our fingers until we had everything lined up, all the cotter pins back in, and Dave started it up – and I realized we hadn’t put the belt back on. A sailor would have blushed to hear the names we called that lawnmower! Then we took the deck off and put the belt on. Then he took it out and mowed the front yard like nothing had ever happened.

Man I hate that lawn mower…