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the tractor goes over the cliff  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 22170
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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(I started writing this on Sunday morning. But I was interrupted. And then there was a series of interruptions and other things and ..... now my computer is so bogged down I need to close some windows and I found this half baked post. So time to finish it up.)

I was awakened by a nightmare this morning.

A few months ago I was thinking that it would be good to get another tractor just to get by with until we come up with better solutions. Maybe something like what I had on mount spokane. Until we optimize our electric tractor stuff.

Those thoughts must have been the seed for nightmare.

In the nightmare, I have such a tractor. It is sitting before me with the parking brake on. People are asking me questions. But I feel nervous about the tractor. It is not parked in the way that I have repeatedly encouraged people to park it: on countour with the steering wheels pointed uphill - this way if anything goes wrong, then the tractor will stay put. I am being peppered with questions and trying to keep up. At some point, some answer I have given is sufficient answer for Randy (not his real name - so the actual person in the nightmare is somebody I know). So while I am still answering other questions, Randy gracefully leaps onto the tractor. In an effort to prove to be the most graceful and time efficient driver, Randy disengages the brake before sitting in the seat. But since the tractor is on a slope and pointed uphill, the tractor lurches backwards - toward the cliff. The lurch makes it so that Randy is not able to get his butt into the seat, and his angle is such that he cannot activate the brake. The bumps that the tractor finds in its path keep Randy from doing anything useful. Now in fear of his life, Randy leaps from the tractor at the very last second and we all watch the tractor go over the cliff. Two seconds later we hear a big clunk and that's when I wake up.

The slope wasn't too terribly steep, but steep enough. There was maybe 20 feet to the cliff, so this all happened in about 2.5 seconds.

This nightmare makes me think about how permaculture is more about human power and less about diesel power. And how the path to permaculture and homesteading can be done purely proenneke style - no power tools of any kind.

I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to get another tractor. Mostly because I cannot afford it. But as we gear up for another run at earthworks this year, I think about how to do bigger things with less.

 
Curtis Budka
Lab Ant
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Location: Southern NH zone 5b
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I think draft animals would be an important component in helping you move forward. Do you need your tractor for the pto/loader often? I'm having trouble thinking of an implement that can't be made to be pulled by an ox or a horse. As far as moving lots of material, you have the dump truck and the excavator. On top of that, a little horse drawn dump cart and a shovel is better than not having another tractor.
 
siu-yu man
Posts: 99
Location: zone 6a, north america
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thanks for sharing that. i love those dreams that inspire one to step back, reflect & question fundamental assumptions.

i helped my neighbor get his old tractor started today. here was the drill : take a small gas powered generator down the hill to power an electric heater to warm up the engine block. he refused my offer to carry it down and insisted to stick it on the front end loader of his new 30 hp kabota. we got it down there, dowsed it with some ether but the genny refused to stay running. so load it back on the new tractor, back up the hill, take it off and put a 5500 watt gas powered genny on the loader and back down the hill. that one ran okay, so we left it for a few hours running, came back to a warm block and got the old tractor running again. billowing loud black smoke into the deep blue sky with lime green antifreeze dripping onto the white snow. then loaded the giant genny back onto the loader and tractor back up the hill.

as we drove back down his asphalt driveway mission accomplished, he said: now we can imagine what the pioneers felt like. and imagine, they didn't have the benefit of hydrocarbons, i responded. he scoffed, for even with his ginormous solar setup that would make any permie awestruck, he's still a child of the petrol age (as we all are) and old enough to not have to change his ways.

not knocking him in the slightest though because he spent the better part of 2 days helping me (more like, teaching me) how to replumb our water delivery system after the well pump exploded and pipes burst. but reflecting back on it now after watching a few Dick Pronneke vids on youboob, i realized that no matter the technology available at the time, the two of us could have accomplished any task that we set out to do simply because we committed to helping each other out to the end no matter what.

been noodling myself on how to construct earthworks without the benefits of hydrocarbons. the only way i can think of so far is through well-planned design and extreme patience in order to allow nature its time to become an ally. if you consider the relative permanence of earthworks on a long enough timeline, perhaps it's worthwhile sometimes to tune in to earth time and allow the scale to develop as it should.

"I have learned patience. Learned to take my time and do the job right by figuring it out first. No sense to rush it and go off half-cocked. There's plenty of time out here." - d.p.

http://youtu.be/_3NRdZ8J24Q
 
Rufus Laggren
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> manual earthworkds.... time & patience

And lots of help. Major infrastructure should usually last a while and that means it can be "amortized" over a long period of time. And that means that, like the Amish, a community can "afford" to all give up a few days work and band together to get something big done for a neighbor, for the church, the community hall , whatever.

And real thought and planning, probably with more than just a nod to traditional design for your local area, so that work gets done efficiently, once and not twice, and lasts as long as possible.


Rufus
 
Dan Boone
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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paul wheaton wrote:
This nightmare makes me think about how permaculture is more about human power and less about diesel power. And how the path to permaculture and homesteading can be done purely proenneke style - no power tools of any kind.


Since I had to Google Proenneke I thought I'd share what I found. There were a number of folks living somewhat like him on the Upper Yukon when I lived there in the 1970s, but I hadn't heard of him in particular before.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Dan, here is a link http://www.permies.com/t/1102/natural-building/Wilderness-Story-Dick-Proenneke

It was on PBS over and over one year, so we watched him several times. Great film and inspiring man.
The full movie might be back on youtube now.
 
Bill Erickson
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Dan Boone wrote:
paul wheaton wrote:
This nightmare makes me think about how permaculture is more about human power and less about diesel power. And how the path to permaculture and homesteading can be done purely proenneke style - no power tools of any kind.


Since I had to Google Proenneke I thought I'd share what I found. There were a number of folks living somewhat like him on the Upper Yukon when I lived there in the 1970s, but I hadn't heard of him in particular before.


Dan, you live around Chicken or Circle back then? Either way, the Dick Proenneke information stream didn't really start until the mid-80s or so. The movie of his time around Denali was a big hit in a lot of circles. I always watched it and dreamed, but too tied to the money train to walk away that far.
 
Dan Boone
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We moved to Eagle in 1973, which was where the bitter end of the Taylor Highway (which Chicken is on) finally reached the Yukon River, near the border with Canada. Dawson was the nearest civilization upstream, and Circle the nearest downstream.

Then later we did a lot of small scale placer gold mining in the upper 70-Mile River country.

If you've ever read the book Coming Into The Country by John McPhee, Eagle is in it a lot. My father gets quoted some, and I got name-checked. McPhee spent several days in our cabin talking to my folks, drinking their home brew, and taking notes. He taught me a card trick he claims to have learned from an inmate in a New York state prison. But a lot of the words he put in my dad's mouth were actually said by the other Jack in town. My mother's beer was strong, and McPhee's notes apparently chaotic.

When Paul talks about human power versus human power, I think a lot about the first summer we went gold mining, in the 1980s. I moved an awful lot of gravel with a mattock and shovel and wheelbarrow. There really aren't any limits to what you can do, if you have enough energetic people with good hand tools. But from my current solitary perch in out-of-shape middle age, earthworks by hand seem very much a community project. And it's hard for me to imagine how you can motivate enough people to do back-breaking labor on that scale for weeks at a time when everybody knows it could be done in two days with a big enough excavator.
 
Rufus Laggren
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> excavator

Sometimes "appropriate" is relative and must be considered in context. Two days of heavy diesel work making possible 5+ years of productive manual labor might be the most appropriate solution. Especially if the alternative is to fail down to nothing.

Replacing the 100+ days of diesel work on the average factory farm (some kind of per ton yield needs to be included in this calc; also a nod to how many people make a living off that farm that year) a year w/10 days (or less) of heavy maintenance on a successful diverse farm might be the right way.

Not a no brainer, but not rocket science. And there's a slippery slope there too. But moderation, the middle road, usually yields more and w/less collateral damage.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1282
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Sure I could dig all my earthworks by hand but it takes me an hour in the tractor what would take a month by hand. I sincerely hope to get an excavator next!

I think it would be awesome to have a cliff though. My land is so flat the worst that could happen is it sinking in the mud.
 
Fred Morgan
steward
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Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Having bought more than my share of equipment - the problem is that people assume they can use a piece of equipment because they can buy it, and start it. Honestly, unless you are going to use it A LOT, you are better of renting the equipment, with the operator. As your nightmare points out, it is easy, so easy, for something to go wrong, and then, hopefully, the least you will be out is money - too often, someone gets hurt, badly.

just my dos colones, only worth about 1/5 as much as two cents.
 
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