We all know the importance of fire drills. Each school year starts with a fire drill at school and parents are always encouraged to go over a fire plan at home with their children.
Why do we do this?
So that if there ever is a fire, the plan has been discussed and practiced. If the worst were to happen, the goal is that your panicked brain remembers the plan.
Not many people think about having tractor fire drills.
To be honest, we have never had a tractor fire drill...but he have had lots and lots of conversations about what to do if there is a tractor or equipment fire.
Several years ago this hit pretty close to home.
Isaac had stayed home from school one day to help Daniel finish up hay for the year. They were at another field several miles from home and were at the end of our road...driving the slowest tractor we own. It was then that they looked toward the house and saw a huge pillar of black smoke. They thought our house was on fire....and they couldn't get there any faster.
As they got closer, they realized our house was not on fire...it was coming from the neighbors field.
The neighbor's round baler had caught on fire.
There was still a bale of hay in the baler, and if you know anything about burning hay...it just smolders for days. The baler was a complete loss, but with the help of the fire department and neighbors, they were able to keep the fire from spreading to the rest of the field.
It was sickening and heartbreaking to watch our neighbors lose that piece of equipment. But, everyone was ok and the tractor was not hooked to the baler at the time of the fire, so they only lost the one piece of equipment.
But that experience has prompted many, many conversations at our house. We have talked through many scenarios and what to do if something should go wrong. The first thing (if it is safe to do) is get the tractor unhooked and away ASAP.
It's no secret that we have had our share of tractor issues this year. For a while the cab tractor was running really hot. Add a hot tractor to dry hay dust that blows into every nook and cranny of your tractor and it could be a recipe for a disaster.
Everyone kept saying we needed to get a fire extinguisher for the tractor. It never made it on the grocery list, so Daniel grabbed a small fire extinguisher that has been in the garage for forever and just threw it in the tractor.
I was helping Daniel hook up some equipment last week and had to climb into the cab of the tractor. I looked down at that puny fire extinguisher and thought to myself that thing wouldn't do a thing if the tractor where to catch on fire...but at least it made us feel a little better.
Last week we were down the road baling our last field for the year. We had a nice long stretch of rain free days...but it was cold and overcast (smoke from the wild fires out west) and just wasn't very good drying weather. It took all week, but it was finally dry enough to bale.
Unfortunately, it didn't fit into our neat little plan for the week and we ended up baling on a day when everyone was busy. Daniel had a dentists appointment, so Isaac decided not to work overtime and came home to bale for his dad.
I was still working....and the phone rang.
Isaac: "Is Dad still at the dentist?"
Me: "I imagine...why?"
Isaac: "The baler caught on fire."
You can imagine my heart sinking.
Please ignore the typos in my text to Daniel...I was trying not to panic and trying not to panic him...but he got the point.
They have been hearing a strange noise off and on for a while, but with all the mechanics that have been out here this summer, no one sounded any alarms, so we just kept doing what we were doing.
We bought this new to us baler two years ago and as usual, spent a whole bunch of money that first year making repairs. One of the recommendations from the mechanic was replacing one of the top roller bearings, so we did.
What we didn't realize is that the other bearings were in just as bad of shape.
That noise they had been hearing was another bad bearing.
Isaac only baled 3 bales when he looked back and saw smoke coming out of the side of the baler. He quickly grabbed the fire extinguisher, opened the door of the baler and put out the fire. He said it hadn't burst into flames just yet, but the hay was glowing like it could fully ignite at any moment. That puny little fire extinguisher was just enough to put it out.
That bearing is only inches away from the rubber belts. If those belts had caught fire, it would have been a lost cause.
I was still at home sitting at my desk working away...wondering how bad the baler was.
I heard the tractor coming down the road so I ran outside to see.
He was pulling the baler, so it wasn't too bad. I ran up the hill to get a closer look and I couldn't even tell anything had happened.
My heart rate returned to normal.
The mechanic was out and got the bearing replaced this weekend. He too can't believe that there wasn't any damage other than the part that went bad.
It still wasn't a super easy fix because the bearing had melted on to the shaft, but he got it done.
Turns out there are a whole lot more bearings in that baler than we realized. We buy used equipment because I am not really into spending more on equipment that I paid for the farm, but the curse of buying used equipment is you don't really know how much use it has had and what has been repaired and what hasn't. The mechanic says he can tell the bearings have been replaced before, but we are realizing this baler has seen a lot more hay than we had realized.
Our new winter project is tearing the baler apart and replacing all the remaining bearings. We have replaced two so far, now another one is ready to go at any time, so I imagine the internal bearings aren't in any better shape.
She is all back together now and you can't even tell.
I am so thankful for all those years of talking about "what if there is a fire". Isaac's quick thinking and action saved our baler. He never panicked and did everything right.
He stayed so calm even though my mind was going a million places. He even had the composure to immediately think of calling the neighbor to finish baling for us.
None of us ever really know how we will react in a panic situation. We hope that we stay calm, collected, think on our feet and make the right decisions. After last week, I'll take Isaac by my side any day during an emergency.
A normal day could have turned into a very bad day for us. We now have to budget for more repair bills, but I'll take those repairs over buying new equipment.
It seems that Isaac is always running equipment when it decides to break. It has happened so much that he is starting to get a reputation (even though none of it has been his fault). This is one time that I am glad Isaac was running the equipment. He did absolutely everything right and saved the day.
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Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.