As I write, FarmerHoney is trying out the latest addition to his farm equipment – a small Allmand backhoe/loader. He’s been wanting one for several years; there are plenty of projects around the farm that require a backhoe. This is one purchase that just could not be postponed any longer. (And I once thought farmers pretty much limited their equipment to tractors and hay wagons! Oh, no – there is a LOT of equipment on a farm that most people wouldn’t expect to find. But that’s another story.)
Prior to selecting this backhoe, FarmerHoney spent hours checking out backhoe videos on YouTube. (Yes, there are lots of such things!) All sorts of folks have been filmed using various brands of backhoes; FarmerHoney was determined to evaluate them all and choose the best model for his needs. So thus began endless hours watching Backhoe YouTube videos. At the time, this was actually a reprieve from endless hours watching Italian World War II movies.
I think it’s safe to say now that we’ve watched backhoes in all sorts of circumstances. They can get stuck in the most incredibly messy ways. Some backhoe operators must believe their machines are equipped with inflatable flotation devices. Others drive them on steep inclines only a mountain goat has any business attempting! We’ve watched backhoe operators use just the features of their machines to load and unload them from flatbed trucks – no ramps needed. One video showed a backhoe “climb” a series of increasingly higher platforms, then descend to the ground again.
Did you know there is a backhoe designed to operate on top of open railroad cars? FarmerHoney and I stared in fascination (yep, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it – guess it was a slow day in the country) as the operator managed to get his backhoe off of a railroad car and safely onto the ground again – no ramps required! He had quite an audience watching while he gingerly eased the heavy machine back to earth – I imagine they were wondering if he’d capsize or not. Maybe there were even friendly bets among those onlookers!
Just when we thought we’d seen every conceivable thing a backhoe could do, we came across a choreographed “march” of five or six backhoes. I think whoever came up with that idea had either been in marching band or had a child in marching band. It was pretty clever. Picture the Blue Angels – on Monster Truck wheels. And slow. V-e-r-y s-l-o-w. Or imagine synchronized swimming performed with construction equipment. You get the picture. I don’t know about FarmerHoney, but I think I’ve seen all the backhoe videos I ever want to see!
As I began this story, FarmerHoney decided that Project Number One with his new backhoe would be to improve the cattle guard – the trench below the grate was so shallow the calves in the pasture easily walked on the soil just below the grate and into our front yard. The only things the grate prevented from entering the yard were the cows and the bull. We should be grateful for small miracles.
Now, I truly don’t mind the calves munching on our grass. Heaven knows it needed trimming and the lawn mower wasn’t working. But it’s the little gifts the calves deposit on the lawn that I have a problem with. Anyone ever get upset over a neighbor’s dog dumping on your yard? A calf is a LOT bigger than a dog! So are its dumps! And they’re not as easy to dispose of.
Okay, enough of that!
FarmerHoney removed the grate that covers the trench and began scooping out one shovelful of soil at a time. He had practiced using his new backhoe the week before, when landscaping around his sister’s home. It showed. He’d become quite adept at toggling two levers at a time, so the outstretched bucket would reach out at the same time it was being positioned. FarmerHoney had this down to a science! I was amazed at the amount of dirt and rocks piling up on the south side of the road. I could just imagine him at the beach, digging to China with his backhoe. He’d be the envy of all the boys! What a hole that would be!
After about 30 minutes of digging, FarmerHoney was ready for a break, so he walked in for lunch. His absence in the backhoe was the cattle’s cue to examine the site. A few of them walked over – rather quickly, I thought. I watched in fascination as more joined the first cows. And then cattle from all over the field were actually running to see the excavation! In my imagination, I could hear shouts of “Me, first!” or “Hey, wait for me!” from the herd. What did they expect to find when they arrived? Massive piles of sweet feed or a bucket of molasses?
Whatever it was the cattle were searching for, they seemed to discover it in the pile of dirt and rock. They happily munched on weeds that had been scooped up with the soil and sifted through the pile with their hooves and noses. I could relate. I used to hunt for rocks and fossils as a kid and the cows’ behavior looked familiar. Except for the eating weeds part.
Once the pile of dirt had been investigated and plants sampled, the cattle took turns checking out the backhoe. Cattle are naturally quite curious and just about any novelty will attract their attention. It’s a wonder no cow or calf was accidentally pushed in the trench! I half expected one of them to clamber into the driver’s seat of the backhoe, they inched in so close.
The cattle spent about 45 minutes examining every part of the work area and backhoe. Then FarmerHoney walked to the trench and jumped down, using a small spade to complete what the backhoe was too large for. The herd was quite interested in this and stuck around to watch The Man in the Hole. When FarmerHoney was happy with his work, he climbed back out of the hole and into his backhoe, then lifted the grate back into position and filled in any depressions in the road. He was very pleased with the result!
Evidently, the calves are happy with the improvements, too. While they can no longer walk across on the soil, they’re still able to scamper across a narrow section of posts and rock I’d placed adjacent to the grate.
To prevent the calves from doing such a thing.
Time to learn about building a set of wings for that guard.