Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Learning from Mistakes

Yesterday I made a middling mistake; my first goof-up (I think...) beyond very small, insignificant screw-ups with repetitive tasks. I was sent out to do some cultivation (between-crop-row weeding) with the G tractor, and topped it off with a bit of gas first. The cultivation went fine, and I got maybe 6 beds of peas done before the tractor died. I thought that somehow I had misjudged the fuel level and had run out of gas. I opened the cap and gas sprayed out, making me wonder why it had become pressurized. There still seemed to be plenty of gas in there.

I couldn’t get it to start again, and did some hand weeding while I gave it a rest, but it still wouldn’t start 20 minutes later. Finally I grabbed my boss, and to my embarrassment, when he checked the fuel level he lifted up a different cap than I had used. I had topped off the coolant reservoir with gasoline, and had of course just run out of gas. I was surprised (but happy) that the tractor had run so well (and had not exploded) after my mistake.

Today I set about fixing it, and learned a bit more about the tractor in the meantime. I must admit, some good learning often comes from our errors. I read about the radiator system in the tractor manual, located the coolant drain and drained the coolant/gas mixture and flushed it out with water, then refilled it with coolant. Not a big deal, but it felt good to fix my own mistake without wasting too much of other people’s time.

Today we had our first kind of miserable task in miserable weather. It was chilly, windy and rainy and we set about thinning and weeding a long, long, long bed of beets. These beets are sowed directly into rows with a tractor, and are sowed heavily to ensure that enough germinate. Well, plenty did germinate, and we had to thin out pretty much a constant line of plants to one plant or so every one and a half to two inches. This entailed removing about, maybe, ¾’s of the beet plants, along with an equal number of tiny (and sometimes not so tiny) weeds. Both the weeds and excess beets would gobble up resources and prevent the beets from attaining a good size, so this is an essential task, and one that can’t be done by the tractor as this weeding is done actually within the rows rather than between them. It is actually kind of delicate work, and of course requires one to be on their knees for a long time. And we have several more beds to go, and carrots to do as well, and many others…we will do a lot of weeding throughout. Lots. I really don’t mind it so far, but it’ll be bit easier once we thin the crops and they get a bit bigger.

Anyway, it was cold! I thought I had my Trustees hooded sweatshirt but I couldn’t find it when I got to the farm and I got a bit chilled, which of course can affect one’s outlook on things. But I survived, and am happy that our fields got some rain, which will save us from the chore of irrigating them over the next few days (they were getting a bit dusty).


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