Grease and Time Management
Summer break always seemed like a contradiction of terms growing up. Being out of school simply meant long hot days on the farm. If you’ve every spent any time on one then you know an undeniable fact. There’s always something that can/should/must be done.
This past week was one of the “must” weeks. The first cutting of hay. Arkansas is well known for hot and humid summers. The combination of the two bring on semi-regular afternoon heating showers. Almost always short lived, but are the bane of the existence of someone trying to cut, dry and bale hay. For those who don’t know, everything has to be dry in order to bale hay. Baling green or wet hay can cause a fire and burn your barn down. Plus, the longer cut hay lays on the ground, the more nutritional value it loses. So the thing we have to do is watch the weather closely. Look at long range forecasts and try to predict the week that we’ll have the best possible chance of cutting, drying, raking and baling hay without or with the least amount of rain. A bonus is if you can get it all done and then get a solid rain shower on a freshly cut field immediately after to spur on the growth for a second cutting later in the summer. Running such a tight schedule the last possible thing you want is an equipment breakdown.
Which brings me to equipment breakdowns…
Historically, we’re well versed in them. Some days I’ve spent more time working on equipment than actually using it. It’s always hot. It’s always dusty and it always sucks. But last year things turned a corner. We finally replaced all of our hay equipment. A new mower, rake and baler. Which was expensive, but needed. Now it all works. In fact it all works beautifully. I also made a personal commitment. I’m not going to let the new equipment get into the condition of the old from a lack of maintenance.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to finish using a piece of equipment and pull it to the barnyard and just drop it off. You’re tired. You’re often sore and the last possible thing you want to do is mess with maintenance. You just want to be done. In horse terms this is the same thing as being rode hard and put up wet. Plainly put, it’s not good for the equipment. Accumulations of dirt and grass cake on and collect moisture. Moisture on metal causes rust. Rust bad.
What then inevitably happens is you tell yourself you’ll get it later. But you don’t. And then the next time you need it, it’s covered in dirt and grass and rust and needs to be greased. And that thing that needed to be fixed still needs to be fixed. But now you’re on an unrelenting time schedule and the whatever has to be done. So you do the best you can in a short amount of time available and go on. Which works fine, a few times and then things start to go south.
So as of last year, I started doing things the way they’re supposed to be done. When I’m done with whatever I’m using, it gets pressure washed and then greased and then stored under a roof if possible. If something needs repairing, this is when it’s done. Then, when it’s time to use it it’s ready and waiting. Ultimately this comes back to a change I’ve been trying to instill in my life. Being proactive instead of reactive. Reactive only causes you to feel behind the eight ball and overwhelmed. You’re always patching and never fixing. Being proactive means dealing with the things that cause frustration before they become a problem.
While building the cabin, I set up the goal to simply do as much as a could with whatever time and money I had available, but it was always about moving forward. Now that the cabin is complete and work on the farm has begun I’ve taken a long hard look at all that needs to be done. Things that are broken, things that need to be improved, new things that need to be built. So I take the same approach, move forward.
It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by it all. But the reality is that it won’t all be done today. It won’t all be done this week, nor this summer, nor this year. The other side of this coin is that it’s easy to work yourself to death. Sometimes you’re in a race against mother nature. Most days you’re not. You just have to set a reasonable goal for the day or week and then do your best to get it done. But you also need to make sure you know when to call it a day and sit down and have dinner with your family and play catch with your kid in the backyard.
So today I will do something to improve this place. Every day I try to make at least one thing better. Whether it’s repairing something or spraying briars in a fence row. I do something with a long-term focus because I’m trying to be more and more systematic about everything. Popcorning around from half-finished project to half-finished project is being reactive not proactive. I’m spraying this fence row today because I want to repair it in a few weeks. I’m milling this lumber today because it’s going toward the new equipment shed and repairs to the barn roof because I don’t want the hay we just cut or the equipment we cut it with to sit on in the rain this year or a decade from now.
In the meantime… live well… laugh often… love always.