Monday, August 18, 2014

A new toy

It may appear that I am collecting a yard full of random machinery but there is a master plan.  When Jack Boxall started his sand and gravel business in Nipawin I thought it was inspired.  For a relatively small investment he had a business that he could spend as little or as much time on as he wanted to.  Jack had some bigger equipment than I want to mess with but his concept was to fill a niche that the big contractors wouldn’t bother with.  He had a couple of gravel trucks and a wheel loader but he also had smaller equipment.  I’m restricting myself to equipment that I can drag behind the big Ford.  Anything that needs an annual safety is automatically off the list.


Clayton couldn’t resist trying it out – he’s a better operator than me but that’s setting the bar petty low.

Yesterday I picked up a little Kubota mini excavator.  I’ve been looking for something that will dig past 8 feet and that’s remarkable hard to find unless you want to spend big bucks.  Which I didn’t.  Eight feet is the magic number if you want to bury water lines below the frost line.  There was one came up in Saskatoon on Kijiji a couple of nights ago and it just happened that we were going to be in Saskatoon anyway.  Murray and I went to look at it and neither of us could see anything wrong with it.  Not that either of us is any expert on mini excavators.  Between the pair of us we maybe had half a clue. 


Then as luck would have it Murray’s neighbour wanted some digging done in his pasture so I was able to try the machine out.  I’m a pretty rough operator but I think the machine performed OK.  There’s a remarkable amount of technique involved.  At first I thought I needed a bigger bucket but the more I ran it the more I thought maybe I just needed a better operator. 

My little excavator is what Kubota refers to as a gray market machine.  That means that when it was imported it bypassed Kubota’s dealer network.  They say that also means that the dealers won’t honour warranty on it.  Given that it was built in 1998 I think I can live with that.  I’d really like to find an operator’s manual for it because gray market also means that all the decals are in Japanese.  I’m not real good at Japanese.  I was trying to figure out what all the little pictographs mean but after a while it reminded me of a story father told me years ago.


Farm tractors with mechanical gear shifts used to have numbers stamped into the transmission casting.  In theory the numbers allowed you to align the shift and thereby select a gear.  One of their neighbours on the farm at Kenaston had commented that he could tell more about what gear he was in by which direction he was going and how fast than he could by the little cast iron numbers.  I figured out what the controls did by moving the levers.  Some of them were a little tricky because there’s a diverter valve that you move and that way one lever does two different things, depending where you set the diverter.

Next item on the shopping list is a wood chipper for the little Fiat/Cockshutt/White.  That way we can charge for tree removal, chip the trees and then sell the chips.  And finally we’ll need some kind of a skid steer loader.  We’ll get a little coloured limestone inventory from the quarry at Limestone, Manitoba as well as some plain old crushed rock.  I’d really like to have some red shale inventory too but I haven’t figured out any economical way to get it to eastern Saskatchewan.   And shit.  We need a great big pile of good old rotten cowshit. 

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