Thursday evening we finally got our green JD4700 tractor back. On September 12th it had broken in half. Literally. This is the second time this happened. It was actually a different pieces of the casing that cracked this time but the effect was the same – two halves of a tractor. The sound of a tractor cracking in half is not pleasant. Nor is the immediate grinding of gears that follows. Turn it off.
I purchased a John Deere tractor because they are “Made in USA” and the dealer had told me it would be easy to get parts. Wrong. The casing is made in Japan. At the time ours broke in September there were none available in all of North America. They had to order one from Japan!!! Freakin’ slow boat no less! *sigh* When they say “Made in America” they mean they put it in the box here. Or maybe they put together a few parts that had all been shipped here from over seas. But the parts come from all around the world. I was not happy.
So we waited, for over two months, to get our tractor back. During that time we rented a yellow JD210 tractor you may have noticed in some of the photos here on my blog. The dealer said it is more powerful than ours. It is not. Maybe the horsepower rating is higher but it lacks power. Ours is able to lift much heavier things. The JD210 had difficulty with even small round hay bales (800 lbs). Additionally I have the wheels on our tractor set out to the full 8′ width, heavy duty spiked chains and fluid filled tires. That extra width and 2400 lbs(?) of weight (chains + fluid) make our tractor far stabler. This is important on our hilly land. Several times I almost flipped the JD210. In retrospect it makes us very pleased that we bought the JD4700 and not the JD210 all those years ago and that we got the chains, fluid fill and wider wheel base against the dealer’s advice. All those things turned out to be good choices. The irony is we had no real way of comparing or knowing since we had never had a tractor before. We just got lucky. Using the JD210 for two months made me really appreciate ours. It is good to be back on our tractor.
So why did it crack? I was told that the first time it was a flaw in the manufacturing – that was within the first year and covered under warranty. John Deere, unlike Fuji does honor their warranty and stand behind their products.
The second time the tractor broke in half, about five years after the first time, I had picked up a rock and then accidentally dropped it, directly in front of the tractor where I couldn’t see it, and then driven forward not realizing the rock was there. Ugh. At first the tractor had seemed fine. I could see that the steering tie bar was bent a little from rolling over the rock. There were some scrapes under the tractor on the casing, steering cylinder and front axle but I thought maybe I had gotten lucky and it was okay. A few minutes later I was gently scooping up some dirt and *CRACK* that sound I oh so didn’t want to hear happened. :(
I have a JD49 backhoe mounted on the back of the tractor. A few people have suggested that is the cause of the problem. I don’t think so.
Nothing about either time the casing broke seems related to the backhoe. Rather the first time there was a visible flaw in the manufacturing of the transmission casing along the top and it broke there from the weak spot.
Five years later the new casing broke but in a completely different spot on the bottom after I rolled over a large rock that I had unknowingly dropped in front of the tractor.
The first time the casing literally split in half and I could see into the gears. The second time the casing merely cracked. I can see ways JD could build a better tractor but the backhoe isn’t the issue. It is remotely possible the extra weight of the backhoe has an deleterious effect however it is over the pivot of the axle and the backhoe is mounted on the frame, not the 3pt hitch. I-beams front to back would make the tractor stronger and be worth having from a strength point of view but would they then reduce the tractor’s flexibility?
Of course none of this excuses John Deere for not keeping stock in this country, for manufacturing it in Japan and selling it as an American Product and for using the slow boat to get the casing here.
The good news in all this is that our insurance company, Peerless, seems to be covering it ($4,000?) so that all we’re paying is the $250 deductible. They even covered the cost of the rental tractor. The JD210 was better than nothing and I was glad to have it. I generally have a low opinion of insurance agencies but maybe I’ll have to adjust that a bit. I would like to revise my opinion upward. Truth be told, USAA insurance has also treated us well on the one claim we made so maybe I shouldn’t be so pessimistic about it.
But on to more interesting things like progress on our tiny cottage…
Some people have commented that 252 square feet is too small to live in. We’ll see – that’s for sure! In the winter in our existing colonial era farm house we reduce our living space down to the bare minimum closing off much of the house to avoid the effort of heating it. But even then we still have 1,012 sq-ft. We also live in a very open plan and are used to being in close quarter. Lastly, we spend much of our time outdoors so it isn’t like were being locked up 24/7 in a 252 sq-ft room.
Holly used to live in a house that is almost the same size as what we are building. The above house where she lived in Maine was 12′ by 20′, I think, based on the photo. It had a finished basement giving it additional space. Of course, that was 20 years ago before we met and had three kids. But she’s a trooper! She says she looks forward to the challenge of minimalism. It is a chance to figure out what ‘stuff’ is really necessary.
It is also to be realized that we’re not losing the existing house. We’ll continue to keep things down in the old house – consider it our our library and storage unit. That takes a bit of the pressure off of moving into a tiny cottage.
Another big difference is our farm ‘house’ also has a lot of other functions beyond being our home. We store animal feed in it, wood in the cellar, have a workshop and a lot of junk. The tiny cottage is very focused on its functionality. It tries to be only one thing, our indoor living space.
Lastly there is an interesting little coincidence of numbers. For almost two decades I had a 800 phone number with 252 in it. Our house number is 252. The square footage of the tiny cottage is 252. I wonder where else that number pops up in our lives??? :) Of such things a conspiracy is made!
Today we finished up the bond beams for the top of the partition walls. In this picture Holly’s cutting foam to make the form to go along the to
p of the lower portion of the partition wall like at right. Usually we score foam and snap it. But in this case she is cutting out a complex shape so she is using a spatula, a.k.a. paint scraper, and a rubber mallet to cut the foam. The technique works well.
You’ll notice that at the end of the partition I used a half block cube to build a pillar. I wanted something that would give the wall a little more stability since this wall gets a lot of traffic. An arch will go up and over the center of the room to the matching west wall. In addition to being functional this pillar gives the wall a pleasing appearance.
Here Ben is packing cement around the rebar in the bond beam over a lower partition wall. It is important to work the cement to get a good bond with the blocks and with the rebar. Void spaces would weaken the wall. Usually we use a spatula for this process of scooping in the cement and then the small float to smooth but in this case Ben is using the float to do the scooping as well. That saves tools to be washed later – smart thinking, Ben!
When mortaring blocks I dunk them into a bucket of water to wet them. This keeps the concrete blocks from sucking the moisture out of the fresh mortar so it can cure better. If the water is lost then it won’t be available to chemically react with the cement. Cement should not dry but rather cure.
In the background Will is applying mortar to the wetted wall so I can lay up the first row of concrete blocks on top of the bond beam.
Uh-oh! I’m getting fancy here. I cut the outer wall block so that one of the partition blocks above the wainscot can lock into the outer wall to strengthen the wall. The partition wall also is bound to the slab at the bottom and will be bound to a beam at the top that crosses the house. The purpose of all that is to make it so the hundreds of pounds of masonry can never fall on anyone. In this picture the block is slid over too far. In the final wall that piece of rebar will be more towards the center of the core so it is better encapsulated.
Will is holding one of the big IBM windows in place along the wall so we can see what it will look like in the house. We’ll have six of these in our tiny cottage – three across the front, two on the west and one on the east. Light is something our little home will not be lacking! The place he is holding this window will actually get an open-able double hung window to allow for egress and ventilation. He’s demoing it there because we wanted to compare it with the section of block wall along the north that we had just completed. Three more courses and we’ll be above the window. The cottage is taking shape.
Behind Will on the floor you can see a staircase of cement blocks. These we used to get high enough to pour the roughly 30 buckets of concrete down the cores of the wall rising up on the north. Will and I dry stacked four courses of the wall this morning. Lifting blocks up above six foot high pieces of rebar, over and over, is a wonderful workout as is carrying all those blocks in to the house. I had the delivery person deposit them in the best places I could to minimize how much we would carry them but still they must be moved to make walls.
The north wall will now cure for a bit before we add any more height to that wall. In the mean time there are plenty of other sections to work on. Tomorrow we’ll be defining the window and door pillars along the east, west and south upper walls.