In Your Box:

    • Beets
    • Cabbage or broccoli or cauliflower
    • Collards
    • Daikon radishes
    • Mizuna
    • Onion
    • Potatoes, russet
    • Red onion
    • Salad mix

It was a fiery end to an era here on the farm on Wednesday.  For the three years I’ve been farming on my own, I’ve relied on a Ford 9N tractor named “Mr. Peanut” for its monocle-like headlight.  I bought the tractor from a retiring farmer in Hutchinson in April of 2009.  It’s been about as finicky as a 70-year old tractor should be, but overall its been quite reliable.  Until Wednesday.

I’ve been taking advantage of this dry weather to work up the soil for next year’s garden, using the tractor to first plow and then disk the soil so it would be ready to plant as soon as it dries out in the spring.  I was using the disk that day, with only a couple hours of work to go for the year, when suddenly sparks began shooting out of the hood.  Thinking that the battery was shorting out, I lifted the hood and was promptly met with a ball of flame.  I immediately turned off the tractor and jumped off, running to safety just as the entire tractor went up in a fireball.  Most likely, a fuel line broke during operation, which spilled gas onto the hot surface of the engine.  From there, the ignited fuel raced back into the fuel tank, oil reserve, and pretty much everything else. 

I knew the situation was immediately futile, but one can’t just let one’s tractor burn to death in the field.  I raced toward the house and found Jeremy, who was watering our apple trees.  Together, we foolishly sprinted over a hundred yards with two five-gallon buckets of water apiece.  5 gallons of water only make a towering gas fire laugh, menacingly.  While dousing the burning tractor, we did get a good close-up of the all-metal seat enveloped in flame and the rubber on the steering wheel boiling off.  We ran back for more water, with Jeremy connecting several hundred feet of garden hose while I got the fire extinguisher.  A small fire extinguisher lasts about ten seconds, which was not even enough time to knock the flame down.  By this time, several different parts of the engine were exploding, which added some nice noises to the colorful flames and really helped to complete the experience.  Jeremy met me with the hose, but by this time most of the gas and oil had burned off and the fire started to recede.  The wheels had caught fire now, sending off some great rubber smoke smell.  The tires were easy enough to extinguish, and for the next ten minutes I sprayed the hose all over the charred, blackened carcass of the only tractor I’ve ever owned.

Good news from the experience: 1) We found out that we have enough hose to reach all the way across the field.  2) We will never have to pull weeds from the area underneath the tractor, which will be contaminated by battery acid, burned rubber, fire extinguisher fluid, and melted plastic for the foreseeable future.  3) No one was hurt.  Except for Mr. Peanut, of course. 

Ford 9N tractors were manufactured between 1937 and 1941, making Mr. Peanut between 70-74 years old.  He will be missed, overall, but mourned only until I can find a replacement tractor that won’t threaten to burn me alive.

On a lighter note, it’s time to announce our third annual “Golden Cucumber Award for Excellence in Volunteerism.”  The winner this year is…… Steve Kirkman, my dear old dad.  Steve is our first ever out-of-state winner, hailing from Michigan (until we can convince him to move out to Minnesota).  My dad was a great help in constructing the greenhouse back in April, hung garlic to dry like a professional on another visit in July, and talked me through tractor repair on the eight times my tractor was out of commission this year (before its gruesome end, of course).  He has yet to come up with a fix for the charred-carcass syndrome that is plaguing my tractor now, however.  Thanks for all your help and support this year, dad!

Nothing new in your box this week.  Next week will be your last delivery of the season, and we’ll finally have winter squash then.  Look for a feedback form coming to your e-mail this weekend.  And look for the smoke offering of Mr. Peanut as it rises, with its spirit, to the western skyline.

3 thoughts on “Week 16 Newsletter

  1. Congratulations to Steve on an award well deserved! And then this, in the aftermath of the Mr. Peanut tragedy:

    “Tractor” by Ted Hughes

    The tractor stands frozen – an agony
    To think of. All night
    Snow packed its open entrails. Now a head-pincering gale,
    A spill of molten ice, smoking snow,
    Pours into its steel.
    At white heat of numbness it stands
    In the aimed hosing of ground-level fieriness.

    It defied flesh and won’t start.
    Hands are like wounds already
    Inside armour gloves, and feet are unbelievable
    As if the toe-nails were all just torn off.
    I stare at it in hatred. Beyond it
    The copse hisses – capitulates miserably
    In the fleeing, failing light. Starlings,
    A dirtier sleetier snow, blow smokily, unendingly, over
    Towards plantations Eastward.
    All the time the tractor is sinking
    Through the degrees, deepening
    Into its hell of ice.

    The starting lever
    Cracks its action, like a snapping knuckle.
    The battery is alive – but like a lamb
    Trying to nudge its solid-frozen mother –
    While the seat claims my buttock-bones, bites
    With the space-cold of earth, which it has joined
    In one solid lump.

    I squirt commercial sure-fire
    Down the black throat – it just coughs.
    It ridicules me – a trap of iron stupidity
    I’ve stepped into. I drive the battery
    As if I were hammering and hammering
    The frozen arrangement to pieces with a hammer
    And it jabbers laughing pain-crying mockingly
    Into happy life.

    And stands
    Shuddering itself full of heat, seeming to enlarge slowly
    Like a demon demonstrating
    A more-than-usually-complete materialization –
    Suddenly it jerks from its solidarity
    With the concrete, and lurches towards a stanchion
    Bursting with superhuman well-being and abandon
    Shouting Where Where?

    Worse iron is waiting. Power-lift kneels
    Levers awake imprisoned deadweight,
    Shackle-pins bedded in cast-iron cow-shit.
    The blind and vibrating condemned obedience
    Of iron to the cruelty of iron,
    Wheels screeched out of their night-locks –

    Among the tormented
    Tonnage and burning of iron

    Weeping in the wind of chloroform

    And the tractor, streaming with sweat,
    Raging and trembling and rejoicing.

  2. There has to be a follow up to the Ballad of the Ford 9N. It practically wrote itself. Sorry about your loss. I suppose that’s much more exciting than the poor thing simply refusing to start…

  3. In hopes of a Mr. Peanut wannabee: there are many good farm equipment auctions this time of year, and there was a honey of one up in Monticello earlier this week. fahey, lampi, etc. I’ll ask my 70ish year old neighbors if they know of anything too…they’re all the same age as Mr. Peanut.

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