About two years ago I opened the bonnet (hood) of my tractor and it felt very heavy, the gas strut which pushes it up had failed. When the tractor was next serviced I asked the local mechanic if he would replace the support, which he did. Two days after the tractor returned I was mowing an olive grove when BANG the bonnet jumped forward and when I investigated the strut had pushed its mounting so hard that it had sheared it off under the bonnet, which is thick plastic. The mechanic said it would be a tricky repair, why not just carry a stick around to jam the hood open? Which I did.

Eighteen months later, May 2020, the engine developed a fault and I had a different mechanic from a main dealership come to investigate. On Tuesday he took the tractor away for repair and servicing, and incidentally to replace the gas strut mounting so it could work again. He brought it back on Thursday, all done. That evening I noticed a one-inch crack at the air vent cutaway in the plastic bonnet, so decided to keep an eye on it. On Friday morning I opened the garage and the crack had grown to a ten-inch break almost across half the bonnet, clearly serious and possibly difficult to repair. I rang the main dealer who said don’t worry, just carry on and disconnect the strut if you can, which I couldn’t. I sent them a picture of the breakage, and tried using gaffer tape on it.

Out mowing the same olive grove as two years ago BANG and the bonnet jumped forward, but this time the strut had forced it apart almost into two, a serious breakage now. I sent the garage another picture and spoke with them. They asked me to remove the strut altogether by any means, and then to remove the bonnet completely, which I couldn’t as it was almost in two parts and now fragile. The same mechanic came to remove it and take it in for repair or replacement. I thought this part would cost around two hundred euros, an expensive strut this was turning out to be.

The next day I rang them and their office said they were looking for a replacement and would send me an estimate. This was their reply

Hi. Mr. Clive,

So… There is one in Germany, that can be sent to Portugal, the cost will be 1040€ with TVA included, but they cannot guarantee that it is already painted, if not, the value adds..

My coworker said if you can bring it in here so we can see if we can fix it and how much it costs..

Best regards,

Apresento os melhores cumprimentos,

Patricia Mendes

The mechanic who now has the broken bonnet said the price is exorbitant. So we wait to see if they can effect a repair . . .   Wish I’d just carried on using the stick.

Sunk tractor 7

Over Easter Janet and I spent a couple of weeks in England having some great family and friends time. On our drive back home to our quinta through Spain we stopped to look at a waterfall we hadn’t seen before. A Spanish man stopped a minute later to look too, and he told Janet there was a lot of rain over the previous three days. The next five days were rainy with only short dry spells and in total we had five inches of rain; this has been a record wet month. In one interval I was able to mow the 12”high weed patch at the front of the house so it would look a bit like a lawn – it took two hours! The rain stopped on Wednesday morning and the sun came out. Janet was out with a friend so I decided to mow the vineyard before the rain returned.

I attached the corta-mato (topper) and mowed the weedy veg gardens as a mulch then in the sunny dry afternoon headed off to the vineyard. There was surface water all over which was to be expected. The job went smoothly and by 4pm I was on the last line of mowing, feeling very pleased with myself. The tractor suddenly slowed moving forward so I shifted it into neutral and looked down to see that the left back wheel had sunk into a patch of mud. I reversed out of it but the wheel just turned and sank. I tried forwards more slowly and the wheels just turned and sank some more, and the mud now covered the depth of the tyre and water oozed over the wheel rSunk tractor 2im.

I looked away from the wheel to see that the tractor was now tilted sideways at quite an angle -this was looking serious- and the tilt was quickly getting worse. I shoved the mower hydraulics downwards to try and take weight off the wheel but nothing improved. In fact it was sinking quickly and was now in almost to the axle. The right front wheel was off the ground and abandoning the tractor was a balancing act at that slope.

Sunk tractor 1Janet arrived home and, after a cup of tea, we went down to put a pine pole and planks under the wheel; with a dose of optimism, four wheel drive and diff lock it should be out.

“Oh,” we thought when we saw it. “No. Not looking good at all”.

Janet said, “You can’t get that out. We need help”.

“No, we’ll give it a go”. And we did, and it dug itself into the very deep mud. It was a fluidised mudhole. We needed help.

I rang the garage where I get my agricultural diesel fuel. He was sympathetic and said he’d send his mechanic round at 8am tomorrow. It began to rain again. I reluctantly left the tractor embedded in the mud as night drew in.

Sunk tractor 3Sunrise, tractor sunk deeper now, then 8am, then 9am and still no mechanic.

I rang again, “You need a light bulb?” he asked.

“What? No, my tractor is sunk in mud and I need it pulling out”

“My lad hasn’t turned up to work. Isn’t there anyone near you with a tractor?”

“No, one neighbour’s at work and the other isn’t there today. Wasn’t yesterday either.”

“Ring me after lunch and I’ll see what I can do.”

Well that was less hopeful than yesterday. Janet suggested we ask our friend N for the phone number of the builders he used who have a JCB. He rang us and said they were round at his place this morning but to go soon as they would leave at lunchtime. I was off like a shot. It was raining when I arrived and the guys had already loaded their small JCB and were packed up for the day as it was too wet for them to continue. They looked at the photographs I’d taken and doubted that their small digger would be able to do the job. Their large digger was in a village an hour’s drive away. I convinced them to come and look anyway.

Sunk tractor 4Sunk tractor 5They followed me to our quinta and did the same as Janet and I the previous day. Then they dug a ramp for the tractor to climb out but had to disconnect the corta-mato to make the tractor lighter. They unloaded the digger off the lorry, I brought a chain and they attached their towing strap. Running in low gear, with a pine pole levering against the sunken wheel and the little JCB tugging hard, they were able to pull the tractor out. Yaaaay!Sunk tractor 7

Sunk tractor 10Then they dragged the corta-mato out (oops! I hadn’t realised that to put it away I’d have to reverse up to it, back into the mud). The pine pole near the centre of the picture is over seven feet long. The fact that less than three feet of it is visible shows the mudhole is liquified to at least four feet depth, enough to submerge the whole tractor wheel. It isn’t wide enough to take the tractor, though, I think. They told me (afterwards, thankfully) that they had attempted to do another like this previously but this one was buried to the same depth with both back wheels stuck – ours had only one. They had tried by hand and failed, then brought in a JCB a month later when the ground was less sodden but the JCB sank in the same place. They had to leave both vehicles for another month until the ground was dry before trying again with another JCB which also sank (!!!) and finally a third JCB which was able to extract the other two and the tractor.

Sunk tractor 11The saving grace for us was the fact that the mud pool was on the very edge of the vineyard, and N’s quick response was so helpful. For the workmen (Nelson, Paulo and Jaime) the whole procedure including transit time was just over an hour which was an impressive achievement –thanks, guys!

 

. . . and I’m not rolling along.

We are having work done by our third set of builders and on Friday afternoon I was shifting boulders to use in building stone walls at the entrance to the quinta. Suddenly the front right wheel locked. Carefully and slowly I had to shift the tractor off our road, with horrible grinding noises coming from the wheel bearings. It sounded expensive. I phoned the mechanic, who came and helped me to remove the front loader and to make the tractor drive on three wheels back to its garage. Alfredo was unhappy with my limping green Agrokid and promised to come back the next morning to diagnose the problem.

  

He reckons the lower ballrace failed and a fragment moved into the drive cogs, where it caused a tooth to shear off. This bit of gearwheel then smashed off more teeth from two cogs as I drove the vehicle off the road. We are waiting to hear the situation for replacement parts.

Leatherhead it ain’t.

Picture taken from our land at midnight. Three days earlier there was a forest fire a few miles to the west of our quinta. These are worrying because we have strong and hot winds at this time of the year so a fire can become voracious and move quickly to devastate the land. These fires are too intense for people to approach and have to be dealt with by powerful hoses on fire engines – provided water is available. We have a drought now following rainfall of only a few centimetres in the whole of last winter. We went to bed with smoke and ash in the air and an orange glow on the horizon.

On the kitchen floor, next to our bedroom, was this little fellow – newly dead. Our neighbour tells of her friend’s child who got into bed and was stung by a scorpion in the sheets. Writhing in pain from the venom, the child had to go to hospital where she was sedated and anaesthetised for two days, sweating and moaning in pain under her coma. Janet said she thought there was another which ran under the fridge. Just to be sure I pulled it out and in the corner was the other scorpion, tail high ready to sting. Clearly the winner of a fight. I killed him – little ones grow into big ones and make lots more. We didn’t have this problem, nor the fires, in Surrey.