So I began pricing out grader blades locally after our big snowfall. I sent out a few email inquiries, and then, just to have an idea what to expect, I also searched out pricing on used blades across Ontario. It seemed like I was going to be looking at around $400-$500. These things must really hold their value!
Afortek Tractors just south of Thunder Bay had a heavy duty blade in stock, regular price was $510.00, but they were willing to sell it to me for 10% off, so about $460.00 if I purchased before the end of next week. They would have regular blades in the spring, but they were still over $400.00, and a few months too late for me to clear snow with!
Thunder Bay Co-Op, on the other hand, had a regular duty blade in stock, regular price of $329.00 - which is less expensive than almost every used blade I had looked at! The caveat - it was only a 60 inch blade, not the (seeming) standard 72 inch. As always, I prefer smaller to larger anyway, so I was quite happy to brush the snow off the truck, and with Grandpa as my co-pilot headed down Highway 61 towards Neebing Township. Of course, I also loaded up the back of the truck with a few cinder blocks to help with my traction down the driveway.
After assuring me that the Kubota orange coloured blade at least "looked" faster than the standard grey, I selected the fancy blade and had it loaded into the back of the truck. They were even kind enough to throw in the pallet for free!
Back home, as I was removing my winch and skidder assembly from the tractor, I was chagrined to notice that at some point the three point hitch had somehow pinched the power cables, nearly severing them. Sigh, another thing to add to my to-do list. I guess I won't be skidding logs today at least.
With the winch removed, I had to improvise a bit to get the grader attached to my three point hitch. The two lower bars were easy enough, but getting the top bar in place proved difficult with a 150-200 pound weight to lift into place. I ended up wedging a crate under the blade and then inserting the pin - awkward, but tenable.
The blade worked really well! I lowered it right down to the ground, as the Yanmar hitch does not have down pressure, but rather just relies on gravity for down pressure. This way the grader "floats" over the surface a bit, relying only on its own weight to hold it against the surface (or so I surmise because I am able to lift the hitch myself if I need to - oh my sore back!). It was a rough trip the first pass - knocking the points off of frozen gravel. I did get stuck in one or two places, but a combination of engaging the four wheel drive and raising the blade ensured that nothing too serious occurred.
One thing I noticed that I will have to watch for is that as the snow banks grew larger on the outside of the laneway, it seemed to push the rear end of the tractor and blade into the centre of the drive, rather than the weight of the tractor being enough to push the snow further out. I hope that my driveway doesn't become progressively narrower as winter proceeds! I suppose I can try to use the front end loader to scoop up any trouble spots and just drop them further out. I also could likely turn the grader blade 180 degrees (tenkan for my Aikido readers), and push the snow off the surfaces in question.
She returned to the yurts, and I did a bit more grading. I returned to the truck, drove it about a foot or two, and bam! Stuck again.
I didn't have room in my stomach to swallow any more pride, so this time I hooked up the come-along and chain and pulled the truck back into its original position. I had graded it with the tractor a few times, so of course now the truck would be fine from there.
As soon as I put it in reverse, it slid into EXACTLY the same ruts as I was originally stuck in, and then just spun there. Three times stuck in the same day? I was reliving my mud adventure of the summer just a few feet from the original - this time with snow.
Now I was CERTAINLY too sheepish to ask Donna to come back and help me get the truck out of the spot she had found it in earlier, so I moved to the back of the truck with the come-along, and proceeded to winch it about eight feet back, past where she had left it, until I was confident that it was on high enough, flat enough ground that it couldn't possibly slide anywhere.
Imagine my surprise when I was right! I parked the truck easily, and then worked into the twilight with the grader, practicing my techniques and widening our drive. At last, I returned to the yurts to find the thunder box full and awaiting emptying. A nice finish to my working day.
You may think I'm being a bit sarcastic about emptying a bucket full of Kenny's deuces, but I assure you I'm not - at least this one was still warm, and its contents simply slid out and into the larger compost bin without fuss. The bucket from the Tardis, on the other hand, is still sitting upside down by the compost area - frozen solid and with its contents tenaciously holding fast to their blue plastic home. I have a bad feeling that we are either going to have to give up on the Tardis for the winter, or else bring its buckets into the yurts to thaw before emptying - not really my favourite choice.