I had achieved no more then one third of the first circuit when it was apparent that it wasn’t going to cope at level five, so I upped it to level six – its highest setting, went back to the shed and cleaned the cutter shroud. I restarted where I had left off and did another third of the first circuit (it takes about twenty-five to do the whole thing, a bit over two hours when things go well) when it jammed up again. Frequently, when the blades jam, I can disengage them, move to a clean area, and re-engage them, which forces out much of the grass that has clogged them. I tried that. It didn’t work. No grass cuttings came from the cutter area. What did come from the cutter area were some unusual and not too pleasant noises, smells of burning rubber and a lot – and I mean a lot – of thick, acrid, black smoke.
Do you ever get the feeling that all is not well? I did then. I hastily disengaged the cutter drive and drove the mower back to the cleaning area. As I was cleaning it, I noticed the left-hand blade was spinning freely. This, I decided, was not right. Tractor back to its garage.
On Tuesday afternoon, whilst Clare was out, I was cutting the front grass and the sides of the road with the other mower [link] and stopped for a quick chat with Pierre, who was out doing likewise. We talked about grass, weather and the usual stuff, and I told him that my ride-on (tracteur-tondeuse or tondeuse autoportée, or just autoportée in French) was in trouble, that I thought the cutter drive belt was either displaced or broken. I asked if he knew of a local repair man. It seems there is a man in Pionsat, but he only does Husqvarna – which I could never afford – and another in St Hilaire, just up the road, who does that kind of thing. He then ran off and came back some minutes later with a name and telephone number.
Wednesday seemed to get away from us and I didn’t call the man. As Thursday was a public holiday (Ascension Day) I didn’t call then either.
On Friday, another lovely, hot, sunny day, I decided it was “have a go” day, so gathered the tools I thought I would need and set about trying to see what was wrong with the accursed machine. Having successfully realigned the main drive belt a couple of years ago [link] I thought it worth trying this one, too. It looks easy in the book. The book doesn’t have to do it! The book has drawings of the various components. They are clean. Real life isn’t.
I eventually got the shroud off, so I could see the assembly. Somehow, the area was full of very dry grass cuttings; goodness only knows how they got in, but I must have removed at least a cubic foot of them. I could then see what the problem was. On the left side, the belt had jumped off its pulley and was tight against the pillar. That explains the noise, smell and smoke. When the belt was moving, instead of turning the pulley, it was rubbing hard against the fixed pillar! Next problem? How to move the belt back up to the pulley. The belt was tight against a 1″ diameter pillar, and needed to be eased up onto a 4″ diameter pulley. After a lot of thought, I removed the step (which turns out to be an important part of the structure) and attacked it with a couple of crowbars – that did the trick.
Pierre chanced by as I was doing the repair, so I called him in to show him what the problem was. We talked around it for a whie and, before going, he told me that the forecast was for thunderstorms during the evening. Happily, they didn’t come.
A bit later it was reassembled, tested and (fingers crossed) lives to fight another day without having to pay a professional a shedload of cash.
Whilst the machine was out of commission, and before I fixed it, we were questioning whether it is really up to the job. Sure, when I bought it, I checked its specs – it is said to be good for 3000 sq m of grass, against the 2000 or so we have, and I specified to the salesman that our land was uneven and rugged. However, there are various indications that we are asking too much of it. I identified a machine I should like to replace it [link] – all I need now is someone to sponsor me to the tune of 2350€ (£2100 at today’s stupid rate) so I can buy it!
The fruit trees are continuing to do well – those that we can see through the rising jungle – with peaches, pears, apricots, kiwi, black- and red-currants, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, mirabelles, plums and cherries all looking good. One of the pear trees is black with ants so we don’t expect that to develop fruit to ripeness. Next year I think we shall need to try a more aggressive approach to protection against insect pests. A few pictures of the current state of
For us humans, entering the kitchen to prepare food is a little fraught
the blighters have expectations – or at least aspirations. This is the opposite to the street beggars we have all come to love; this is totally passive begging – standing quietly looking up with coy, pleading eyes in the manner perfected by Princess (expletives deleted) Diana.
They continue to get on well together, sharing beds,
and ending up filthy!
Spare a thought for me today. As I am sat inside in my airless study at 30.2°C and 49% humidity, it is brilliant sunshine outside, over 30°C and bloody lovely.
Have a good week.
À la prochaine