Topper Troubles

The finest view in Scotland (with apologies to Snaffles)
The finest view in Scotland (with apologies to Snaffles)

The tractor has been lying motionless for three months, since the fuel return pipe crumbled into dust and sprayed the engine with half a tank of diesel. Some concerted support from friends and family has seen the rusty leviathan return to pride of place once more, this time decked out with dual wheels and a fantastic topper which has been purloined from my father. The topper is kitted out with some heavy duty shear-bolts on account of the Chayne being covered just below moss-level with the kind of stones that would make Atlas reach for his hernia belt.

Rather than work through a shear-bolt every acre as was customary while cutting in the back end, the new bolt is going to take some serious beating, and the PTO is the first in line for potential casualties. The trick is to hover over the PTO clutch until the first clang of steel against stone, then haul it up as quickly as possible to avoid the (almost) inevitable stall. It’s a pretty obscure way of working, but after you’ve changed your millionth shear-bolt, anything is preferable.

When my father lent me the topper, he assured me that it would be next to impossible to break the blades themselves, but after four hours on the tractor this afternoon, the topper finally met its match. Shards of whinstone flew out like a starburst and immediately the whole tractor began to vibrate. Rather than risk damaging the bearings, I drew up to a halt and climbed out to see that the blade had torn off about eight inches of itself, rendering the whole implement more or less useless. It will be a pretty straightforward job to replace the part, but it drew the afternoon to an abrupt end.

I had forgotten just how tedious it is to work a tractor back and forth for several hours at a time, and for some reason I had Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” stuck in my head for the entire duration of the work. I must try and rig up an alternative music system, because if I get back into that cycle again, things will really start to go downhill.

The area I was cutting is specifically designed for curlews, and I cleared a three acre field so that it is now almost totally devoid of rushes. If the topper hadn’t broken, the second half of the afternoon would have been spent extending pathways out into the moss in all directions like a massive thirty acre octopus. I hope to finish this work next weekend before the waders have got settled so that they can use the pathways and clear areas as they settle down to breed. Ultimately, I want to reclaim this field altogether, but in the meantime it is useful to see how (if at all) this kind of management works on the Chayne. A blackcock and greyhen have been moving around on this hill face, and there will be advantages from this cutting for them too.


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