Every year we mow our huge back fields. That's part of our management agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources -- everyone thinks of forest management, but some areas, such as this field, is managed for wildlife. Lots of species need open grasslands, and this provides a critical pocket of habitat. It is thick with wild sage, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries,blackberries, hop hornbeam, wild apple trees and so much more. Bordered on one side by a black spruce bog, it is a haven for wild turkeys, rabbits, ducks and insects of all kinds.
We can't mow until after the butterflies are done... so it's always in late September, early October that we head up there with the brush-hog on the tractor. Prior to that, we only mow critical areas around the cross country training fences that are scattered here. And mowing those is a slow process, since we have to get down and look for monarch caterpillars constantly. Still, the pay-off of butterflies drifting through the fields is payback enough!
There is an abundance of milkweed in these fields. Which explains the abundance of monarchs. We don't know why people want to tear these out of gardens. The plants are strong, attractive, the flowers gorgeous and fragrant. The young seedpods are edible. They are the ONLY food for monarch caterpillars. And at this time of year, the real magic happens, when the pods open up and the seeds parachute out on their long silken tendrils.
Over the years mowing these fields I've been visited by all kinds of wildlife. Deer graze, unperturbed by the tractor. Wild turkeys flock past. Two years back, a big wolf came out of the forest, sat down and watched me mow for about 20 minutes before leaving. I think he was waiting for me to leave so he could come out hunting the mice that scamper through the tall grass.
This year, we learned something about diesel engines. The fuel gauge wasn't working -- who knew? and I ran the engine dry. Now, that's a bad thing for a diesel. The only good news was that I was high and dry in a sunny field at the time. Brian takes this tractor through our ski trails, and if it had happened while down in the boggy bits it would have been far worse.
Thankfully, Brian was within hailing distance. Poor chap, every time he has tried to get to work in the sugar bush -- cleaning, re-organizing, re-tooling -- something has come up. This time it was the tractor. A diesel run dry does not simply start when you fill up the tank. Air gets sucked through the lines and jammed up at the injectors, which cannot get fuel because of the air bubble. The lines have to be "bled" to remove the air. But that's not a simple task. It entails (as we discovered) removing the engine cover. Trying out an assortment of wrenches. Cursing because nothing is within easy reach, or at an easy angle. Priming the engine repeatedly. When we at last had fuel through all the lines, the engine still was unco-operative. Brian hooked up a chain, and towed the tractor across the field, and that is how we got the wretched thing started again. We are very blessed to have Brian, who's skills are wide and who can "fix anything."
We'll be getting a new fuel gauge. You can take that to the bank. And take it from us, don't run your diesel engine dry... not fun.