Tractor Tire Mule Haul

Mowing the mountain top apple orchard I heard a “wobble, wobble, wobble” and the steering of the tractor went all wonky and I looked down and saw the front tractor tire had come off the rim.

Damn. A half mile of mountain trail separated me from the barn. We don’t own a four wheeler, spare tractor or four wheel drive truck.

Bummer: a flat tire a long way from home.

Down and Up

By chance, our forester Andrew Casey was visiting the orchard with his truck the next day. I say “orchard” and you’re thinking 50 apple trees with branches bent low under a bumper apple crop. You’re right about the 50 apples. You’re wrong to think we’re getting a crop. Our apples are only 3 years old.

I planted them as bare root stock. Each 12″ baby tree set me back six bucks. Three years later, many are over 8′ tall. Some, like the Calloway crab apples, have started bearing.

Our young orchard. The narrow tubes are tree protectors that shield the young apple trees from wind and deer but not bears. In the background, the Brushy Mountains of North Carolina, home to some fine old apple orchards.
We planted a variety of old southern apples: among them Johnathan, Limbertwig and Arkansas Black. Most are semi-dwarf. Some are standard size.
Apples in the mist: I like to plant apple trees in fall or late winter. Here, Snookie supervising the pruning. I’ll only prune these trees once, just to remove suckers and get a good tree form. After that, the trees will be on their own. The apples are primarily for wildlife. I don’t want to become a slave to their care.

The thing about apples is you can’t stop at five or fifty. Apple enthusiasm knows no bounds so when half a hundred didn’t seem enough, I called Andrew to investigate clearing a little more grown over land so I could add, well, just a few more six-dollar trees.

And so while Andrew was scouting the site, he and Julia took the wheel with the flat tire off the tractor and loaded it in to his pick up truck.

Which is how we got the 50 pound wheel off the mountain.

I had it repaired. Now it had to go back up the mountain. Andrew wasn’t there to help us. If that wheel was going back up the mountain, it was going to be muscle power.

Polly: Beast of Burden

Julia and I have made the conscious decision to limit how much equipment we own. Sure, it would be nice to own a four-wheeler or second tractor. But even nicer is to use our bodies.

We heat with wood. We split it by hand. Stack it in our wood shed. Haul it to the house one load at a time all winter long. Yes we use a tractor to haul the trees from the forest. Sometimes we use a mule.

Our beloved stove. It’s a magnet for things winter: a cast iron skillet, pile of dried cayenne pepper we grew, a broom sage broom, mittens, boot grease, coffee and beans.
Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line where our lives and that of our animals’ intersect. Here, Pickle and Snookie waiting for Julia to come out of the house. I’m riding Brick whose ear you see at 5 o’clock.

Every now and then, not having a machine to haul a 50 pound tire up a mountain is a pain in the butt. The last time I had a flat on the tractor, I hauled the wheel up and down the mountain on my back.

This time, I used mule Polly (the same mule from the Lost Sea Expedition series on Amazon Prime).

Here are some pics of how that went.

The pack saddle
Repaired tire lashed in place. The biggest challenge is keeping this top heavy load in place. You have to make sure the load is balanced. If it’s not it doesn’t matter how tight your cinches are. Your load will drag the pack saddle off to the side, a good recipe for a run-away.
A bunch of half-hitches keeps the load in place.
Up the forest road we go. I’m riding Julia’s Haflinger Pickle.
Mission accomplished: Polly and the tire at the top of the hill.
Where the wheel has to go.

I mounted the wheel on the tractor. Julia lead Polly home. I fired up the bush hog and finished my mowing. Then, of course, I planted one more apple tree.

Heading home. Julia heading home with Pickle and Polly after delivering the tire.

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