I have a mistress, two of them in fact. Before you judge, my wife knows all about them. You see my mistresses are in the form of two center pivot irrigation systems. Why are they my mistress you ask? Because I spend more time with them then I do with my family sometimes. You see center pivots are a wonderful invention. Every dryland farmer dreams of having one, and anyone that has ever changed hand pipe or had to flood irrigate with a ditch and tube is jealous of those of us who have one of these modern marvels. In dry years they sometimes produce the only feed on the ranch and without them this ranch would not produce enough feed for the harsh winter months. Pivots are also the biggest jigsaw puzzle on the planet. This is the reason that they are a time consuming project.
Shortly after we brand in the spring the pivots get serviced. One of them has a diesel motor that runs everything, while the other is electric. We change oil on the pivot motor, check oil in gear boxes, inspect every u-joint, electrical connection and tire to hopefully head off any future problems through the summer. This is the prime time of the year to fix any major problem. Anyone that has ever had to roll a flat pivot tire to the end of the field in the hottest part of the summer knows that an ounce of prevention is worth way more than a pound of cure. Those gearboxes that are whining in the spring will be the ones that drown you in your own sweat replacing them the first week of August.
Like anything mechanical, there is only so much preventative maintenance that you can do. Keeping equipment in good working order is sure the best way to help you get through the irrigating season, but things do wear out. Our pivot that is operated by a diesel motor had one such event like this this summer. Somehow the machine overheated. In the process it blew a seem on the radiator and pulled a sleeve inside the motor. I pulled the radiator and sent it to a repair shop and we have plans to overhaul the motor this winter to repair the dry sleeve. In the meantime, I keep a close eye on the oil level. After fixing the radiator and determining the engine would survive the remainder of the season, we had to dig into this puzzle deeper to find out what caused all this trouble in the first place. The culprit, a $50 thermostat that had stuck and not allowed the motor to cool. This little breakdown cost us two weeks of downtime, several hundred dollars in new parts and Murphy gauges, some hide off the back of my hands and a few new gray hairs. Thankfully my other mistress wouldn’t demand my attention until after I fixed this one, but it would make me play hide and seek looking for a lost tire in 5-foot-tall sorghum sudan.
I have become quite the problem solver this summer. I don’t ever want to say I’m an expert pivot tech, but I will say a big thank you to those that are. Without the experience of our local pivot company and the help of a few of our neighbors, I would have never been able to diagnose and figure out some of the problems these two systems throw my way. My poor wife deserves a big bouquet of flowers when we shut the systems off this fall, and I believe the best irrigation is a rain from the good Lord above.
That’s all for this time. Take good care of your equipment and thank your neighbors when they come to your aid. Until next time keep tabs on your side of the barbed wire and God Bless.
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