Friday, December 12, 2008

Restoring a Recycling Antique

Recycling is not new news on a ranch. Manure has been recycled on farms and ranchers long before the recycling movements of the late 20th century and organic material from the remains of harvested crops has long been turned over and back into the soil. Here at the Kurtz Ranch, we’ve always recycled manure for our meadows and gardens. To do so is a daily ritual in the warm months. The manure is picked from the pens, loaded into a wheel barrow, and then collected in the bed of the manure spreader. It’s not glamorous work, but it is essential work to caring for our horses and helpful in adding nutrients back into the meadows and garden soils. Once the manure spreader is full, it’s hooked up to our Gator, an ATV, and spread out over the meadows. The action of the manure spreader’s chains pushes the manure out and through a rotating flail that breaks it up and sends it on its way.

The ranch boasts two antique manure spreaders, one, a McCormick from the late 1950s, and one, a New Idea from the 1940s. The McCormick has been in regular use during recent years and the New Idea has been tucked away and all but forgotten until the McCormick broke down this fall. It may be hard to imagine such antiques still serve a useful purpose on our ranch, but they do and work as well as newer models.

When several links of chains were damaged on the McCormick, our renters and part-time ranch hands, Dawn and Bob, set to work on the project. We were so fortunate that Bob and Dawn found their way to the ranch and our rental cabin a little over a year ago. They moved from Michigan and have found a home away from home in northwestern Colorado. We depend on Bob and Dawn to take care of things whenever we’re out of town and they oversee the place as though it were their own. Bob is also known to gravitate toward anything that needs fixing. So, when the manure spreader needed repairing, they both went to work researching manure spreaders online, sources for new chain links, and then turned their indomitable “can do” spirit loose. After several work sessions, Bob replaced the broken links and the floorboard of the spreader. Once backed into the machine shed, it looks ready for several more decades of recycling work.

Setting out to restore the McCormick wasn’t an idealistic view of saving an antique. It was a practical decision, following in the footsteps of traditional mid-western farm and western ranch practices of making do with what you have, taking care of what you own, and utilizing resourcefulness in the process. Fortunately, this tradition continues to benefit everyone: the ranch operation isn't faced with investing in another piece of equipment and those who restore feel the satisfaction of bringing new life to a valuable and practical recycling antique. Up next, the New Idea manure spreader will be brought back to life sometime in 2009.

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