It’s winter… that means apple tree pruning … and a lot of equipment maintenance. For my Dad, Art Soons, it also means equipment modification. If you’ve been to the farm dinner, or hung around the shop with him, you know that most “off-the-shelf” equipment needs something… something changed, tweaked, improved… something so it will work for us and our apple and peach orchards and the farm in general. As many of you know, our orchard is on a steep slope and has rocks galore (we think that improves the taste of our apples, but that’s another blog post). Art has either modified or re-purposed or invented so many things…I really do need to get a full inventory at some point… I recently caught him working on two different things I thought I’d share.

First was the bushhog mower – in the photo he’s welding (and I’m cluelessly looking at the arc – not smart), yet another skill he has honed over the years. As we prune away, sawing and cutting out tree limbs, we make a huge mess in the orchard. This machine is essential to grind up all those cuttings so they can basically be absorbed back into the ground. To get the best result you need to be at the right place over the brush (and avoid the rocks!); turns out off-the-shelf only gives you so many options… and Art wanted more! So he rigged up a way to use hydraulics to be able to move the mower ever so slightly up or down as needed. As he says, sounds easy, but man it took a lot of work!

Next was the boom sprayer, which we’ll use for fertilizer and/or crop protectants (organic and conventional, which is also another future post!) for sweet corn and other row crops. As with most of our equipment, it ain’t new… so we have to build in features that the new stuff might already have… like a pump in the bottom of the tank so you can get the last bit of your mix out without it turning into a 20 minute job of re-leveling yourself and the tractor – farm fields aren’t always perfectly level and often one tire is lower than another. His new sump pump pipe will grab that last bit of mix so nothing’s wasted and you save time as well…something we all seem to never have enough of!