Tires are still kind of a mystery to me. In high school, when I competed in a couple of triathlons, I developed a fondness for racing tires on my bicycle that completely lacked treads in order to reduce “rolling resistance”; I think the bald tires made more of a difference in my mind than on the road. I didn’t own anything with more than two tires until well into my 20th year, when I got a little Subaru to drive from the farm I worked on in
Now, I find myself surrounded by tires. Farms run on them. We’ve got four on the delivery van, four on the harvest van, and four on the Toyota Echo – my subcompact-cum-farm truck. There are twelve on the tractors – plus four more on a rented tractor that’s been sitting for two years. Two on an Italian two-wheeled tractor that looks like a rototiller but does much more. Six on various handcarts around the place. Eight on hayracks. Four on two other trailers. Four on greenhouse wagons. Two to hold the water wheel transplanter at the right depth. Two to hold the field cultivator at the right depth. Two to hold the track sweeps (they kill the weeds in the tire tracks when I’m cultivating) at the right depth. Two more to hold the carrot seeder at the right depth, and two to drive the bean seeder.
Of course, every tire needs air and maintenance. (Tractor tires cost upwards of seven hundred dollars each, so we try not to leave our knives in the field.) On Tuesday, we had to get out the water wheel transplanter – with large hollow wheels that punch holes in the ground and fill them with water – to get some challenging crops into the ground. Just to prove that I am human (okay, not really, I just made a mistake), I didn’t check the tire pressure in one of the tires on the transplanter. Under twelve-hundred pounds of water, this dramatically under-inflated tire promptly rolled right off its rim. I didn’t cuss, even though I wanted to. Ben drove the transplanter back to the shop.
If you’ve ever dealt with a tire that’s come off of its rim, you know that you are up against the laws of physics. You need to put air in the tire, but the tire isn’t sealed; in fact, it’s got a huge gap between the rim and the rubber. Faced with a similar situation a few weeks back, I had found some ideas on the internet about how to fix the problem. So we tried tying a rope around the tire in a way that would let us compress the middle, forcing the “bead” of the tire against the rim. Unfortunately, thirty minutes of dinking around did not result in even pressure around the rim and we gave up. I told Ben that we would give it fifteen more minutes effort, and then I was going to send him to town to have somebody who actually knows what they are doing fix it.
We decided on a dramatic farmer fix. A good farmer fix requires at least two tractors, a come-along or a handyman jack, no money, and some degree of sketchiness. It usually falls into the do-not-try-this-at-home category. I took the tire off of the transplanter, and we parked two tractors facing each other so we’d have two solid anchor points, then attached a come-along (a winch with a hook to anchor the winch, plus a cable with another hook that you ratchet along to move heavy things) to one of the tractors. We tied a nylon rope to the other tractor, wrapped it around the circumference of the tire, and tied it to the come-along. As we ratcheted the rope tighter, Ben used a metal bar to keep the tire from rotating and popping out of the rope. (Okay, I admit that we had to learn that one the hard way…) When we had it as tight as we thought we could get it without damaging the tire, I attached the air compressor hose to the valve stem to try to inflate it. Alas, we heard only the whoosh of escaping air until Ben suggested I squeeze the sides of the tire as well – and all of a sudden, the whoosh turned into the satisfying susurration of a tire filling with air. I let out a whoop heard throughout