Monday 13 November 2017

Preparing Machinery for Winter

We spent a few hours getting the petrol engined tools which we use in the orchard, ready for winter. I was quite surprised when I realised we now have six such tools. Most of the work was following the maintenance schedule such as oil changes and cleaning air filters. However one item was dealing with fuel (petrol) for the motors. I hadn't realised fuel from the forecourt can go off in as little as 30 days. Using stale fuel can damage a motor, particularly the small high revving 2-strokes.
The usual advice is to drain the fuel systems over Winter and to fill with fresh fuel in the Spring when you start to use the tools again. After some investigation we decided to empty the tanks and refuel them with fresh petrol treated with "Fuel Fit" petrol additive from Briggs and Stratton. This keeps fuel fresh for up to three years. An alternative would be to swap over to Aspen alkylated fuels, they contain fewer impurities and last for a couple of years. Aspen is about three times more expensive than forecourt petrol. Fuel Fit costs about £8 to treat 25 litres of fuel.

None of this equipment is stored on site.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Winching competition

Today saw the annual winching competition in the Turnditch Orchard. In the interest of fairness the teams are offered free choice of equipment and can select their winching tasks in the competition area.  This year the Management team were the clear winners of the event achieving six blackthorn stumps in the allotted time. 
Tirfor type winch

This year we tried out the Power Winch 2500. This pulls quite quickly, but the 2500 lbs pull was no match for the Blackthorn. We stalled the motor when attempting a straight pull of a stump and, in any event, we were worried the surface of the rope may melt on the winch capstan at full pull. We reverted to the tried and tested Tirfor type cable winch (1800Kg), which is slower but significantly greater pulling power.

We used a snatch block to double the pulling power of the winch. The other end of the cable was attached to a 130 mm post which had been driven into the ground, this in turn was backed up by our 16 Kg boat anchor. A new innovation was having the steel wheel rim to change the direction of pull chain to the tree stump. Instead of pulling horizontally, the wheel introduces an upward vector to help lift the root from the ground.

Steel wheel rim helps the pull
Our boat anchor helps the winching

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Anchors aweigh!

We've finally been able to get some free time to work in the Turnditch Orchard during the last weekend. There's an area of the plot which we'd partially cleared of blackthorn, but we made the mistake of not completing the task this year. Consequently the blackthorn has re-sprouted and more effort is needed to trim it and remove it from the ground. 

We did some tidying a few weeks ago when we were trying out our Makita long pole petrol hedge trimmer. We used this to cut back some of the undergrowth. Our field trimmer would have struggled with the thorn bush. 

During the past year we've purchased a portable petrol powered capstan winch, namely a PCW5000 to help us safely move some of the logs on the embankment. We were able to use this to easily pull out some of the thorn bush stumps.  Unfortunately we'd not bought enough rope on site, nor our manual winches, so after the first few easy pulls,  we found we were running out of suitable anchor points for the power winch. The blackthorn is quite stubborn when you winch it out. We found that the fence posts we'd hammered in the ground as anchors pulled out before the blackthorn moved. As a consequence we had to stop work.

The testing we'd done was quite fruitful, we've definitely improved our technique of removing the stumps. The whole process is a lot faster. We just need to sort out the anchoring method for the winch points. So this morning I ordered a heavy (16 Kg) steel boat anchor. This will act as a backstop to the fence post anchors we already use, the harder you pull on these anchors the deeper they dig into the ground.
In case anyone reading this article is thinking of visiting the site to acquire some new tools?  Don't bother we don't leave any equipment of value on site.