In the country, one’s trust that Spring is truly here is when one is willing to take the chains from the tractor’s tires. A Winter as harsh that this year’s has been would have been nothing more than skidding and slipping without tire chains. When we purchased our tractor last summer, I included on the accessory list a set of chains. The seller found a pair for the rear wheels, stating that this would be sufficient… and Winter was a long time off. The first snow in early December caught me off guard (it was predicted to be less than two inches), thus I was dragging the sets of chains out from the garage to put on the tractor in five or more inches of snow. They have only come off now.
Dragging each set from the garage is the only way I could get these from point A to point B. Chains this large stretch about ten feet in length, and weight probably more than I do. You put them on as I recall car tire chains that my father used to put on prior to the ascent to the ski resorts near Lake Tahoe during our skiing vacations in the 1970’s. Lay them face down on the ground, back up, roll each end up over the tire, then secure them. Sounds easy until you recall that they weight about as much as I do. At least with tractor tires, I had those large treads to position them on while I tugged and pull each link tighter until I could fasten the clamps.
Initially the rear chains worked well, while I got used to plowing. However, I discovered that on steeper grades of the roads, the tires would slip a bit either when the ground was not froze, or frozen too hard. Our old logging/jeep roads, made into right-of-way roads by the original land development company, have some grades above 20%. Yes, that is 20 feet o elevation change for 100 feet of distance. Poor planning. I learned quickly that the fastest way to stop a tractor sliding downhill forward, backward, or moving sideways when the brakes are applied is to drop the front and back plows. I shall not frighten my mother any more with those tales.
In a conversation with the road excavator whom we usually contract with and who assisted me on several occasions, I learned that front chains give more control than back chains. He also directed me to tirechains.com, out of PA, just north of us. I had a set of chains for the front wheels ordered that evening and on the tractor before the next storm. I went all-out and go the V-grip chains. Our neighbor calls them “ice breakers”. You can see that each link has an open link aimed at the ground welded on to it. No more slipping with those.
But, Spring is here. The chains are off, drying and oxidizing in the garage for the summer. Once the garden is set up, it will be ditch clearing and rut filling season. This will be the next test of my tractor skill-development.