Last summer, we visited my wife’s uncle’s farm and I wrote here about his 60-70 year old tractors and other fun things he had there, including the Zipline, Super Swing and more. Well, the title is misleading because the tractors are put away snug in the barn for the winter, but there are still plenty of fun and interesting vehicles and things to do on the farm. Click through for some fun in the snow!
Many folks would think it’s nuts to travel, by car, from Houston to Minnesota to vacation in the middle of winter. I suppose maybe it is, but I can state without reservations that this turned out to be one of the best family trips ever. The weather was perfect, road conditions were fine and a good time was had by all.
There might not have been any classic tractors to drive, but there was something even more fun: a snowmobile! These may be old hat to some of you, but I had never actually driven one before. If you also haven’t, let me report that they are indeed a blast. Fast and controllable, it’s sure a great way to travel in the snow.
The snowmobile is a 1994 Polaris Indy 500. It has a 488c.c. twin cylinder two-cycle engine making 72h.p. It’s very speedy!
Uncle Boyd, you may recall, is a retired mechanical engineer. His summer creations are a huge hit, but this is the first time we’ve been able to try out his winter inventions. First up is the Tube-boggan:
It’s got ski’s in the back and an inner tube on the front. It gets towed up the slope by the snowmobile and then let go at top. The skis keep it going more or less straight as it follows the tracks previously made by the snowmobile. Here it is in action:
Here is a first person perspective:
When we first got there it hadn’t snowed for several days and some warmer temps had given the snow on the ground a hard and icy layer on top. It seemed disappointing there wasn’t any fresh snow, but it turned out to be a good thing for our first day of snow play because that hard, slick surface was perfect for speedy sliding. The Tube-boggan really moved out.
Check out how far a tube will slide on just a slight incline on hard snow above.
As much of an unexpected blessing the old snow turned out to be, we were praying for fresh snow because, after all, that was pretty much the point of visiting family in the frigid winter instead of the usual pleasant and friendly summer. On the third day, we got it. Nine inches overnight! Fantastic, but before we could do much playing, some work had to be done.
Boyd’s heavy duty snow-mover is the New Holland skid loader. With a large snowblower attachment, it can easily blow through some pretty deep snow. Nine inches was
no sweat no problem. Plexiglass windows were cut and installed to keep wind and blowing snow out of the cab.
The secondary snow mover is a 1974 John Deere 140. This is very similar to the 1971 120 model seen in the other article that has a lawnmower deck. This 74 model doesn’t have a role in the summer anymore, but it certainly gets used in the winter. No weather protection on this one, but it works very well for some areas.
Just so the kids aren’t forgotten, the Deere pedal tractor can come out in the snow, too. If the kids thought it was hard to control in the summer, just wait until the winter! This tractor does not have a plow attachment available.
Finally, for light plowing jobs, the Polaris Ranger is a good choice. With a snow plow attached and a homemade wood and plexiglass cab, it is a fast and comfortable snow mover. Boyd made a door for the driver side, but doesn’t bother with it unless the cold is truly bitter. Just keeping most of the wind out is usually enough.
The 2005 Buick Park Avenue is still the primary car, but Boyd also has a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado 4×4 which is handy for serious winter driving. It has only 45,000 miles. In addition to hauling people and stuff, it has a more important job in the winter. It is the driving force behind Boyd’s other winter recreational engineering design: the sledding lift.
It’s a tow lift, kind of like the old-fashioned ones that used to be common at ski resorts. Just hold onto the handle and let it take you uphill. The ropes are attached to pulleys at the top and bottom of the hill, and secured to the front and the rear of the pickup. As the truck moves, the lift heads uphill and then returns down to the bottom.
Here is the sledding hill in full action. I apologize that the video has a finger in the top left, but it is still good. On the left, directly below the finger, you can see the lift returning down the hill as our 6 year old scoots down the hill on the tube.
On the day after it snowed, the temperature overnight dipped well below zero (Fahrenheit that is). This set up the perfect combination of temperature and humidity to put a layer of white frost on all the branches. I’m told this only happens a few times a winter and it was really beautiful.
Temps got into the twenties later and all the ice crystals blew or melted off.
The last thing I’ll show is Boyd’s clever snowmobile cart.
It has two wheels. The snowmobile drives onto one end. When it’s in position on the cart, the weight is balanced such that it can be easily moved around on the concrete floor. When it’s time to have some snowy fun, it’s wheeled to the edge of the barn and driven off.
That’s the fun on the farm in a nutshell. In addition, their town has a park with a track which is sunken slightly, so in the winter it can be flooded to create a large ice skating loop. On Saturdays, the town provides free skate rentals, which I thought was really generous.
After five days of fun, it was time to leave the Winter Wonderland and head back to southern Texas and our completely snow-less reality, which somehow seems a little depressing now.