Hard Ground - Ripping It Back To Life

Our farm has been abused for a long long time.  When I say abused, I don't mean like Fukushima or the BP disaster in the gulf, but more like a dog you never walk and kick when they piss on your carpet.  

The previous owners, drove large heavy construction equipment all over the property (compacting and scaring the land). They dump trash everywhere, used concrete, broken brick walls, old cars, old oil cans and  the icing on the cake, they buried hundreds if not thousands of metal post which were part of the old vineyard. Instead of taking them out of the ground and cleaning up the land, they just drove a bulldozer over the whole vineyard and covered it with dirt.

They just didn't seem to care about this patch of dirt.  It might be a generational thing or lack or resources or laziness?  I am ot really sure and at this point it really doesn't matter. 

What does matter is that there is a mess and we need to clean it up before we  can plow, create roads, or plant a single seed. We also need to break up all this compacted dirt and let it breath again. To do that and to find all the trash, we will need to Rip it.

Before we moved to Sonoma and purchased our first tractor, I had no idea what a ripper was or that such a thing existed.   My first exposure to a ripper was on a youtube video from Ted at EverythingAttachments.com. Ted, demos tractor attachments he sells.  He explains how to use them, what are good about his or the ones he sells and what is bad about the ones he doesn't sell,  which I thought was great.  I watch all of his videos, looking for clues to what I might need for our tractor.  On the Subsoiler video, he ripped a small field and explained how to use it and how to get it set correctly. He was using a red one but on his site, they had their own branded Subsoiler and it was only $385.  I thought great, I will take one.

Fast forward a few months, the Subsoiler arrived.  It seemed a bit small but I attached it to the back of my John Deere 5085 M tractor  and slowly dropped it into the soil and drove forward.  Everything was going along smooth, until I had to make a slight turn.  Something went wrong.  It seemed to be leaning to one side.  But not knowing any better, I kept plowing ahead.  Then I thought, what if I just turn around at the end of the row (without lifting it out of the ground). So I did, and now it was really leaning.  I decided to pull it up and see what was happening.  Well, wait for it, to my surprise, the subsoiler was now a U shaped subsoiler.  The thing bent almost in half.  Now what!

Within an hour, I had destroyed my new subsoiler and I still had 24 acres to rip. 

What the video didn't say or I didn't know any better, is that this Everything Attachment Subsoiler is only for tiny tiny tractors and don't even think about turning while its in the ground.  I turned... a lot.  

So, I needed a real ripper.   I quickly texted my John Deere Tractor dealer in Santa Rosa (Belkorp) and told Bob (my sales guy), what I was trying to do.  He told me he could get me a good deal on a ripper sitting at their other location in Calistoga. A good deal means $3k.  Not the cheapest thing and definitely not the $385 I paid for the bendable one.  Okay I told him.  But will it work? Can I get deep and is it heavy.  Well, yes on all counts. 

The ripper showed up a few days later.  Weighing in at around a 1000 lbs. it is heavy, thick and unbendable.  It is a Schmeiser Vineyard Ripper VR with three shanks.  Of course everything around here is focused on vineyards, but it will work.  I will just have to make more passes.

So, off I went to attach it to the tractor, which was pretty easy for once. I am becoming an old pro at attaching things to the 3 point hitch.   Fast forward two weeks later and the entire 24 acres has now been ripped to almost 3 feet deep. I didn't rip everyday.  The total time may have been 5 or 6 straight days.  The ground is now nice and soft, but rough to walk over.  

In the process of ripping and what took the most time was getting in and out of the tractor to collect the metal post, which the Ripper was pulling out of the ground.  Hundreds of them.  I would drive a few feet, hit something, get out, place it in my front loader bucket and get back in and start again.  I did this day and night.  In the end, I filled my dump trailer to the top with just the metal. I sent it over to the recycler and got $300, which I gave to my helpers.

I am just happy to have the fields ripped and ready for the next step.  Shaping the fields and hopefully plowing.  Stay tuned.