Oscar H. Will III shares his tips on searching online for farming information, including websites for tractor calculations, math and size conversions.
Search online for farming information when you need fast homesteading answers.
The Internet is one of the most valuable tools around my farm because it provides a connection to an incredible body of knowledge, tons of information, and practically all the products I need for the farm or otherwise. I now search online for farming information instead of looking through a parts manual or fencing supply catalog, or even, in some cases, a reference book. When I need information quickly, I can get it. When I feel like wandering around the web on a self-directed path to see what I can see, that’s possible too.
For example: During a quick break from other chores over the weekend, I decided to fill one of our old Cub Cadet’s rear tires with relatively less-toxic alcohol-based (not methanol) windshield-washer anti-freeze to give it some extra weight and traction for the winter. We already have two real loader tractors that dig us out when New Hampshire snows fly, but I recently obtained a miniature V-style snowplow sized perfectly for the Cub Cadet garden tractor, and the child in me really wants to give it a try.
True to my type, I didn’t just head off to the auto store looking for fluid: Instead, I spent some time — too much time, actually — calculating roughly how many gallons of liquid I would need to buy, then figuring out how much weight it would add. Since I don’t know where my handbook of mathematical tables and formulas is and I no longer have a handheld calculator, I turned to the Internet and ended up on a virtual trip that more than answered my questions.
In the back of my mind, I knew that there was a relatively easy way to calculate the volume of a ring torus (a circular cross-sectioned cylinder formed into a circle) and since this shape approximated the tire’s and I was just looking for an estimated volume, I went with it. A quick Google (www.Google.com) search using the term “ring torus” lead me directly to the Wolfram MathWorld website (www.MathWorld.Wolfram.com) and several pages devoted to torus properties, including many formulas to calculate their volumes. After a bit of measuring (on the tires) and plugging values into one of the formulas, I calculated that each tire’s volume was 2,139 cubic inches rounding to the nearest cubic inch. Since asking for 2,139 cubic inches of windshield washer fluid in a rural New Hampshire parts store is a sure way to get laughed at or possibly even booted out, I had to first convert cubic inches to the more acceptable volumetric measure of gallons before proceeding.
I don’t keep those handy wallet-sized conversion tables in my wallet (even though I know that I have several in a drawer somewhere) so I returned to Google for help. Using the search terms “volume conversion,” I was greeted in 0.48 seconds by more than 30 million links to what appeared to be relevant web pages. Since I was in a hurry, I just clicked on the first link and ended up at OnlineConversion’s website (www.OnlineConversion.com), staring at lists containing more inter-convertible units of weights and measures than I ever imagined existed. I quickly selected cubic-inches in the “from” list and gallons in the “to” list, entered 2139 in the input box, clicked on the Convert button and in another small fraction of a second learned that the Cub Cadet’s rear tires contain 9.26 gallons each based on my earlier ring torus assumptions. I also learned that they each contain 296.31 U.S. gills, 0.15 U.S. hogsheads, and 1.85 U.S. buckets, though I doubt that information will ever come in truly handy.
According to the operator’s manual for one of our big tractors, no more than 75 percent of a tire’s volume should be filled with fluid: The air pocket is needed to keep the tire flexible and to absorb abrupt impacts that might otherwise rupture its sidewall. Using the 75 percent factor, I calculated that about 7 gallons of fluid could be safely added to each Cub Cadet tire (multiply 9.26 by 0.75), but how much weight would that add? Miraculously, I was able to remember that the density of pure water is 1 gram per milliliter, which I decided to use for the weight calculation even though the alcohol solution I intended to use to prevent the fluid from freezing would be a little less dense. A quick trip back to www.OnlineConversion.com indicated that water’s metric density was equivalent to 8.34 pounds per gallon. Multiplying the 8.34 lb. per gallon by 7 gallons, I discovered that the fluid-filling exercise would add around 58 pounds of extra weight in each tire – plenty to make a traction difference.
If you aren’t inclined to do the math but still need to know the ballasting effects of loading your tractor’s rear tires with fluid, then all you need to do is jot down the tire size (visible on the tire’s sidewall) and head over to the Tractorsmart website (www.TractorSmart.com/Farm_Tractor_Liquid_Tire_Ballast.htm) for an accurate listing.
I was thinking about how much fun it would be to figure the amount of additional traction the Cub Cadet would have with an extra 116 pounds of rear ballast when my wife, Kate, asked me to help change out the propane bottle attached to her glass-blowing torch. By the time I had gotten the empty tank refilled (passing the auto-parts store twice), I no longer felt the urge to add fluid to the Cub Cadet’s tires, deciding to mow the yard with it instead. Part way through that activity, the tractor quit and wouldn’t restart until I wired the coil directly to the generator and disconnected the battery. Minutes after the mowing was finished, I looked up a wiring diagram online (www.IHRegistry.com) for the 40-year-old machine and an ignition-switch troubleshooting guide to boot. A few mouse clicks later and replacement parts were on their way.
The online world is huge, and we all have a different way of getting around in it. If you know of an interesting or useful website that you think Grit readers might be interested in, please send me an email containing your name and address, the link, the search terms and engine that you used to find it, and a brief description of why you find the site so handy. I will compile a list from your submissions for a future
Country Tech and we’ll post them on our website, www.Grit.com. In the meantime, happy web wanderings.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.
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