In Praise of our Outlander XT ATV for the Homestead. Including a Cheap and Easy Log Skidding Cone.

It’s the rare time I am on the ATV for any more than a few moments that I don’t appreciate just how valuable an addition it has become to us.

When I compare doing identical jobs with the ATV as compared to the tractor, I can’t help but shake my head at how much better that ATV is for the small homesteader.  About the only chore that the tractor could claim to be superior would be skidding multiple logs on clear, flat, open terrain – an amazing rarity here on the homestead.

I haven’t added chains to the wheels as yet, but so far I don’t know how much difference they would have made.  We have managed to skid everything (with varying degrees of difficulty) we have wanted to so far.

Some of the larger logs did prove to be quite a challenge.  I had given up on two of them, after describing to Grandpa the use of skidding cones by people with larger budgets than mine.  He took it upon himself to winch the last two monster logs up the unclimbable slope, and then dismantled his old wheelbarrow and turned it into a thrifty log skidder.

Our first attempt to use it proved questionable.  Once moving, I kept trying to increase speed on the ATV as this was the best practice in previous attempts…  It allowed the log to have some momentum and break through smaller obstacles.

With the skidding barrow (cone?  No, that’s not quite right…) in place, the extra speed was a liability that caused it to tip over and lose all usefulness.  I found that by easing off to a brisk hike, the log kept itself on the flat portion of the barrow, and slid over the small imperfections in the trail.

It was a real winner!  Grandpa had planned on only taking out a single log as proof of his concept, but it went so slick, we rushed back to the bush and easily took out the other one as well.  We had won!  We had skidded out the largest portion of the tree, at a 10′ length!

Credit to the ATV, and to Grandpa for his persistence.  I am often quick to abandon a project in favour of coming back to it much later.  He keeps thinking.

Ploughing snow with the ATV is so much nicer than craning my neck on that old tractor.  As well, it actually starts even when the thermometer is below zero!

Problem though – I hadn’t thought of it much before, but the plough was attached to the framework supporting the foot rests of the ATV.  Last year when first purchased, I noted that it wasn’t aligned straight to the ATV, and so the plough always canted a bit to the right.  No problem, I generally kept it sloped that way anyway when ploughing.

After the first use or two against snowfall, I noticed that it seemed to be favouring the right side of the ATV even more than usual.  Climbing down and looking underneath, I was unamused to note that the framework of the foot rests had been badly swept backwards, likely due to the strain placed by the plough hitting hidden stones or heavy snow.  Sigh.

Luckly KC Automotive was willing to take a look at it for me.  I even suggested that I would be willing to pay to have them drill out the frame and add some cross bracing to help it.

Two days later they texted me that it was ready for pickup.  They had spent a day and a half on it, first straightening out the existing framework, then actually WELDING supports from the main chassis of the ATV to the plough attachment plate.  This should make it multiple times stronger than it originally was!  I am so impressed.  I cannot recommend them enough to my local readers (well, that’s probably just Mummu and Mama, but one can dare to dream that someone else reads this blog…)

Yesterday late in the afternoon the internet was still out (due to the temperature, our solar charge controller ups the voltage to the batteries so high that the inverter feels there must be a fault with the system and cuts out – don’t get me started  on our power situation!).  I asked Mama permission to go out to the bush and retrieve some more firewood.  I didn’t have any specific tree in mind, there are so many candidates on the trail.  I headed to the end and found a nice one that looked well suited.  It was also closer to the trail than I had recalled,  so I opted to cut it first.

It fell mostly uneventfully (okay, it rocked back and pinched the blade of my chainsaw – that happens all the time to me.  I was able to push it over by hand.)

I had managed to get it to fall across the trail, where the top had conveniently broken off anyway.  I backed the ATV up, hooked it on and hit the gas.

Humming my jazz tunes to remind me of my recent video record of this trip, I could feel the ATV pull against the weight of the tree and drag it from the bush and along the trail.

I have gotten use to the feel of the machine to such a degree that I can now tell mostly by feel when or if my log has become detached, so I don’t have as much a need to keep checking over my shoulder to confirm that it is still there.  I drove out of the bush without glancing back.

Imagine my surprise when I got back to the cabin and discovered that this log was well over 30′ long!  Kenny, at about 4′ measured out nine lengths of himself against it.

With the sun low in the sky (when isn’t it at this time of the year?  Two more days until solstice!), I bucked it into stove lengths, and then split it down even more.

I was about to call it a day when Donna and Kenny arrived to help me pile it by the back woodsheds – what a team!  Everything is so nice when we all pull together!

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