Sunday, February 20, 2011

We have a ProGator, prepare to be topdressed

Towards the end of last summer, our John Deere ProGator started to make some noises that made us uncomfortable.  There was a little grinding, some jumping, and a clunk here and there.  Our Equipment Manager said the transmission was going out and we'd be better off parking it until we could get it fixed.

So the heavy duty utility vehicle sat there for months.  With fall aerification just around the corner, it was too late to get the unit repaired or to find a replacement whether new or used.  We borrowed a demo and another vehicle from our friends at Woodbridge Golf and Country Club who are always willing to help out a neighboring course. 

Our plan was to explore replacement options and eventually rip the machine apart in-house to see what degree of repair was needed.  The ProGator is 15 years old so spending a bunch of money on the tranny was out of the question.  Just sending the unit in for repair would result in a labor bill of roughly $2000 and if a new transmission was needed.......... well let's forget that.

I haven't found anything that our Equipment Manager, Jan cannot fix, but a repair of this magnitude requires some special knowledge.  Our friend Jim with 25 years experience with John Deere and some time on his hands offered to help us out with the repair and it started with fingers crossed this past Monday. 

First, they pulled the transmission filter screen and here is what they found:

All the gunk on that filter is tiny shavings of metal.  In case you are not sure, that is a very bad sign.

Next we pulled apart the transmission and as we did, we could hear ball bearings and bits of metal falling inside the case.  Once again, not a good sign.  I couldn't stand any more bad news and I don't have anything to offer in the way of equipment repair so I left Jan and Jim to do what they do.

When I was called back for a short education on transmissions, they had some good news to share.  A bearing had fallen apart and was causing all the racket we'd been hearing.  Somehow, all the bits of metal stayed away from the gears and did no further damage.

You can see the gears in this photo and all of them are in very good condition with no wear, no play, no chips, dents, or cracks.  They went through each one individually, tooth by tooth, to make sure to replace any damaged portion of the transmission.  If you look to the left of the bearing with the orange collar, you will see the problem atop the center shaft.  Half of this bearing is missing.

I took this photo today with the old bearing on the left and the new on the right: 

So, Monday they tore this thing apart, went through every piece and ordered everything that needed to be replaced.  The unit was back up and running by 2:00 pm on Tuesday.  The final price tag including all of the labor, parts, and fluids was just over $1000 and that included a new lift cylinder for $387.  

We have so many jobs that were waiting for this unit to be brought back to life.  In a time of year that every course struggles financially, this is a major success story.  With the help of some friends, the know-how of a talented Equipment Manager, and a bunch of luck, we just saved the club a major expense.  
Monday, February 7, 2011

Disappearing Duckweed 2


G'day everybody.

In response to requests for a closer look at the "Nuts & Bolts "of the DuckWeedSuckInator. I clicked a few pics to give a closer view.

Here is a view with the top cut off, the side section cut out to allow the Duckweed to be drawn towards the inlet (2" Slip-Fix).

This view from above shows the green hose that we attach to the trash pump. Jan secured the pvc fittings to the bottom of the container using a bed knife and hose clamps. This enables the inlet to stay level and not lean to one side, which causes air bubbles and loss of the prime.

The Slip-Fix in this picture is attached directly to 2" elbow, allowing for adjustment and a slightly larger inlet. We have also utilized a length of 2" pipe into the elbow and then into the Slip-Fix, this allows you to raise the inlet even higher but unfortunately gives you a smaller inlet.

While nestled on the bottom of the pond, this simple design can be modified to adapt to daily pond levels, thickness of the Duckweed, and many other conditions.

The Duckweed on the pond we are working on is noticeably thinner, which is very encouraging.

With the temperatures around 70deg over the last two days, and the golf course drenched in sunshine, the course is playing and looking great.

I look forward to seeing you on the course.

Rob Williams
Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pond Update

I hope you enjoyed Rob's post of our contraption which we've named many times including my favorite, 'The DuckWeedSuckInator'.  This was a great team effort and we are still trying to improve on the original model.  Our Equipment Manager, Jan Landreth has been especially helpful with her background in mechanical engineering and the ability to problem solve any obstacle in a unique way.

I'm lucky to have people like Jan and Rob who devote a portion of their free time researching our course problems instead of reading what their friends had for dinner on Facebook.  These two are constantly coming in with new ideas and solutions that begin with, "Last night, I was looking at ......"  We fuel off of each other's passion for our work and it feels good.

Our pond skimming device has been working pretty well, but we're pulling it back into the shop to make some minor adjustments.  Rob, our staff cameraman, will snap some photos and get them up on the blog in case anyone is having a similar problem and would like to make a SuckInator of their own.  Of course, we would like you to share any improvements you make to the simple design.

You may be wondering, how does a pond get that bad in the first place.  Well, our main problem is a lack of depth.  The two ponds on the course that are deeper than two feet are in very good condition with no algae or duckweed over the last two years.  We've improved our algae control by reducing organic inputs into the ponds.  Our main way of doing this was to grow up a buffer strip between the water's edge and maintained turf.  Check out this post back in August, 2009 on lake buffer strips.

Duckweed reproduces at an alarming rate and can fill a pond very quickly.  We have some pesticides that are similar to Round Up, but labeled for aquatics which we use to help control the floating weed.  However, since our volume of water is so low, the decomposition of duckweed results in an oxygen loss and a potential fish kill.  The pesticide is not responsible for killing fish, it's the loss of oxygen that does that.  So, we are not comfortable spraying until we get the population of duckweed much lower than the blanket you currently see on a few of the holes.  Winter time is the perfect opportunity while the weed is not growing or reproducing.  Our skimmer can reduce the population to a manageable range and we can get these ponds looking like water again.  More updates coming soon.