Renovation & Design

When work meets play

Photos by Marc LaBossierre / Winnipeg Free Press

Marc Labossiere says his John Deere 1025R and its implements represent a good investment for a homeowner with a lot of acreage.

The front bucket let Labossiere take on several tasks without having to call in the ‘big boys.’

A tractor equipped with a powerful snowblower is essential when living on an acreage in the country. Without it, getting snowed in can easily become a daily ritual during the worst of winter. Having served its purpose, I recently traded in my older 1990 John Deere 430 for a newer model — the John Deere 1025R with heated cab and a very powerful blower. Clearing snow was a treat this past winter. However, fond memories of playing with Tonka toys in the sandbox as a child didn’t come flooding back until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to get a front bucket for my new toy. And oh — how quickly it was put to good use…

The south-side two-storey addition on my house has begun. Veteran foundations connoisseur Ernie Hildebrandt and his team began excavating in early June. The area to become the crawl space below the sunken main level was dug to proper depth, and the earth was piled up at two locations on my property. The known underground was located and exposed (yes, I called before I dug); the 200-amp service to the house, MTS and AAA alarms were quite easy to find. Although we weren’t certain where the artesian well lines fed into the house, despite several best guesses, its path remained a mystery until Hildebrandt revealed he could "witch" the lines. It was a remarkable sight — with two thin rods in hand, each bent to a 90-degree angle, Hildebrandt was able to confirm, with a great deal of accuracy, the paths for each of the underground services that later were exposed.

The need to drill holes for each of the six 20-foot pilings, as required by the architectural drawings, had me worried — there was a possibility that we could nick the artesian well feed to the house. Hildebrandt, with a great deal of confidence, concluded that after "witching" the line, it was very unlikely the drill would cross paths with the well feed to the house. And once it was all said and done, there was a distinct sense of relief in the air.

Hildebrandt and his son framed the footings above the pilings, then installed the frost shield. The foundation was poured and allowed to set. A few days later, a concrete slurry floor was poured and levelled; that concluded the initial step of the build. There are several other steps before framing, such as breaking through the existing foundation to tie-in ventilation ducts from the furnace and introducing preliminary wiring, but I was excited to attempt a task I had never before had opportunity to tackle — backfill, with a front bucket on my very own tractor!

It was an exciting day. I fired up the 1025R and engaged the hydraulics of the front bucket. Mike Turenne, my sales rep from Enns Brothers in Steinbach, was kind enough to give me an on-site tutorial upon delivery of my newest toys, on how to maximize proficiency and efficiency when using the front loader of my tractor. The information was tattooed onto my frontal lobe and the fun began soon afterward. The hydraulics are easy to use; forward on the hydraulics shifter brings the bucket arm down, and backward brings it upward. Left on the shifter tilts the bucket downward, and right tilts it back up again. When I refined these moves with the forward motion of the tractor, it was unbelievable how much power this tractor exuded. I was muscling though some of the toughest earth and clay as if I were wielding a hot knife through butter, and that expedited the end game: I wanted to backfill along the foundation, then level the ground as much as possible in order to tidy up the worksite prior to the impending arrival of a delivery of materials. Within roughly three hours, one of the two piles of excavated earth had been recycled completely as backfill along the foundation walls. Tracks in the yard — left by the weight of the bigger machinery used to complete the concrete pouring process — were also filled. It was exhilarating, to say the least.

The implement on the rear of the tractor is also new. It’s a planer, used for levelling gravel driveways. After a few rainfalls, my 90-metre driveway begins to reveal potholes and water erosion. One quick pass with the planer, and the driveway looks as new as the day is was first laid out. The planer easily rid the driveway of deep tire tracks caused by the big trucks and eliminated any of the mud and clay that found its way onto the gravel. The planer also served another purpose while using the front bucket — counter-weight, for those heavy loads of earth.

The 1025R has already proven itself more than I imagined it would.

Although my new John Deere 1025R and its implements were somewhat pricey, it is an investment, plain and simple. For someone like me who lives on an acreage with a large yard and seemingly endless driveway, property maintenance is an ongoing process, so this tractor is money well spent. There are so many tasks I can now tackle on my own, without having to call in the "big boys." I’m just not sure if these tasks should be considered "work" or "play"…unlike those Tonka memories in the sandbox, maybe it’s a bit of both.


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