As a remodel contractor, farmer, carpenter, and woodsman, I know firsthand how important it is to depend on my equipment for quality and efficiency. Aside, of course, from purchasing quality equipment in the first place, care of use and maintenance are the biggest factors in ensuring dependable results over a long lifespan. It seems like life is all about being prepared in one way or another, and the big wind storms we've seen in the Northwest this winter have reminded me why being prepared and maintaining equipment is so important.

One night at Westbrook Farm when the power went out it all started relatively fun, with candles and flashlights. But as the cold began to set in and the wind began to turn into a real howler—the likes of which I've never seen before—that little fun adventure feeling gave way to serious concern. Trees were snapping, power lines in the neighborhood were down, roads were blocked, shingles were flying off my house, and the barn was being pummeled with large branches from the nearby forest.

Doing my rounds checking fences, buildings, and equipment, things seemed to be OK—until I was gripped with the feeling of impending doom. The basement sump pump! The basement of our home is the lowest spot around, and we have a large industrial sump pump in a well down there to keep it from filling with ground water.

You guessed it! Without running power the basement started filling fast! At this exact moment, I somehow remembered I had a 12-volt trailer water pump, typically used for a motor home. I also grabbed an old battery charger that was no longer working, and cut off the red and black clips. Wiring these clips to the leads of the pump, and then rigging an old garden hose to the inlet and outlet, I had a jerry-rigged water pump. It needed power though, so I fired up my 1992 Chevy s10 pickup truck. Sticking one hose into the rising tides in our basement and the other end in a culvert down the street, I had both clips in-hand ready to clamp to the battery terminals under the hood of my truck. Pausing, in that moment, I came to the realization that this little pump was the only barrier we had to save damage to our furnace, electrical, and basement storage. I felt embarrassed; I'm a stickler for preparedness, and somehow this scavenged makeshift generator and pump-of-last-resort was the best I could do?

Maintenance on equipment is all about being prepared. It can save disaster, make things efficient, and make your equipment last a lot longer. Purchase equipment that is top-quality, has a support system for local maintenance, and has parts that are easily accessible. This will really help you in making it easier to maintain your equipment from small mowers to larger machinery, because getting what you need is available at a moments notice. Whether this is the year you're purchasing new equipment or you have a machine that has been sitting through the winter and needs some attention, here are the seven steps for keeping your machinery in top shape year-round.

  1. Wash the machine and inspect unit for any visible damage.

  2. Perform an annual service on unit. (Change oil and filter, new spark plugs, flush fuel system.)

  3. Sharpen any blade(s).

  4. Lubricate all pivot points and grease Zerks (if equipped).

  5. Set tire pressures.

  6. Level the mower deck and test-run unit.

  7. Inspect the battery and load test to verify battery state.