Crate Expectations

Well there was little point in procrastinating now we had come this far. Our roaster was safely stowed in it’s travel crate on our front lawn, the sun was shining and, once we had ascertained that the winch problem was nothing more than a disconnected battery, Bee, our Land Rover, was ready and waiting. The challenge was to get 750kg of coffee roaster up a steep grassy bank where it could be more subtly placed between the house and the roastery, until we could figure out a cunning plan to get it through a door that was both too narrow and too low. That was a problem for another day. First we had to tackle – the bank.

We trussed up the crate in heavy duty straps like over-sized gift ribbons fastened with steel and laid out a carpet of boards. Our pallet truck would provide the wheels, but we had to be sure that it could not come away from the crate and go shooting up the bank alone.

Residing in a tiny valley in the Welsh Marches as we do, every direction out of our farm is up and Greg duly drove Bee out into the adjoining field and up into our back garden, secured her to a tree in the hedge and after chocking all 4 wheels, slowly let out the winch cable. It was a good five meters too short. We could hook on an extension rope, but that would put the fate of our precious roaster in the hands of a single chord. It seemed like an unnecessary risk after we’d gone to such lengths with the gift wrapping. The other option was to roll Bee forward onto steeper ground and use the rope to extend her tether around the tree. So, Bee was re-positioned and the straps double checked. Just as she was about to take the strain two heads popped up over our hedge behind Bee – our landlord and his wife, out riding in the first warmth of the year. Our attempt to keep a low profile had well and truly failed. By now the whole valley had spotted our bizarre looking delivery. Entertained by our problem solving strategy, the ‘Squire’ saw no need to lend his additional horsepower to assist and left us to our heaving.

As the winch came taught there was a great creaking from the crate and a series of shudders from Bee before she settled down to pull with all her might. Inch by inch and with the help of some strategic levering from Greg, the crate first spun through 90 degrees and then began its crawl to the bottom of the bank. So far, so good. As the wheels of the pallet truck met the slope the strain on Bee noticeably grew. She almost physically leaned into the pull to enable her to give that little bit more. At first she was doing fine, the roaster continued its steady progress as it began to tilt back with the gradient of the hill, but the winch was gradually slowing, straining and squealing harder until the rate at which the cable was being hauled in was barely perceptible at all.

I called a halt. With the two meter high crate tipped back now at close to 45 degrees this was the worst possible position to be forced to stop, but I was worried about the winch. For it to fail would be disaster. I joined Greg by the crate to assess the situation. Invisible to us from the front and above the crate, but obvious as we stepped behind – the wheels of the pump truck had slipped off of their board and were digging two trenches in the mud while clods of wet sticky turf held them fast. Not only was Bee attempting to pull a tonne of roaster and wooden crate up hill, she was valiantly attempting to lift the entire hill as well.

We set about freeing the pallet truck wheels from the grass with a shovel and levered them safely back onto their board, before asking Bee to finish her job. The final pull was a doddle for Bee and soon the crate elegantly crested the bank and came to rest on the flat of the roastery terrace, just as the sun went down.

Bee had earned a rest, but now it was our turn to put our backs into it. On the flat we needed to shift the crate to the right about four meters to position it in front of the roastery door. So far no-one had been able to budge the roster with the pallet truck, but Bee could not help us now. Laying out the boards in the direction of the roastery revealed our terrace to be only flat-ish. We had to prop up the boards with blocks of wood to prevent the roaster slipping back down the hill. Then came the moment of truth. I hauled on the pallet truck, Greg levered the crate from behind and our roaster moved – just. Another hour had passed before we had crossed those last four meters, but before the light had completely failed phase 2 was complete. Our monolith stood proud by the roastery door, ready to enter her new home.