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Matching tractor needs to your land

 
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So I have interacted with a couple of new members looking for land and have ambitions for substantial hugel mounds and other earthworks.  Something that occurred to me is that many of these projects will almost certainly require a tractor or other equipment.  True, sometimes the work can be done by rented equipment, but other times there is spontaneous work to be done or regular maintenance where rented equipment would be excessively expensive or inappropriate.

So when I think of homesteading Permies style, I think of utility tractors or other smaller equipment as opposed to the increasingly gigantic farm equipment.  With that in mind, what do you Permies veterans think about both the appropriate sized equipment and what types of implements most useful.  

But first some good news for up and coming homesteaders looking for small/compact tractors.  Today the compact tractor is the fastest growing segment of the tractor market, marketing directly to small land owners.  Even better, today it is possible to find just about any equipment for larger tractors sized for smaller tractors.

As an example, on my 9 acres, I started with a 24 HP subcompact tractor (JD2305 which I loved) starting off with loader and 4’ rotary cutter.  To that I eventually added a grader blade, box blade, rear mounted finish mower and a flail mower.  That little tractor was amazing, over powered for its size and just plain immensely useful for a relatively small package.

But mowing my acreage was long and tedious.  The tractor was more than powerful enough, but the small frame and small sized tires meant a pretty rough ride.  Further, mowing with a mere 4’ cutter meant mowing took a really substantial portion of the day.

I traded that tractor (actually sold it to my next door neighbor, he loves it every bit as much as I did, we use his tractor on some common projects, and in a pinch, I still get access if I need a smaller tractor, say for working in the woods where maneuverability is key) for a 37hp JD 2038r, a much larger frame tractor.  At the moment I only have a loader, 6’ rotary cutter and a 7’ grader blade that I use for clearing snow.  This tractor is great, I mow much faster than on the older smaller tractor, actually use less fuel in doing so.  The ride is much smoother which helps my back pain, and it is generally much more productive.

So back to my original question, what do you think is the appropriate sized tractor and what implements should one acquire?  Tractors are not cheap and I started small partly because of cost reasons and I am sure these factors work into any would-be homesteaders purchasing considerations.

Eric  
 
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I'm looking forward to seeing the answers.  I'm looking at tractors right now, and I'm torn.  I don't want to pay more than I need to , but I also don't want to buy a tractor and then find out that I really needed another 10 or 20 HP...
 
Eric Hanson
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Trace, I totally understand the position you are in as I have been there myself.

So I went with the JD subcompact mostly because of money and I have to say that it never let me down once.  It was incredibly capable for its size.  The dealer who sold it to me was trying to get me to buy a bit larger (no surprise there right!) on the grounds that I might at one point want some piece of equipment that the 2305 would not be large enough to operate.  I have a strange fascination with flail mowers and while I did eventually find one that worked, most were not going to fit (BEFCO sells an awesome one that fit just right), but I eventually found one.

The 2305 was frankly above grade for every single task I performed aside from bush hogging.  Bush hogging was a chore, even though I love my tractor time.  The 2305 was really too small for this task.  Among its shortcomings, the tractor frame and tires were small, aggravating an old back injury as I mowed across a very rough field filled with chuck-holes.  Being small & close to the ground, the 6' dry grass around me would shed tremendous amounts of seed and chaff that fell on the tractor and my face.  When falling on the tractor, the dusty debris would clog up my radiator screen.  This tractor did not have an engine temperature gauge, instead it had an idiot light, coming on when the temperature was too high.  I never know how hot the engine was until the light popped on.  This part is a trivial issue and I could in fact add an after market gauge.  I frequently had to stop the tractor, and not knowing better, whenever the light popped on, I turned the tractor off and popped the hood.  I usually had a 15-20 minute time period to wait while the engine radiated away the heat.  Today I understand that the standard practice is to move the tractor into the shade, reduce power but leave running until the cooling system cools the engine down which only takes 1-2 minutes.  

Really, the engine overheating issue was a sign that the tractor was too small for the job at hand.  The new tractor sits much higher, runs smoother, and being higher, catches much less chaff.  I have never had the 2038r overheat (it also comes with an actual temperature gauge, a trivial addition that makes a big difference).  Finally there is the issue of the rotary cutter size.  That 4' rotary cutter is really only a 3' cutter.  Whenever I mow, I always run my outside tire so that the inside edge rides right along the side of the unmown  grass.  This is to ensure a decent overlap and not leave long strips of unmown grass.  However, in doing so, I assume I lose about 1' of effective cutting width.  I still use this technique, but using a 6' mower, I effectively mow a 5' swath, considerably larger that the previous 3' swath.  This wider swath combined with a higher overall cutting speed means that my mowing time has dropped from an all afternoon affair to a 1 hour long event.

When I bought my 2305, I looked very seriously at a number of tractor brands, mostly focusing on JD and Kubota.  Some have stated that JD charges more for their pretty paint and that Kubota is both reliable and more tractor for your money.  When comparing subcompact tractors, the Kubota package (tractor, loader and 4' rear cutter) was about $800 less that the JD equivalent.  But there were a couple of details that stood out.  First off, the Kubota tractor was about 10 inches shorter overall and this meant that while sitting on it, my knees inevitably hit the underside of the steering wheel (I am tall, 6'3").  The JD was just better fitting.  Another issue, and one that many have commented on is that the hydro controls/foot pedals are much more ergonomic on the JD than on the Kubota (or strangely, just about any other manufacturer).  This also helped accommodate my long legs.
Finally, the bucket controls are a part of the tractor and not a part of the loader itself.  This requires some explaining.  On the JD, the loader control is a hand control on the right side that sticks up vertically from near the right wheel well.  On the Kubota, the same control is a stick that comes out horizontally from the right loader arm.  This poses two problems for me.  First, I frequently ride with my hand on the loader control, which on the JD is of no consequence, but on the Kubota would result in the loader raising up.  Secondly, on the JD, I can mount/dismount from either left of right side.  On the Kubota, the right side is mostly blocked by this loader control.  Overall, these are some fairly minor issues.  Both tractors will do basically the same things.  But I liked the ergonomics or the JD much better that the Kubota.

When I traded up, again, I looked around, but JD was offering just about the perfect tractor for me.  For some time I had my eye on their 3 series, what with the larger frame, but was put off by the purchase price and especially the loader price.  The 2038r is actually just about the same size as the 3 series and uses a less expensive loader, but met every other criteria.  It was larger, could carry bigger implements, would get mowing done faster, etc.  I was finally hooked when I found out that I could purchase the 2038r *without* a mid PTO option, something I had never used on the older tractor but did actually cause me a headache once.  I still shopped around, but came back to JD, partly because of ergonomics, partly because of a good relationship with the dealer, and partly because the feature set/money situation was just about right.  I could easily go on and on, but as much as I loved that old 2305, the new 2038r is even better.

Trace, this is really a longer post than I intended to start, but this sums up why I went with what I did.  I totally get you not wanting to spend one dime more than you have to, but I also understand that buying too small is no bargain.

Good luck on whatever you decide, and please, keep us informed,

Eric
 
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Hi Eric;
Great question!  Hard answer.
Myself I think a backhoe attachment is an important implement. And of course a front bucket.
As far as size.  I think most of us have to start small , just like you did. Tractors are not cheap!
For those very few who have financial excess, (certainly nobody I know) A large and small tractor with all the add on's would be ideal!  How fun that would be... ha ha dream on poor boy.

I have no good answer to your question Eric.  I think finances are the controlling factor.  As you did, you can always sell and move up.
By the way, nice move selling to your neighbor!
 
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We bought a Kubota L3240 with lawnmower and grader scraper. Then we purchased a back blade and a snow blower. We had a post hole digger but our tractor could not handle digging post holes in our clay soil so we got rid of it.

So soil specific power probably helps.

I've had no issues doing swales, berms and mini kraters with the Kubota BUT buying the mini excavator, now that made things ten times easier and faster. Now I dig out the mini krater with the excavator and go back in with the Kubota to smooth it all out and remove all the piled dirt.

I've used the grader scraper to plant my sainfoin field and it worked perfectly. The back blade helps with the shaping and smoothing of the swales.
29512206_10156238608268633_721990059900160089_n.jpg
[Thumbnail for 29512206_10156238608268633_721990059900160089_n.jpg]
My love!
 
Eric Hanson
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Thomas,

You are certainly correct about the neighbor part!  Actually we do quite a few projects together and I really lucked out on multiple fronts.  But regarding selling him the old tractor, this worked out incredibly well for the both of us.  He has a well equipped tractor and I still have access to it if I need.  Much like your ideal of a large and small tractors!!

To me the backhoe is a really tricky issue.  Really, I do feel the desire to have a backhoe.  I mean a part of me just wants to get that implement really digging in the earth.  I feel like I am going to OD on testosterone!  On the other hand, I never did once have the need for one, and even the very small ones for my old JD2305 are not cheap--like around 6-7K!!  My personal thought (and I did think about this a LOT) was that if I would ever need a backhoe I would go and rent one.  I also want a nice wood chipper, but I can rent one for decades before I would exceed the price of buying.  If you do need a backhoe, then it is very important to get one and fortunately, just about every single one of these tractors can operate one.

If I were doing it all over again, I still don't know if I would buy small and then trade up.  For starters, the JD2038r was simply not available in 2005 when I first bought (and would not become available for many years and I needed a reliable way to clear the snow from my driveway immediately).  The tractors that would have sufficed for the 2038r were actually much larger still and far more expensive,  And I did get a LOT of work out of that 2305.  So yeah, maybe I just would have just done the same thing again.  Slightly off topic, there is one feature on my 2038r that if it were an option, I would have eliminated just because it seemed frivolous and an unnecessary expense.  I have an auto-throttle, a device that links my hydro and engine speed together.  Just sitting and going nowhere, the engine idles (or at least backs down to the minimum throttle setting)  but as I press my foot on the hydro control, the engine picks up speed.  This is incredibly useful when doing loader work or a general back-and-forth work, or just using the tractor to carry things around in the bucket, something I do frequently.  The reason I love it is that it drastically drops my fuel consumption.  I expected for good reason that getting a much bigger tractor meant using more fuel.  I certainly was not expecting that I was get LESS fuel consumption!  my 2305 typically burned about .65-.75 gallons/hour.  My 2038r, a much larger tractor, burns about .62 gallons/hour.  I meticulously keep track of this every time I fill up the tank.  

This improvement in *mileage* is certainly due in part to the fact that the tractor automatically idles when not actually moving, and the old tractor was probably undersized for bush hogging.

Thomas, You make a lot of great points and I hope that these can be of use to someone just starting to look for a new tractor,

Eric
 
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I have plans to buy a tractor hopefully within five years, but for now I am grateful to have neighbors who own one or more already that I can also hire. Everyone I've talked to about a tractor recommends to look at the attachments I plan to use, determine which size tractor will do that, then get the next size up. More than one of my neighbors has bought a tractor in the past, realized it was undersized, and then sold it/traded it for a more powerful one, losing money in the process.

My farm isn't flat, but has gentle rolling hills and a few steep spots. From what I've read, a tractor needs to be at least as heavy as anything to be pulled behind it especially if slopes are involved. For example, a 3500lb 30hp tractor is insufficient for my farm to run and pull a round baler, with a nearly full roll in it, up the terrain on my farm. More importantly, can a tractor pulling weight be able to stop going downhill. I believe control equals safety.

My neighbor I hire to mow my farm with a 20ft bush hog takes almost a full day to mow my pastures. That is a good information for me to consider when it comes time to buy a tractor and bush hog in the future. I don't desire to have a small tractor that can only run a 6 foot bush hog, and then spend 2-3 days mowing my farm. Time is important to me, and if I can afford it, I want to get something that can run a 15 or 20 foot mower. Other things that I may want to do in the future is pull a lime buggy, not just for lime but also for spreading any kind of basalt, rock phosphate or any rock dust I choose. I may want to cut and bale my own hay. I may want to pull a sprayer, applying liquid sea minerals and molasses. I know I want to have a 3-point broadcast spreader on the back and spread Sea-90.

Since my farm is hilly, four wheel drive is a must. Each person I've talked to that has a two wheel drive mower wishes in hindsight they had gotten four wheel drive. Getting stuck and spinning tires and digging ruts is a drag.

Something else that I am considering, when it comes to brand, is how far away is the dealer that can service it if and when it needs servicing. Also, a cab versus no cab. Sure air conditioning may be nice, but one thing I've come to consider is the dust and breathing that while doing things like mowing. Farmers lung is a real affliction from years of breathing dust, and a cab gives the operator good air to breathe while working.

Something I'm contemplating is new vs used. Used tractors, a buyer almost always needs the cash in hand to buy it. New tractors can be financed, if that is an avenue that one is willing to consider. Right now my wife and I are trying to set aside a little money each month for  a future tractor.
 
Eric Hanson
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Elle,

I am not certain what the hole you dug is for, but if that is the type of digging you need to do, then you definitely need digging equipment!!

And I will further agree that given the size of that hole, that a backhoe might not be up to the task and a mini-excavator would be the ticket!!

Trace, I am curious, what tasks do you see yourself doing with your potential tractor?

Eric
 
elle sagenev
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Eric Hanson wrote:Elle,

I am not certain what the hole you dug is for, but if that is the type of digging you need to do, then you definitely need digging equipment!!

And I will further agree that given the size of that hole, that a backhoe might not be up to the task and a mini-excavator would be the ticket!!

Trace, I am curious, what tasks do you see yourself doing with your potential tractor?

Eric



I'm relaxing in my natural swim pond in that pic. The mini kraters aren't deeper than 3 feet. So the kubota does fine with them but the excavator makes it all so much easier, and fun!
 
Trace Oswald
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Well, the very first thing I need is a tractor with a front PTO and a snow blower.  My driveway will be impassable without it.  Already this year I slid down the driveway backwards in my pickup and half off the embankment where the driveway turns at the bottom.  We hit a tree with the rear bumper that caught the truck with both rear wheels in the air and the truck sitting on the frame.  Keep in mind it was pitch black at the time, because it gets dark here at 5 in the afternoon.  It was an interesting ride.

Beyond the snowblower, I need a brushhog and/or mower, as well as a bucket and forks.

Thanks everyone for the replies, they have been very helpful.
 
Eric Hanson
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James,

Your tractor needs are certainly not mine!  For me, a 6’ mower deck is plenty big.  A 20’ mower would finish my mowing in about 15 minutes.  I would probably spend more time getting the mower hooked up than actually mowing.

If you have that much mowing to do, my 2 cents would be to go for that cab.  I hate the dust when I mow!  The A/C would be nice, but it would be the dust that would make the deal for me!

For my purposes, I still need to get under objects, but if I were ever to upgrade again (I am not—I promised my wife!) it would be for the cab.

But again, I still need to maneuver under things and a cab would render this impossible.

But those are my needs and not yours.

Eric
 
elle sagenev
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Trace Oswald wrote:Well, the very first thing I need is a tractor with a front PTO and a snow blower.  My driveway will be impassable without it.  Already this year I slid down the driveway backwards in my pickup and half off the embankment where the driveway turns at the bottom.  We hit a tree with the rear bumper that caught the truck with both rear wheels in the air and the truck sitting on the frame.  Keep in mind it was pitch black at the time, because it gets dark here at 5 in the afternoon.  It was an interesting ride.

Beyond the snowblower, I need a brushhog and/or mower, as well as a bucket and forks.

Thanks everyone for the replies, they have been very helpful.



Ours has back PTO and the purchase of the snow blower 3 years ago was a big deal. It would be easier if it were on the front, for sure, but it works. Snowblower things we wish we had learned the first year instead of last year is..................keep it painted and siliconed. Makes a massive difference in whether the snow comes out or the sheer bolts are constantly needing replaced.


Make sure your tractor weighs enough to handle a hay fork if that is a need for you. Ours is not, if we got one we'd tip it over, or that's what the dealer said.
 
Eric Hanson
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Trace,

I can only judge from your post, but you might well be able to get by with a smaller tractor.  Even the subcompact models can blow snow very well.  Moreover, an overlooked quality in tractors is maneuverability, and small tractors shine there.  I really don’t know the full extent of your needs, but nothing I see in your post screams needing more than 20-30hp.

Eric
 
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Lots of good stuff already! Here's my experience:

We have 1.6+ acres, suburban, made up of three adjacent lots, three driveways, two houses.
I've got three tractors, two Kubota, one Mitsubishi.
one Kubota is L420 4wd, with loader, QA bucket, QA forks, 4pt 9' backhoe w/hyd. thumb, 60"rototiller, 7 shank chisel plow, plastic mulch layer
other Kubota is BX2380 4wd, with loader, QA bucket, QA forks, and 66" front mount PTO snowblower w/hyd. chute, 42"rototiller
Mitsubishi Buck, 18hp, 2wd, with loader

The first tractor L4240 was bought and used for major landscape and construction work at my mom's property (massive stone retaining wall, with appliance sized boulders)
It also was used for tillage on our 1 acre farm, plus a leased acre across town (no longer).

The second tractor was Mitsubishi, to have a tractor full-time at our place and avoid moving the L4240 back and forth from Mom's (20 miles). It was a better fit for our size, we needed it for compost turning, and occasional tilling. It is a poor snow machine, even with chains.

The third tractor BX2380 was bought last year, primarily as a snow machine. Clearing 2 driveways with a walk-behind snowblower was a 1-1/2 to 2 hour affair, just to get ourselves and our tenants off to work.
Add in a third driveway to the farm lot, and two greenhouses... doubled the time.

After looking at options to make the L420 into a snow machine (expensive, too large, awkward , and dangerous to operate on our busy street) we bought the BX2380.
The BX2380 is financed, and there were incentives for purchasing two attachments (loader and snowblower filled this).
Monthly payments, versus a large cash outlay for equipment for the L420, also longer warranty on implements bought with the tractor versus purchased alone for the L420...
Now snow clearing is under one hour for both driveways, plus 250' of sidewalk (safer, not driving it in the street!). Less than an hour again for the farm and greenhouses.
The 2380 is designed for a front mount snowblower (unlike the 4240). It throws snow 60+ feet, and I have to be super careful in our tight lots about where I'm throwing the snow  since I can easily put the snow into another driveway, or into a living room!
It is super maneuverable, 3 point turns in the width of a single-width driveway, and a real back-saver compared to walk-behind machines and wheelbarrows, but only 500 pounds capacity on the loader.

The L4240 was the smallest machine to handle the largest loader for the L-series, which was my main criteria, along with fitting the 9' backhoe (used, but barely, Craigslist find) which the dealer installed.
This machine is too large for our property, except for needing the loader capacity of 2400 lbs. (mostly using forks for material handling) and the backhoe (sort of, enough that it lives on the machine...).

(Now both Kubotas are at our place and the Mitsubishi is at Mom's)

A tractor/loader/backhoe is great for many of the things an excavator will do, with a few MAJOR exceptions:
ONLY 180 degrees of swing, limits where the spoils get placed, or where materials can be hoisted to/from
Outriggers, and the inability to quickly move the machine (outriggers up/down, switch seats, loader up/down, drive/park...)
Accessibility: the tractor is long compared to an excavator, and also how and from which direction you approach/leave the site matters more.


 
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I think most people look at the wrong end of a tractor. They look at the tractor and think, "what can I do with this thing?"

What they really should be thinking is, "what can I put on the end of this thing?"

There is no right or wrong answer. I know guys that have insanely sized tractors and only a few acres, myself I only have 25 HP and have hundreds of acres. It may seem silly until it is understood that most of my implements are from my Grandfather's day back in the 1950's. Most of them still work, so for me; to upsize my tractor would cost a fortune; not in the cost of upgrading the tractor itself, but all the equipment that I have to replace to pull behind it.

To get any measurable work out of a tractor, you have to scale up twice. So if you have a 25 hp tractor like me, anything less than 50 horse power would not be worth the cost of upgrading. This gets into some technical terms like tractive effort and drawbar pull, important points that scientifically show where efficiency is happening.

Myself, I just plod along.

I plowed 10 acres up 3 years ago with a single moldboard plow. It took me 3 days to do it, and was not very fuel efficient, but it is what I had, and was only 3 days of my life. To me it is better to spend three days every 10 years wishing I had a bigger tractor, then wasting money for 3647 days on a bigger tractor for something I only needed 3 days. But I do not sell people tractors, I just get by with what I have and am contented.

 
Eric Hanson
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Kenneth,

Wow!  You have some serious tractorage for 1.6 acres.  Do I understand correctly that now you have the little BX at home?  That would seem to be the right amount of tractor for that kind of space.  Or did I get that wrong?

Just my take, but I would think that a BX or other subcompact tractor would be ideal on something 5 acres or under.

Eric
 
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At the previous place with 2.2 acres we had a two wheel tractor, we now have 5 acres and a tractor that came with the house, it's a 1982 Case IH 844

This has/had 80hp which in our soil can pull a 4 blade plow but in general it sits in the barn and it's major use is as a cat ladder to allow access to the upper stories of the barn for wet day mouse hunting!


EDIT the picture is not mine.. mine is slightly rustier.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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Eric Hanson wrote:Kenneth,

Wow!  You have some serious tractorage for 1.6 acres.  Do I understand correctly that now you have the little BX at home?  That would seem to be the right amount of tractor for that kind of space.  Or did I get that wrong?

Just my take, but I would think that a BX or other subcompact tractor would be ideal on something 5 acres or under.

Eric



Yeah. L4240 AND  BX2380 at home, the old Mitsubishi at Mom's...

Like I said, the 4240 is kinda too big for the place as a tractor, but as a "forklift" and construction machine it's great to have.
The 4240 needs SPACE like you'd need for a pickup truck... at 72" wide, you need a dead-straight approach to pass through an 8 foot wide gate, and watch very closely as you do.
It'll do things the BX just can't, or it'll do all at once what the BX would take 2, 4, 6 "smaller bites" to do.
On the other hand, the BX is only 48", and will go anywhere a Garden Way cart, or a 10 cu.ft. 2-wheel wheelbarrow would go.

Just last weekend, I dismantled our outdoor plant benching (pallets on concrete blocks) and relocated the stuff to make way for snow removal.
2 pallets of 30 blocks each, just two trips with the 4240, it would have taken 6 trips with the BX, and I would have had to re-stack them by hand on the other end...
One stack of 7 pallets in one trip with the 4240. The BX might have done it on flat ground, but up a hill and a cross-slope, I'd take two trips just to be safe...

I think the BX is the right fit for our acreage, and situation. There's a lot that can be done, like Travis says, by just plodding along, and it's mostly just time making more trips and taking smaller bites. But the machine is doing the work, so that's okay.

 
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Trace Oswald wrote:Well, the very first thing I need is a tractor with a front PTO and a snow blower.  My driveway will be impassable without it.  Already this year I slid down the driveway backwards in my pickup and half off the embankment where the driveway turns at the bottom.  We hit a tree with the rear bumper that caught the truck with both rear wheels in the air and the truck sitting on the frame.  Keep in mind it was pitch black at the time, because it gets dark here at 5 in the afternoon.  It was an interesting ride.

Beyond the snowblower, I need a brushhog and/or mower, as well as a bucket and forks.

Thanks everyone for the replies, they have been very helpful.



Trace, depending on your budget, I would check out the John Deere 3-series.  I don't know how long they've been doing it, but they have a front axle now that has a PTO connection.....a shaft mounts between the mid-PTO under the seat up to the rear of the front axle and this drives the PTO splined shaft on the front side of the axle.  The front shaft is what you attach the snow-blower to.   I've seen other solutions for front-mounted snow blowers like hydraulic motor driven blowers and ones that run a shaft all the way from the rear PTO, but this front axle arrangement seemed like a sensible and powerful solution.  If they've been using this for some years, you may be able to find a used one to bring the price down.  I'm still doing the rear-mount blower option, but my body's getting pretty tired of that option.  I have a mid-mount PTO on my 2005 JD 4010, but they said they would not be able to swap out my front axle for the new one.  My Kubota 3200 might have enough hydraulic power to run a front snow blower option, but I suspect such an attachment would be best run with a separate pump and fluid reservoir being run from the rear PTO.  And just a reminder that the LA series of front loaders on the Kubotas also take all of the skid-steer attachments out there....with no adapters needed.  If I need a skid-steer attachment from the local Rent-All, I can lift it off the trailer with the Kubota loader plate and be using it immediately which is a nice perk.
 
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John,

I am pretty certain that the 3 series PTO option is a mid PTO.  The mid PTO, for anyone looking to jump into tractors, is located approximately under the tractor seat, faces forward, and unless I am mistaken, only powers 3 implements—a mid mount mower (MMM), a snowblower, and a front rotary broom.  I have seen numerous examples of the first, several examples of the second and none of the third examples.

But JD is highly innovative and if any company were to change out that awkward mid PTO, I would expect it to be JD.

On my old 2305, I never used the mid PTO even once.  For a time I considered a MMM, but went with a rear finish mower (which is a little awkward to use).  However, I did once get into trouble with my mid PTO.  For a time I noticed hydraulic fluid leaking onto the floor of the garage.  I checked and I could see hydraulic fluid dripping from the frame, but I could not find the source.  I had JD come and pick it up, fearing thousands of dollars going into a new transmission.  When I got the call to pick it up, the bill was for less than $100!  

Turns out that while I was bush hogging, I accidentally bumped the PTO selector into the both mid and rear position and the bare little stubby mid PTO shaft wound grass up and ground out the PTO gasket!  They gave me a little baggie and in it was a little gasket made of grass, rubber (from the original gasket) and hydraulic fluid!  Amazingly, it actually did a halfway decent job!

After that experience, given that I never used the mid PTO, when I found that I could get the 2038r without the mid PTO I jumped on it!  Saved me $6000 in doing so and no mid PTO hassles.

This is just my cautionary note of having a mid PTO.

Eric
 
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Too bad I have to leave for the day in a moment - but this thread looks promising! I breezed through the first few posts and look forward to joining the discussion later this evening.

I am in the market for a tractor/machine and have been doing lots of research and visited a few dealers and done some test driving.

Big, or small, or in-between? ...then from there come things like weight, attachment capability, and so many other options and opinions it's enough to make me dizzy :)

Hilly and somewhat rocky land - not looking to row crop but I do want to do a lot of grading and building an orchard/brambly landscape with hugels, swails and terracing. I think a hoe of somekind is required whether a mini excavator or a nice backhoe.
 
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Just wanted to put in a word for walk behind / two wheel tractors. We simply couldn’t afford any new conventional tractors. We plan on creating a market garden on a 7 acre field on our 80 acres that will involve a flail mower for cover crops, rotary plow for creating raised beds and power harrow. We like that it had a small Honda engine that is easy to maintain or repair, very solidly built and small enough to get in between trees around our place. Also important was that we didn’t have a barn or garage to store anything larger that a push mower, the walk behind and a few attachments allowed us enough left over in our budget to get an small Amish shed to keep it in. Our decision was colored by the fact that we don’t have a lot of plans to move earth around and have no stones on the land (silty/sandy loam). There’s a sulky attachment available for converting to a riding mower we may get.. One caveat is it does take some upper body strength to use these as a brush mower on broken ground, though in fairness the little brush hog can get into spots no riding tractor could go. For establishEd flat areas you can easily control the tractor with one hand. Mowing during the summer, the maneuverability of the walk behind I was able to mow around patches of the flora the bees and butterfly’s were feeding on. Walking while mowing allowed close observation of the ground revealing a lot of interesting plants begging further study. Honestly, given my experience so far I still would get the walk behind even if I had the money to waste on a big expensive rig.
 
Eric Hanson
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Ty,

I love talking tractors, so it’s nice to have someone else out there to talk tractors with.

Ahhhh, the backhoe debate!  This is probably the single most debated, discussed and expensive option to fit on a tractor.

So the decision to buy a backhoe is highly dependent upon one’s own specific needs.

For my part, my needs, I desperately wanted a backhoe.  Actually I wanted the need for a backhoe, but I simply don’t need one and they cost thousands.  For my purposes, if I ever decide I need one I will rent one.  I just can’t justify the expense and I have seen plenty of tractors fitted for a backhoe, but the backhoe sits unused in its own corner of the yard collecting dust and slowly aging.

But your needs might well be different.  I do ask you a pertinent question though.  A backhoe might well set you back $8000 and possibly much more.  This does not include other expenses like hydraulic modifications and setups which might easily be another &1000.  With this in mind, how much work could you do with a rental unit?  You could likely rent a much larger unit than you could buy and if you timed things right, you might be able to get your loader work done for half the price of buying.  You will doubtless still have a loader so you will still have a loader so still capable of doing some digging, plenty of loading and fully able to make things like hugel mounds.

Please, I am not saying to not get a backhoe, I am just offering a cautionary note about how expensive a backhoe can be and how that affects your ability to buy (or not buy) other attachments that might actually be more productive.

As an example, if you wanted to build a hugel mounds without a backhoe, I would use a box blade to scrape up some soil, scoop it up with the loader and pile away.

But again, this is my approach and by all means, you do what is appropriate for you.

Eric
 
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Being we are here on Permies I feel almost obliged to ask about all this mowing.
No, I get that there all kinds of reasons to mow.
Mowing that isn't about haying or otherwise feeding animals burns my ass.
This thread is reminding me why I don't want to live in more rural place.
I simply don't want to be individually responsible for so much infrastructure.
I have gleaned a lot from the discussions about earth moving.
The accumulated experience here points toward equipment  rental to address my needs.


I knew one guy who bought a Kubota for his do-it-all handyman business.
He was a sub-contractor my boss had found,so I hired him for a fencing job.
I was disappointed with the performance of his post hole digger(and him), it seemed to bog down easily, but it was better than having to man a two man gas auger.

I'm wondering about how tax write offs play into tractor purchases on a homestead scale.
Having an off farm business that owns equipment you use on farm seems like a possible win, since the gains that are made on a farm are not always easily taxable.
Swales for instance, might be hard to tax, as might a pond, though I'm not sure about that.
 
Ty Greene
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James,

You bring up some good points about a 2 wheel tractor. I put many hours on one this summer at the farm I work on. It's a small diesel engine on this one. The owners are much like you - they like to keep it simple and are very budget mined.
The wisdom they have and amount of planning that goes into the farm astounds me. With essentially just this machine we produce a large market garden that allows us to sell weekly at 2 farmers markets and have 50 CSA customers...along with restaurant sales. I hope your dreams come true, it is certainly possible with just a 2 wheel machine!

Eric,

I can totally understand the desire for the ultimate machine!  I do appreciate natural ways, and enjoy the tried and true labor of handwork...along with the peace and connection of nature's sounds and smells instead of engines and fumes - but something about a 4x4 truck or tractor just gets me every time ;)

You are right, the add-on cost is $8,000+/- for a proper new setup depending on brand/size. That's steep! I will certainly be going into debt to get a tractor/loader/backhoe setup, which stinks. But to ease the debt I do like the idea of a rental for the hoe part. I would just rent a medium sized track hoe for efficiency...for one thing I think while saving up (avoiding more debt) for the actual rental period - I could really focus on making a good plan for the use of the machine (since I would be time constrained). Sounds pretty good to me, but...

I'm kind of a wing it type guy, and like to play around a bit until I figure out how I like something...I even tend to change my mind after a certain level of commitment lol. Having a "hoe on hand" would be great for that type of thing. The other thing is that I am only on my property one day a week. 2 days If I stay Saturday night. It's 1 hr 20 min from where I currently live. I like the idea of having a machine ready to make the most of my time when I'm down there. I feel like it will be 40 years to get the place how I want it at the rate I have been going, need to speed things up a bit.

I'd like to try a geo-climate controlled greenhouse which involves some trenching. I'd like to start an orchard which will be plenty of tree holes. I'd like to dig a pond. There is an old barn that needs foundation work, etc etc...

I also kicked around the idea of just buying a decent tractor/loader, and a used mini excavator?

Dealers I've visited so far around me are Kubota, Kioti, and Mahindra. Thinking 4x4, 25-45 hp and hydro drive. 3,000-6,500 lb range.
As you can see I'm open in choosing but at this point staying in the larger end of the compact tractor spectrum seems appealing. We have around 28 acres mostly old hilly fallowed hay fields.
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2 Wheel BCS tractor at the farm I work at after some harrowing
 
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Ty,

I am going to go out on a limb and say that with 28 acres I would think about staying on the 35-45 hp side of things.  I am thinking that with that acreage that you will likely need that extra sized tractor.

Having owned both a 24 hp subcompact tractor and a 37 hp compact tractor, I can say I certainly appreciate the larger tractor.  The subcompacts are truly amazing, but there are limits.

Unfortunately that means that not only is the tractor more expensive, but every attachment will also be more expensive as I am finding out right now.  At present, I have a loader, 6’ rotary cutter, 7’ grader blade and would like to add a carry all (cheap!) and a flail mower with hydraulic offset (not so cheap).

This only complicates the picture for the potential backhoe.  I personally would rent, but that is me.  I don’t know how much a backhoe is going to help in digging a pond.  Personally I would use a box blade and scrape up earth and move with the loader, but again, that’d me.  Also, you might be able to dig tree holes with a post hole digger.

Good to have another tractor buddy out there!

Eric
 
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There is another option besides the Buy a Backhoe, or Rent a backhoe debate...get a implement that does more than just dig.

Backhoes are expensive, but a person has to always keep in mind too that once you have an implement, you use it for way more than just what it was intended. You buy it thinking you are going to do X,Y and Z with it, but when any job comes up, you realize you can use it in unconventional ways to do work.

And then there are the jobs that are frustrating in size...too big to do by a shovel, but too small to hire someone to come in and do, and too small to even justify renting a machine to dig. With those jobs, it is nice having a small backhoe to do some digging.

My "backhoe" is actually a log trailer. With it I can put the backhoe on and dig trenches and holes, or put the grapple on and haul wood. Or I can put a post hole driller on and bore holes. I also have a feller-buncher for it, an upside down woodsplitter, and a grader blade. Its an expensive option, but my log trailer does more work than my tractor does now, all my tractor really does is put the trailer when I need to do work. With all the hours now being on the log trailers engine, it saves a lot of wear and tear on my tractor.

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Eric Hanson
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Ty,

Even though I am talking mostly about 4-wheel tractors, I liked your comments about 2 wheel tractors.  Though I don’t have one, I wish I did.  They are very solid pieces of equipment.

Eric
 
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William Bronson wrote:I'm wondering about how tax write offs play into tractor purchases on a homestead scale.
Having an off farm business that owns equipment you use on farm seems like a possible win, since the gains that are made on a farm are not always easily taxable.
Swales for instance, might be hard to tax, as might a pond, though I'm not sure about that.



Everyone should be filling out a Schedule F Form for the IRS in my opinion; there is nothing negative about doing it, and only positive things. The earlier that a person starts, the better because the USDA requires 3 years of Schedule F Forms for grants and Low Interest Loans too. In any event, the Schedule F Form allows either method to be tax-deducted. Leased equipment can be fully deducted, and bought equipment can be depreciated.

I would not bother with an off-farm business because a person would have to show a profit every 5 years or by default the non-farming business would cease to exist. A person does not have that issue with a farm, they can lose money every year for 25 years, and still be considered a farm business.

But a person can also rapid depreciate equipment too under Section 179. I have done that before, and it really can help come tax time.

Swales and ponds have some deductions on them. That falls under conservation deductions. There is some pretty sweet rules on conservation expenses if you get grants on putting in swales and ponds. Basically you get paid to put them in, and then the rules keep you from having to pay taxes on the money. This only makes sense as they want farmers to do the right thing in terms of soil, water and air conservation.
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Ty,

Even though I am talking mostly about 4-wheel tractors, I liked your comments about 2 wheel tractors.  Though I don’t have one, I wish I did.  They are very solid pieces of equipment.

Eric



I have got one, and they are really powerful machines. I think they are often overlooked by homesteaders when they really should not be.

When I did my sheep farming classes I compared new haying equipment for a tractor, with new haying equipment for a 2 wheel tractor, and the cost difference was immense. A 4 wheel tractor would cost $27,000 to make hay (mowing machine, rake, baler). The same machines on a 2 wheel tractor would be $9,000. Both make hay to feed animals...

I have always wanted to write a book about 2 wheel tractors, but they are so versatile, I am not sure I could do it justice. I want to do more with mine, like make implements and stuff for it, but right now my father has it, which is perfect for him. So until I get it back, it pretty much is his machine.
 
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sam na wrote:I'm excited about electrifying these https://www.vari.cz/en/product-catalogue/vari-modular-system/cc:20049/



Battery
https://www.ruixulithiumbattery.com/24v-lifepo4-battery-24v-drop-in-replacement-battery-24v-100ah-deep-cycle-lifepo4-battery-marine-boat-rv-motor-home-solar-system?search=24v

Motor
https://www.everything-ev.com/12V-48V-5kW-7kW-PM-Motor

I may even get around to it one day



There are guys over on the tractor forums that have made the conversion. They are easy and cheap to do. You can buy a 5 HP electric motor for a few hundred bucks at Harbor Freight. I always thought this would be perfect for market gardeners because they could use the 2 wheel tractors inside of high tunnels and greenhouses.
 
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Where are the 'Tractor forums' ? I'd like to take a look..
 
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William Bronson wrote:Being we are here on Permies I feel almost obliged to ask about all this mowing.
No, I get that there all kinds of reasons to mow.
Mowing that isn't about haying or otherwise feeding animals burns my ass.
This thread is reminding me why I don't want to live in more rural place.
I simply don't want to be individually responsible for so much infrastructure.
I have gleaned a lot from the discussions about earth moving.
The accumulated experience here points toward equipment  rental to address my needs.


I knew one guy who bought a Kubota for his do-it-all handyman business.
He was a sub-contractor my boss had found,so I hired him for a fencing job.
I was disappointed with the performance of his post hole digger(and him), it seemed to bog down easily, but it was better than having to man a two man gas auger.

I'm wondering about how tax write offs play into tractor purchases on a homestead scale.
Having an off farm business that owns equipment you use on farm seems like a possible win, since the gains that are made on a farm are not always easily taxable.
Swales for instance, might be hard to tax, as might a pond, though I'm not sure about that.



Hi William,

I live about 10 min south of Cincinnati, and I agree with you that waaaay too much work goes on around this area for aesthetics. Spring summer and fall it seems like every other vehicle is a landscape truck with a mow trailer. I die inside a little every day hearing the roar of commercial mowers and backpack blowers here in the suburbs lol.

I just don't have the $ to pay for services (even if I did I would rather do things myself) so I mostly do without or learn to fix/do the labor on my own in most cases. I let my yard go A LOT more than I used to. My area I keep mowed has shrunk every year a little over the past 7 years we've lived here. We have a typical residential lot maybe 1/8 acre at most? In fact I bring debris IN just to add "wildness" and diversity for wildlife habitat and soil building.

I recently got declined (even with my mom signing on too) financing a tractor purchase for our family farm but I'm not giving up and hoping there are other options I can seek out.

I'll admit I'm surprised how meticulous some rural people are though too - lots and lots of area kept nicely mowed, for apparently no reason? I understand that a lot of land owners like the look of mowed down acreage and have local animal farmers do all the hay, which usually involves at least 2 sometimes 3 cuts a year. SO it's a win-win for them. Personally I don't want to make hay (have no animals) and I don't really like the completely mowed look but I do want to be able to control some areas so they don't get too overgrown. I like the idea of targeted flail mowing/brush hogging every so often in rotation (not a full on clear-cut). It seems to allow for a diversity of flowering plants to come and go compared with just letting an area go completely wild, or mowing it often.

Now, certain areas like the entrance, a shared area out front with the neighbor, the paths around the property perimeter/fence line, and around the barn/shed areas are nice to keep mowed weekly.
 
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Eric,

Yea I agree more size and power will probably be a good thing for me. I'm going to try and get some grade % numbers this weekend at my farm so you have a better idea of the hills I am wanting to operate on are like. More weight and a wider stance can only help!

I believe you in that a front end loader and box blade can do A LOT, but I'm worried about the rocks here, although maybe the loader could pick them out just as well as a hoe??

Do you have the tires filled on your machine?

Travis,

I remember seeing another post of yours showing that handy log trailer contraption you got there...that thing is awesome! I am impressed with the capability of it, those logs look huge and you got quite a few of them on there :)

You are also the man to talk to about help...I have seen some of the struggles you have faced with your farm and it seems like you are knowledgeable about grants/loans etc. We are having a hard time getting things started because lack of $ and insufficient credit so my next plan (since we got declined at Kubota) is to apply for a FSA loan, but first want to make another visit next Friday to the local extension office and explain my situation.



 
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Ty,

I don’t have my tires filled, but I really should and encourage you to do so.

 
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I like the old stuff that can run all day long if needed
currently resurrecting a couple Belarus 🇧🇾 tractors with loaders and a itty bitty yanmar 4wd
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Ford 4000
Ford 4000
 
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sam na wrote:Where are the 'Tractor forums' ? I'd like to take a look..



MyTractorForum is a good one, and owned (or was at one time) by a Maine farmer

I go to TractorByNet. It is the only forum, other than Permies that I visit.
 
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Ty Greene wrote:Eric,

Yea I agree more size and power will probably be a good thing for me. I'm going to try and get some grade % numbers this weekend at my farm so you have a better idea of the hills I am wanting to operate on are like. More weight and a wider stance can only help!

I believe you in that a front end loader and box blade can do A LOT, but I'm worried about the rocks here, although maybe the loader could pick them out just as well as a hoe??

Do you have the tires filled on your machine?

Travis,

I remember seeing another post of yours showing that handy log trailer contraption you got there...that thing is awesome! I am impressed with the capability of it, those logs look huge and you got quite a few of them on there :)

You are also the man to talk to about help...I have seen some of the struggles you have faced with your farm and it seems like you are knowledgeable about grants/loans etc. We are having a hard time getting things started because lack of $ and insufficient credit so my next plan (since we got declined at Kubota) is to apply for a FSA loan, but first want to make another visit next Friday to the local extension office and explain my situation.





The FSA might be able to help you out. You have to be filling out a Schedule F Form with the IRS (it is the basis for everything), but they do not go by credit score to loan money. In fact you have to be turned down by banks first as they prefer farmers try everywhere else first. They are not really a bank, they are government who knows it is in their best interest to keep food on the National Food chain. That is why the Schedule F Form is so critical. You would go after what is called an "operational loan", its interest is around 3% I think, and you pay the loan, and the interest once per year. It is divided over 7 years. You can always pay it off early with no fee assigned to it.

The only bad thing is that they consider this a "help", so you can only get a total of (7) operational loans in your lifetime.

I got an operational loan one time through the FSA, and it was pretty easy. I got mine for clearing forest into farmland. It was worth it, and managed to pay it off within 2-3 years.

But do not get too depressed on the refusal by Kubota, they are tough to get financing through. You could try a credit union...
 
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I do not fill my tires on any of my tractors either.

It does add weight to the tractor, but not really where it is needed. In fact I think fluid filled tires are one of those things that was once done, but now people see where it was kind of silly all along. That is because fluid filled tires goes against physics. To really counterbalance the weight of a front end loader, the weight should not be over the rear axle...it should be well beyond the rear axle. This is better accomplished by putting on a counterbalance on the 3 point hitch. It could be a concrete block, but I just use my winch, my snowblower, or anything heavy. That does so much more because the weight is exponentially increased the further out the weight is from the rear axle.

Another bad thing about fluid filled tires is, there is a lot of weight flopping around inside those tires. If you get the tractor stuck, and you start "rocking" the tractor to get it out, the weight sloshing back and forth can take out the ring gear in the rear end. I say that with WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY too much experience. Ring gears are a pain to change out.

I use my tractor a lot in my gravel pit, and I say this with honesty, if I can get by without fluid filled tires, anyone can. I really use my loader a lot, and stand my tractor on its nose a lot trying to break out gravel that has been in place for some 9000 years.

Fluid filled tires also tend to rot out the rims of the tractor even if using tubes. They tend to leak a bit around the valve stems.

And fluid filled tires make changing them a real pain. You almost need a mechanical way (another tractor) to move the tire with that much weight in them.

 
So I left, I came home, and I ate some pie. And then I read this tiny ad:
holiday shopping for 2019
https://permies.com/t/128446/holiday-shopping
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