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Tractors, necessary, or luxury?

 
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craig howard wrote: I've been looking for a tractor.
Checking out the Allis Chalmers WD.
Does anyone have experience with these?

 They were one of the first tractors to have a live PTO.
So the PTO can keep going when the tractor is stopped.


They are good tractors, you can find parts online. The main thing I would look at is how many are in your area. The more the better as this will lower the price, if something major goes bad on it you can find parts locally. Other than that I would say go for it. Some others that are close to same size and function as the AC-WD are the MF-135 (get the diesel not gas), Ford 8n/9n, Farmall Super A,100,130,140 or a Farmall Super C,200,230, I personally would look and whichever one of these is most popular in your state/area is the one I would get as it would be cheaper and easier to get parts for as stated above.
 
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C Rogers wrote:I keep hearing this, but how is a big tractor compressing the soil IF the tiller is wider than the tracks??? You are actually tilling your tracks so it is NOT compressed. Also you can have equipment that weighs over 10,000 lbs but they actually compress the soil less than a WBT and YOU walking behind the thing!!! Its all in the width of the tread or tracks as this determines the pounds per square inch so don't think that something that weighs a 300-500 pounds compresses the soil less than a tractor that weighs 3000 pounds. It all depends on tire width and how many pounds per square inch the tool your using applies to the soil, so lighter equipment ISN'T always lighter compression to the soil.



You are partially correct in this...

You are right in that soil compaction depends on the surface area of the traction area, and why my bulldozer produces less PSI then me walking. It might weigh 10,000 pounds, but it also has a lot of square inches on the ground to spread that weight over a large surface...far more than my walking tractor and feet. And bigger tractors can have less ground pressure depending on how big their tires are, and how many, compared to my narrow tired Kubota. That blasted thing cuts right through sod during mud season because of its narrow front tires.

But rubber tracked machines often get billed for being "less prone to compaction", but that is not the case. Look at a worn out set of rubber tracks and you can see it. The rubber is ALWAYS worn out down the center where it rides over the bogie wheels. That is because the rubber tracks flex. Yes, it is nice because they do not chew up a field so much like a steel tracked machine, but that steel does not flex, so they float all the machines weight over a larger surface. With rubber tracked machines, compaction is actually worse because all the weight is concentrated over those very thin bogie wheels. They do help with traction in mud though because as they sink, the tracks spread out and gain some traction to the machine, but it still has a center spot where the majority of the weight is being concentrated.

However, in the case of the rototiller, the rototiller is the actual machine that causes compaction, not the tractor wheels. That is because as the implement churns over the ground, where the tines hit are "fluffed" up, but there is vibration in the soil. Just below where the tines strike, those smaller particles of soil are being vibrated to compaction. That is why rototillers are very poor implements of choice for gardens. Sure they look good on the surface, but they really are creating hard pan below the prevents root penetration, and it discourages water filtration. Basically it is one big tub of fluffed up soil with lots of hard pan all around it.

Plows and disc harrows are not really much better, especially the roll over plow because it has all that weight pressing down over the ground as it slides along. They are somewhat better because there is not as much vibration, nor churning the soil to small particles though like the rototiller. That is the reason why rototilled gardens need so much irrigation.

Of course no implement of choice really matters if a person shanks the garden spot or field with a subsoiler, because it breaks up that compaction. That compaction is referred to by a bunch of different names, including hard pan, or even "reached plow depth". And of course the shank plow has a bunch of names too like the shank plow, subsoiler, or Yeoman plow...

All we can do I guess is shank the fields when we have to, and hope Hoovercraft Tractors come out soon! (LOL)

 
C Rogers
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Travis Johnson wrote:
You are partially correct in this...

You are right in that soil compaction depends on the surface area of the traction area, and why my bulldozer produces less PSI then me walking. It might weigh 10,000 pounds, but it also has a lot of square inches on the ground to spread that weight over a large surface...far more than my walking tractor and feet. And bigger tractors can have less ground pressure depending on how big their tires are, and how many, compared to my narrow tired Kubota. That blasted thing cuts right through sod during mud season because of its narrow front tires.

But rubber tracked machines often get billed for being "less prone to compaction", but that is not the case. Look at a worn out set of rubber tracks and you can see it. The rubber is ALWAYS worn out down the center where it rides over the bogie wheels. That is because the rubber tracks flex. Yes, it is nice because they do not chew up a field so much like a steel tracked machine, but that steel does not flex, so they float all the machines weight over a larger surface. With rubber tracked machines, compaction is actually worse because all the weight is concentrated over those very thin bogie wheels. They do help with traction in mud though because as they sink, the tracks spread out and gain some traction to the machine, but it still has a center spot where the majority of the weight is being concentrated.

However, in the case of the rototiller, the rototiller is the actual machine that causes compaction, not the tractor wheels. That is because as the implement churns over the ground, where the tines hit are "fluffed" up, but there is vibration in the soil. Just below where the tines strike, those smaller particles of soil are being vibrated to compaction. That is why rototillers are very poor implements of choice for gardens. Sure they look good on the surface, but they really are creating hard pan below the prevents root penetration, and it discourages water filtration. Basically it is one big tub of fluffed up soil with lots of hard pan all around it.

Plows and disc harrows are not really much better, especially the roll over plow because it has all that weight pressing down over the ground as it slides along. They are somewhat better because there is not as much vibration, nor churning the soil to small particles though like the rototiller. That is the reason why rototilled gardens need so much irrigation.

Of course no implement of choice really matters if a person shanks the garden spot or field with a subsoiler, because it breaks up that compaction. That compaction is referred to by a bunch of different names, including hard pan, or even "reached plow depth". And of course the shank plow has a bunch of names too like the shank plow, subsoiler, or Yeoman plow...

All we can do I guess is shank the fields when we have to, and hope Hoovercraft Tractors come out soon! (LOL)

I like the hovercraft idea, I just don't know how it could pull things like a 10 shank chisel plow (same idea as a subsoiler) . Thrust would have to be greater than the pulling resistance and that wind would kill plants. But back to tilling, depending on size/depth of till and depth the roots grow that hardpan may or may not be a factor. I don't use tillers, I have a 2 bottom turning plow, 6' disk w/18" disks. Along with field & row cultavators and a 3 shank chisel plow. I do minimal tillage though but can't do no-till without using chemical herbicides (which I REFUSE TO USE) so for now I only chisel plow or use cultavators when needed. But the only way I see to truly eliminate compaction would be to double dig (bastard trenching) or if someone had tons of compost to make lasagna raised beds. But me farming acres, this would be cost, time and labor prohibited. So going full circle back to OP, I personally need tractors. My requirements also need 12" + ground clearance (my Farmall has 18") and it must have over 4' width between tires to straddle my 4' wide beds. Most subcompact tractors are not tall nor wide enough. Larger new tractors are ok, but are overkill. This is another reason I luv the old iron better than the new ones, besides show me any new Kabota, JD, MF etc., that in 70 years will still be running like my 1950 Farmall or implements that were also made in the 50's.
 
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A bit tongue in cheek, but why aren't we just buying construction cranes to do all of this work.  Based on the scale drawing the Kroll Crane below, if that crane were plopped down dead-center on our land, I could access much of the property out to the end-reach of the crane.  I could pick up timber and fire wood as well as anything else needing to be raised from whole buildings to pigs to apples off the tree....and probably figure out attachments that would mow, till, chop-and-drop....the works.  No soil compaction, no flat tires, no skidding wheels, it would swing right out over the river for some pike or bass around dinner time and provide a deer and goose hunting stand to boot.  Flooding??...who cares when I could just pick up the whole house and drop it back down on the foundation when 40 days and 40 nights have passed.  

Now if I could just get Deere and New Holland to pay me to keep the idea quiet!... :-)
KrollCrane.JPG
[Thumbnail for KrollCrane.JPG]
 
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John Weiland wrote:A bit tongue in cheek, but why aren't we just buying construction cranes to do all of this work.  Based on the scale drawing the Kroll Crane below, if that crane were plopped down dead-center on our land, I could access much of the property out to the end-reach of the crane.  I could pick up timber and fire wood as well as anything else needing to be raised from whole buildings to pigs to apples off the tree....and probably figure out attachments that would mow, till, chop-and-drop....the works.  No soil compaction, no flat tires, no skidding wheels, it would swing right out over the river for some pike or bass around dinner time and provide a deer and goose hunting stand to boot.  Flooding??...who cares when I could just pick up the whole house and drop it back down on the foundation when 40 days and 40 nights have passed.  

Now if I could just get Deere and New Holland to pay me to keep the idea quiet!... :-)



In some ways that is already being done.

It is a hard video to find, but I will see if I can find it, but basically they are using an excavator mounted on an overhead track. This excavator travels around on this overhead track system and allows the farmer to clean out his barn without moving the animals, or opening up the gates, because it is all done from overhead. And then he can bed the animals down, or feed them. It is all done because the overhead track goes from barn to barn, outside to the silage pile, or outside to the manure pit. In some ways it is very efficient because it is an all electric drive, using electric motors to operate the hydraulics. The only real limitation is that the farmer has to put an overhead track system to everywhere they want to go.  Still it could do more work, faster, cheaper and better in that area than anything else. So the neat factor is like 9000%. However, a person can take a skid steer anywhere they want, so I do not see the idea catching on.

But with your idea, if you had your crane mounted on a set of railroad tracks that wound its way though a person's farm, it could potentially reach far more areas with the same benefit.

I have seen people with two wheel tractors semi-do this by placing a post in the ground, and then tethering their two wheel tractor to the post with a rope. They start the two wheel tractor up, then let it go, say rototilling or whatever. They put it in gear, and then let it go, and so all by itself it tills a circle, the rope winding itself around the post with each revolution so that with each trip around it pulls the machine closer and closer into the center of the circle so that the market gardener can do other things instead of following a walk behind tractor as it tills. I thought that was a pretty neat way to have a remote control tractor for cheap.

On big farms, they just program "roads" into the farm via GPS where the tractors with heavy items like grain carts always run so that compaction stays in one place. By doing that, they can map out their fields to get to the most areas, with the least spots that are compacted.
 
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On my farm, I semi-did what the big farmers are doing. About 15 years ago I worked for a few months on an "Access Road Plan" that included both my Forestry and Field acres, and really laid out roads on a map so that my roads would reach the greatest amount of acreage possible. I still have that plan, and am inching forward on it.

This is a 3d Model of part of it. This model represents 42 acres, and on the far side of it, you can see where the road Tee's off. That is where the current roadway stops. By roadway, that is a Heavy haul Road so 20 feet wide, and several feet of gravel so that trucks can use it in any season, even mud season. But now I need to extend those roads.

Its all about getting to as many parts of my fields as I can, for soil compaction, but also to avoid wet areas on my farm. That is why it winds down beside that wet area on the far left side of the picture, over a stream and a pond, then swings up a ridge where I want to put a camp. That spot overlooks some 14 different hilltops the view is so good there, but it needs a road so I can get there.

The other road goes to a 10 acre field I need all season access too.



DSCN0464.JPG
3D Map With Access Roads
3D Map With Access Roads
 
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C Rogers wrote:This is another reason I luv the old iron better than the new ones, besides show me any new Kabota, JD, MF etc., that in 70 years will still be running like my 1950 Farmall or implements that were also made in the 50's.



I see no reason why my Kubota cannot be running in 70 years, it is a strong, simple machine, and with the internet now, getting parts is easier than it has ever been done before.

When I was about 15 years old, I started logging, and used a 1958 Ford 900 tractor. At that time, that tractor was 30 years old. We put a clutch in it, rebuilt the motor, fixed wheel bearings etc. It lived another 11 years and I traded it in 1999 for my current Kubota. Now that Kubota is 21 years old, and it is starting to need some work, just like the Ford 900 did. But I do not see why it could not keep going. If I put $2000 into that tractor, it would be like brand-new, just like we could have done to the Ford 900 in 1988.

In 1999, I replaced the tractor because the 3 point hitch hydraulic pump had burned up, and it had a few other problems, like not having positraction, four wheel drive, or brakes. But I traded it for just about what my Grandfather bought it for in 1958. Today my Kubota has about the same resale price as what I bought it for.

This is why I am not brand loyal. I do not see any tractor being better or worse than another. I do not see my Kubota being inferior to the Ford 900 we had because both are just tractors. It does not seem to matter what the era is, or what the brand of tractor is...the economics of tractors are just so good that it works.

I mean really works.

I pay cash for just about everything, and seldom buy new things for that reason, but tractors are an exception because the return on investment is so great. I have never sold a tractor yet where I did not make money on the sale, or broke even on the sale. But if that sounds silly, it should not because in the time that I have had the machine I have used it for so much work, that it ends up being free work. My most expensive purchases to date have been tractors, all the while I put my family in used vehicles, all because I know vehicles cost me money, and with tractors I save, or make money.

But a particular era, or a particular brand, even a particular type of tractor does not matter. It is just plain tractor economics.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:

I pay cash for just about everything, and seldom buy new things for that reason, but tractors are an exception because the return on investment is so great. I have never sold a tractor yet where I did not make money on the sale, or broke even on the sale. But if that sounds silly, it should not because in the time that I have had the machine I have used it for so much work, that it ends up being free work. My most expensive purchases to date have been tractors, all the while I put my family in used vehicles, all because I know vehicles cost me money, and with tractors I save, or make money.



I use pretty much this identical ethic.   We have never bought a new car.....and have almost always kept that used purchase for over 10 years.  My 2005 John Deere tractor was bought new with 0% financing for $12K and has never needed anything more than oil changes and joint lubes along with the fuel that it sips.  With each passing year, the spread of those purchase dollars over the investment just gets better....and the resale value still respectable. With cars, it never seems to matter that much how much more reliable the car was than any other at the time of purchase.  When it's got 200K miles on it, they all are about the dollar value of scrap iron, even if the more reliable make will go for a longer period of time.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:
I pay cash for just about everything, and seldom buy new things for that reason, but tractors are an exception because the return on investment is so great. I have never sold a tractor yet where I did not make money on the sale, or broke even on the sale. But if that sounds silly, it should not because in the time that I have had the machine I have used it for so much work, that it ends up being free work. My most expensive purchases to date have been tractors, all the while I put my family in used vehicles, all because I know vehicles cost me money, and with tractors I save, or make money.



Pretty much the same thought process here. The purchase price on all the vehicles I've ever owned still doesn't add up to what I paid for my Kubota in 2017. But (aside from perhaps the farm truck) I won't have any of those vehicles in five years. I don't really see a reason for why I won't be leaving that Kubota to whichever one of my kids inherits the place in 40+ (Lord willing) years. Looking at it that way, the tractor is stupid cheap, and in just the 2ish years I've owned it, there's been tons of projects that I literally could not have done without it, not to mention the jobs that would have taken me 2-3 times as long if I didn't have it.
 
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I have done some checking and the parts for my Kubota are stupid-cheap. Like the clutch, from Kubota it is $315 or some stupid thing, but aftermarket you can get it for $52! I don't care if it is a Kubota part or not, not for $250 in savings!

But even if you blow a motor, they put 27 hp Kubota's on everything now, like light tower generators, Miller Welders, etc. I can buy a replacement Kubota engine for $1800...

I bought my Wallenstein Log Trailer, it cost $18,000 which is $4000 more than the tractor that pulls it. Kind of silly for an attachment, but it keeps the hours down on my tractor, and takes the brunt of the work. I would never be able to fabricate a homemade version of that thing, but now that it is bought, there is nothing I cannot fix, or replace. So I took a hit on the purchase, but I will have that for my Grandchildren.

Tractor economics are just different. I think we should stay mum though because it is about the only thing a consumer can buy and come out ahead on.
 
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I have a square back Bushog, which I think was made in 1965. I rebuilt it two years ago, and the darn thing broke again this year. It makes me really mad, and I want to replace it with a flail mower, but...

It just makes more sense to tear the thing apart right down to its every last bolt and washer, and rebuild it. By the time I get done doing that, I MIGHT have $500 in it. Yes, a investment in a 55 year old implement. BUT where can I buy a brand new 6 foot bushog for $500? They cost at least $2000 new. So it is just a matter of doing it.

If a new bushog was built more rugged, or had more features; yeah I might buy a new one. But some bushogs now do not survive the first use because the gear boxes are bent steel and not cast iron. No thanks, I will take a risk on rebuilding a 55 year old piece of equipment. (But, I also have the time to rebuild it, which I realize is not always a commodity someone has).

(Note: I am seriously thinking about building a homemade flail mower. I really, really, really, really, really like flail mowers!)
 
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Travis Johnson wrote: I think we should stay mum though because it is about the only thing a consumer can buy and come out ahead on.



In our neck of the woods....or plains.....there is one other thing that I would worry about being 'discovered' and have the price skyrocket as a consequence:  The lowly sump-pump.  Sumps don't cost that much, but what they are protecting can cost a great deal more.  Depending on what your homeowner's insurance covers, a sump pump might be the one thing that keeps you dry ..... and financially above water.  Woe the day when the manufacturers catch on and start charging $1,000.00 per pump! :-/
 
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As a tongue in cheek thing to my beautiful bride Katie, I once calculated out her "value", and even as a joke that did NOT go over well! But you guys know me; I had compelling evidence and statistics to back up what I said. I think that was kind of the problem. It is a long and funny story, however I feel I must warn everyone, that such calculations should not always be shared even if it did answer THE question every married man has asked himself! (LOL)

As for sub-pumps, I never thought about it, but that is true.

Two of my houses do not need them, but the third one does.

My main house is on a slab foundation on grade, and my other house in Maine naturally drains any water that gets in from its rock foundation. But our house in New Hampshire gets hit with water. It has a stream that flows through the property and the town installed a very small culvert that causes the stream to flood during Spring Run Off. We have done just about everything to get them to upsize the culvert. It is not rocket science...if the culvert up the road is four feet, who would put in a 2 foot culvert and expect it to work? Our driveway there is the last driveway before the stream goes into the river, it only makes sense that it would be the biggest culvert in the system if it is the last one before dumping into the river.

But we do not have insurance on any of our homes because it is such a racket. I go so far as to call it legalized extorsion.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote: It has a stream that flows through the property and the town installed a very small culvert that causes the stream to flood during Spring Run Off. We have done just about everything to get them to upsize the culvert. It is not rocket science...if the culvert up the road is four feet, who would put in a 2 foot culvert and expect it to work?.



HA!.....Don' think the town wasn't planning that when they installed your 2' culvert!   We are on a river as well in one of the flattest regions in the nation and spring flooding is notorious.  In many respects, the 'planning' for flood mitigation in the larger local urban areas is all about keeping water out of the urban areas and backed-up into the rural areas.  Hence, when bridges and culverts are put in, they are sized "appropriately".....that is to say, to encourage the water to be held back more in the rural regions.  Needless to say, the farmers and rural landowners are not ignorant of this tactic and there are various legal challenges that arise as a consequence.  I suspect that if you decided to upsize that culvert on your own dime and efforts you would be notified of the violation in a right hurry.....
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The 'right' tractor is a necessity for a homestead.  And it all depends on the needed usefulness to an individual's needs.  

AND, what is defined as a tractor.  Many attributes.

Some could just use the typical $500 or less lawn tractor with ATV attachments to do what a sub-compact tractor could do.  

Others can use an ATV due to the terrain.

Still, compact tractors fill a huge niche for most homesteaders.  The questions are; what size?  Gas or Diesel?  Power for the needs?  Front End Loader or a Rear 3PT bucket?  Used, New or Refurbished/Restored?  Warranty? 2WD or 4WD?

 
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John Weiland wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote: It has a stream that flows through the property and the town installed a very small culvert that causes the stream to flood during Spring Run Off. We have done just about everything to get them to upsize the culvert. It is not rocket science...if the culvert up the road is four feet, who would put in a 2 foot culvert and expect it to work?.



HA!.....Don' think the town wasn't planning that when they installed your 2' culvert!   We are on a river as well in one of the flattest regions in the nation and spring flooding is notorious.  In many respects, the 'planning' for flood mitigation in the larger local urban areas is all about keeping water out of the urban areas and backed-up into the rural areas.  Hence, when bridges and culverts are put in, they are sized "appropriately".....that is to say, to encourage the water to be held back more in the rural regions.  Needless to say, the farmers and rural landowners are not ignorant of this tactic and there are various legal challenges that arise as a consequence.  I suspect that if you decided to upsize that culvert on your own dime and efforts you would be notified of the violation in a right hurry.....



It was never too bad until they clear cut the top of the mountain, so now more water comes down.

Katie asked the previous owners though if they ever had water issues and they said no, but just happened to have everything in their walk out basement on stilts. "Never huh?...." But over the years selling in flood prone areas is harder to get financing for, so we are having issues selling it.

It just makes me thankful I live on a concrete slab. Because the slab is always warm, the ground does not freeze around the building, so during spring run off there is no freeze-thaw cycling. Any water that gets to the slab, just runs through the gravel because it is not frozen.

The spot where I want to put my wofati, is a place I want to scrape the topsoil down to bare bedrock, then level the site with crushed rock. That way all the heat from the bedrock comes up through, but any water will pass right under the home. naturally the posts will sit on top of bedrock so it would not only be a very solid home, it would be a very warm home.
 
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Interesting topic for sure.

We currently own a small, 23hp Massey Ferguson GC2300 series with a loader bucket.

My parents purchased the machine 11-12 years ago when they first purchased this land.

They own 20 acres on relatively flat ground in NE Ohio, Zone 5b.  10 acres mixed hardwood (maple/beech), 1 acre pond, 9 acres "tillable"

Being suburban parents raising suburban kids, they didn't know anything at that time and it made sense for them...

...especially because they opted to finance a machine and this smaller tractor was a good option.

I moved here 6 years ago to help develop the land in my mid-30's after spending my adulthood in the green industry...

...but especially after discovering permaculture and sharing the ideas with my parents and taking them to workshops with me.

So - here we are, I'm in my 40's and my parents are in their late 60's and early 70's.

I've been gazelle intense the last year paying down my own personal debt following Dave Ramsey's plan.

One thing I know is that I will *never* be financing a tractor.

Here, a used Ford 600N would be a *very* capable machine, if not more capable with certain tasks - for $2500

However, since my personal goals revolve around market farming and a small perennial plant nursery - I'm *really* eyeing a BCS.

The "workable" areas are in smaller parcels, no larger than 2.5 acres - much more suitable for a BCS.

With all that said, we get a *lot* of use out of this little tractor, especially the bucket over the years...so there's that.

However, with proper planning and equipment rentals the bucket requirements can be effectively dealt with.

It all boils down to an "it depends" answer on what your true *needs* are and what you're willing to spend to deal with them.

I'm sure there's purists that would say no, but I'm not one of them - but I'm also a bit less of a gear geek than I was in past lives.  

Looking forward to reading more comments on this thread.




 
Tick check! Okay, I guess that was just an itch. Oh wait! Just a tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater is the most sustainable way to heat a conventional home
http://woodheat.net
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