Self Sufficiency Links: Machinery
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Journey to self sufficiency


Depending on how big you want to get, and how much you want to do yourself the list of machinery can get complex. It all starts with the tractor. You need to figure out how big you want your setup to be and what do you want to do with the tractor?. Half an acre or an acre you probably don't even need one.

Here's how it worked for me. We bought our place of 2 acres. One acre was fairly clear and tillable out back. The other acre was yard and buildings and room enough for a good sized garden. The first year we tilled up the garden patch. Didn't need a tractor at all. The second year I decided that I wanted to redo half of the back acre to make it a better pasture. So I borrowed Farmall Super C with a plow and a small disc and worked the land up with that. I spread my oats and hay seeds with a broadcast spreader behind the riding lawnmower and then I worked them in by dragging a piece of weighted fence around. Had good results and still didn't need to buy a tractor.

But we had begun to notice that working the manure into the garden with the tiller wasn't so easy when it had a lot of bedding and I was starting to eye up the land behind us for it's potential as cropland. So the next year I found an old Allis WD for a really good price and drove it home. It was in fairly decent shape but the hydraulics didn't work and I ended up putting a new set of tires on the back real soon after I got it. I bought a nice 2 bottom plow with a clutch lift and a trailer sickle mower for it from a local dealer and it came in pretty handy. I could turn in the manure in the garden and then run the tiller. I could keep the weeds in the ditches cut and top the pasture to keep the weeds knocked back, or even cut a swath and feed it to an animal in the barn as green feed if we wanted to. Then the landlord offered to let me cut 5 acres he owned down the road for hay if he could have some of it. It was pretty grassy looking so I figured I didn't have to worry about crimping it after I cut it and I had a buddy that could borrow a baler so I said OK. I ended up breaking 3 pitman sticks on the mower because the stuff was so thick underneath from not being cut for a couple of years I ended up borrowing a tractor and haybine to get it cut. Then I realized I had to borrow a rake. My buddy didn't get the baler there on time twice and it got rained on twice so I ended up with 150 bales of bedding instead of 150 bales of hay. That experience combined with the fact that the next spring I planted half an acre of oats for grain had me out looking for a baler next summer. I found a John Deere 24T for sale by a guy getting out of farming for half of what the John Deere dealer wanted and towed it home behind the truck. Baled my oat straw with it and deemed it worth the price I paid. I was disappointed with the stand of oats and hay I got that year so I decided that the broadcast method was not the way to go, so now I was in the market for a grain drill.... I tell ya once you start messing around with machinery it's hard to stop.

The basis of your machinery line is the tractor. You should find one that you are comfortable with and that has the features you require.
Older tractors can be intimidating to the initiate. Not as sleek as the new stuff. Not as comfortable or even (some would argue) not as safe. If you have some trator experience though, the money saved by buying older stuff can be put to better use somewhere else.
Some of the features that are nice to have and can be found in most tractors from the 60's and up are;
Live PTO which means that when you step on the transmission clutch the PTO shaft keeps spinning. Most tractors from the mid 50's and later won't have this.
3 point hitch, A device that allows the use of mounted or semi mounted equipment. Post hole diggers are popular items as well as plows, back blades, tillers, rotary mowers...the list is endless. Other than the post hole diggers and back blades, most implements can be found for use without the 3 point though.
Hydraulic outlets, Handy to have for implements that require a hydraulic cylinder to raise and lower them. You can get manual turnbuckles to do this but let me tell you, hydraulics are much much better.
Power steering, nice to have for backing wagons or if you decide to add a loader to your machine.
A loader is handy to have and I would suggest getting a fully hydraulic one as opposed to an old trip bucket one. Just easier to work with. A quick-tach or other easy on and off system would be nice to have as well.
Four wheel drive is nice if you can afford a mchine with it. It isn't a big deal for me. Some will disagree but I've been farming for over 40 years here and there and done fine with two wheel drive.
I try not to let color influence my purchasing decisions. Some folks may disagree and prefer green stuff over red stuff. I don't care as long as it works. Availability of dealers and parts can be a factor but luckily I live withing easy range of several different dealers and used parts guys. I have purchased both of my tractors for 1000 total. They are older Allis Chalmers WDs. One has a loader one doesn't. Neither are in the best of shape but they are useable on my small acreage. I do plan on using the two to make one really good machine in the near future. I also use an International 756 gas that the old neighbor owns. It is a much newer and nicer tractor with a lot more power and modern features.

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