Of all the things that we thought we’d need when we were making The List from our sofa in the City House – one thing we didn’t even consider was a tractor. Looking back, this totally makes sense. Gardening tools at the time meant a pair of secateurs and our lawn mower was one of those old school ‘pushy-pushy’ ones that only had to tackle the 2M x 6M nature strip once and a while. It was a different world.
I grew up with a tractor – a 1930 something John Deere. It was big, loud, smelly and bright green. Grandpa, my farming inspiration, used it to do a variety of tasks – not all of them truly needing the grunt of a tractor. He carted water to the veggie patch, moved his tiller, carried split wood from the forest to the house and plowed snow from our driveway. This final task was the most fun for me as a baby mouse as I got to sit in the bucket while he was moving snow (don’t tell Mama Mouse!). I would scramble to the top of the growing mound as he scraped snow from the frozen ground into the bucket and then tumble in a giggling heap to the bottom of the snow bank as he emptied the bucket. Looking back, the (slightly) risk averse adult in me cringes, but I was dressed in so many layers of wool and puffer jacket that I just bounced like a rubber ball before getting up and to do it again.Even with that green monster as a part of my history, I didn’t consider a tractor as something we might need.
When we got to the farm, we looked around and added to list of jobs, all of these jobs could be accomplished with out a tractor. As time went by, we kept having tractor moments.
When water eroded a section of the driveway we looked at the pike of granitic sand and said – “Great, we can fill in the ruts. If only we had a tractor to move the heavy soil so that we don’t have to make a zillion trips with the wheelbarrow (mental note, get a wheelbarrow)”.
“Those 90 x 90mm posts for the yurt deck came delivered in 3 metre sections. Holy crow they are heavy. How in the world are we going to get them to the field to build the deck. If only we had a tractor we could just throw them in the bucket.”
“The area we want for a veggie patch is rather large. We could do it with a hand tiller. But what about if we expand it to the field, over there. That is going to take forever with a hand tiller. If only we had a tractor.”
You get the picture. In the end, we decided that we could do what we wanted to do on the farm slowly and with much difficulty without a tractor. Because we don’t have a flock of children like the olden timey pioneers, a tractor would make life a lot easier. Tractors can’t be that expensive, right? We can get a used one. We set a modest budget and started looking.
One thing Farmer Bob and I are learning over and over again is that we underestimated how different it would be to move from the City to the Country. We got most of it right but, with things like the tractor, we missed the mark.
The thing we quickly learned about tractors is that when you buy one it doesn’t come with any attachments – not even a bucket. The thing about used tractors is that you don’t often find one that a little old lady drove to church once a week. They are working machines and most of them get worked quite hard. When we looked at the uncertainty of a used tractor and then added on the cost of implements we would need – tiller, bucket (called a front end loader – who knew) etcetera – we weren’t far off of a new tractor.
Most tractors come from either China, Korea, Japan or the USA. Chinese ones are too cheap and are prone to problems because they are made to a price. Ones from Japan and the USA – like the green monster – are high quality, will last a lifetime but are quite expensive. We settled on a Korean one as a good compromise.
So meet, Branson, the tractor. He’s big, loud, grunty and candy apple red. He’s got lots of levers, switches and knobs but boy can he lift heavy things. In the end, we spent way more on a tractor than we planned but we’ve chosen to look at it as an investment in our farm and our future. Having the option of using the tractor has made things a lot easier for us and, like Grandpa found, why carry it yourself when you can put it in the tractor (grrrr!). We’ve used Branson to lug bags of concrete for post footings for the yurt deck, pull a cast iron bath tub out of the back paddock to use as a watering trough for animals (score!) and to remove the carcass of a massive kangaroo from our driveway.
I’ve even learned how to pilot the tractor which is a heck of a lot of fun!