HOME & HEART: Trucks, Trailers & Tractors

Beginner

If you have a homestead, you either have a truck or you are pining for one. Depending on the size of your holdings, you also may have a tractor (or that may be second on your wish list). These two tools rival any Swiss Army knife for versatility.

Truckin’

My husband Bob-O and I have always had a four-wheel-drive truck at our homestead, which sits 1.8 miles from the nearest paved road. We have owned a couple of gasoline-powered trucks, but when we started acquiring trailers, we switched to diesel-powered pickups.

Bob-O believes a 3/4-ton truck is a good size for an all-round work truck. He prefers diesel trucks because of their longevity and their torque for pulling loads. Here in the mountains, we need the torque. A diesel engine seems to last much longer than a gasoline engine. They are competitive on fuel mileage, and they can haul or pull most anything.

We use the pickup pulling a dump-bed trailer to pick up our firewood. Using the bed and the trailer, we can haul two cords of wood per trip.

Our gardens also benefitted from the truck-trailer setup, since we used it to pick up two truckloads of rabbit manure each year from a friend of ours who was a 4-H leader. She’s retired now, but luckily, we live in the land of horses and rodeos. By either perusing Craigslist or placing an “in search of” ad there, we find people more than happy to have us come with our truck and trailer and carry off the wonderful mixture of horse manure and bedding straw. As we age, we have gotten picky. Whomever we get the manure from has to have a tractor for loading the manure into the trailer—no more shoveling by hand for us. The 7-by-10-foot dump trailer holds about 7 cubic yards of dry manure. Bob-O made sturdy wooden sides that raise its height by 11.5 inches, making it 40 inches deep. We take the sides off when we haul gravel for the road. As heavy as rock is, we cannot fill the trailer to its capacity.

Tractor Beams

We saved up for our first tractor and told ourselves it was an investment, and it was. Tractors aren’t cheap, and you need a reason to buy one. We needed a four-wheel-drive version with at least 30 hp, as well as a three-point hitch and power takeoff for attachments. Bob-O is enthusiastic about power steering. And, if you are considering using your tractor anywhere but home, you will need to invest in a trailer big enough to haul it.

We bought our first tractor from a dealer. It was used, but in good condition. The dealer dropped it off at the end of the road, but by the next day, after he had put it through its paces, Bob-O had them fetch it and replace it with a larger one, a Yanmar, he had been looking at. A former RE client had given Bob-O a random backhoe attachment he had in his boneyard. When Bob-O attached it to the first tractor the front wheels barely touched the ground. He could tell the first tractor wasn’t big enough to do the jobs we needed done.

Our old Yanmar has been a faithful workhorse these many years. Being the only tractor in our neighborhood, its bucket and blade have maintained the dirt road in every season. Bob-O bought a 5-foot-wide rototiller attachment that does the job in one pass what our Troy-Bilt tiller does in several passes.

When we had a shop built, we had to prepare a level gravel pad for the base. Bob-O used the bucket and blade to build up, level off, and gravel the pad. The crew that was sent to dig the footings tried to auger through the rocks in our placer soil. After a whole day of digging, they told us they had to move to the next building site. Bob-O told them, “Give me two days.” He used the backhoe and bucket to dig and remove a big pile of large rocks to get the prescribed depth. Because of the size of the rocks, the holes were somewhat larger than expected. Instead of the usual single cement truck payload, it required two full trucks to pour our footings. That building isn’t going anywhere.

Bob-O bought forklift blades for the bucket, and we used it to load and unload pallets of PV modules for our former RE installation business. We use the Yanmar to raise and lower the wind turbine on its 63-foot tilt-down pole. I drive the tractor as Bob-O keeps the cables straight.

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