Some years ago, I read that bass boat manufacturers had determined that the average sport fisherman would spend $25k on a bass boat. Therefore they needed to just build a boat on which they could make a profit when selling for that amount. I think this equation probably translates to other sports too. Hunters probably will spend $25k on rifles, camo-clothing, tree stands and duck blinds, 4-wheelers, lodging in the woods, etc. City dwellers might spend thousands on season tickets for sports local teams, bowl games or the college tournaments. Art lovers might spend similar amounts on lithographs or a few up-and-coming artists’ works. What would be the equivalent for the farm? Tractors.
Recently, I have written about garden help, mentioning that large projects require heavy lifting. Also, I wrote about farmers identifying themselves by the color of their tractor. Tractors come in all sizes from compact utility tractors used for little more than mowing laws and hauling mulch to the flower beds, to massive two-wheel rigs that can plant dozens of rows of corn at a time and roll 1,000 lbs bales of hay. The amount of tractor one needs depends on the job to be accomplished.
We have specialized in working our gardens with hand tools for more than a dozen years. The work is slow, but progresses every year. Some of our neighbors have told us that they cannot start gardens without a tractor, while we lean on our shovels and listen. We have considered whether to add a tractor to our set of tools. To date, replacing a $25 shovel made more sense than investing $25k in a tractor (for clarification, our financial adviser, who is a farmer too, told us that purchasing a tractor is never an “investment” because you have to keep putting money into keeping it running, and no one will pay you more for it later on).
Our strongest argument for getting a tractor would be when our truck might stop running. Replacing a work truck would cost at least as much as a tractor. At the rate the truck is going, that might not happen soon. It passed it annual inspection, and has a fresh coat of Rustolium hold the body together.
However, another task has been in mind for a few years: pushing snow. We live in region where winter can bring 3 inches to 3 feet of snow in a storm. Our Subaru can run in 6 to 8 inches of snow, but once tracks pack the snow down, not much can keep that from becoming icy, other than warm weather. The neighbor who has kept our roads cleared for many winters is no longer able to do this. Time to consider some equipment. A tractor with a plow has a lot more weight and power than a truck with a plow.
Living in a rural community, we have access to someone else’s surplus farm equipment. We stopped by Hartman Farm Machinery, at the recommendation of several friends. If the sport fisherman and hunters have increased heart rates in Cabela’s stores, farm folks have the same experience at the local used farm machinery lot. Tractors, front loaders, dozers, backhoes, buckets, blades, augers, plows, rakes, balers…
We spent an hour or so walking through the rows of tractors, ranging from antiques to nearly new models. We described our farm experience (and lack of growing up with tractors) and motivation to be prepared for winter. The salesman showed us options way too small (20 hp) and way too big (100 hp). He showed us green, blue, yellow, red, and orange tractors.
We settled on a Kubota L5740 57 hp model. Just call me Orange. It had a bucket, and could be fitted with a front snow plow and back ditch blade, and 4-wheel drive. With the PTO, we can add all sorts of gizzmoes, which I do not know that I need yet. Doesn’t technology drive need? The salesman looked around and found a set of chains for the back tires.
We arranged to have it delivered on a Friday after work. That allowed us to lead the truck up our lane to find a place to unload it. By the time we had it unloaded and worked our way around the gardens to pick before supper, there was time for a quick run around the garage. I had some logs stored there that I planned to use to anchor tarps over the tractor until the next building project. Why carry each log around the garage, when I could load them all into the bucket and drive back around the garage.
Everyone had said that Linda would not see much of me once we had a tractor. But, chores come first before playing with Tonka Trucks. Saturday had quite a list of chores, including filling new fuel cans with off-road diesel. Anyway, until I have stocked up on hydraulic fluid, filters, etc., I do not want to run it long. By late afternoon, with the pathways mowed, wood cut and stacked, etc. I headed down the driveway to try clearing some ditches and pulling gravel out of the breakers to fill in washed out areas. This requires driving forward while looking backwards to see what the blade is doing. About an hour of this twisted position was plenty of strain on my back muscles. I shall see more of Linda for back rubs at this rate.
At dinner she joked that she thinks my tractor is sexy. I asked if that meant that she like me covered in mud and dust, wearing a camo Tractor Supply hat, unshaven and sweaty. She replied “No.” Guess, I will not be buying a bass boat any time soon.