The old song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” reminds me of my experience with our tractor! Not how to leave it but how to use it. Our tractor is the single most important piece of machinery we have here at Little Wolf and without it, we’d be at a loss on how to get many things done.
Our tractor is a Kubota M4030 SU with two wheel drive. We don’t know what year it is but it has about 1,100 hours on it. We bought it in 2004 from a man who was selling it out of the Walmart parking lot. It’s been a great tractor for us. We only wish we’d bought one with 4 wheel drive and with a front end loader.
We have 2 farm implements that attach to the back of the tractor. The first is a bush hog as shown in the above picture. A bush hog is like a lawn mower except much bigger and with a dull blunt steel bar vs. a sharp edged blade. The steel bar spins at a high speed and basically crashes into whatever it hits and plows it down.
We use the tractor with the bush hog to keep our ~15 acres of fields and 4 miles of roads “mowed.” Because the bush hog is heavy duty, we are able to cut high grass, brush, very large bushes and even trees up to about 6 inches in diameter. The bush hog does not, however, like it to hit boulders hidden under the brush. It gives off a very loud, terrible sound when it hits a big rock. It’s so loud, Timm can be up on the mountain on the tractor when it hits a boulder and I can hear it down in the valley.
The second attachment we have for our tractor is a heavy duty box grader. As the name implies, a box grader’s primary purpose is to grade gravel roads. Farm roads get pretty rutted from rain and use. The box grader is dragged behind the tractor across the road surface to smooth the gravel and road back out. We use our box grader regularly to keep the roads smooth enough so we can drive our SUV across them.
However, we’ve found that a box grader can do much more than just grade roads. We used it to spread over 25 tons of gravel. Now, a box grader is not really designed for this type of work because it has a hard time digging into a pile of rock and then pulling it far down a road to where gravel is needed. The right piece of equipment for such a job is a bob cat, which has a bucket loader designed for this type of work. However, as I wrote in my article about building the road, renting a bob cat is easily $1000 for just a days worth of work. So, we found we could make the box grader do the job, although not as easily or as quickly.
A third use of the box grader is to push things. By driving the tractor in reverse and lowering the box grader so that it hovers just above the ground, you can push things with it. Heavy things. Like really big trees. We cleared our entire field of downed trees using this method. Our friend, Mike, used his bull dozer to pull the trees out of the ground, roots and all. We then cleared the field using the box grader in reverse push method. We pushed the trees into the woods on either side of the field.
I also use the box grader to push big boulders. I need lots of big rocks to build our culvert ditch rock wall. The technique is the same as when pushing downed trees except you have to be more careful because the rock is solid. Riding up over the top of the rock with the box grader and having it lodge under the tractor can be dangerous and damage to the tractor. I moved about 20 boulders using this method so far, as shown in the above picture.
As if that poor tractor and box grader haven’t worked hard enough, I also use it to haul rocks. I figured out how to place 2 wheel barrels on top of the box grader, which I fill with rocks that I gather from the fields. Once I have the wheel barrels filled, I can lift the box grader off the ground and drive the tractor to the rock wall I’m building around the culvert pipe. This little jury-rigged solution has saved me hours of hard labor. Not that gathering rocks isn’t hard work by itself!
And finally, one last thing the tractor helps us do is move and drag things. We use a large chain to drag all sorts of things around the farm: downed trees off the roads, old tractor tires, old farm implements, buried fencing, culvert pipes, boulders, wood tree stands, metal roof sheeting. You name it. If it’s big and way too heavy to lift, the tractor and a chain is about the only way to move it.
The combination of the tractor, bush hog and box grader have made our lives and work maintaining our land much easier. And a lot more fun.