Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pressed into Service: Bring Out the Antiques!

I've read in one of the coffee-table books about old tractors that unlike other collectibles, antique tractors often get pulled out to do useful work. This happens most frequently at planting or harvest time on a large farm.

Our property is modest in size and ambition, but when a broken hydraulic connector on our new tractor put it into the shop, the grass and weeds would not wait for it to return. Thus a 1950 John Deere M, very much in need of TLC scheduled for this summer, got to bask in the glory of a lovely Virginian April. It's a unique machine, having been modified by a local contractor so my father-in-law could step into the saddle after his injury. An M is no easy mount, so I am very thankful for the "back stairs" it now sports.

A big adjustment from city life is the need to stay on top of a large property. To fail at that means a cascading set of failures when it comes time to harvest one's food. With little "critters" eager to get into our new garden if they could be sneak close enough, I wanted a big "kill zone" for hawks and other predators, including snakes, to cut down on our squirrels and mice and voles. I also wanted said snakes at the wood's edge, not near my back door in tall grass. We mostly have non-venomous black snakes, but last year, on open ground and in plain sight, I nearly put my foot down on a Copperhead. Grass too tall only would increase that possibility.

I hold true to my earlier post about tractors: all but the most experienced farmers need a modern machine with safety features to work rough terrain. Luckily for us, only billiard-table flat spots and one gentle slope needed mowing.  The old tractor, despite a seeping oil pan, crazy wiring setup, and leaky carb, did admirably. It's earned a long-overdue servicing and a new set of front tires.

Thus a new homesteader might consider a back-up plan and equipment if one's primary tractor is out of service. An M like the one I'm riding would only set an owner back a few thousand dollars and give many years of service. Now that my new tractor is back, I'll still run the M weekly a bit for light duty. Old farm machines, like older skilled people, seem grateful to be of service.

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