Sunday, May 17, 2015

Farm Auction

Yesterday we attended our second-ever agricultural auction. I'd been discouraged the first time, seeing a post-hole digger soar past my $300 maximum in about 3 bids. The irony was that I found an even nicer used one for $500, including extra auger bits, a few weeks later at an equipment dealer in the mountains.

If one is beginning to farm casually or professionally, however, there's no better place to learn the prices of used equipment.

At auction, tractors can be had for great prices. Yesterday a really nice John Deere 850 with just over 1800 hours on it went for $4100, a real steal. Similar machines bring $6000. I don't regret buying a new tractor when we began our rural adventure, but that payment to Mr. Deere reminds me, every month, of how much I have learned since then. I can easily maintain equipment now and know what will run well, as opposed to what merely looks good, in farm equipment.

This tractor looks great, doesn't it?

If you ever consider bidding on such machinery, bring along someone experienced with tractors and implements. This machine had a hydraulic leak from the left rear axle. An auction company employee claimed he'd overfilled the reservoir and parked on a slanted surface. I'm not so sure; he'd have to vastly overfill it because the incline was really slight.

The tractor was hurriedly and recently painted: gas dripping form the carb, which can cause a fire, had worn off the new paint under a drip. From here I can see that gas-leak. I don't think they rebuilt the gravity-fed fuel system, a $100 job within reach of a skilled amateur. Doing it right can save you from a fiery death; I only learned this when rebuilding the fuel system on my old John Deere M.  Replacing the fuel lines and rebuilding a one-barrel carburetor are simple, unlike fixing hydraulics or axles; those require a tear-down and new seals. These are repairs costing many hundreds of dollars.

Though the tractors did not tempt me, this time I did bid! I tried my hand at snagging a stack of old-school milk crates, not the cheap-ass ones from Staples but from actual dairies. I have about 10 but you can never have enough! At $15 I dropped out, as I did for a lot of galvanized carriage bolts (one can simply not have enough fasteners at such prices).

It was fun to bid. The day got too hot to stay around for a PTO-attachment, a nice tiller I will need when I expand my garden to field-grown crops. I bet it went for around $300,  a real bargain.  Maybe next time. In any case, the crowd made the day: salt-of-the-earth types who all know each other and that one never sees in town or even in numbers at a country store.

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