One of, if not the most useful thing any farmer or homesteader owns, is a tractor. Speaking from someone who has always owned a tractor of some kind, I can attest to the fact that a properly equipped tractor can turn a three-day, back-breaking job into a simple three-hour affair. From setting homestead fencing to leveling the driveway, tractors can make many otherwise difficult jobs a real cinch, especially if you have the right 3-point attachments. If I could only own five rear-mount implements, these would make my farm implements list.
#5 – Rototiller
From modest gardens to significant-sized plots, a PTO-powered rototiller should be added to your farm implements list. It beats any walk behind by a mile. Be sure to size the rototiller to your tractor since an implement that is too large or small either in width or weight will fail to perform on the wrong tractor. Be sure to observe horsepower ratings, the width of your tractor from outer tire sidewall to outer tire sidewall and what class hitch is required before buying one. If your rototiller didn’t come with one, be sure to add a slip clutch to the driveline.
Most plots and large gardens out my way are best done with a rototiller since a traditional plow and harrow arrangement pulls up an unending supply of rocks. In addition, keeping a well-defined tilled area is difficult with a plow and harrow since you need about 10 to 15 feet just to get a regular 2 bottom plow to working depth. If your plot is 30 feet long, for example, then the first 15 may not be well tilled and then the last 5 will be messed up from drawing the plow out of the earth. I’ve done it before, and it really makes a mess unless you’re plowing for long stretches. Even our JD5105, which is a 48hp 4×4 tractor with tall agricultural tires, has a difficult time running back over the plowed furrows when harrowing, so if you have a compact tractor it may prove to be an outright miserable job.
A PTO-driven rototiller makes it easy to maintain a tidy patch of well-managed soil, but if you have several acres to till, then a plow and harrow is likely your best option. If you’re in a situation like me where you don’t have acres and acres to plow, a rototiller will prove to be the best tool for the job. Besides, you’ll be everyone’s favorite neighbor come spring when it’s time to break ground and plant gardens.
#4 – Backhoe
Having a robust backhoe you can attach to your tractor is a fantastic thing to add to your farm implements list. You may not use it all that often, but when you have a use for it, it’s absolutely indispensable. For that matter, when you own a backhoe you tend to find projects requiring such a piece of equipment. I’ve dug holes for concrete footings, drainage ditches, dug up and replaced large drain pipes, dug test holes for water drainage, worked on our septic system and a whole host of other projects. We’ve saved an awful lot of money by being able to do our own site work when building barns, adding on to our house and even (legally) removing an in-ground oil tank from my grandparent’s house. If we had paid someone to pull that tank out, we could have bought our tractor, backhoe, and 35-foot gooseneck trailer … twice! We saved money and had something to show for the investment after the job. The backhoe also makes for a really heavy counterweight for moving hefty things with the bucket loader.
While I was debating this farm implements list in my head, I kept waffling over my fence post digger (also known as a post hole digger). To add it, or leave it off the list? I decided to leave it off since most of the time I just use our backhoe to dig a hole and then backfill it, which is easier in New England because of the unbelievable amount of rocks we have in our ground. If I encounter a rock with the backhoe, I pick it out and keep going, but if I hit one with the fence post digger, I either have to choose a new spot or go get the backhoe. Also, I sometimes have a hard time fitting 6×6 posts in the hole our fence post digger makes, which is my favorite size post for anything from fence corners to mailbox posts.
#3 – Bush Hog
When I’m not breaking it, my bush hog mower is one of my handiest implements. If you have fields to manage, even if it’s just a once a year cut to keep the field open and free of prickers, brush and trees, then a bush hog mower is an absolute godsend. I worked on a Christmas tree farm back in high school during the summer, and I remember threading a massive Gravely walk behind mower between saplings. It was slow, tedious and exhausting work. If you have any open space you could even remotely call a field, get yourself a bush hog mower and you can thank me later. The speed and convenience a bush hog offers simply can’t be matched by any walk behind mower.
#2 – Generator
My father is a retired commercial electrician and a real self-reliant type of guy. When he realized that selling his old clunky generator may not have been such a good idea, he went shopping for a new one. We live in a rural area of Connecticut (yes, they exist) and we have gone for a week or more at a stretch with no grid electricity. When storms hit the area, the grid has a tendency to go down thanks to the heavily forested areas up here.
Dad surveyed his options and decided that buying a PTO-driven generator was the best and most cost-effective solution, so he ordered a 25 Kilo-Watt (KW) PTO generator from Granger’s catalog. I can’t even tell you how many times this generator has saved our bacon, every time we lost grid power or the day our main breaker failed, it reliably put out some serious power. Having a 25KW generator may be a bit overkill, but when you’re out of power for a week, you truly learn to appreciate the fact that you can run the refrigerator, freezer chest, electric stove, well water pump and the electric clothes dryer all at the same time while still have enough power to run the welder. There is no robbing Peter to pay Paul here, no picking and choosing what runs and what has to stay off. Here’s how I answer the question: “What size generator did I need?”
There are a few big pros of adding a PTO-driven generator to your farm implements list, such as it’s cheaper to buy a generator without an engine, a well-maintained tractor can successfully run nonstop for days unlike those small consumer models, you can mount it on a 3-point carrier to move it around, and your neighbors are less likely to ask if they can borrow it (unless they have their own tractor). As with any compromise, there is a downside to having your tractor serve double duty as a generator; your tractor can’t do two things at once! If your tractor is hooked up and running the generator, you can’t detach it to plow snow without losing power, nor can you use your bucket loader to move fallen trees or feed the animals while it’s making power, and unlike dedicated stationary generators that are hooked up to a fuel source, you will have to refuel your tractor in place, so consider that before you opt for a PTO-driven generator.
#1 – York Rake
Yeah, that’s right! I put the simplest implement I own right on top of the farm implements list because it’s the one tool I use over and over again. If you’ve never owned a 3-point rake implement, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you’re like me and have a long dirt driveway, then this piece of common farm equipment is a must have for grading and smoothing out your driveway. Many people on my road have long dirt driveways but not everyone has a York rake at their disposal, so they call me to pay out some fresh gravel or smooth out those ruts they made in the spring. As a side note, York is a company that makes 3 point rakes, but tractor mounted rakes are commonly referred to as “York Rakes” or “Landscape Rakes” much like facial tissues are universally referred to as “Kleenex.”
A York rake isn’t just a driveway maintenance tool, it also works very well when dragging rocks off the surface of a garden, doubling as a harrow in a pinch, or leveling a yard after digging holes. After clearing an overgrown area I like to run my York rake over it to drag out any brush, branches, rocks, leaves or debris, leaving me a clean patch of earth without completely obliterating any turf that has grown in.
Honorable Mentions and Caveats
There is no one-size fits all setup, so consider your unique situation. Do you have a paved driveway? If you do, you may not get nearly as much use out of a York rake as I do. Do you burn wood as a primary or secondary source of heat in the winter? If you do; consider buying, or better yet, building a seriously powerful log splitter that takes advantage of your tractor’s horsepower. Our log splitter once ran off a Prince hydraulic pump that attached to the PTO of our old Oliver White tractor, but our John Deere 5105 has auxiliary hydraulic ports in the back, also known as “power beyond” to run a backhoe or other hydraulically actuated equipment, so we adapted our 70-year-old, farmer-built log splitter to work with the new system. When you hook our 48HP tractor to it, it will split or crush anything you put in its jaw. It also works well as a hydraulic bender if you need to bend steel tube, pipe, bar stock or; if you’re feeling generally destructive or bored, it can crush just about anything your heart desires.
As useful as the aforementioned implements are, none can replace the usefulness of a bucket loader, period. For that matter, I wouldn’t feel comfortable using my backhoe without my bucket adding support to the front of the tractor. This list is simply addressing the accessories that attach to the 3 point hitch, that’s all.
What’s #1 on your farm implements list? Comment below to join the conversation!