I mentioned in a previous post that I was looking for a tractor. Well, the looking is over. It was delivered on Thursday. The practical side of me won out, and I decided I should really get one carrying an industry standard 3-point hitch. Since I was also looking for an antique (for cost and reliability reasons) this narrowed my options to tractors by Ford and Ferguson. Other tractor manufacturers (Farmall, Allis Chalmers, Case, etc…) did not standardize on the 3-point design until the 1960s. If your antique doesn’t have the standard hitch, then it can only use antique implements that were designed specifically for it. Not very practical, eh?
Anyway, I bought a Ferguson TO-20. This tractor was produced in parallel with the Ford 8N (and looks visually almost identical), but used superior technology (an overhead valve engine for example). A semi-complete history can be found in this article, but the short version is that any tractor that can carry Sir Edmund Hillary to the South Pole is probably sufficient for our small farm.
For the price of an new riding lawn mower, I got the tractor, a 5 foot field mower, and a rear dirt scoop (not pictured). The grey color is the original paint. They were known as Little Grey Fergies. Yes, the red is rust but it’s in pretty good shape overall and would probably make a good specimen for a restoration project some day.
Despite the decades of oil residue and the gas burning engine, an antique tractor is actually a “green” product I think. Aside from the obvious–it can be used to till, plant, harvest, cut hay–it also has a certain quality hated in our modern economy but required of anything that is truly “green”: durability. My tractor has serial #43432 meaning it was produced at the beginning of 1951. That makes it 58 years old and still in excellent running condition. It was designed in the era of replaceable parts. Today we live in the era of replaceable products. If I had bought that riding lawn mower, do you think it would still be running 50 years from now? With a little care, this Fergie probably will be.
I’m still trying to get a feel for the controls, but I couldn’t resist taking it out late Thursday evening and mowing some of our field down. I didn’t hit any new blackberry bush areas, but it certainly has the power to handle them. We won’t need to rent a DR Mower again to make progress at reclaiming our lost acre of blackberries. And with 5 foot of cutting width, I should be able to keep the already cleared areas down and give the grass a chance to return.
Unlike that riding lawn mower, a tractor is not a toy and cannot be treated as one. I’ve been reading safety advise online, and let’s just say there’s about a 1000 ways to kill yourself with a tractor. Most of the danger lies in the high-torque engine and low-geared transmission, which gives a tractor enough power to easily lift it’s own front end and roll over if forward movement is restricted. Combine that with a brush hog capable of shearing off small trees and an exposed PTO shaft turning almost 10 times a second and, well, you get my point.