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Equipment

Rototillers®by: Nathanael

Zechariah with a front end tiller.

Zechariah with a front end tiller.

Rototillers are our most important garden equipment, turning the soil every fall and again in the spring. Over the years we have used a wide variety of tillers of different sizes, depending on what we had. Although we still use several different sizes, we have been able to retire some of the oldest machines; or rather we had better replacements for them. With the majority of our machines coming to us second hand Dad's expertise in small engine repair is very valuable each spring and fall when we need to get several running.

Nathanael with our Mantis.

Nathanael with our Mantis.

Among our collection we now have one of about everything. Well, not quite. When we first came here to New England we purchased a tiny Mantis® which we still use on raised beds and similar small plots needing tilling. While a hoe would do the same thing this aggressive little machine very rapidly paid its way by drastically reducing time and labor on these plots. The standard front tine tillers have been our mainstay and still are to a large degree. While requiring the greatest agility and physical endurance these versatile machines can do many things at which the larger machines fail. Because they are light enough to physically
Jeremiah tilling our main garden.

Jeremiah tilling our main garden.

manhandle, we till between fences (like our bean fences) with them and any other tight spaces. We lift them into large raised beds and we often use them in narrow parts of our gardens due to their capability for sharp corners. Both the speed at which the tines rotate and their relatively short tine length are a disadvantage, and an advantage at the same time. In addition to the fact that they don't turn the soil very deep, the job takes longer than with a larger tiller. On the opposite side, front-end tillers are the only ones capable of mixing the piles of leaves we dump in our gardens.

Nathanael works with the Troy Built.

Nathanael works with the Troy Built.

While the high speed Troy Built® can mix loose leaves if they are not too deep, it's not worth the extra

Caleb tries his hand at the Troy Built.

Caleb tries his hand at the Troy Built.

effort. Being a rear-tine tiller the Troy Built pulls itself making it very easy to use in good soil. Its tines spin quite fast, which thoroughly mixes the soil, and it can dig up to about 6 inches deep in our rocky soil. On an even slight slope it can be a bit unwieldy, however, and its length makes turning and tilling narrow areas difficult. Altogether, because the majority of our gardens are open level areas and we both build up our soil with leaves and remove many rocks every year, this recent addition is a major improvement from the plowboys perspective. In addition to these, we have had one larger piece of equipment for as long as I can remember.

Zechariah man-handles the Gravely with a rotory plow.

Zechariah man-handles the Gravely with a rotory plow.

The Gravely® has a rotary plow attachment which is very effective at turning the soil to about 10 inches. While plowing deeper and covering area faster than our rototillers it does require a bit of strength so it is used primarily in our largest garden. Being awkward to turn due to its length, we usually plow a furrow across the center of the garden from one end to the other, and then alternately throw the soil into our last furrow
Nathanael tills the upper garden.

Nathanael tills the upper garden.

from either side until we reach both sides of the garden. We have chosen this pattern for our garden, but you just do what is needed depending on your garden shape, size, and the slope.

Of course rocks are a pain for all the tillers. They also wrap up weeds, hay, twine, etc... and the cucumber fence, oops, all of this debris must be removed from the tines regularly, otherwise for some reason the tines grow shorter. Well, OK, the shaft grows larger.

Tip: Not all tillers are created equal. Reverse is an amazing labor saving feature not found on all of these tillers. The heavier the machine, the more labor it saves.

Tractor by: Zechariah

Zechariah on the tractor.

Zechariah on the tractor.

I have used the little tractor a lot on projects from picking rock from our garden to hauling firewood to lifting shingles onto a roof. Personally I enjoy using the tractor because it can do so much more work than I can and so much more rapidly. The only trouble I have run into while using the tractor was when I was pushing up a big pile of brush and trees. It just so happened that on that day we had all the sheet metal off the tractor, because we were painting them, they were the hood and the front grill. While I was pushing, the stub of a little bush about two inches in diameter punched a hole right into the radiator, immediately the water drained out on the ground. Thankfully I was watching the gages and noticed when the temperature started to rise so was able to shut it off without further damage. I had to walk home but that was no problem as it was only about three fourths of a mile. We took the radiator off and soddered it up so it is working again. Now the grill is painted so it is back on protecting the radiator like it is supposed to be.

Pickup truck by: Jeremiah

Our pickup truck.

Our pickup truck.

A pickup truck is very handy, we use it on almost every project. From hauling mulch for the garden and orchard to getting a batch of construction supplies, the uses are almost endless. A bed that will hold a sheet of plywood is a necessity for many construction projects. Good gas mileage is nice, diesel is nicer yet.

Bulldozer by: Zechariah

We bought a

Zechariah runs the bulldozer.

Zechariah runs the bulldozer.

bulldozer a few years ago for a construction project and afterward we kept it as it had been able to pay for itself. We did not know if we would need it for any more jobs, but we did have need of it again later that year when we had to replace our septic system which is under our garden. We had spent years and hundreds of hours building the dirt in that garden so it would grow vegetables, so it would have been very sad to have lost all that dirt in the construction. So we used the bulldozer to take all the good dirt off the top and put it in a pile at one end of our garden. Then we used the
Nathanael on the bulldozer.

Nathanael on the bulldozer.

bulldozer to clear the rest of the ground, which was a big rock pile from when our yard had been originally cleared some 40 years ago. When the project was done and our septic was working again we used the bulldozer to flatten out the ground and spread the black dirt back over the top. The garden still grows food even though the soil has been damaged and compacted. A lot of the dirt was lost in the process, also it has been spread over a much larger area, so we continue to bring in leaves and manure to help build the dirt in our garden. The bulldozer has served us well even with the work that we have had to do to it and we have learned another skill that may be needed again some day!


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