If you have a real farm or ranch, a tractor is an essential tool that is part of your life. However, if you have an acre or a few acres, you should consider a tractor as an item for your gift list or your wish list.
With the ownership of land comes the need for its care and maintenance, and the best tool for the job is certainly a tractor. I looked for utility: a small diesel tractor with about 27 horsepower, including a bucket on the front end and a backhoe on the back. The plan was that this tractor would help with clearing dead trees and stumps and have the utility to dig a trench for a culvert under the road or driveway. It worked great for these basic needs.
In subsequent years, the tractor was used to build a cabin. It cleared and rough graded the foundation area. It dug the trench for an electric line several hundred feet through the woods. It carved out drainage ditches to carry water away from the cabin site. When the front wall of the cabin first went up, it resembled a squiggly line, and the tractor pushed the frame at key points resulting in a stable, straight line. With the bucket, the tractor lifted supplies, including a very heavy set of french doors to the upper level of the cabin.
After the tractor worked in the woods all one summer, it seemed fitting to bring it to our lot in the city to clear snow for the winter. Although it mostly did the job, this was one of those winters with snow that wouldn’t quit, and by the time we had built our snow piles to 8 feet high, the little tractor had done all it could. Our professional plowing company had to be re-called to finish the snow removal for us, and this experiment went into the lesson books. The tractor now stays at the ranch in the winter.
In recent years, the tractor has worked at clearing brush and creating paths (with the help of a bush hog attachment) and at digging up areas of the city lot for growing fruits and vegetables. When you get to dig the garden area with a backhoe, you easily can stir the dirt down to two or three feet deep and know that a crop like potatoes will have a large area to grow. And if you have had the pleasure of digging potatoes — crawling around in the dirt, dripping sweat, wiping streaks of dirt across your face, and digging gently in the dirt up to your elbows with sore fingers trying to preserve the thin skins of the fresh vegetables — then you will appreciate the luxury of digging those same potatoes out of the ground with a backhoe. (When I shared the idea of this technique with our local extension agent, he smiled and said, “Yeah, I do that too.”)
Of all the tractor stories, my favorite is a recent one from fall, when a large skunk had decided to move in and feast on my grandson’s chickens. The henhouse at the ranch is only a few inches off the ground. The skunk had burrowed underneath and would crawl out at night to wreak havoc with the chickens and the eggs. When its smell gave its presence away, my son got his .22-caliber rifle, my grandson got his flashlight, and they went out one evening and dispatched the skunk.
Unfortunately, the skunk was well under the henhouse and not reachable. The prospects of dragging this foul-smelling critter out by hand or living all winter with the smell of a rotting dead skunk were not appealing. Enter the tractor. The tractor was pulled over close to the corner of the henhouse, and the bucket pushed under the base. With just a bit of lift, there was room to reach under the henhouse with a hand-hoe and pull the skunk free. With a quick flip of the hoe, the skunk was in the tractor’s bucket and headed for a permanent location that would be created by the backhoe.
So before you finalize your wish list (or your gift list) for this Christmas, give some thought to a gift that will serve you for a long time in ways that are limited only by your imagination. You can’t go wrong.