Category Archives: Small Farm Tractor

What’s in our tractor toolbox

Behind the seat of our Kubota L5030 tractor is a steel tool box. It’s not much to look at – especially because I didn’t clean it up for the photos below – but it’s come in handy often and worth a mention here on the blog. I’m pretty sure most tractors of this size have one so even if you’re looking at something other than a Kubota, this could be of interest to you.

Tractor Toolbox

We have come to realize that we need various tools at odd times when our tack room and workshop aren’t close by. Some tools are important for regular tractor operation and others come in handy when working with implements or on fences and pasture structures.

Tractor Toolbox Inside

Inside the box:

  • Big hammer – 2 lb. – useful for encouraging heavy bolts and tractor implements (like the bush hog and post hole digger).
  • Rag – lots of greasy bits on tractors so having a rag handy is important
  • Vice grips – different sized nuts and bolts and some of them are stubborn
  • Lots of extra pins – a variety of nut and bolt pins exist on our tractor and sometimes they’re damaged or lost. These are cheap so we stock up.
  • Adjustable spud¬†wrench – that’s the adjustable wrench in the photo above with the long pointy end. The pointy end is used often, usually to tighten the adjustable chain that holds the hay spear onto the bucket.
  • Multi sized wrench – there isn’t room to carry every wrench size so it’s good to have an adjustable one. Because you sometimes need two wrenches, one for a bolt, one for a nut, it’s good to have more than one and/or the vice grips previously mentioned.
  • Multi-tool – we use a multi-tool you can put in your pocket that can unfold into a pair of needle-nose pliers. It also has various screwdriver heads and a knife. Folded it fits easily in the toolbox.

As nice as the tool box is, it’s not air or water tight so it gets dirty quickly. I can’t store my phone or anything made of paper (like a manual) in there.

If you’re planning on having a tractor, I recommend assembling some useful tools and keeping them with you on the tractor. If for some reason yours doesn’t have a toolbox, perhaps you can find a way to attach one. Trust me, you’re going to need some of these at one point or another.


Trapped by sudden storms

There was a slight chance of rain and the sky looked a little darker than usual for 5 PM but as I headed up to the barn to feed the horses I had no idea I was about to be trapped. I poured feed into buckets as the spigot was opened changing the light drizzle to a downpour. Our horses don’t seem to care about being wet but I rushed to get them in so I could remain as dry as possible. Our barn has a metal roof that seems to magnify the sound of rain so it sounds like hail. Soon the rain was followed by hail and the wind whipped through the open center aisle as I took cover in the hay loft. I wasn’t going anywhere. Fortunately, the storm lasted only 10 minutes which gave me time to think about how often this happens to me in east Tennessee. We sure get a lot of rain here. I learned a long time ago to always bring a phone but no one could hear me over that racket so I resorted to texting to let my family know where I was. And then I just sat there and watch the rain and muddy torrent of water rush down our hilled pasture. I need to work on erosion control.

Of course I also needed to put out a few round bales of hay so once the rain stopped, I hoped into our tractor and made my way down hill in the newly slick mud. Interestingly I had almost no control in two wheel drive going downhill. I know the key is to keep moving (though not too fast) but the front tires acted like snowmobile skids. Going uphill was no possible in 2wd, even with the rear axle locked (so both tires would spin at the same time). If you like in a place with clay soil and some elevation, don’t let anyone try to convince you that you only need a 2wd tractor. We use 4wd in our tractor very often. For more information about that, click the 4wd tag on this post.

Have you been trapped in your barn or shed by storms like this?

Why we needed a four wheel drive tractor

4wd tractorWe ignored the advice from our farm friends about buying a two wheel drive tractor for our small horse farm. To this day, they still tell us it’s a waste of money but we think otherwise. Our east Tennessee land gets pretty muddy and it only takes a little bit of rain to make it slick. If we planned on using this tractor any time other than when it was completely dry, we would have been out of luck with 2wd. 4wd isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity where we live and our 4WD Kubota with locking rear differential is serving us well. Here’s a short video (1:24 minutes) showing some examples of why we needed a 4wd tractor:

Clip-On Hay Spear

One of the first things we wanted to or needed to do with our new tractor is to move hay and it’s one of the reasons we used to justify having a tractor. Our round bale experiment was successful and now we feed mostly round hay bales to our horses throughout winter. Until now we’ve been pulling our car hauler full of round bales into our muddy pasture and then pushing a round bale off as needed. Now that we have a four wheel drive tractor, it was time to put it to work. But we needed one more thing: a hay spear. Unfortunately our tractor doesn’t have a quick-disconnect bucket. We could buy a hay spear implement for the arms but it would be a pain to unbolt and remove the bucket each time we needed a bale. While we do plan to convert our arms to use a quick-connect system, it’s a bit of a hassle up front. We’d need to buy a system and then have someone weld a bracket to our bucket. For now, we’ve opted to use a spear that connects to our bucket. We found a nice used setup on Craigslist that attaches in a way that spreads the load across a good portion of the bucket to minimize bending and yesterday we got to test it out. I’ll need some practice but it went well (see pic). At 800 or so pounds, having a bale up high like that makes the tractor a little unsteady. I left the bush hog on the rear for counterweight and lowered the bale when I cleared my trailer.

Once we have it down, I think the process will be smoother using a tractor. Do you have any experiences (good or bad) with a clip-on hay spear?

Our First Tractor

It is with great excitement that I introduce the newest addition to our farm – a tractor! If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard us complain about how much harder a lot of farm jobs are without a tractor. Moving hay, moving manure, keeping the pasture trimmed so the weeds don’t take over, digging holes for fence posts and lots more. I imagine some day soon we’ll begin to wonder what life was like before a tractor. So let’s look at what we got and why:

We’ve been looking at compact tractors for a while. We knew we didn’t need a very big one but even with only about 9 acres we knew we needed something powerful enough to be able to handle the following tractor implements: bush hog, post hole digger (auger), front end loader (FEL), hay spear, box blade/grader and a PTO-driven chipper/shredder. We needed four wheel drive because this property has some elevation and in its current state is full of slick red clay mud. And we wanted something reasonably priced and reliable. After checking with a few friends who are local farmers, we made a shortlist of manufacturers: John Deere, Kubota, Massey Ferguson and New Holland. Not that other manufacturers didn’t make good tractors but the ones on our list had a lot of good reviews from people we knew and all of them have local dealers. That last point is pretty important, as we’ll need parts and service eventually and we’d rather not have to drive to some big city when that happens.

We didn’t really need a brand new tractor. For the size we were looking at (40-50 horsepower), new tractors were running $25k-$35k. So we scoured Craigslist, eBay and regional tractor buyer periodicals. Then it just so happened a friend of ours saw a used Kubota for sale. We made a call, saw it in person, tested and walked away with a fantastic deal on a four-year-old, garage-kept, well-maintained Kubota L5030 with a front-end loader and a heavy duty bush hog. The seller even delivered it.

This all happened in no small part thanks to Mikki’s dad. Her parents moved to Tennessee this fall and her dad in particular has taken a liking to the horses and the small farm. We had planned on saving up and buying one this year but thanks to Mikki’s dad we were able to park this tractor in front of our barn this week. Thanks!!!

So next up we need a hay spear to move round bales. We had been dragging a trailer into the pasture and rolling them off one at a time by hand but we got the trailer stuck once and almost had to leave our truck out there once when the ground was particularly slimy. We’ll need a quick attachment system but for now will get by with a hay spear that secures to the bucket. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Here’s a short video walk-around. You can see the horses checking it out. They’re very curious about the new orange “horse.” I’ll talk a bit more about our first tractor in upcoming posts and have added a category on the menu bar for tractor posts. If you have any suggestions or advice for us, please share!