Five Ws — How (the tractor question)

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

The Prime Directive is how to take care of and live on this land with the smallest feasible footprint.  Notice I say feasible, not possible.  (We’ve taken living in a pup tent and farming with a machete off the table – only Cinderella can fit that footprint.)  Sustainable has to mean something you can actually live with, not just play around with.

With 44 acres to tend, we felt pressure from our friends’ expectations and our own perceived needs to get a tractor.  Advice ranged from finding an old clunker to a nifty, new Kubota.

Because our land is so hilly, I put safety at the top of the list (right next to efficiency).  New tractors prices seem as steep as our slopes, and we decided to put off the decision till we built a barn to house this mythical tractor.  The barn is now tractor-ready, but we have sidestepped the weighty tractor decision again by finding different and wonderful tool that can ace all the tractory jobs we currently have.  This spring, we opted for a Power Wagon.  This is basically a wheelbarrow on steroids, and it seems like a great compromise.

Power Wagon basking in sunshine and birdsong

Power Wagon basking in sunshine and birdsong

For the next few years, we need to move around water for the trees we have transplanted, prairie restoration and proto-type test garden.  We also need to move piles of wood and rock, and manure – that type of heavy stuff.

We briefly considered a Gator sort of vehicle – those cute little crosses between a golf cart and a baby truck.  But side by side, the Power Wagon can haul more for less money and less gas, and you don’t sacrifice your great core, leg and arm workout by plopping your butt on a cushioned seat and exercising only your wrists and ankles.

I love this Power Wagon.  It is a bright, cheerful, I-can-do-it orange.  It can move up to 800 pounds and handle a 20 percent grade.  It turns on a dime and isn’t too noisy.

Before (and still for small jobs) we have been hauling water from our tiny pond (water retention basin) in 5-gallon buckets slung from a yoke designed to portage canoes.  Doug-w-yokeA quarter mile up hill in that contraption is a slow process.  Kudos to our yoke-toting ancestors, but it really limited the amount of young trees we could rescue from the prairie restoration and move to spots where they are better suited.

So, now I am become Superwoman.  In what feels like about the same workout, I can fit six 5-gallon buckets into the wagon at once – eight, if we had that many.  And hoist all that water therapy uphill to thirsty plants in record time.  I can motor across the road and transfer home as much of my horse-loving neighbor’s well-aged manure as I can fit in my schedule.  Piles of rock we have been stacking can be consolidated and considered for building.

We will probably need a tractor someday, but for now, this seems like a great compromise, and even though it does include an internal combustion engine, it seems like it might fit its toe in Cinderella’s slipper.

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