My (little) Farming Machine

OK, I’m not a farmer but I do have a tiny bit of land that has killed off two roto-tillers and a mower in a few short years. I decided to move upscale… Here’s the ship that will move my “pedestrian-controlled tractor”, rotary tiller and plough from China to Canada:

ShipSpotting.com
© Michael Schindler


It’s huge, almost 300m long and able to carry 6,350 20′ container equivalents up to 29000 T. It’s been over much of the northern hemisphere carrying piles of containers. My equipment will ship in a wooden crate in a container and enter Canada at Vancouver.

Getting the stuff to Canada was the easy part. Getting it past Canada Customs and shipped to my property is another matter. I checked out UPS’ website and they couldn’t do it. Apparently, getting stuff through Customs and shipping freight are done by two different companies called UPS and they don’t share the website… I only figured that out after hours of poking around the website and spending an hour on phone calls. Further, just getting an estimate required creating an account or running through dozens of pages of print… I found an easier way, a Customs broker. A few clicks, printing, signing and faxing a document and we’re done. All I need to do is get them the Bill of Lading from China. That’s already done. I’ve even found that the machinery will come in duty-free because China is a “most-favoured nation”. The last bit is to hire a trucking company to move the crate to my property. That’s a bit more difficult but once the stuff is on the ship and cleared Customs, it’s just a matter of sending the information to a freight-forwarder and paying the bill. The end result will be a durable machine for half the cost of similar equipment locally. No kidding. Small tractors with tiller/plough are ~$5-$7K or more. My specs are 18 HP Diesel, weight 600KG, 2200 rpm engine, and it has a seat… The cost to get the stuff delivered to Canada fully paid will be less than half that. I’m almost, but not quite, laughing at the trucking cost… The ocean-freight is trivial in comparison. Ships are very efficient. 24 crew run that ship while moving thousands of containers thousands of miles.

The upper limit to the trucking freight is what it would cost me to take the bus to Vancouver, rent a truck and drive it back or buy/rent a trailer, drive to Vancouver and drive it back myself… Heck, I can build a trailer with a capacity of 1000KG for less than $600 and have the use of it afterward. Fuel costs would be about $300 for a round trip with my own vehicle. I wanted the shipment to be made to Thunder Bay, only 400 miles away, but the supplier wouldn’t do it. They are used to shipping to Vancouver which is an all-weather port and it’s 1500miles away.

Here’s my estimate on what it would cost to build a handy trailer to cart the beast:

Trailer Bill of Materials SKU Wt-lb Price QTY Cost Total Wt
3500 lb axle assembly 8186710 50 $210 1 $210 50
1750 lb 4-Leaf Double-Eye Trailer Spring 2080032 10.9 $35 2 $70 21.8
Single Trailer Axle Leaf Spring Hanger Kit 2080025 6.7 $25 1 $25 6.7
2 pc 3500 lb Trailer Axle Mounting Kit 2080027 5.78 $20 1 $20 5.78
12V Trailer Light Kit 8467466 2.74 $20 1 $20 2.74
Class III 2 x 3/4 in. Ball Mount Kit 2" ball and key included 8308777 11.28 $27 1 $27 11.28
Class III 2 x 3 in. Trailer Coupler 8144875 5.08 $13 1 $13 5.08
ST175/80 D13 Trailer Tire Assembly 8387342 29.46 $100 2 $200 58.92
Steel Chassis made from scrap 0 1
150
Bottom Line $585 312.3 lb

Here’s a guy making a trailer. I don’t particularly like his design (no springs, way too much steel for the strength of it – I would use springs and two main beams more or less over the wheels where the load is applied and cross-pieces between. There’s no need to give the load leverage on the suspension…) but it will work for low speeds on smooth roads…

Here’s another, but it’s too flimsy for my purpose. I will use 3″ beams for my build if I do it and it will be more compact. This guy uses tiny angles like he was moving pillows around town… At least he has springs properly mounted.

Conclusion:
After a bit of searching, I got a quote for delivery to my driveway. This is still preliminary because they don’t have the actual Bill of Lading in hand, just my summary of it, but here’s the bottom line:

Item Cost
Tractor $900
Rototiller $200
Plough $50
Sea Freight $300
Customs Clearance $100
Land Freight/delivery $580
Total $2130

So, I don’t need to build the trailer this year. I can do it next year. It will be useful a few times a year for hauling trash, landscaping, hunting etc. when stuff is just too much for the car. The machinery will outlast 10 Sears tillers, be more useful, be faster and it’s diesel, my first diesel engine… It’s my way to make the world a better place and to foster international peace. 😉 The productivity of my yard may increase so much I might be forced to donate to family/friends/community/food-banks.

UPDATE 2014-12-16
The ship has arrived in port in Vancouver. My little darling will be offloaded today or tomorrow and could be rolling my way in a few days. The voyage was interesting. As the ship approached Canadian waters, it turned back and headed into the wind for a whole day before entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I guess with a tail-wind they were early and needed to kill time. They couldn’t just anchor anywhere and had to respect the wind/waves. I guess the port is a Just In Time facility. I’ve read truckers have to make appointments to pick up and drop off freight. Chuckle. Whatever works as long as the cost is reasonable. Efficiency is the name of the game with these containers. I guess Christmas delivery is doubtful but December is a definite possibility. No one wants to store this stuff. They want to keep it moving.

UPDATE 2014-12-22
YAY! We’ve cleared Canada Customs. Although there was no importation duty, there was GST (Gouge and S___ Tax, our federal VAT/sales tax). Ouch! Now there’s nothing but trucks and 1500 miles of highway between me and my darling tractor.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
This entry was posted in food, horticulture and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to My (little) Farming Machine

  1. Hey! The ship bearing my equipment has just arrived in Canadian waters and has turned towards the channel leading to Vancouver. It should be there in about a day but the unloading may be later, depending on how busy the dock is.

  2. oiaohm says:

    Robert Pogson
    http://static.bladonjets.com/documents/41-1683-mtg12-update.pdf
    This link of mine is a Micro gas turbine. The beast is using exhaust gases.

    This one does not have waste heat but there are other Micro gas turbines with waste heat.

    http://www.hybridcars.com/wrightspeed-combines-gas-turbine-and-batteries-for-big-fuel-savings/

    Micro gas turbines have come a long way. http://www.saacke.com/news-references/news/power-production-through-chp-combined-heat-and-power/

    The best Micro gas turbines get to 96% efficiency at producing electricity. This is not a theoretically efficiency it is really what they do. 53% is theory what a diesel piston engine can get. Using exhaust capture a diesel piston will only get to 80%. 98 to 99 efficient with heat capture for hot water is down right possible out of Micro gas turbines.

    Robert Pogson what you are saying was valid before people worked out that Micro gas turbines could be made. Issue with Micro gas turbines is their turbine replacement once every 9 to 10 years unless of course you are using a battery banks to allow them to spin down. 80000 hours of operation. In many setups with batteries it possible to get 20+ years out a Micro gas turbine. Thing is the first maintenance event for a Micro gas turbine is 80000 hours.

    The stupid reality of gas turbines. The smaller gas turbine get and the faster they spin and the more effective they get.

    You can’t approach diesel without destroying a gas turbine or putting the exhaust gases to work, raising the capital-cost.
    You got this wrong. By making the gas turbine smaller you make it stronger. When you make gas turbine smaller you reduce the capital cost. You make up for its reduced size by it spinning faster.

    This is the problem micro gas turbines can exceed the pressure and temperature of diesel piston with only a minor wear issue.

    You are right that a micro gas turbine is destroying self. But it takes 9 years of 24/7 running not exactly fast.

    Reality here a micro gas turbine uses less material than a piston based diesel engine. A micro gas turbine due to its seal system can be left unused for years without requiring any maintenance.

    As a backup generator that might only be used once in a while micro gas turbines are some of the most dependable. No case of oil or water issues.

  3. oiaohm wrote, “people are not aware of is gas turbine generators. Kicks a diesel piston into the curb even when it running on pure Gasoline.”

    Study the thermodynamics. Sure gas turbines give great power/weight/volume numbers because of the high rpm and high rates of flow but the efficiency sucks. Think pressure and temperature. You can’t approach diesel without destroying a gas turbine or putting the exhaust gases to work, raising the capital-cost. Imagine what happens if you put the exhaust gases of diesel engines to work… I was up north where a lot of power is generated by diesel engines. I recommended the communities make a deal with the utility to use the waste heat and some power for light to run green houses. The savings on freight for the vegetables would have paid for it all.

  4. oiaohm says:

    The difference between gasoline and diesel comes a lot harder when you are on battery banks. Piston based Gasoline will be high speed and high torque when its fuel effective. Diesel is lower speed. The 6 percent in theory can go out the window really quickly when you are operating battery banks and need to recharge them quickly. Why its how fast you can get recharged when you have run out of power.

    http://static.bladonjets.com/documents/41-1683-mtg12-update.pdf
    Something people are not aware of is gas turbine generators. Kicks a diesel piston into the curb even when it running on pure Gasoline.

    Most people are not aware gas turbines can run on diesel and gasoline so still go out and buy or build piston based generators.

    With an inverter, a battery is very useful for light loads/backup but without an inverter, a battery is almost useless.
    Please note the gas turbine style do use an inverter why from 134,000 rpm back to 60 or 50 hz is basically impossible from the shaft. The fact you have a inverter is a sign you might have the correct style of engine for a electricity generator that is effective.

    If your electrically generator has pistons you are doing the wrong thing.

    Notice a gas turbine has a nice straight line of fuel usage. So when it spitting out a light load or spitting out a high load it always at perfect fuel effectiveness.

    Super great is that they are multi fuel. Serous-ally lots of them don’t care if you mix petrol and diesel into their fuel tank.

    The number will be higher at lower rpm but still beating a gasoline engine hollow.
    This is false if you are competing against a gas turbine gasoline. Some gas turbines are pure gasoline.

    The big issue here a gas turbine makes a great generator because high speed can generate electricity effectively. Now you would not want a gas turbine as a small tractor too much weight to convert it to slower speeds at this stage.

    There is some work at the moment to use gas turbines in hybrid electrics.
    http://www.hybridcars.com/wrightspeed-combines-gas-turbine-and-batteries-for-big-fuel-savings/
    Result is huge fuel saving even if you never charge it from the wall.

    Yes list of advantages buying a engine properly built and correct design for a generator(a gas turbine)
    1 less noise.
    2 less pollution due to them burning clean.
    3 More fuel options.
    4 A huge sweet spot generation points at perfect fuel effectiveness.

    Disadvantage you most likely will put in a battery bank as a gas turbine does not spin up or spin down quickly. Fuel savings will pay for the batteries.

  5. DrLoser wrote, “Good to hear, Robert. Far less worrying.”

    There’s good news, indeed. My tractor should be in port in Canada any day now and could arrive by Christmas. All my ducks are in a row. The last transaction is the freight which is to be determined as it depends on whether or not Canada Customs wants to frisk it. That takes more trucking… I don’t know whether I will fire it up and drive it around the driveway a few times or just store it for the winter. Decisions… decisions… It may have shipped without oil/fuel/battery so it may be a bit of work to set up in the cold but I like a challenge. I’ve read on the web various techniques folks have used to start these engines. Basically, once they are hot, cold weather is no problem. It’s the starting that’s a challenge. No preheater/glow-plug… I do like to leave equipment ready to go in the spring to waste no time during the planting/growing season. Too bad I didn’t order it sooner but I had lots of choices to make like getting the cash out this year or next. This year was better.

  6. DrLoser says:

    Gahhh! I meant 2 mph, ~3km/h.

    Good to hear, Robert. Far less worrying.

  7. DrLoser says:

    Battery banks are not perfect they do lose a percentage of power put into them.

    Gawrsh, Mickey, you don’t say?

    For once, oiaohm, you will be pleased to know that I am not going to insist on a cite for your astonishing claim.

  8. oiaohm wrote, “Robert Pogson its mostly a myth that Diesels idle really well from a fuel usage point of view.”

    Quoting your own cite: “BSFC numbers change a lot for different engine design and compression ratio and power rating. Engines of different classes like diesels and gasoline engines will have very different BSFC numbers, ranging from less than 200 g/kW·h (diesel at low speed and high torque) to more than 1,000 g/kW·h (turboprop at low power level).” BSFC doesn’t get any better than a diesel at low RPM. That’s thermodynamics. My engine is rated a little higher about 250g/KW.h at 2200 rpm. The number will be higher at lower rpm but still beating a gasoline engine hollow.

    The theoretical maximum possible efficiency of engines, according to Wikipedia:

    efficiency compression ratio
    46% gasoline: 10
    53% diesel: 17

    That’s not relevant. The consumption of fuel is relevant. A diesel engine idling will still be able to drive an alternator and inverter to produce 60HZ while a gasoline engine at 3600 rpm with no inverter will use a lot more fuel because there has to be a minimum fuel-air mixture to work and the volume of the cylinder X RPM/4 at 3600 rpm is way more than 400 rpm/4 X volume of the cylinder with just enough fuel injected at top-dead-centre. A diesel engine with an alternator plus flywheel can just sip fuel while a gasoline engine guzzles. The fuel injected by a diesel at TDC will burn because there is oxygen and it’s hot enough to ignite the fuel whereas a gasoline engine requires a minimum concentration to ignite. A normally aspirated gasoline engine has a single point of ignition which has to propagate. A diesel injector sprays the stuff into the volume of hot air. That’s a huge advantage.

    With an inverter, a battery is very useful for light loads/backup but without an inverter, a battery is almost useless.

  9. oiaohm says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brake_specific_fuel_consumption
    Robert Pogson its mostly a myth that Diesels idle really well from a fuel usage point of view. Batteries/power storage has it place particular for the few lights example. Large enough bank the generator can have a good chance of being off for the night time part where everyone is asleep or trying to sleep.

    I have seen a few Diesel people get really upset when they find out the petrol generator that runs at full bore or nothing connected to a battery bank is out performing Diesel generator idling. Battery banks are not perfect they do lose a percentage of power put into them. Even a Diesel running at ideal speed to charge batteries then shutdown in light load is ahead. Yes the difference between idle and best in most Diesel engines is larger than the lose in battery bank.

    Sweat spot for engines is insanely small. The difference between the sweet spot and idle can be over 30.

    Please note best diesel engine on the sweet spot will only get you 50 percent in torque the losses in the generator you will only be seeing around 40 percent as electricity.

    Also the other thing to be highly aware of is when using a generator for battery charging the generators output is DC to the battery banks and you have a proper inverter to provide the always correct AC output. The idea that you have to spin engine at X rpm to get 60Hz is asking for it. Why is it asking for it as power load increases resistance to turning increases and the nasty result is always freq in power going wrong.

    Really from my point of view if you are down to a few security lights and the like its stupid to have a generator running at all.

  10. oiaohm wrote, “That sweet spot is where they burn the fuel the most effectively. [Faster or slower] or [more or less load] you are not burning fuel effectively.”

    Diesels idle really well. If the load shuts down to a few lamps at night, it’s silly to have the engine running at 2000 rpm. It’s about the rate of fuel-consumption. A diesel idling is way more efficient than a gasoline engine screaming along at 3600 rpm just to make 60Hz.

  11. oiaohm says:

    There is another reason to buy one of these walking trackers. Soil compaction.

    A light walking tracker can in fact rip deep enough to remove the soil compaction it has done. It is about the upper limit. Your ride on mowers normally don’t have the wheel traction to rip deep enough(the ones also called garden tractors).

    The next size of tractor that can in fact rip deep enough to undo the compaction it has caused by driving are those 8 wheel monsters. Yes the double front double back wheel tractors.

    A tracked bobcat or something like a dingo digger http://www.dingo.com.au/dingo-range/all-rounder/ would be your other options. But having to drive them backwards is a complete pain.

    A bull-dozer as bad as it sounds in fact cannot undo the soil compaction it causes. Bull-dozer is great for making dams and possible chain clearing an area. A bull-dozer is not something to use in an area you are planning on growing stuff.

    Robert Pogson I would buy something built to be a generator. I would not normally go near those direct drive models. There are better designed ones from china, USA, AU with gearing. All the better designed generators are design to operate with a battery bank this provides many advantages advantages. 1 poor engine does not have to push against insane resistance because power demand went up for a short spike(battery bank absorbs this). 2 engine can auto switch off when power demand drops under threshold so saving fuel as power from batteries is consumed.

    If you get really creative some small gas(natural gas not what you USA guys call petrol) generators are make the houses hot water from the waste heat so when running on generator the hot water system does not have to be hooked up to the power side so reducing fuel usage. I have not seen any Diesel generators with a waste heat recovery unit built in out the box. I have seen some done after market. It is possible to use this waste heat to chill stuff as well but those units are a little big for a house and require a fairly high temperature.

    Remember most of the power of Diesel fuel ends up as heat. Using the heat can get you to 80+ percent efficiency by removing heating operations from requiring electricity and getting heating straight from the Diesel engines cooling system. This is the problem proper operation requires proper equipment and very careful design. 80+ percent Diesel generator is not simple to fit. Electrician + Plumber required to install.

    Another popular solution is to have the generator drive an inverter so the engine’s rpm can vary with the load, but that’s more cost.
    This very popular solution is in fact not that fuel effective. Reason all engines have a sweet spot. That sweet spot is where they burn the fuel the most effectively. [Faster or slower] or [more or less load] you are not burning fuel effectively.

  12. DrLoser wrote, “I’d be checking in to the local hospital if the best I could manage is 2km/h.”

    Gahhh! I meant 2 mph, ~3km/h. The tractor however will be dragging me up and down berms, along a furrow, and over loose soil. I will be in for a workout on the upper body at the same time. It’s exercise… When I was young I could run 10mph for an hour and feel fine. Now one or two hours walking is all I can do. It’s the weight you see. Give a young strong person a 100lb bag of fat to carry around and see how many survive. Fortunately the weight is going down but I doubt I will ever run again. Too far gone…

  13. DrLoser says:

    Not remotely relevant to the farm implement discussion, Robert, but:

    Full speed in the lowest gear is 2km/h about as fast as I walk on level ground.

    I shamble along at 5km/h, and I’m a little concerned at how low that is. I’d be checking in to the local hospital if the best I could manage is 2km/h.

  14. DrLoser wrote, “The problems you have in your yard, the berms and the drainage and what-all, are completely irrelevant.”

    Chuckle. If I didn’t have those problems, I could fix the Sears machine and chalk it up to cost of operation. It just can’t do the job. This monster can. The only doubt I have about it is whether I can keep up with the plough… I have slowed down in my old age. Full speed in the lowest gear is 2km/h about as fast as I walk on level ground. Of course, I can reduce throttle a bit. Diesels just get more efficient if you cut RPM a bit. 2200rpm is about peak efficiency and maximum torque for engines of this size. I will let you know how it goes. I might even be able to take it for a test-drive before Christmas. It could be here in ten days or so.

  15. DrLoser wrote, “That sounds pretty darned reasonable, Dougie. As opposed to whacking a PTO drive-shaft on a random diesel-powered back garden toy and expecting it to power the entire house, full time.”

    The usual retail solution is a compact generator running direct-coupled with the engine. This is far from optimal. Alternators are usually 2-pole or 4-pole. The 2-pole variety have to run at 3600 rpm to produce 60Hz or 3000 rpm at 50Hz. The 4-pole variety have to run at half those speeds. A gasoline engine at 3600 rpm is only good for a few days before it’s worn out. At 1800rpm, it’s only producing half its rated power. That’s why I want diesel, I get full power at 2200rpm and can have two diameters of pulleys to adjust the speed. Another popular solution is to have the generator drive an inverter so the engine’s rpm can vary with the load, but that’s more cost. You can’t go wrong with big, heavy and slow when you want 24×7 reliabity. I can rig up a stand for a generator that will couple to the engine in minutes, so it’s not as convenient as flipping a switch but if the outage from Hell is 300 miles of down power-lines, that’s peanuts. I can see a worst-case outage reaching weeks. 3 weeks X 7d/w X 24h/d = 504h, probably enough to kill a 3600rpm gasoline engine. Those mowers that run for 20 years only run an hour a week in the growing season, 20a X 3month/a X 5h/month =300h. OTOH a diesel-powered alternator is good for at least 1000h before it needs an overhaul. If I wanted to, I could order five more engines and keep both a generator and the tractor running for a couple of generations or one more and have one for the generator and one for the tractor. That last link shows a warranty of one year or 1500 hours, that’s 62.5 days under power with a few oil-changes. It’s all good. Next year, I might just order another engine and an alternator and have all my bases covered.

  16. DrLoser says:

    So the only recourse is to have a main standby generator appropriately sized to run 80% of the things in the home, which is ~8 – 10KVA.

    That sounds pretty darned reasonable, Dougie. As opposed to whacking a PTO drive-shaft on a random diesel-powered back garden toy and expecting it to power the entire house, full time.

    For some reason, this is not generally thought of as a popular domestic option. I’m unclear as to why, but who knows?

    Robert could be a trail-blazer in this endeavour, as in so many others. (Not systemd, obviously.)

  17. dougman says:

    I thought about getting a PTO driven generator for my homestead, but decided against it as it would add unnecessary hours to my machine, and I do not want to run my tractor 24-hours for a week or more.

    So the only recourse is to have a main standby generator appropriately sized to run 80% of the things in the home, which is ~8 – 10KVA.

  18. DrLoser says:

    That’s priceless.

    Nothing is ever really “priceless,” Robert, is it? Practically everything has a cost/benefit ratio.

    And if you’re already … before delivery … amortising that “price” by pointing out that the thing can be used as a backup diesel generator — you are already deluding yourself. Because, trust me on this one, absolutely any “domestic tractor solution” would offer precisely the same secondary benefit.

    The problems you have in your yard, the berms and the drainage and what-all, are completely irrelevant.

    Buy Product X for Y with a lifetime of Z.

    Cost/benefit? (With certain obvious simplifications.) Z/Y needs to be better than an alternative X-prime. Which in this case is completely unproven, considering that you couldn’t even work out how the clutch worked.

    I don’t want to rain on your parade, and you might have gotten lucky here. But looking at the Yahoo on your earlier cite

    As a Doubleday, I would prefer to reserve judgement on the likely results.

  19. DrLoser wrote, “paying $980 P&P for a $900 basic item”.

    I prefer to look at it as paying ~$2k for about a $4k basic item. Shop around for anything with an 18HP diesel engine and see. I’m paying around $3/lb for stuff that sells locally for $10/lb. Further, an 18:1 diesel will use about half the fuel that a gasoline engine doing the same work would do. The fuel-consumption is speced at about 280g of fuel per KWH. At the output of my old machine, it’s using about 1L per hour whereas the old machine used 2L. Over its lifetime, say 20 years, it should pay for itself in fuel-saving. ie. It’s not costing anything and I get the benefit of doing the work several times faster. There are windows of opportunity in gardening/landscaping. This machine will allow me to get the garden in sooner, dig drainage ditches, plant trees/corn/stuff. ie. to plant potatoes, have one person run the plough, another chuck seed potatoe-eyes into the furrow, and drag something behind to fill in the furrow. It’s beautiful…

    One problem I have in my yard is that several berms were constructed as dams messing up the drainage. With the plough, I should be able to eliminate most of the digging required to cut a French drain through. That, alone makes this purchase worthwhile. We have quotations amounting to $tens of thousands to finish the landscaping. The machine is costing us nothing, effectively. I also have berm that has to be moved. A bull-dozer costs $hundreds per hour. The plough can do it by repeated passes over the berm throwing the furrow to the right. I might get dizzy, but in an hour or two, I can move lot of earth ~30ft or so, making a low spot level and getting the damned pile off my corn-patch. Even the Little Woman can see the obvious benefits of this rig and then we can make a backup generator keep us comfy and warm and dry 24×7 if things get really bad. That’s priceless.

  20. DrLoser says:

    I see, despite the cunningly re-calculated figures in the revised OP, that you are still paying $980 P&P for a $900 basic item, Robert.

    On the whole, that does not look like the wisest investment ever made.

  21. DrLoser says:

    “Doubleday — Part of the Landscape for Generations!”

    And if some inconsiderate person has closed all the windows behind them, we can open them back up again!

  22. DrLoser says:

    Well, it’s probably too late to save you from your folie d’avare, Robert, but when the time comes in the sowing and reaping season of 2016, I recommend you take a look at this site.

    Everything a farmer could possibly need, from £128,000 down … and that one is awesome.

    For some reason, the used goods (I’ve only linked to used goods) have never been near a paddy field. Nor are they Chinese. In fact, they’re pretty much all John Deere.

    But, as a Doubleday, I recommend them. (Despite the family connection, I don’t get a cut out of sales.)

    Mostly, I recommend this stuff because it doesn’t break.

    If nothing else, I’m consistent. I have no family connection with Microsoft, but the same thing applies.

    PS Remember to read the EULA on your tatterdemalion tractor substitute …

  23. dougman says:

    There is an old saying, “Chop your own wood, it will warm you twice”…but digging ditches is for more stout folk and I prefer a Bobcat excavator for that.

  24. DrLoser wrote, “root-grubbing fiasco”.

    Have you been to the grocery store lately? There’s hardly anything we can buy here for less than $1/lb. I expect to feed myself with this thing. I’m going to double the size of the garden and improve the drainage to avoid a repeat of this year’s disaster. With the plough it’s a simple job to create a nice drain for the wet times. The neighbour did one by hand and it took him about 10 days of long hours. Digging clay with a pick and shovel is not my kind of work. So, this thing will pay for itself in a few years easily. The last time we hired a guy to rearrange dirt here it cost $thousands. I will also use it to cultivate around some fruit-trees which should come into production within a few years. At least we should have juice and jam.

  25. DrLoser wrote, “Does it have a slip differential of some sort?”

    I don’t know. I could always cultivate CW one year and CCW the next to equalize the wear on the tires…

    Here’s a picture of a similar machine. The specs describe a two-belt drive and since there are two belts between engine and transmission, it’s likely to be some kind of plate or cone-clutch. The “pulley” which they engage on the transmission is a little too fancy not to be a clutch. It has a hub, and radial braces, quite unnecessary for a simple pulley. I expect it’s a centrifugal clutch to take the load off at very low RPM with a manual control to turn it on and off. I don’t expect to have to use the clutch as often as on that wrecked Sears machine. If I go too fast to hang on, I can reduce the engine-speed, unlike that Sears.

    Here’s another picture of a similar machine. It clearly shows there’s no room for a further belt-drive. The transmission/differential and axle are massive… Excepting extreme astronomical events or war, it should outlast me. Then it’s someone the problem of someone else. I don’t think my wife or granddaughters will like it but my son is tougher.

  26. DrLoser wrote, “one single solitary slightly bizarre request for a sight-unseen, no questions asked, bottom-of-the-barrel home tractor to Manitoba.”

    According to Google, I’ve exchanged 42 e-mails with them…

    It’s a small business, the kind I like, with sales of a few $million per annum. They keep it simple and do good work. Most of their market is rice-paddies in Asia and small farms in Africa. They’re probably cranking out a few each day. Mine was made to order. I like that. Just In Time manufacturing. 😉

  27. DrLoser says:

    How does that clutch operate, btw?

    To a trained physicist and welder, it should be obvious merely by studying the photographs, I would think.

    Does it have a slip differential of some sort?

  28. DrLoser says:

    However, there’s a bright side to all this.

    With the money saved, you can at least buy yourself a decent professional butcher’s shop standard deer salami machine in the New Year.

    Who knows? If you set yourself up with a market stall for the stuff, you could probably pay for a proper second-hand John Deere replacement for the Ali Baba root-grubbing fiasco.

    Just a thought.

  29. DrLoser says:

    Those monsters zip across the ocean at 20-30 knots and deliver many thousands of containers full of freight every day.

    Yup, they “diffuse” thousands of tons of white electrical goods in all directions. And many more small smart thingies featuring the non-patented Gnu/Linux/Android.

    And one single solitary slightly bizarre request for a sight-unseen, no questions asked, bottom-of-the-barrel home tractor to Manitoba.

    I don’t see this ending well, Robert.

  30. DrLoser says:

    Zoom out and be amazed.

    I prefer to stay on-topic, Robert.

    Nobody much at all is buying the very similar model in action, are they?

    Certainly not on a wholesale basis. Otherwise, as I pointed out, you’d only need to wander down to your local friendly farmers’ equipment store.

    Not pay $700 for P&P. I mean, for $700, you could get a pretty impressive Windows server rig!

  31. DrLoser wrote, “Apparently, “folks” aren’t buying it by the container-load, are they?”

    Check out the hive of container-ships diffusing out of China. Those monsters zip across the ocean at 20-30 knots and deliver many thousands of containers full of freight every day. Here’s Shanghai. Zoom out and be amazed.

  32. DrLoser says:

    Folks wouldn’t be buying this stuff by the container-load if it was unreliable.

    Apparently, “folks” aren’t buying it by the container-load, are they? That’s what wholesalers do. If wholesalers were buying container-loads of the things, they could mark the $900 (basic, I’m leaving the extras aside) up by a good 33% and still make an excellent profit at the retail end … because they wouldn’t have to pay that $700 extra in charges that you, as an individual, paid.

    And you, as an individual, would have to look no further than a farmer’s outfitter in a convenient outlet near Winnipeg to buy one.

    Hey, they might even let you test drive the thing …

    From the viewpoint of a welder and a physicist, I judge the equipment to be reasonably durable and easily maintained.

    From the viewpoint of somebody looking at a couple of 8″ by 10″ glossy color photographs with circles and arrows on the back of each one, yes.

    From the viewpoint of a welder and a physicist … it didn’t seem to work too well on the Sears roto-tiller, did it?

  33. dougman says:

    “The wheels fell off in the first 15 minutes. They had been tack-welded on. The transmission failed under warranty the first year. The new transmission died a year later.” = JUNK in my book.

  34. dougman wrote, “Sears makes junk”.

    They don’t actually. That roto-tiller was made by MTD, the same folks who built my first roto-tiller that worked for me from 1987 to 2011. I welded it back together a couple of times but the bearing on the chain-drive went and I didn’t take the time to rebuild it. I should have. The new one was a really stupid design. It always ran at 3600 rpm to prevent pollution… NOT! So, in heavy clay you had to constantly engage/disengage. The final drive was a worm-gear and it was just too inefficient to handle the power. That engine was 8HP. This baby obviously has a chain drive on large sprockets. It will last a long time and is easily repairable.

  35. dougman says:

    Sears makes junk…plain and simple.

  36. DrLoser wrote, “If this thing lasts even two years, I’ll be astonished.”

    Nope. The Chinese have copied/adapted all the good tech they find in the world and crank it out in bulk. Folks wouldn’t be buying this stuff by the container-load if it was unreliable. From the viewpoint of a welder and a physicist, I judge the equipment to be reasonably durable and easily maintained. I like the fact that the thing can pull 400lb. My heavy soil has no chance. I can buzz through it once, rake weeds, buzz it again and rake again before lunch. Previously, I had to ride the clutch and it took weeks to prepare my garden for planting. When the trees I’m planting start to produce abundant leaves/fruit, I will be able to incorporate all that easily into the garden and grow better crops each year. The plough will be able to cut down my alpine berms too. It’s a winner. These folks work hard and take pride in their work. You can tell just by looking. There’s no need to kick a tire.

    There’s this about such equipment. It’s kind of 1950s tech and any farmer could maintain it but it was so heavily built that repairs are only needed once a decade. When I was a boy, my father bought a 1947 Case gasoline tractor. He used it hard for 5 years, even ploughing whole fields. So, it was about 18 years old when a valve-spring broke. He repaired it himself. He later sold the machine for more than he paid for it, a few $hundred. Even today, you can buy those old guys still running for ~$2K. I almost bought one years ago. A guy was using it as a stationary engine to cut all his firewood year after year with an old buzz-saw.

    Take a close look at the image. You can identify everything in that picture and see how it works at a glance. There’s a real crankshaft so if the battery is low it still starts… with a crank. I know how to use those. There’s a wet oil filter, so you never have to run to the hardware store to buy a new paper filter. There’s a fuel-filter so the injectors should always run free. Of course there’s no carburetor to gum up and not a lot of electrics to fail. The electrics on this baby are all add-on hacks, a headlamp, a starting motor grinding away on a flywheel. There might not even be a generator… I’m perfectly at home with this tech. Compression ratio is 18:1 so it will sip fuel to get the job done. The battery box is in an interesting place… Want to bet it’s there because they couldn’t find any other place and because it blocks the muzzle-blast of that exhaust? The transmission probably weighs as much as my whole former roto-tiller. This thing is appropriate technology and a home gardener like me will never wear this thing out.

  37. DrLoser wrote, “did you ask Ali Baba for a test-drive?”

    Nope. They don’t give those. I guess if I’d flown over there I could have arranged one. I would have done that if I’d ordered a boat-load of them but for one it’s an acceptable risk. Basically, I like the unit because it’s a bit old-fashioned, is sturdily built and it’s diesel. With all those pluses, I can ignore a few warts. Consider the machine I bought from Sears a couple of years ago. The wheels fell off in the first 15 minutes. They had been tack-welded on. The transmission failed under warranty the first year. The new transmission died a year later. I think this monster will last. My previous roto-tiller lasted 22 years. In retrospect, I should have repaired it… I don’t expect to last as long as this machine but I will certainly be able to set the weeds back in a fraction of the time as those two light-weights. I am also going to create some new planting beds for fruit trees.

  38. dougman says:

    Here is a used Farmall in decent shape, 35HP and has a PTO: http://www.tractorhouse.com/listingsdetail/detail.aspx?OHID=8701506

    A used JD x300 and tiller would work as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvB7–yNHVo

  39. DrLoser says:

    Incidentally (and on the “everything is basically just the same as a car” analogy), did you ask Ali Baba for a test-drive?

  40. DrLoser says:

    The clutch is a mystery except that there’s a lever on the handlebar for it.

    That’s always the first thing I look for in a car. You remember the “car analogy” for a software purchase, Robert? You’d be astonished to know that it’s just as good an analogy (indeed, just as feeble a one — you takes yer pick) for cheap lawn tractors from China.
    Still, I’m sure that lever does something. Is the clutch hydraulic? Is it cable-based? It seems unlikely that it has some sort of PTO overrun mechanism.
    I mean, you’re paying $900 for the basic hardware (attachments not included) and $700 for customs and freight. Not much room in there for sophisticated John Deere style early 20th century clutch engineering, is there?
    Sadly, I have to admit that Dougie is right. You’d have been better off buying second-hand American.
    If this thing lasts even two years, I’ll be astonished.

  41. Updated the post with the latest estimate for freight. It’s all coming together. I could have my baby just in time for Christmas, and for less then $2/lb, delivered. Life is good. I hope I live long enough to break it in…

  42. AdmFubar wrote, “Does this tractor have a safety clutch for the powered attachments?”

    I don’t know. I do know that the only belts are the first drive belts to a geared transmission. My last roto-tiller’s transmission died annually… The clutch is a mystery except that there’s a lever on the handlebar for it.

  43. AdmFubar says:

    My dad used to farm on the miniature… or garden on a larger scale.. our old house had 3/4 acre ha had purchased a gravley walk behind tractor. Lasted for 40 years.. engine was rebuilt several times, and dad made some repairs to broken tines and plow blades over the years… the 36″ mower head mad short work of the lawn cutting as he was doing it by hand before this purchase.

    Does this tractor have a safety clutch for the powered attachments? a nice feature of the gravelys at the time. it would stop the engine if it hit something immovable by the attachments.

  44. dougman wrote, “my used Deere 750 tractor is actually a Yanmar that I got used for $7K with ~1K hours “.

    I and most of my neighbours have had good experiences with JD equipment but it is costly. My unit is a bit smaller and will be less than half the cost new.

    Tractor ~$900
    Rototiller ~$200
    Plough ~$50
    Sea freight ~$300
    Customs Clearance ~$100
    Land freight (TBA) ~$300?
    My total $1850 USD

    Sure, it’s a funny-looking rig, but it’s manoeuvrable (six gears including reverse), diesel (might take two fill-ups the first year, one in subsequent years with only cultivation), can pull 400 lb of heavy clay, and should last the lifetime of me and all my kids. Best of all, the tiller has a seat I can ride, with feet steering a rear wheel. That’s really weird but it works. Unlike a lot of gasoline-powered tillers racing at 3600rpm to get the last bit of power, this thing is at full load and maximum efficiency at 2200rpm. I can also take power off the pulley to run a generator that can power our whole house 24×7 for weeks. Now that I know the process of buying via Ali Baba, I intend to buy a 15kw alternator next year. This thing breaks the budget this year…

    Here’s a very similar model in action

  45. dougman says:

    Not sure on buying a new tractor from China, however my used Deere 750 tractor is actually a Yanmar that I got used for $7K with ~1K hours on it and it came with a load er and 60′ rear bushhog.

    I would check local used first, then maybe visit some dealers. I found mine on craigslist of all places.

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/12600821/Tractor.jpg

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