I love my tractors and the front-end loaders. Like most farmers, I have a “few” tractors around. Five to be exact and one backhoe. They range from 40 hp up to 160 hp. The higher horsepower tractors do fieldwork; the smaller ones do yard work, such as running an auger or processing firewood. Some folks consider that too many tractors. They must think one or two is all a farmer needs.
Recently, I read an interesting article on how much feed it took to feed work horses and mules before tractors came on the scene. It took about six acres of land per animal every year to harvest enough feed to sustain the animal. In the 1920s Americans owned more than 25 million horses and mules, most of which were used as work animals on farms. By 1945, tractor power had exceeded animal power and the number of mules and horses shrunk to roughly 2.5 million animals.
I’d say that the tractor and the hydraulics have changed life on the farm more than anything else in the last 100 years.
My oldest tractor is a 270 MF bought new in 1983. It has around 65 hp, has 5,800 hours, it has a loader bucket, no cab, and is a handy and simple tractor around the place to move wagons, grain buggies and firewood. It’s the only tractor that doesn’t have 4-wheel drive so it has the winter off and stays in the shed.
The tractors are all in good repair and well looked after. When they’re not being used they’re inside a shed out of the weather. They’re bought locally as I’m loyal to two of the closest tractor dealerships near me — in Renfrew and Douglas.
I grew up with tractors from a very young age when we were doing loose hay in the 1950s. I drove the little Ford tractor while father forked the hay.
Tractors can process wood too. Most wood processors on the market today can’t cut logs that are more than 15 inches in diameter and they can’t cut crooked logs. Some of the logs I cut in the bush are huge in diameter and can be uneven. I have a great system for cutting and splitting firewood as it’s done with a “few” tractors and on the concrete yard.
I pick up a big log (or a number of smaller ones) with my loader pallet fork using a 95 hp loader tractor and cut the log at a comfortable height with a chainsaw. The old MF loader tractor pushes the blocks into a pile, skimming over the concrete so not to include the sawdust. The sawdust is pushed off to another pile. When you’re cutting 16. ft long logs that are 20 inches in diameter there’s a lot of sawdust and you don’t want that mixed in with the blocks.
Blocks of wood are picked up, or rolled, into a loader bucket and brought up to the wood splitter that is attached to a newer model 50 hp tractor. The wood splitter has an attachment on either side and a block of wood is rolled onto the one attachment and pushed in place for it to be split a number of times. The split wood, when built up, is pushed away with the loader tractor into long low piles where it dries and cures in the sun and wind. I’m not referring to a little firewood for myself. I do 50 to 60 single cords in the spring and summer. Some wood is split fine and bundled for kindling wood and some for campfire wood.
The firewood is moved around a few times during the summer using a loader bucket, especially after a heavy rain so the bottoms can dry faster. Much like turning over wet hay. When the wood is dry, usually in late summer, it’s scooped up and stacked or dumped inside a barn or shed. It’s a one-man operation using tractors and a large cemented yard.
I’ve had to chuckle many times by a question from (some) customers, old acquaintances, relatives, good meaning folks when they see a “few tractors in the yard and they ask: “How many tractors do you have and do you need that many?”
I tell them if I farmed with horses I’d need 10 to 12 of them and I’d have to grow fields of oats and hay just to keep them. Tractors are a real bargain. They don’t need to be fed and they only consume when the key is turned on.
Maynard van der Galien farms near Renfrew, Ont. He enjoys making firewood which he’s done since his teens.