Making Smart Power Equipment Choices For the Homestead

When you have a smaller property, it is essential to have suitable equipment for your needs. That may seem like a no-brainer.

Most Common Purchase Mistakes

  • Not shopping around for the best price.
  • Buying equipment that is too large or complicated. This adds to the cost and sometimes causes more trouble.
  • Not checking for used equipment. Sometimes you can find excellent deals on used equipment at dealers or through private individuals.
  • Buying too many single-purpose machines or a lot of tools that you are not going to need very often. Sometimes renting a piece of equipment occasionally is a better option.

Lawn Tractors

  • Available in many sizes and price ranges.
  • Good availability of implements you can add as you need them.
  • Cannot be used on steep to very steep slopes. Lots of storage space is needed for tractor and implements.
  • Higher up front costs

Walk-Behind Tractors

  • BCS
  • Grillo
Our property is very steep. For mowing, tilling, plowing, scraping, and a variety of other tasks, we use a BCS Walk Behind Tractor. You can get a lot of different attachments for this machine, including tools like snow blowers and wood chippers. I will warn you that this is not a cheap machine to buy, but overall, it is a better deal than having a lot of single-purpose machines, especially when you have steep land to manage.

Grillo is another major manufacturer of walk-behind tractors. Many of the implements and attachments are similar between BCS and Grillo. In the USA, BCS is more common.

The BCS is very impressive with what you can do. My husband created a lot of paths and roads around our property using the tiller and scrape blade. If we had paid a professional to come in with a larger machine, it would have cost us thousands of dollars and been a lot harder on the land. You always have to think about disturbance and erosion when you have a property like ours.

Log Splitter

Some people may think that a log splitter is huge. The truth is that you can get small electric log splitters that are very small and can be stored upright to make good use of your vertical space. They also cost a lot less. Gasoline-powered log splitter are typically much larger and cost a lot more as well. The advantage is that you can get them that are more powerful and you can use them where electricity is not available.

After years of splitting all the firewood for two homes, we bought a Boss 7 ton electric log splitter for around $500 plus $120 of accessories. I have not been able to help my husband split wood due to my pregnancy, and now it is time to get started on wood for next year. With a child on the way, we are trying to do what we can to maximize what work we can get done without destroying our backs and taking a lot of time. This splitter is pretty amazing. It will take on some big pieces, and you can put in a piece of wood up to 20.5 inches long. No more spending tons of time outside in the wintertime splitting wood. Now we have to split a little kindling maybe but are hopeful that the four-way splitter head will eliminate even a lot of that.

Remember that you can use an extension cord or a larger power station if you want to use an electric splitter where no regular power is close by. The Jackery 1500 or 2000 would power it for short periods.

Stihl Yard Boss or KombiSystem

Stihl makes its own version of the Mantis Tiller. You can get a variety of attachments including cultivators and edgers. The KombiSystem is interesting because it offers three different options for the homeowner or small farmer. You can choose between an electric KombiSystem or a gasoline-powered home or a professional version.

I like that the KombiSystem allows you to buy one powerhead that can be used for a huge array of attachments from a simple weedeater head to a pole saw, mowing scythe, cultivator, hedge trimmer, and more. If you need to get a lot of different tasks done and want to keep the engines you maintain to a minimum, then this is the system to consider.


This company has been around for a long time. I remember seeing their infomercials back in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. The Mantis tiller is great for those that have small to mid-sized gardens and beds. Even those with raised beds will appreciate the size and time that the Mantis can save. You can get a cultivator attachment and a little plow for not too much extra. All Mantis tillers are still made in the USA, a rare thing nowadays.

Buy quality machines the first time.

Over the years, we have learned a thing or two about buying less expensive machines. When you are in your 20s and building a house plus clearing a property $500 at a time, it is tempting to buy the less expensive model. After a few times of doing this, we realized that not only were machines and power tools a safety hazard when made cheaply; they also made the job take longer due to poor performance and constant minor adjustments and repairs.

This does not mean you have to buy the most expensive either. Just make sure to buy a reputable brand that is at least mid-priced, and you will be fine. Products with a 1-2 year warranty are nice for the peace of mind they offer.

Battery Powered Machines lack the power and force that gasoline or diesel machines offer. Electric is fine for those that have a small or mid-sized yard in town. If you have a power center, then you can also utilize small electric machines and tools to take on tasks around your place for a lower cost than buying the comparable gas version.

Useful Single Purpose Machines


Stihl and Husqvarna are the brands I recommend. Stihl chainsaws are only sold at authorized retailers. Husqvarna is sold at some box stores but also at power tool retailers. I feel that it is crucial that people understand the difference between homeowner grade and professional-grade chainsaws. Both Stihl and Husqvarna make models that are designed for either homeowner or professional use. If you plan on using your chainsaw a lot, then I recommend getting one of the smaller professional-grade saws. You will not regret it.

Husqvarna is often sold at Lowes Home Improvement. These saws are only homeowner grade, so while the price may seem great, you get what you pay for. Professional grade saws are made with higher quality components that will hold up to heavy use over the years, which means less downtime for repairs and not having to replace your chainsaw as often.

Do not make the mistake of getting a chainsaw that is larger than what you need. The more powerful the saw and the longer the cutting bar, the heavier it will be. Throughout a project, that extra weight will wear you out a lot faster. The Stihl 260 or 280 is as large as most people ever need, and you can change out the bar size if needed. They typically come with a 16" cutting bar, but you can also choose an 18" or 20".

If you have a lot of trees to manage, you may want a second smaller saw for limbing if your budget allows for it.

Concrete Mixer

My husband and I built our own house in an area where it was practically impossible to get a concrete truck. It would have been cost-prohibitive to get a truck up there multiple times as well. We bought the raw materials and mixed all the concrete we needed. Concrete mixers will save you time and money when you want to build retaining walls or create pathways around your property. You can make stepping stones with molds for a fraction of the most, and you can create some beautiful designs.

Back when we were roughing it while building our house, I even used the concrete mixer to wash laundry!

Concrete mixers come in different sizes, so read carefully before buying. Overloading a concrete mixer will result in it not mixing as fast and will eventually damage the machine. The main mixing tub can be made of heavy-duty plastic or metal. I recommend getting one that is all metal for longer durability.

Steep Slope Mowers

Now you can get robotic mowers to go places that a typical mower will not. Of course, there are also ride-along versions. Steep slope mowers are not cheap, but if you live somewhere with rough and steep terrain and want to keep the growth under control, it might be the only way to reasonably do it.

Livestock can do the work of machines to some degree. Steep slopes are great for grazing sheep and goats. Cattle can handle a steep slope, too but not as steep as goats and sheep. It may be cheaper for you to fence some land than to try to buy a machine and maintain it. Sheep and goats are at least worth something too. Instead of mowing or weedeating, you can have meat for the table and some excess livestock to sell for cash flow.

Push mower

There are some places that a push mower works better than a riding mower. Our yard and the yard at my Dad’s house are good examples. The space is too uneven. A push mower and weedeater work a lot better and get into the smaller spaces.

Riding mowers are not safe to use on steep slopes. You have to be careful when mowing even a moderate slope because you can more easily tip over. You would be shocked to know how many people are injured or killed trying to mow a ditch every year.

Sun Joe Electric Pole Saw

This was an excellent $70 investment. When we combined this pole saw with our Jackery 1000 power center, we can drive around and trim limbs on all areas of the road. We don’t have to bother with a heavier gasoline pole saw. This one is plenty powerful, as you can see in the video and pics. The Mule will also get into areas that our truck will not. In a grid-down emergency, a saw like this or the ability to charge batteries on an electric chainsaw would allow you to cut up some firewood without resorting to an archaic misery whip or crosscut saw.

Start small when learning how to use a new machine. It is a mistake to try to do too much or something that is too complicated when you are just getting a feel for a new piece of equipment.

Transportation and General Homestead Chores

Kawasaki Mule

This is what we use more than 90% of the time to get around our property and perform work. It will get into places where our Tacoma won’t fit. The narrower mountain roads and the fact that going to visit my Dad is ¼ mile of unpaved driveway means the Mule makes a lot of sense. It will hold up to 4 people if in short bed mode and has a roll cage and seat belts for safety. Sure it only goes 25 mph max, but that is faster than you should go on our roads anyway. If you want something to play with or just run around in, you can get a speedier UTV, but you cannot beat a Mule for real work and getting around a farm.

The dump bed makes it a lot easier to move sand, gravel, mulch, and more.


While four-wheelers are fun, They are not as useful for homestead chores as a UTV. If you have a big place and need something for transportation or pulling a small wagon, they might be ok, but in general, for the money, they are not my favorite. Four-wheelers are also not enclosed at all and lack safety features. Farm accidents are common enough without upping the odds of injury even more.


Wagons and carts are often pulled by a lawn tractor, ATV, or UTV. The load capacity varies by the cart. The better wagons and carts feature a dump bed. A lot of wagons are made of heavy-duty plastic. While metal may seem better, you need to consider how much heavier it is. Small machines including ATVs are only rated to tow so much weight. The heavy-duty plastics that are used for carts are impressive and lightweight so you can have more towing power for your actual load.

Here are a few examples of wagons and carts for around the homestead.

Power Wheelbarrows

There is such a thing as a powered wheelbarrow. These help you get loads moved without pushing and pulling on your part. They are not very practical if you have an ATV, UTV, or another method for towing a cart or wagon.


Small equipment makes maintaining a homestead possible when only a few people are available to perform physical labor. Its important to research equipment options and shop around for good deals. It can be hard to know what exactly you need when you start working on a property. It may be helpful to set aside some money in an "equipment and tools fund" so you can more easily meet your equipment needs.


Do you have equipment suggestions to share?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thanks for mentioning your experiences and the equipment you’ve used! I’m really looking forward to the comments on this one. I know there are a lot of folks with questions about property management and we’ve got quite a few here with years of experience in this area. This should be a good discussion.
For what it’s worth, I actually prefer electric hand tools over gas. I own both a Stihl MS 261 with an 18" bar as well as an Ego battery powered saw (also with an 18" bar). I’ve got to say that overall, I prefer the Ego. As for power perhaps the Stihl has a slight advantage, but the Ego has performed very well. I’ve felled quite a few trees (mix of pine and hardwood), and the Ego does exactly what I need it to do. It’s super convenient to just pop a new battery in and start working without having to deal with the frustration of a difficult to start saw. That easily happens when saws don’t get used much and get stored with fuel in the tank.
I also absolutely agree with the recommendation of a UTV. Having the ability to move yourself and equipment around your property is so critical for so many tasks. I’ve got an electric UTV that I switched to use lithium iron phosphate batteries instead of lead acid.
The electric UTV (mine is a Polaris Ranger EV) is probably the most used item we own. I’ve pulled a loaded double axle stock trailer (about 5000 pounds) without any difficulty and use it all the time to feed animals, carry things and haul trees and brush. The upfront cost is a bit higher than a gas or diesel powered UTV, but I’m loving the durability, less maintenance and reliability of it.
Also, FYI, if you live in an area with thorns you’ll want to put some sealant in your tires. We’ve had good results with Slime. We have mesquite and locust trees in our area which have absolutely wicked thorns up to 3-4 inches long.
I’ve talked enough so I’ll let someone else bring up tractors and implements :slight_smile:

Great article and practical advice – thanks! If you could talk about the most difficult things to learn for new farmers, that would be most appreciated. A list of major mistakes often made by the new farmers, would help those of us still wrestling with the change over to a more rural way to walk through life.

I’m a small scale farmer and owned a BCS for several years before getting a small— very small— tractor and it was a great decision for me. I agree, if you have steep land go for a BCS, but for anything else a small tractor is waaay better on a small property. I bought a Kubota 17 hp tractor and it does everything I need it to do. It lifts over 700 pounds (the BCS can’t lift anything), and it is more fuel efficient. I spend less now on my little diesel Kubota than on my gas powered 12 hp BCS. There are just as many implements to attach to the tractor PTO— more probably— and some of them are super cheap to get second hand because they are everywhere. I found that trying to find second hand anything for a BCS was impossible so you had to buy new. I bought my tiller for the Kubota for $250 used but had to pay almost three times that for a new BCS tiller.
I think there is a lot of hype around the walk behind tractors these days and regular tractors get short shrift. I know the up front costs are more for sure, but if you can find a small used tractor go for it. You won’t regret it. They can do so much! I use mine (the little 17hp model) to haul hay bales, drag logs, till, clear snow, turn compost heaps, etc.
Before you buy anything just be clear on what your needs are. If you only have a little garden or property it doesn’t really make sense to buy a tractor OR a BCS.

FWIW: I believe the best option is a used skid steer instead of a WBT or small tractor. For the most part you can get the same attachments for skid steer as you can for a tractor, but it can do a lot more since its a heavier machine. The issue with small tractors is that they cannot deal with steep inclines, deep mud, or just don’t have the power to get the job done. Also recommend getting a tracted machine instead of wheel machine. Over all a Tracked machine is lower cost to operate, and has the extra traction to move stuff, or push down small trees.

I’m trying to decide which electric monowheel to buy.
That pushing a wheelbarrow would give me the best bang for my buck. I’ll need to put in more solar panels to feed the beast.
And: it can go on public transport, in the trunk of a car, on an airplane, in my yacht.
Plus I’ll be the oldest and coolest hot-dogger on wheels.
Because the technology is so new, it is still undergoing rapid development.
Here we find Chooch testing the edge. (Get real, old man. You’ll never be as loose as Chooch, but I do know how to fall, being an ex-paratrooper. Chooch falls like a girl.)

I have a tractor w/ Loader, but am pretty sure if I were to do it a again, I would do one of these.
Tractor replacement and also a side by side UTV.
If you need reach and the capability to place a brush mower on the boom:

"If you have no troubles, get a goat." Turkish proverb.
My son bought a kid back from school. Him and I were besties. We used to butt heads often. He used to smell my breath to see what I had found to eat. If I had eaten meat, his disgust was obvious. If offered a variety of plants, Goats are very picky eaters, because they have to balance the plant poisons. He used to sit on the couch with me and watch the Falkland wars on TV. My wife left me and I had to get rid of him. I miss my goat.

I’ve purchased a Milwaukee M18 and an Oregon battery chainsaw, and been using them for 6 or 7 years. They do, for me, just as much as a ‘standard’ 50cc gas chainsaw, without the gas/oil/pull start/choke stuff.
Plus, I have some solar panels and an inverter, so I can charge my chainsaws from the Sun and never buy gas again!
Oh yes I forgot, I have a 8" battery pole, tree trimming chainsaw and it works great too.
In fact, for the curious, I’d recommend getting/trying the smallest cheapest (though well-rated) chainsaw you can find. You will likely be impressed with it when used for the appropriately sized wood.
And on another subject, I had a pet male goat with horns also, as a kid (ha ha). And we butted each other also. He made me smell like a goat, but I didn’t mind.

I’m very impressed with this review and talk of off grid house building!!
BUT it occured to me that the quest of “off grid” is not cheap nor gizmo free as one (or me) imagined. Its actualy MORE gizmos, stuff, expensive stuff…
LOL… So much for simple living. Yes I agree rustic, rural living is a range not a one size for all. I’m “older” and can’t imagine working this hard.
I have even more respect for those of you who are rustic, rural, even off the grid. Quite impressive.
Take care to all.

Thanks for this Sam.
A little background:
I suspect we’re on a slightly larger property than yours, but still small as these things go. There’s only the missus and me now, as the novel coronavirus has completely stopped the WWOOFers and others we used to host.
At 140 acres, we’re 10% of the size of our immediate neighbour, and about twice the size of some of the other properties on our bit of dirt road.
Only 70 acres is pasture and cropping capable, the rest is reserved for Nature to do her thing.
For us, the most useful device is a tractor. A 4 in 1 bucket/loader on the front with a Euro hitch to allow bucket to be swapped for forks or other implements. A three point linkage on the back to run a flail mower / block splitter / Yeoman’s Plough / chipper / carryall or whatever.
To run through the implements - the loader allows me to lift heavy things - up to 1500 kg (sorry I don’t do American customary units). The 4 in 1 bucket allows me to pick up heavy things/remove old fence posts/etc without having to use ropes/chains or whatever. Changing to forks allows me to unload trucks etc with ease.
On the back, the flail mower does a fantastic job of mowing/mulching the pasture the cows don’t like to eat, while spreading the mulch to help it all regrow into better pasture.
The block splitter has a 30 tonne capacity, necessary here as the only trees we have are all hardwood, cross grain eucalypts. Your 7 ton electric would burn itself out on the smallest branches…
The Yeoman’s plough is fantastic for breaking up soil compaction. Where we’ve used it we’ve gone from 2cm of topsoil to 45cm within three years. Highly recommended if you can find one, especially if you live on ancient depleted soils as we do.
The chipper takes the trimmings from where we are practicing silviculture and turns it into woodchips that we can then mulch around the trees to feed them more nutrients.
The carryall does just what the name says - carrys stuff on a platform on the 3pl, for when the loader just isn’t big enough…
We don’t run a tiller on the tractor, mostly because the cr@p depleted soils we have won’t cope with it. Where we want to grow veggies, we build raised garden beds and bring in mushroom compost to feed them.
None of this needs to be expensive or new. For the first 10 years on this place we ran a 30 year old International 685 tractor which we picked up for less than 10k south pacific pesos (about 7k in US dollars at the time) and most of the rest of the implements we picked up second hand too.

I suggest the Deere 6 wheel “Gator”, mainly because it is low to the ground and …
Very important.
I have a neighbor who has one. We are limited using it on my land.
It is good on an incline up to about 20 degrees, but a lot of our land is 40 degrees and steeper.

Chainsaw & log splitter? I have to say that it all depends. Decent sized hardwoods and a good bit of it? Have to say the electric stuff just isn’t up to it.
I say buy a good stihl or husky OF WHICHEVER BRAND HAS A FULL SERVICE DEALER CLOSEST TO YOU. For me that was a husky. Husky also has a really good series of pro saws with slightly less top end power. There isn’t much a 545 or 555 won’t do that a typical homesteader has any business doing.
Lawnmower? I can tell you all about what not to do. :o
And I have to say a good winch is sometimes worth its weight in gold. Tractor, side by side, 4wd… Whatever is handiest. But a good winch has really helped me out when I needed it.

Very interesting topic! Our Grillo walk behind is amazing, easy to work on and repair- although some parts can be challenging to find in the states like the bearing seals and bearings. I agree whole heartedly that a small tractor is extremely valuable as well as skid steer. Our farm is small and we are surrounded by a wonderful community and that’s really the only way we could dream of getting through our season and improving our farm. There are many projects that require large or specialized equipment. Being able to hire or barter with friends and neighbors with equipment and experience running specialize machines is huge! The guy that runs a mini ex all day is probably gonna do a way better and quicker job and I will. Going in together on renting a machine and helping each with respective jobs can really reduce costs and help projects get done more efficiently. Like trenching waterlines or grinding stumps. Even going in together on a piece of equipment, although complicated, can really increase everyone’s capacity and ability to get projects done, like a dump trailer or skid steer. Also being able to call that friend that can fix pretty much anything is so incredibly valuable. Farming is incredibly fun and challenging. Things are constantly going wrong, breaking, and also miraculously turning out better than you expected. It takes a community sharing their time, expertise, and equipment to really make things happen. You can own every toy on the shelf but it’s lonely when there’s nobody to work with.

Guessing my knees won’t last long on this, but oh! I so want one, you know, to exercise the cat. LOL

starting a garden in my backyard last year (because of long thoughts and finally Chris promoting it strongly) i was using a BCS machine and it was quite a success to start doing the heavy duty tilling. Yes, it is a very good machine to use for heavy duty. This year however i switched to a smaller Honda and another machine which did the job on the surface tilling so to speak for less heavy duty work.

A neighbor of mine with about 45 years of chainsaw experience recently cut his thigh about 3/4 inch deep - with a chainsaw.
There are alternatives for breaking wood into pieces. I used a 20 inch handsaw to cut down a 12 inch tree that was about 40 feet tall. It took about a 1/2 hour and it was a lot of exercise.
With a lot of wood, just dropping it in the right place, e.g. on another log or a rock, will cause the log to break in 2 pieces.
Though that does involve lifting it up and dropping it.
So conceivably in the process of avoiding chainsaw use, one could still hurt one self.

Guy I used to work with, his father was a lumberjack. Yes he cut trees for people as a removal service, but he mostly did trees for lumber mills.
Five years ago, all by himself, was felling some large trees and one fell onto a neighboring tree and bounced off on the way down. It pinned him to the ground and crushed a bunch of internal organs. Died before the ambulance arrived.
This guy had over forty years experience and still was killed using a chainsaw.
The problem with chainsaws is the speed at which things happen. That continuous row of spinning teeth, the potential energy of a twenty ton tree trunk, 32 feet per second per second…
The danger is in human desires and need for time saving coupled with the proximity to so much speed and wood mass.
In nature, it could take months, years or even decades for a tree to fall. We humans attempt to do it in minutes from two feet away.
Yes my friend’s dad had four decades of experience, but the odds are definitely stacked no matter how small they are in a time frame such as that.
An alternative way of felling trees before steel and internal combustion engines was to burn the trunk at the base. Not always feasible depending on your forest conditions and seasonal dryness, but if done right it allows the one felling the tree to be safely distanced when it falls and not having to hold a spinning tool of destruction in their hand while doing so.

I have had rototillers for 60 years. I own four now plus a 5’ tractor 3pt.
This year I didn’t till. I mowed very low, planted in a shallow trench made by a middle buster, or a hole drilled in rhe soil by an augur on a battery drill.
Then as weeds grow I mow with an Oregon 16" battery mower between rows.
Not sure why I tilled for 60 years.

I have a BCS with a mowing deck, tiller, and flail. Recently bought a cart for the BCS for hauling stuff. I can recommend all that equipment, very well made. Originally bought it on Eliot Coleman’s recommendation.
For small tools, I was originally gearing up to go all electric with Echo. But then found out that Home Depot bought the name from Echo and the electric line had nothing to do with the Echo company.
I found that out the hard way when I tried to take the electric chainsaw for repair to an Echo dealer. Long story short, I have abandoned Echo for Stihl. What a difference, Echo is complete crap in comparison. The Stihl equipment is great.
Echo electric saw worked OK for the short time I had it (had problems with the oiler), but my son bought about 30 chainsaws in various states of disrepair for a few hundred bucks from a guy going out of business. He sold off most of saws for parts, but was able to put together 4 or 5 saws from the bunch. He got enough money from selling parts that he made money on the investment and the saws were essentially free.
Since I have been the happy recipient of a free Husqvarna from my son, I have abandoned the idea of going electric there. Recently bought 7 cords of logs instead of split wood. Son had a 750 and I used a 550, made nice work of the pile in a weekend. Would not have been possible with electric saws.