Making Smart Power Equipment Choices For the Homestead

Now into my second year of no till gardening, will never go back to tilling again. I guy named Charles Dowding from England has great, numerous and detailed videos on the subject

Now into my second year of no till gardening, will never go back to tilling again. I guy named Charles Dowding from England has great, numerous and detailed videos on the subject.
Make my own compost from a small meadow and fall leaves

I have been gardening for over 65 years, and I think a tiller is good for one thing, and that is uniformly incorporating compost into the soil. It is very hard to do this uniformly by hand, but a tiller is just made for the job. Spread about 2 in. of compost on every fall and till it in uniformly to the top 6 in. You are good to go in the spring.
One thing I would highly recommend in a tiller is to get one with a dual direction or reverse drive tines. I always use the reverse direction tine drive and it does a much better job. I have a Craftsman 208 cc counter-rotating tine machine, and of all the tillers I have owned it is by far the best.
The Landworks also makes a utility cart power wagon that I believe is much better than the power wheel barrow. It tips forward so the front is flat on the ground and allows one to tip large things like big firewood rounds in. I love mine.
The other thing I could recommend is the Larin tailgate lift. It is quite reasonable at about $500.00, easy to install, it just slips right into a 2 in. receiver hitch, and lifts 500 lb. It is almost a necessity to lift large heavy firewood rounds.

LBL, Your neighbor’s injury sounds very painful. Ouch! I grew up in farm country, where everyone used a chain saw. Very few guys used any safety equipment beyond steel toed shoes and gloves. No hearing protection, no helmet, no chaps. I spent about $200 on those things when I got a chain saw at the ripe old age of 57. Guys in the neighborhood laugh at me, but it’s WAY cheaper than a trip to the Emergency Room.

For those who have fencing to be done, DeWalt makes a 20v cordless fence staple gun. We found this VERY useful putting up fence this year. No more loose posts from whamming them with a hammer/fence tool, no more thumbs or fingers hit. Greatly reduces the time required to put up fence. These are pricey but if one has a lot of fencing to do, a great investment. I was able to borrow one from a friend. If friends/neighbors go in together on one, the cost is not too bad. Worth checking out local rental stores. May need to ask them to carry this item. A great tool

One of the things discussed at Polyface was the sequence of actions needed to develop a new property. While it’s fun to contemplate what equipment you want to buy, you’re probably better served by accurately assessing your needs first. I think this was the order in which they described the steps–

  1. Access–If you can’t get there it doesn’t exist. You’ll need to either cut a pathway or use a vehicle (or horse if you prefer) to see what you’re dealing with. Once you know your property then put in more permanent roads so you can actually develop it.
  2. Water–Whether you’re fostering the development of animals or plants, you’ll likely need water. This does not mean drilling a well necessarily, but may involve digging ponds or tapping springs or natural sources of water for your use. At Polyface, they had the luxury of using elevated, spring fed ponds in the mountains which provided natural water pressure due to their elevation. These were then channeled using black plastic pipe to numerous access taps throughout their pastures. This enabled rotational grazing while allowing the animals to access water in multiple locations.
  3. Fencing–Now that you know the general topography and soil of your land you can decide where to put fences depending on what your goals are. Obviously a fruit orchard will differ from timberland which will differ from a cattle pasture. One thing that impressed me at Polyface was the extensive use of electric fence. Electric fencing is so much easier to install than barbed wire and affords much more variability in that you can rearrange your fence in minutes to graze a different area of your pasture.
  4. Barns, Equipment, Etc.–After those earlier steps are completed is the time to solidify your goals and determine what equipment will help you achieve them.
    Hope that’s helpful. I probably missed a step or two but I thought what they did at Polyface Farm was ingenious in its simplicity and functionality. BTW the equipment I saw them use most often included line trimmers to keep the fences clear, tractors to mow (and trench the ground for placement of water lines) and UTV’s for mobility. Joel also demonstrated his chainsaw skills and showed off his sawmill (not cheap but useful for building things if you have timber, and will save you a bundle on lumber costs)

I bought this amazing machine from Salsco, an American manufactured beauty. The flywheel weighs 220 lb and is balanced to perfection. Cuts 4” stuff like butter. Supposed to do up to 7” but I’m being conservative. Self feed is essential. I would not think a manual feed would be a good idea.

A chainsaw is a must for me. The risk-reward thing kicks in. Either I have firewood to dry out the cabin or I don’t.
But I am considering a rocket stove and heat sink for the very reason that I may not have access to a saw if things really go south. A rocket stove uses kindling, The problem then is how do I look after my forest? The fuel load becomes dangerous with failed saplings.
I guess that’s why I have a boat.

I bought a broad fork from Gulland Forge years ago and stopped tilling. I finally sold my tiller. Heck, now, after learning about Singing Frogs Farms, I don’t even broad fork my entire garden every year, only carrots and potatoes.
Broad fork
There is a discernible difference between resilience and sustainability. Just food for thought.

I gave myself a cut in my leg with a chainsaw doing something I recognized at the time was questionable. Then I properly cleaned the wound, numbed it with lidocaine, and gave myself four sutures. No complaints with how it healed up, but I may have had a big complaint traveling 90 minutes to the urgent care clinic, waiting for another 30 minutes, then 5 minutes of surgery for $450 out of pocket.

I’m glad I’m not the only one still remembering/adhering to the lessons learned from Singing Frog Farms. I fully intend to go no-till from here forward in my gardens. I just ordered one of those Broadforks based on your post alone!

When I purchased my broad fork, Gulland Forge was located in Wisconsin, about 20 miles from where I lived. He threw it in the back of his truck and delivered it to my door.
You won’t be disappointed in the quality. He is a traditional blacksmith to his core.

I use the ruth stout method for potatoes, squash, onions, etc. It works well here.
Coppicing seems like a practical method of harvesting wood.

I greatly appreciate all of the information in the blog post and in the discussion. I had never heard of walk-behind tractors. While researching, I realized that DR has a walk-behind field and brush mower that you can change accessories on. I already own a DR woodchipper that I have owned for 15 years and love so I feel like I could trust the quality of any of their other products. I really appreciate the commentary on skid steers versus small tractors and UTVs too. I am trying to decide which I would benefit most from for the least amount of cost. Balancing the work and the cost is definitely a huge challenge for many of us I think.
As for the actual gardening/farming part. . . I’m with @MysteryMet and use the Ruth Stout method of no-till gardening. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her book called Gardening Without Work: for the Aging, the Busy and the Indolent. Last year when I first heard Chris speak and started my first garden, there was no way I was going to make it work if I had to till and pull weeds. I had a neighbor years ago who had a no till garden that was amazing also and he recommended Crockett’s Victory Garden which I had to purchase a used copy of. Both are fantastic for setting you up with a calendar of when to do what and most importantly . . . Ruth Stout gave me the details on HOW to start my no-till garden after I saw the Singing Frogs Farm presentation. I can’t recommend these two books enough to get me started.
I’ve expanded my horizons with the visit to Polyface Farm and wish I was younger for starting this homesteading adventure. I now want to clean up and make it easy to get to the two ponds on the property and as I walk the farm that I rent the farmhouse on, I see the places that we could setup new ponds or at least where to catch run-off water that could be used for watering animals and turning the farm into something that could actually make money - not to mention all the hardwood trees that could be leveraged if one actually tried to manage the woods rather than let them grow wild. If nothing else, all of the participants here give one hope and it allows us to dream. I love being able to escape to these kinds of places with all of you here.

Why would a UTV be a better option than a pickup truck? I have a 2011 Nissan Titan and while a UTV might be fun for running around it can’t do 1/10th of what a truck can do, which is why farmers still use trucks. Other than being smaller and being able to get into places a truck can’t (which for most doesn’t help much) what advantages would a UTV have?

Trucks are definitely useful, but a UTV has the advantage of going on narrow trails through woods, crossing terrain that a truck couldn’t. Also, I can operate my UTV over a field full of mesquites without worrying about punctured tires.
A truck though is a must have for things like picking up fence supplies, hardware and feed.

I too was enamored of the Ruth Stout videos on YouTube. I spent hours placing a nice, thick layer of hay over our future garden site only to be disappointed later when I found that my hay had been treated with a systemic broadleaf herbicide.
It took a few years before things would grow well in the garden. Now, I just use wood chips that I chip myself so I know what’s in the garden. Be careful of where you source material for your garden.

>>> I gave myself a cut in my leg with a chainsaw doing something I recognized at the time was questionable.
Pictures ?
I was bit on the neck by a black widow, or something else that I was very allergic to, about 5 years ago.
The swelling was EPIC. Gosh I wish I had taken pictures !
First the left side of my face and forehead, all swelled up about 1/2 inch +.
I looked like I had been sitting in a make-up chair for a role playing the Star Trek character, Romulan ?
Then the swelling moved to the right side, for a day.
Then it moved to my ear, which was about 3/4 of an inch thick, and sticking out. Yoda ear, except, BRIGHT red.

I would venture to say most people here don’t want to see a stomach-turning bloody gash, even if they’re mildly curious. I mentioned this incident so others will be prepared with wound irrigation and suture kits, especially with lidocaine, which may be difficult to get.