Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tractors and Permaculture

..I can fix stuff.
It's not my career these days. If I have a career. I'm working on my writing, looking for some Permaculture to design for somebody, making flutes, helping with intarsia, putting in some time at our booth at Sherwood Forest Faire.
But I enjoy fixing stuff.
I grew up in farm/ranch country in a gas station/garage, learning how to fix cars, tractors, farm machinery, just about anything that came along. My grandparents raised me there, my grandfather was a darn good mechanic of the old school blacksmith/Model T mechanic sort.
I understand, and totally agree that farming practices need to change. No-till farming, organics, key-line plowing, all of that is needed, and urgently, for us all to survive. The old ways were wasteful, damaging, and woefully inefficient. We need new machinery for the new methods, and equipment running on bio-diesel, at the very minimum. At least you can grow your own fuel with bio-diesel.
no matter how ancient, inefficient, and out-moded they may be, when I see old farm equipment rusting away somewhere I have a near unbearable urge to fix it, put it back to use. In most cases it really doesn't take too much to do that.
I have this thrifty nature, stuff should be used. If it's broke, fix it and use it. Even more inefficient to let it rust away. Sure, it can be recycled, but that seems like a cop-out. We can't fix it, so we'll melt it down and start over. (Of course that's basically the truth.)
It's an irrational desire, really. I couldn't possibly repair all the stuff I see out there. Not enough time for all of it, plus, truth be told, physically I'm more in supervisor mode these days. All in all, farm equipment is much easier to fix than automobiles, but still, I don't think I'm up to the contortions required on a day in, day out basis.
I'd like to, though.
I like to fix stuff.
Someone on one of my Permie lists asked a question about tractors. What to get for a certain use. I immediately thought of the venerable Ford 8N tractor. It's been around since the 1940's I believe. Zillions were made, a very compact tractor. Very simple, Model T simple. In fact, the motor looks like it came out of a Model T, or Model A perhaps. The thing is, you can pick one up for cheap, parts are everywhere still, you can even get parts off the shelf at Tractor Supply. I had one myself fairly recently. They are a bit small for serious farming, but plenty of farmers used them anyway.

Where do you draw the line? A tractor you can get cheaply, fix yourself, that will probably still out-last you? Or shell out a premium price for some small new diesel. A Kubota, perhaps, a very good small tractor as well. However, can you fix it? Can whoever does fix it, keep on fixing it? I can't answer that.

My thrifty nature usually rules. Less money, and fixable by me. But, it does make me feel a bit guilty. How badly am I hurting the planet? Do other things make up for it?
I don't know.
But if you want to get your 8N running, let me know!

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