Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
We're just getting started farming this year and have a blank slate of 18 acres awaiting us. We're planning on doing ~1 acre of vegetables, chickens, and pigs this year and incorporating sheep/goats/cattle once pasture is established. For the vegetables, while we have an old Farmall Super A that we plan to use for heavier tillage and cultivation, we would like to utilize manual implements for seedbed preparation if possible. Does anyone have any recommendations for a manual tool that would effectively prepare a fine seedbed in place of a gas-powered rotary tiller? I read in Growing For Market about a guy using Lehman's rotary cultivator but haven't ever had the chance to see it in action. Any thoughts?
Let It Grow Farm
Honestly, I think the best tool is a pig. Fence in your area with either cheap but physical fencing, such as hog panels, or a few strands of really hot electric. Then put the pigs within the area.
To entice them to root/till, grab a bag of deer corn. Go through the paddock with a stick or pole and push the corn kernels into the ground a few inches. Do this all over the place. The pigs will dig and root and hunt out the corn and of course they'll fertilize for you. Once this is all done you may be able to finish the job with the tool you mentioned or a wheel hoe.
Dusty... you beat me to the draw!
If you are thinking of an easy way to get rid of the grass (and the roots)... think about a chicken tractor (leaving it in one site for a little longer than normal)... they'll do a number on the top level (not deep like the pigs will, but) and fertilize (and deworm) it for you.
70 years ago Sears Roebuck & Co. partnered with DAVID BRADLEY CO. (DB) , a respected Illinois farm machinery manufacturer and marketed inexpensive walk behind garden tractors. Tens of thousands of versatile DB tractors were sold nationwide from the famous catalog. Basically just a massive reduction transmission with auto tires and handlebars, walk behind tractors have a rear drawbar for easily attaching actual farming implements. These included a moldboard turning and middle plows, disk and spike harrows, planters, interchangeable tool cultivators, cultipacker, hay rake, lawn roller, riding sulky, or a utility cart. Quickly interchangeable front mounting and power take off (PTO) for reel, rotary, and sickle mowers, tree and cordwood saws, dozer blades, snow throwers, compressors, orchard sprayers, and generators were also available. The belted motor pulley was used for PTO operated machinery such as grain mills, windmill pumps or a washing machine. The single cylinder 2 to 5 HP air cooled gasoline lawnmower engines are simple and reliable, repairable and replaceable. DB tractors were produced until the late 1960’s when leisure replaced personal reliance.
With a properly equipped walk behind garden tractor you can have your Victory Garden and maintain your yard and woodlot. When you need to plant and harvest acres of grain fields or row crops on urban vacant lots or waste ground, a suburban golf course, or abandoned farm land you can do that too. The front quick mount and PTO has been used for portable home built time saving equipment including water pumps, pressure washers, gravel or compost trommels, leaf and brush shredders, broadcast seeders, winnowing fans, and grain conveyors. Because these economical tractors use only a quart of gasoline per hour you can store a seasons worth of fuel in the tank of an unused auto, or distill corn beer into ethanol fuel. Walking tractors have also been harnessed to a mule, converted to pedal power, and recently even solar-electric powered.
While most have been sold for scrap iron, DAVID BRADLEY tractors can still be found as rural ‘yard art’, behind old barns and fence rows, online auction sites, vintage tractor club meets, or by posting ‘wanted’ ads in local newspapers and grocery markets. You can find a restored tractor plus common attachments for less than 100 cases of pork and beans, or a repairable one for $20. Disclaimer: Vintage equipment does not meet current consumer safety guidelines and requires operator vigilance and common sense.
The Hoss Wheel Hoe looks to be pretty cool they have a good video on their site of it in action prepping some potatoes from planting to harvest. I would love to pick one of those up! I like the fact that it has a metal wheel as anything that holds air usually ends up with a flat just when I want to use it around here.
Pat didn't mention the great pictures of his pig tractor setup in the photo section but he has a couple that show exactly what Dusty was talking about. That said I have on old Troy-Bilt Horse that used to be my dads and I love that tiller!
If you don't have the animals and you don't mind using sweat equity, then buy or borrow a good broadfork and go over the ground first. After that you should be able to break it up with a hoe and garden rake or wheeled push cultivator. Everybody to their own preference, but I love my tiller. It can be backbreaking work without it.
I don't have any experience with the current seeders available in nursery/seed catalogs (probably plastic?). Check farm stores or antique barns for the really good old stuff. I picked up a cast iron single wheel push one, with different sleeves, opposed to disks) for different size seeds and spacing $30, and I use the David Bradley I have with the walk behind tractor for the corn, bean, sunflower plots.
My Earthway seeder has worked well. I used last year to plant all sizes of seeds on approx 1/4 acre. Purchase the other sized seed discs for planting other sized seeds.
Michael - I have a rotary cultivator/hoe like Lehman's. Mine is original and I love that tool, but it will only work in ground that has been previously broken and turned by other means