There are some pieces of equipment that are really necessary to own to be able to keep your property in prime condition. There are of course lots of “toys” that would be nice to have but the expense of buying and maintaining them is far greater than just renting them once or twice a year. Depending upon how much of your land is in grass for beauties sake only, how much is pasture or garden areas, or perhaps even pens for chickens or sheep, will dictate what equipment you really need. All properties need some type of lawn or garden tractor unless you’re a marathon runner and wish to push a mower over an acre or two twice a week in the Spring. A general use tractor with a 20 HP or less engine and a 42 or 48 inch mower deck can handle three acres of lawns easily. Attachments such as a spring rake making aerating the lawn easy or a light snow plow for winter can all make your work load lighter. Lawn rollers, seeders, discs and harrows, power rakes and even mini-font end loader buckets can be purchased from different tractor and sub-compact tractor companies.
You will find when you shop that tractors fall into several different categories according to their capabilities. Lawn tractors are basically large lawn mowers that can pull around a small trailer, a leaf rake or perhaps push a little snow. A tractor will weigh more and have stronger, larger components. A tractor may have a slightly larger engine, cast iron rear end housing and perhaps be able to handle a snow thrower attachment as well. A sub-compact tractor for about $12000 or so, is even heavier, can use wheel weights or weighted tires, front end loader and backhoe attachments and mow 5 acres of more easily. The frames are also much more heavy duty and can move mountains of snow with ease. If you own a horse barn or plant a large garden area, a sub-compact tractor will handle all these cleanup chores with no sweat.
A tag a long trailer is also a god send when cleaning up leaves, moving soils, carrying gravel or any other yard chore. It is a lot easier to load the trailer will all your Spring flower plants and drive from bed to bed along with your trowels and soil supplements than carrying it all by hand. Moving pails of water to pens or moving stones or firewood are all tasks handled by a small trailer. My trailer is now over twenty years old and other than some occasional touch up paint and grease it is still going strong.
A gas leaf blower and sucker are also a real time saving device. From blowing sidewalks and patios clean, to removing leaves from flower beds, a gas leaf blower does the trick. If you have any type of hedges or shaped trees, an electric hedge trimmer makes that chore a snap as well. Hand trimming a hundred feet of hedge is no joke. A good wheel barrow is an often overlooked tool. Do not buy one of the those $29 barrows. If you pay around a $100 or so, you are in the right neighborhood. Oak handles, heavy duty poly tub or metal (I prefer the poly, it never rusts) and a ten inch tire is a minimum. Mine is now about twelve years old and I have replaced the handles only once.
I own quite a large wooded area and the lawn areas have many trees as well. These produce just tons of fallen branches and leaves each year. I purchased a small shredder for 3″ and smaller limbs and it does a good job. Anything larger then 3″ is cut for firewood. This machine makes a good deal of mulch for us so was worth the price.
Roto-tilling my garden once a year did not seem to justify buying a rototiller that would sit for 11 and a half months a year. The daily rental is about $45 so for $45 I till our garden and the rental center store gets to maintain it all year.
A power washer is another great tool for the average homestead. Washing decks or sidewalks, house siding or barn floors are all made a great deal easier with a power washer. They are fairly cheap and do a great job. Maintenance is pretty much making sure it is drained against freezing when stored and checking the engine oil.
If you own these tools you can pretty much get by. As time passes and you can afford it, adding some additional implements to the tractor such as a post hole digger or dozer blade can make even bigger chores easier and faster.
Ask your salesperson what size machine you need and they will be glad to help you decide. They want a happy customer to return and to recommend them to others.
Pete Ackerson is a 30+ year building inspector with experience in both public and private construction industries.