30 August 2014

Like a Phoenix

Here is the new addition to Stratheden Farm: a Yanmar Sx3100 tractor with a front loader and underbelly mower. I had been looking for several years for small tractor that was fit for harder work than most and had a full line of durable attachments. There were relatively few contenders. A local business became a Yanmar dealer this year and a couple of months ago I ventured over to kick tires and geek out.

It turns out that Yanmar manufacturers most John Deere tractors; they've made diesel engines since 1930. Although a Japanese company, the factory that builds them is located in Georgia. Not only American made but parts available quickly. This model had the two required add-ons: an underbelly mower and a front loader (aka "curved boom loader"). There was a factory discount of $2,000 on the tractor itself and further discounts on the bucket and mower. Then John, proprietor of T&E Small Engines, told me about the zero percent financing. Oh my.

My other tractor, a Ford 1710 from about 1983 is still running well. I've searched for a front loader and could only locate hard-used models in the $3,000-4,500 range, worth almost as much as the tractor itself. It has a John Deere bush hog mower, nice for clearing brush but a not very good quality mow on open grass. Additionally, they are probably the most dangerous piece of equipment on a farm for two reasons: (1) the whirling blades and PTO shaft and (2) the change of balance of the tractor [they weigh a lot]. I'll be honest, I'm scared of bush hogs and operate with extreme caution. That bush hog mounted on the Ford moves the center of gravity far to the rear and makes it prone to raising up when going uphill, a dangerous position.

The under-belly mower on the Yanmar is not as tough as the old Deere bush hog but it is safer in every way. It changes balance for the better by lowering the center of gravity and adding weight between the axles (rather than behind with a bush hog). The PTO shaft is between the tractor chassis and the mower. almost impossible to come into contact with it, even in the unfortunate circumstance of a roll-over.

Yanmar thought outside the box and brought tractor technology up-to-date. For instance, instead of two controls for the front loader, there is a single arm, well positioned where the driver doesn't have to reach for it. But perhaps most revolutionary, a HYDROSTATIC transmission. Yep. No gear shifting! Put it in either high or low range then press the pedal and it is moving. Press the pedal harder to go faster, just like a car. To stop, take your foot off the pedal (if on a grade, the brake may be necessary, too). To reverse, still no gears - put your foot on the reverse pedal. This luxury will take some getting used to-

One last comment and you will be spared further tractor-geeking: if the diesel fuel runs out, it is easy to re-start after fuelling unlike the torture required to bleed injectors on any other diesel I have known. This work horse should last thirty plus years if past Yanmar performance is a good forecaster. and my back should last longer since there is a front loader to perform many tasks...