Friday, June 26, 2015

My Newest Old Toy

I've gotten some flack, not a lot, but there have been a few people that seem to think all I do is huddle over a laptop and play with tiny devices ignoring the world around me. Most of that is true, but there is another side I don't post much about.

After the flooding last year, and the possibility of the same when the rains come this year, I decided to dig some drainage ditches. My little Yannar landscape tractor can't do that in this soil. The dirt here has settled into a rock strewn landscape left over by glaciers and is almost impossible to dig in with a pick and shovel. I posted about this after a really annoying experience <link>, and I've had several more problems like that; I live on rock with a little sand thrown in.

Time for a bigger tractor because renting one at the pace I work (slowly) would be horribly expensive, and hiring a contractor has all the usual problems of getting someone to actually show up out here and do the job. There's about a hundred blog posts possible on that one subject alone.

Let me show off my cool new old toy:

This is the industrial model of the Ford 3550 tractor. These tractors were designed for daily use on large farms back in the '60s and '70s, so it's not a spring chicken, and has seen some use. However, it's supported by a huge collection of parts and books as well as a large number of people like me that have one to tinker with. This guy was made in April of 1974 by the afternoon shift; I decoded the date sticker under the hood.

This is one of the old-school tractors that doesn't use sheet metal, it uses 3/16 and 1/8 inch plate steel. Opening the hood is an interesting experience after playing with a small Japanese landscape tractor, the engine is massive.

Frankly, it scares me. Sitting 5 feet off the ground on a big machine is a thrill and the noise is exciting (remember, I ride a Harley too), but digging and moving hundreds of pounds of rock at a time is intimidating to the inexperienced. I guess I'll start by digging several holes and filling them back up to get some experience with it.

No, I'm not changing the direction of this blog, it's still about automating the house in a practical fashion with inexpensive technology that is fun to mess with, but I'm like a kid at Christmas with this big old thing and had to show it off. Besides, I may need to run wires underground or move a big device of some kind.

I think I'm going to love it.


  1. Congrats on your new acquisition and undoubtedly a new source of inspiration for extending one's 4-letter vocabulary (speaking from experience). It's now time to add a GPS, remote actuators and FPV to allow operation from the climate controlled comfort of your home.

  2. As a Harley rider, and a city-boy who bought his first tractor 2 years ago, I get your excitement. 56 Horsepower? I'm jealous. I am still always looking for an excuse to dig something up with the backhoe. Have a blast.

  3. This is way more tractor that I ever thought I'd have, and it will be a lot of fun getting used to using it.

  4. Colour me green with envy. When my tractor grows up it wants to be a backhoe.......Like a friend of mine says " Diggin in the dirt is for machines".

    Congrats Man...

  5. See, now that you have the tractor especially with the backhoe, you need to start looking into using a thermal mass in your yard for helping regulate temperatures. Another idea would be to dig a nice deep hole (maybe under a thermal mass) where you can put your own seismic sensor just to see how things look in your area.