The Good Life - Tools and Equipment
PUBLISHED: 17:58 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 21:06 29 April 2014
Smallholders know you can get a huge amount done with some fairly basic equipment. Your trusty set of garden tools and your wheelbarrow will, of course, come in for some heavy use as you dig over those beds and get planting.
A reliable chainsaw will probably come in very handy – if only for cutting up wood for the fire.
Then there are the larger items to consider, such as a greenhouse, polytunnel, sheds, structures and fencing for your livestock.
Maybe you’re keen to get really eco-friendly and are dreaming of wind turbines, solar panels and a log boiler. Needless to say, you will need lots of spare cash – although there are grants to be had.
But you will probably want to keep it nice and simple to start with.
We asked CS columnist John Bezzant to come up with four bits of kit that he’s found essential on his smallholding in Scotland.
Here’s John’s choice – and being a very handy fellow, he made two of them himself!
The Sit-On Mower
You may think you need a tractor to care for your land, but you can get away with a sit-on mower if you chose the right one.
Don’t go for new – that will set you back several thousand pounds – choose a good second hand mower for around £500 to £800. The very first piece of equipment I ever bought was a sit-on mower. A Yamaha YT 3600, manufactured for the American market back in the ’80s and a remarkable little machine. It will work all day long, cut 3ft tall grass, tow a trailer with a 500 to750kg load and drag implements such as a harrow. For years, the Yamaha was the only piece of equipment on my holding, and I was able to keep the five acres of grass in perfect order, even using it to make hay. Not all sit-on mowers are up to agricultural use. You need one between 14 and 16hp with all-terrain tyres and a side feed cutting deck of 38in. Yamaha, John Deere and Westwood are three of the very best makes.
I use my trailer four or five times a week and, because it’s so small, I can reverse it right into the stable doors for mucking out the goats or ponies. It also carries logs, soil, fodder and anything else that needs hauling. Running a smallholding without a trailer is just not an option.
My trailer was home-made and not that difficult to build. Putting an axle towards the rear will cause the weight to bear down on the back end of the mower, giving good traction even in muddy conditions. To be of any use, the trailer tyres must have an agricultural-type grip. If you don’t fancy building your own, trawl the free ads and look for a small second hand car trailer for around £150 to £200. With some adjustment this will be perfect.
Paddocks get clogged with thatch, and if this isn’t removed at least once a year, the paddock will look tired and unproductive. Here you will need a drag harrow – basically a metal hairbrush with which you comb the grass. I have never bought one – I always make one up out of bits of scrap.
They are very simple things to construct, but if you do buy one, J E Graham does a very nice little drag harrow, below, for around £130. Avoid harrows that get choked with grass – they can become very heavy to pull.
A strimmer is purely for grass while a brush cutter takes different blades as well as cord and can cut down thick brush and even small saplings.
Keeping paths, gateways, chicken pens and woodlands tidy over several acres is impossible without a really good brush cutter.
A good one will have a harness, two handles like the handlebars of a bike and an engine of at least 30cc, though a 50cc one would be far better and needn’t cost more than £250. And don’t forget the safety gear – high impact face protection, ear defenders, anti-vibration gloves and steel toecap boots.
Let’s just do a quick calculation to see how much this lot should cost. Second hand sit on mower: £600-£800, second hand trailer: £150-£200, new brush cutter: £250, new harrow: £130
Total: £1,130 - £1,380
To find out more
Browse through the advertisements in Coutnry Smallholding magazine and you will find out about numerous items of equipment.
Join a local smallholding group – there are many listed in our CLASSIFIEDS. Many have their own magazines with second-hand items for sale.