The extra wet spring has given way to hot dry and windy weather around here. Last week a major fire that consumed 20,000 acres or more started last week, and now is the time to get serious about clearing the brush and grass around the ranch!
The easiest solution for clearing a few acres would be some kind of tractor pulling a brush hog or something. When we purchased the property, we just had enough money for it and some solar power. The third big item would be a tractor. Tractors are very useful when you have 10, 20, or more acres. There is always a chore that this machine can help with. A hydraulic bucket on front and some extra implements would fit the bill. If you find a good deal, it’ll take $5,000 for something useful. If you can start on your new property with a working used tractor, I highly recommend it!
Ok,, back to cutting the “grass” or fire break for the season. Renting a tractor and equipment would be three or four hundred dollars to get the job done. Not going to happen when saving for new battery bank.
In past years I managed purchase old used, beat up lawn mowers for $10-$20 from a repair shop. They kind of worked, but wouldn’t get very close to buildings and obstructions. I’d wear heavy clothes, and make sure no one was around because often times rocks and other objects would be lunched 20 feet away! Just didn’t feel comfortable or very safe with this strategy. A down side of this method was the unintended collection of junk mowers that I eventually paid a second time for, that was at the dump.
In this phase that lasted 2 or 3 years, I purchased cheap string trimmers. We tried several different kinds of cord and various blade attachments. These units, like Homelite and others, were $60-$90 and never lasted more than 15 months. Basically, these machines were for “home” use, and I would use them two times for a total of about 15 or 16 hours run time. They just didn’t hold up. (neither did I!)
Real Machine, Stihl
Finally, about 4 years ago, I purchased a high quality trimmer made by Stihl. I had really a good experience with my real Stihl chainsaw, after a string of bads saws, so I knew this was the brand. Yes, ouch, it was expensive compared to others. It was about $425.
What is a “real” machine?? Let me offer a good example with a motorcycle detour:
When I was 20 I purchased a brand new 250 cc enduro motorcycle and drove it 2000 miles from San Diego to Columbus, Ohio. Yes, it made it, I had to take a break once and awhile for the machine, and I did rebuild it before returning. Was that a real machine? No, it did not perform well as long as the operator could. It would heat up, slow down, and need a “tender touch”.
Compare that to a similar experience a year or two later. I went from San Diego to upstate New York. This time, I rode a 550 cc enduro motorcycle. This time the trip was and extra 500 miles. That machine would go and go and go. I was the limiting factor! No rebuild or anything. I just rode it all the way back too. This was a “real machine”.
What does this have to do with the Stihl weed wacker? You may have guessed it. This little two stroke unit sounds deeper than the other machines. It has more torque at the low end, and somehow feels like a four stroke motor. But its not! It runs and runs and runs. King Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun”. And so the following cliche is also true:
You get what you pay for.
I use the heaviest nylon cord it will use, and use the throttle lock to keep it nearly wide open for hours at a time. This is normally, and unfortunately when it is 80-90 degrees out and we are under the gun to get the brush and grass cleared. This is the fourth year, and other than a little grease in the fitting near the cutting end, I’ve done nothing but run myself down with this chore. I guess it is less of a chore, if you aren’t worrying about how to fix your equipment all the time!
This year my 15 year old son started with it. He loves to get paid and thinks this is fun! (wink, wink). Somewhere on the horizon I really would like a decent tractor, but unless it falls into my lap I don’t think it will be too soon.
What are your favorite tools and techniques for clearing brush and tall grass? Are you collecting equipment for your off grid move? Tell us your favorite tractor stories below!!