Friday, June 22, 2012

Firing up the new cultivating tractor

Firing up- re: making the final connections to the battery bank and engaging the throttle
New- re: 1949 Grand Haven tractor (for an old ad, look here)

So some of you knew that I've been working on converting an old cultivating tractor to run via an electric motor. Those who didn't, here's the basic info:

Nearly two years ago I found the Grand Haven, near buffalo, listed for $175, with no motor, but otherwise in good condition. I hauled it back to the farm, and then later lugged it over to our local BOCES to have the students build a battery rack for me. When it finally came back, it still needed painting and then installing the motor, controller, throttle, and various electrical components. That's taken me almost a year to get around to, but with the growing season in full swing, we really needed to get the tractor into use.

So yesterday, I made the final connections to four 12 volt batteries, and with a fair amount of trepidation pushed the throttle forward. Anyone familiar with the roar of firing up a farm tractor, particularly when hand cranking an old farmall, would appreciate the quiet click of the contactor engaging and then just the hum of an electric motor as the tractor pulled out of the shed. Since it's basically a souped up motor for a golf cart, you get the idea. Here are a few pics that Sharon took while I tested how it handled running the hilling discs on the leek beds. 

Yes, the steering looks like something off of a windsurfing board. It gives you a clear line of sight to keep an eye on how close the cultivators are coming to your crops. I couldn't imagine doing close cultivation with the tools behind me and virtually impossible to see.

I'll post more about the conversion process later, but for now, here's some other exciting news. Our friend Thor Oeschner has started tilling the rest of our pastures and will be planting rye this year. We have our hands full with the acreage we manage inside our fenced area, so having Thor come with his big tractors and manage the rest of the field is really exciting for us. It's been weedy, rough pasture for a long time. So even with the big tractors, he's got his hands full.

Oh, and I almost forgot, we've started picking the Haricot Vert (fancy green beans) in the high tunnels, and soon we'll have tomatoes and cucumbers!!!

Yeah summer!