What do I need if in the desert if I'm not farming?


I live on rural Arizona desert land, and had no idea of the rate of weed and brush growth in the desert during the rainy season until I moved out here..After battling it by hand for a few years, I've finally accepted that I need something more capable than a rake and my Craftsman lawn tractor...and it would be nice to have something that could also handle grading out my 1/2 mile of dirt driveway/road as well.

Unlike my neighbors, I don't have the financial resources nor desire to go in to debt, so buying the fancy new $25K Kubota/Yanmar/John Deere isn't going to happen here.

I happen to have a soft spot for old iron, particularly International trucks. My current project is a 1959 International B-162 - 2.5 ton stake bed truck, and daily drove early 60's Scouts for quite a few years, thus I'm well aware that "old" stuff takes more involvement than new stuff, but has character unlike new stuff :)

I've never owned anything bigger than the typical 20HP lawn tractor, and the closest I've gotten to operating a "real" tractor was running Grandpa's old Case 442 in the Michigan woods hauling firewood and plowing snow 30 years ago.

My needs will be clearing a couple acres of grassy weeds and light brush, moving all that stuff I cut down somewhere else, grading the 1/2 mile of dirt/gravel road, clearing out a ditch when the rains bring a bunch of debris down it, and using the tractor to move heavy stuff like truck axles and engines around the property. One of my current needs here is how I'm going to an axle center section that's at least a couple hundred pounds back into the housing of that old International truck (my buddy's new 25HP Yanmar backhoe couldn't get it off the ground), and moving the old 400lb rear end from the Ford out back was...interesting.

I've been doing research for months on this, and I'm pretty sure I should be looking for something in the 20-40hp range, with a 3 point and front end loader. Getting a box blade for grading, and probably a rear blade as well.
I'm thinking that while a back hoe would be a nice thing to have for things like clearing debris out of the ditch, I could make do with a FEL and shovel here. The most weight I could see myself lifting would be somewhere around 1,500 pounds, and likely normally being under 1,000 pounds. I'm thinking either chaining things to the FEL bucket, or making a 3 point boom pole with cable winch as a poor man's crane for things like pulling engines from parts trucks, lowering that axle center section back in from above on the International truck, pulling the flatbeds off my pickups for repairs, etc., as I don't have concrete to use a normal engine hoist on out here.

I have ZERO desire to do _any_ kind of farming/crops/gardening here. I have no desire to have any kind of grass or other "lawn" here. A large part of the reason I moved to the desert was to get away from having to cut grass. My plan is to clear property of all the weeds and most of the brushy stuff, leaving behind the several large trees and a few brushes that tend to grow up rather than out, and having the rest of the property be clear desert ground.

Which leaves me with questions, as I've learned in my 40 years that what make sense in my head doesn't always work out in practice, especially when I'm venturing into new territory for me.

I've noticed that some the older tractors don't have draft control/position control on the 3 point. Since I won't be plowing here, is that a concern for me? I'm not sure if that's something I would want for running a rear blade/box blade/boom poles.

Using the FEL/boom poles for lifting 1,000 pounds - is that even feasible on a 20-40HP class tractor? I realize that this can vary widely depending on tractor/FEL models, especially the older stuff that don't necessarily have FELs on them from the factory, I've been looking at a lot of different models on Tractordata.com, and seeing a number of them that list lifting capacities of 2,000+ pounds on the FEL and 3 point, but I don't know how that might translate to what I can realistically do with it.
Massey Ferguson 65 135 165 are all solid utility tractors that have what it takes to do what you need. No issues on parts or information.
Reasonable cost/value, I am a IH guy, but these fit your need better than the 300 350 Utility IH Jim
Ford 2000 or 3000 series or a John Deere 1020 or 1520 would be high on my list,not real pricey $3000 to $5000 price range and very good hp and user friendly.
(quoted from post at 12:44:22 11/10/19) Massey Ferguson 65 135 165 are all solid utility tractors that have what it takes to do what you need. No issues on parts or information.
Reasonable cost/value, I am a IH guy, but these fit your need better than the 300 350 Utility IH Jim

Oh, I'm not a brand loyalist by any stretch, I just mentioned the Internationals more as a "yep, I know old iron takes more attention and maintenance than get-in-and-turn-the-key new stuff". I have cars/trucks here of several brands - those Internationals, a Ford, three Chevys, a Cadillac, and two Suzukis,

For tractors, over the past few weeks, I've been looking at Fords, JDs, MFs, Internationals, Yanmars, Mitsubishis, random other imports (though I'm always concerned about parts availability on the import stuff) and others I can't recall right now. I tend to buy more on what works for me for the job at hand rather than what emblem is on the grill. Though, I'm hoping to get away with one "do-it-all" tractor rather than several dedicated vehicles like I've done with the trucks, even if it doesn't excel at any one job.
For the weights you?re proposing to lift it wouldn?t
hurt to have a little more iron behind your loader
and for the work you?re looking to do it won?t take
much extra feeding. Draft control isn?t something
you require but most, position control is. If you
prefer to stick within the IH stable I?d shy away from
the 300/350 utilities but send you towards any of the
British built ones (434, 444, 454, 484 and many,
many more). Alternatively, there?s nothing wrong
with using a Farmall (row crop) tractor for most of
those tasks although it may require the addition of a
3 point hitch. What tractors/dealerships are in your
area? Sam
If you are on a budget and have lots of time to get things done, an N-series Ford tractor with a catagory 1 3pt hitch and trip loader might be the bare minimum to get the job done at a price around $1,500. If you budget is a little higher and your time available is tighter, most brands offered utility tractors in the 1960's with power steering, live PTO, live dual hydraulics with 1500 to 2,000 PSI pressure, Cat 1 and Cat 2 3 pt hitch with draft control, more gear selections including creeper gears, 12 volt electric, and better ergonomics for $3,000 to $5,000 with a hydraulic bucket loader.

For FEL work a tractor with a straight front axle works better than the swept back style found on many small hp utilities.
I like Fords and would look for something like a later model 3930, but there are a few IH owners in my area, for a small utility the 384, 385, 484, 485 seem to be a popular choice, 584,585 if you want to step up into the 50 hp range.
You are on track wanting something that was originally designed for a loader.

The N series Fords, T series Fergusons are popular older tractors, but not good for loaders. Models with no power steering, weak front suspension, low volume hydraulic pump limits their practicality for loader use.

I would look for something that was offered with a loader, preferably already has a loader mounted and working. Adding a loader is expensive, especially if you have to add a front pump. Some industrial types would be good, just be sure it has a PTO and 3 point lift.

As for draft control, you don't really need it, but you do need a 3 point that has position control. Some are all up, or all down, not preferable for any reason.
Ford would be high on my list for what you're planning because there were so many made. Parts are literally all over. The best ones
in terms of availability, and value, are the NAAs, hundred series, and the thousand series that followed. Avoid the old Ns. Avoid
the SOS (Select-O-Speed) transmissions. Might want to avoid the "Industrial" versions also. They've usually had the snot beat out of them. You obviously have an extensive mechanical/automotive background and if you
find, for example, a nice Ford 861 that tractor could be running just fine 100 years from now.
You are on the right track. Couple of real life observations; you will want power steering with a FEL, FWA is helpful with a FEL but less needed with no snow or mud, draft control is only used for plowing & cultivating,
Your lifting requirements would put you in the higher end of you HP range however your boom could not be very long with 1000 lbs at the end of it. A backhoe is an unbelievable handy device and would be favored
over a 3 pt boom for lifting/lowering an enginine in/out of a vehicle. You will have not only better vertical control but horizontal control that is not available on a 3 pt boom.
(however your boom could not be very long with 1000 lbs at the end of it. A backhoe is an unbelievable handy device and would be favored
over a 3 pt boom for lifting/lowering an enginine in/out of a vehicle. You will have not only better vertical control but horizontal control that is not available on a 3 pt boom.

This kind of stuff is why I've learned to ask questions _before_ buying, rather than "Ok...I impulse bought...now how do I rig this contraption to work for me?" :lol: Right now I'm looking more at general ideas, and less so at specific tractor models, and trying to gain of a better understanding at what the different parts of the tractors do/what systems I need/don't need. Such as how it took me a quite a bit of quality time with Google trying to figure out just what the heck a rock arm was on a 3 point, or learning why some tractors could run a FEL OR a 3 point, but not both at the same time, such as with the JD Power-Trol systems (or why someone would even be trying to do so...I couldn't picture a scenario where I would be cycling both at the same time.)

I had thought about the backhoe angle, but nixed it pretty quick after my buddy's Yanmar couldn't even lift the center section of that International axle off the ground (that weighs considerably less than a full engine) with the backhoe even with the FEL and a couple hundred pounds of ballast weight. Not sure of the exact model, but I know he bought it new this year, and I think it's a 25HP model.

I figured it was mostly due to being a 3pt mount style, and with it hanging so far off the back of the tractor, there just was too much leverage to be useful in that fashion. I was thinking a boom pole would be mounted much closer to the rear axle, lessening the leverage, though I was thinking that most of that kind of lifting could be done with the FEL. I would just have a boom pole for anything that would be beyond the forward reach of the FEL. In my mind, I'm picturing something like a typical engine hoist being hung off the 3pt, and maybe boom pole may not be the correct wording here?

Of course, this could also be solved as another poster put it - buying as much as my budget will allow, but I've learned that has it's limits too. My budget allowed me to buy an older class 8 semi truck when I bought the F350...but for hauling project junk home, the 4x4 pickup is far more useful than the semi, despite it being far smaller of a vehicle. I've seen some VERY large farm tractors being sold for cheap (like 200HP range tractors), but I could those being difficult to navigate through my back property areas due to physical size, as well as needlessly feeding fuel to a much larger engine than I'd likely ever use, far more expensive tires and other maintenance costs, much harder to squeeze into the garage for maintenance duties, etc.

The hardest part right now has been trying to find comparison information on my intended uses..the vast majority of discussion for these older tractors seems to be on farming uses (which I understand...most of these are _farm_ tractors, after all :lol:), but being able to pull a 3 bottom plow, or lifting X round hay bales doesn't mean anything to me. But I've found several videos online of people using things like a 8N to pull a box blade down a dirt road, which seems to handle it just fine, so it seems like something of that size/power would be a good starting point for me.
Don't get in a hurry and settle for something you will regret.

The N Fords are cheap and plentiful, and were good reliable tractors for their day.

They do have their limitations.

Unless you find someones restored baby being sold at an estate sale, get ready to spend some money on it. After all, you are looking at a 67+ year old tractor.

Take your time, actually drive some. Power steering is a near must for anything with a loader.
17 years ago when we moved onto this property I bought a 71 Ford 3000 diesel with a loader and box blade for $4500.00. Then a year later bought a used John Deere 25A flail mower at auction. This would be the perfect combination for what you are wanting to do.

Mine has been mowing 8 acres, keeping the 1/4 mile drive in good shape and moving dirt and gravel as needed for 17 years without a major problem. Parts are readily available and regardless what you hear the front end has held up just fine.

I have grass and really like the flail mower because it gives a better cut and doesn't leave windrows like a brush hog. You may be happy with a rotary for what you are cutting, they are less expensive and take less maintenance.

Have to completely disagree with the one that says get gas over diesel. Diesel engines are whole lot less work to maintain, basically all I have done over the last 17 years is change fluids and filters. No carb to get gunked up, no points to burn or plugs to change.
Need to add... If you do decide to look for a Ford look for a 3600 if you can find one with a loader. I wouldn't turn down a good 3000 but the 3600 is a better tractor. Couple things to look for...

Make sure it has a good clutch or get a really good price break. I put a clutch in my 3600, bought knowing it needed a clutch. Pretty big job and you need the shop space and equipment to be able to split the tractor.

Check the lift to make sure it is working well, not a really big job to rebuild it but something to be aware of. I had to rebuild the one on my 3000 a couple years ago because it wouldn't lift a heavy implement all the way up.

Check the PTO, make sure it engages and disengages also check to see if it has any end play or is leaking.

Non of this is necessarily a deal breaker depending on price. All of the above can be fixed with parts bought right here on this site.
If I were you I'd be looking for something larger than you are thinking about,moving heavy objects with a loader calls for a pretty good size machine.Something like an
Allis Chalmers 185 or 180 would work, great power steering and strong hydraulics.Oliver 1650 would be another good tractor both these can be had in good shape in my area for under $5000.A N Ford trying to do what you want would be a joke really.
John Deere 401.

Basically picture a small backhoe without the hoe on it.

Built tough as nails

Strong hydraulics, it will lift until the rear wheels are in the air and beyond

55-60 HP diesel (gas ones out there as well)

Power steering, very maneuverable

Cheap to run

Have had mine for going on 25 years and hands down it gets used more than any other tractor here.

3 point hitch

Reverser on transmission
Your in the desert, much like beach sand it is soft and easily moves to let your front wheels sink enough to be stuck. Go with a MFWD or 4x4 model. I have been up in the ID sand in the tater country and down in the tater country of CO around Alamosa / Blanca area so I know from experience what I'm saying about the sand deal. Now for lifting the ton or less the front wheels will be invaluable for that. Something in the 60-90 horse will be a much better choice for your program.
The N series will be woefully inadequate for what you want to lift and move. In sand it will be mostly useless for you. Not enough lift on the 3pt with the light front end and not enough lift on the loader end with the light rearend. Power steering will be a must to steer with the weight you want to lift. Spending more up front will be cheaper than having to buy a couple different tractors to find out they are not the ticket.
Models you might consider 2940 or 6000 series deere 5000 series caseIH even some of the Agco /Oliver models with MFWD would work. Though to me those had a lot of strange manufacturing places with possibly parts being an issue.
You may laugh at this but you can buy some of the old 2+2 models pretty cheap and have all the lift and go you would ever need.
Clearing out that ditch is only back hoe unless the ditch is what we call a waterway that you can safely get in and mow with a bush hog mower. Amything steeper deaper than that forget the ditch cleaning without the backhoe.
(quoted from post at 12:37:16 11/11/19) Your in the desert, much like beach sand it is soft and easily moves to let your front wheels sink enough to be stuck.

It's actually not..I'm almost entirely on hardpack out here. Like really, really hard pack. When I had a sport bike motorcycle, it was no problem running down the dirt on it. Took a week of digging with a pickaxe and shovel to get enough of a hole to bury the mini septic for the camper when I moved in. Attempting with a shovel only meant I was getting about 1/4" down at a time.

Clearing out that ditch is only back hoe unless the ditch is what we call a waterway that you can safely get in and mow with a bush hog mower. Amything steeper deaper than that forget the ditch cleaning without the backhoe.

The ditch is actually a wash, but I figured people that aren't in/from a desert environment may not understand what a wash is, but would likely understand ditch. When I say cleaning it, I mean the debris and silt that gets washed down further upstream, which tends to be dead plants and grasses that get caught up in the trees that are already growing in there, along with some smaller brush type growths.

Depth is about 3 feet, about 10 feet across. If I don't have the mower deck on, my little Craftsman lawn tractor gets in and out of it with absolutely no issues at all. But there isn't any thing in there that I would consider mowable type things, and the brushes I would just cut down with a saw and dig the roots out. Even if it was a bunch of grass type stuff, I'd just as soon dig it out as well to avoid frequent mowings later.

I was thinking I'd be able to go across it with a FEL, down the sides, and scoop out the excess silt that builds up in there. I wouldn't expect any kind of well manicured look in it, I'd just be going for keeping it deep enough to handle the water flow when we get the big rains in the mountains. That's when it fills up quick, and goes back to dry again a couple hours later. It's not like the ditches back east that always had water flowing in them.

Has been a while since I've been to Arizona, but don't remember seeing too many tractor places around. How far is the closest dealer to buy parts? How far is the next closest? I'd want to find something resembling one of those colors if I could.

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