How to make a three-point hitch.
Several years ago a tractor salesman wrote (in Countryside) about the ideal tractor for a homesteader. In these parts such a machine would cost more than the homestead. Most people I know get a worn-out farm tractor, something they can push down the hill three times and hope it will start at least twice.
Having owned 28 tractors of seven different brands in my years of farming, maybe I can be of some help.
The little Fords or Fergusons have always been popular, but they're so scarce that many homesteaders must settle for something else to mow hay and weeds and perform other odd jobs. Many of the old clunkers don't have three-point hitches. If they did, they could be very useful.
I have made a number of three-point hitches over the years, which worked with varied results. (See illustration, next page.) I sold a JD 50 to a fellow who said the homemade lift arms weren't long enough for his plow. I never plowed with it, so I wouldn't know.
If the tractor has a rocker shaft, it simplifies things considerably. On the MH 33 and 44 the PTO is so high you have to put the top link under the PTO. I equipped mine to go both over and under so I could use the posthole digger.
Many boughten three-point kits disregard the original drawbar, and while they are sturdy, I believe the original drawbar should be retained. Work around it if at all possible.
One handy item almost everyone can use - I don't know how I did without it for so long - is a three-point platform. I like mine with a three-foot high front, which makes it nice for a rider to hang onto. Use it to load or unload heavy things, haul wood or hay bales, or just about anything. It's easy to load, and once raised makes for a lot of traction if the chain is hitched underneath to the original drawbar. I also made a push bar in front, which adds to stability and is sometimes quite useful.
Wide fronts are possibly a little more stable than narrow fronts, but not as much as people presume. I have had both on the same tractor and each has its advantages. I did know three people who were killed in tractor rollovers. All were experienced drivers, and all were driving little wide front Fords, which are considered stable.
I recall one incident when, if I would have had a wide front, one of the front wheels would have gone over a bank and certainly rolled it. A tractor is no toy, and must be handled with respect.
Keeping the back wheels set wide adds a lot to stability. I would rate the Farmall B more stable than the A, which has a wide front but much narrower rear wheels. The old B's, while they had no hydraulics, were a gutsy little tractor. One fellow put a car power steering pump on the fan belt and was able to raise a small cylinder to lift his cultivator. It seemed to work good, but I doubt if it was enough to run a three-point. With a belly mower, these sell for more now than they did new, 50 years ago.
Most people feel more comfortable using a machine of their own, even if it isn't much. A fellow came here once and wondered if I would loan him an old disc. He had an old tractor, but it didn't have hydraulics. I told him to take my Farmall M and wheel disc.
I wondered what took him so long, as he only lived a mile or so away and only had a patch of sod about the size of a small house to disc. Finally his boy brought it back. He busted something in the clutch and couldn't stop it. He was unhappy, I was unhappy, and while the mechanic said it could have broken at any time, it cost me a lot more than ever came off that little garden. Worst of all it destroyed a good friendship, as he was so ashamed it happened and he couldn't fix it.
I could recite several similar cases.
I had two Farmalls with fast hitches, 450 and 650 diesels. I never did make a three-point of either, although it wouldn't have been too big a job. All the three-points I made were category 1, as were the 20 pieces of equipment, mostly homemade or with homemade hitches. Only a few were factory built, and only one, a rotary mower, was new.
My electric welder has been a most useful tool. Along with a battery charger and air compressor, I would hate to do without one. I had an acetylene cutting torch and welder once, but never did much welding with it. Better than nothing, I guess. It was good to cut with, of course, but expensive to keep up if not used much.
A DC welder using a gas engine or PTO could be the answer if electricity isn't available. However, I know some people who have none, and seem to get along somehow. Maybe they have a better grade of junk than I do.
Building a lean-to carport-style shed onto the granary for two tractors was something I should have done many years before I did. Using a tin can over the exhaust for a shed helps, but we lost a good tractor once when the manifold rusted and let rain in.
Of course, a tight engine is more apt to stick than a well-worn one. If stored for a long time a tractor should be drained, as antifreeze seepage can stick an engine.
Currently my tractors are all ACs, a WD and two WD 45s. I'll probably condense that down to two one of these days. Having them all the same, or close o the same, has some merit in these times.
For years I have driven backrow specials in cars and pickups. I always like to have two: one to drive to the junkyard to get parts for the other. The successful old-timers claimed it was better to have an extra horse and not need it, than to need one and not have it.
About the sketches - perhaps this information is too general for some, but the survivalists will make do with what they have to work with; they just need someone to point the way. People who need more details probably couldn't follow them anyway.