Machinery Economizing And Antiquing On The Small Farm

by Rosalind Cich

Schuyler and Rita Case are self-sutficient farmers from Sharon, Wisconsin. The Cases typify a special breed of small farmer in the United States today. They have farmed all their lives, both having grown up on Illinois farms.

Schuyler Case explained their farming operation: "The two of us work our farm ;.lone. We have S5 head of Holstein cattle. 30 for milking. Our miik has been purchased by a local co-op ior more than ten years. Our corn and soybean crops are sold through the local elevators. We grow oats and hay for our own animals and sell what's left/' To supplement this internal farm income, Case does a little custom silo filling.

Case feels their l'arni has several advantages over much larger operations: "Because I have a fairly small place, I can plow using one of the horsepower tractors that I bought 22 years ago. With that and my newer 70 horsepower one, 1 can cut costs. Sure, I only plant 15 acres a clay while my larger

The Case farm: a new home for orphaned machinery. Gerald Cross

neighbors ate plowing 75 to 100 acres wiih their 130 to 200 horsepower tractors that cost $30,000 to 350,000. but some of chase farmers will never be out of debt. They are woiking for the bank."

"Not. only that—with the-*« older tractors, you just add gas to them and four new sp;uk plugs and they'll run. With the new f;mcv tractors, you need an engineer to overhaul them if something goes wrong. I'm. not condemning the fanner who wants a $50,000 tractor with a cab top; I'll just stay out of the fields «n those windy days,"

"We've learned many different ways to cut costs," said Rita Case. "We cut our grain with a 45-year-old \fcComiek-Deering eight-foot grain binder we paid $5 for five years ago. We found it in a machine shed ort a farm. It was in such good shape that it still wears its original coat of paint. Since we've had it, ail we've repaired are the sickle and reel on it. which were both minor jobs."

"Because I've gotten a reputation for collecting old machinery," interjected Case, "I've been able to accumulate some parts through dealers. The ones who've been in business a long time are often excellent sources o£ old parts for old machines. One, who had no use for the old pieces his company had been storing, gave me a large quantity of them, like sections that go in the sickle of the grain binder. I also buy and keep some machines that are no; operable, solely for their parts."

Mrs. Case added, "We realize that no old machine does the job as well as its modern counterpart does. The old equipment took time and labor, and the modern machines take much less time, but they are also much more expensive. Schuyler cuts grain with that old binder. There's a lot of labor involved, because then the grain has to be put through the threshing machine, whereas with the modern combine, one mini cii ri do it all with almost no help."

"/Although we generally farm modern, we thresh ancient as a hobby," Case noted. "Each year we hold a thresherce 051 this form. People come from all over. Many of them have never seen a steam engine before. Our Advance 1910 steam engine weighs 20,000 pounds, and you have to start it at 8 a m. to get up she steam. We build a fire with wood until we get a full head of steam. Then we start pouring on coal for greater heat, while its black smoke beckons the neighbors. With 125 pounds of steam we can start threshing as long as we stoke the fire and keep the 225-gallon water tank full."

Rita Case smiled, "Our thresheree is a real show. At least 500 peopie come every year in August. Sometimes we have as many as 1,000. Most of them come primarily to spectate, but many help. Last

:li(iii)i volunteers make light work of collecting /uind-bourid shocks. CeraM Cross

In action, the bcrt-flrivcri iiellc City 28-inch thresher. Gerald Cioss

:li(iii)i volunteers make light work of collecting /uind-bourid shocks. CeraM Cross

In action, the bcrt-flrivcri iiellc City 28-inch thresher. Gerald Cioss year, a lawyer from Milwaukee (more than a 90-minute drive) pitched bundles for three hours. Some work alt afternoon, others for 20 minutes. Last year we threshed ali afternoon, finishing 12 acres. After we thresh, we have a large dinner to which we invite 100 local people and friends. Everyone brings something. The Milwaukee Journal even came to cover last year's event."

The Cases use several machines for threshing. 'We have a Belle City 28-inch thresher which is powered by our Advance steam engine. We also use 1932 Case and L. John Deere tractors to pull the wagons. The Case is a C Model, 2-plow, 35 horsepower, and the Deere is 18 horsepower."

"I don't know if you realize that in threshing, the grain is shocked by hand in old twine; you have to use old binder twine because modern baler twine is too heavy. All year 'round, we keep our eyes open for old binder twine at sales. It's still good for use as iong as it's been kept inside and dry. Recently, we bought some that was packed in tfie original bugs it came in."

Case continued, "Some of the things we have are too valuable not to take care of. Some of them someday may be more valuable than the enterprise we make our living at. The farmer down the road sold a tractor he bought 35 years ago. He's used it all these years and has taken good care of it. He sold it for SI, 100; that's more than he paid for it new. I have two Allis-Chalmers WD 45 tractors that I bought new for §2,200 apiece, 22 years ago. 1 use tliem all the time. Even so, right now they're worth $1,200 to ,S 1.400 apiece,"

"I have a one-row corn binder in excellent condition. It's a real good one, 35 years old. I would like to use it as a fun thing but it only does one row at a time. It ties the corn into bundles; then they have to be picked up and put into a wagon. Using this machine, it would take ten men to fill a silo in one day, so I just can't spare the time to use it. The one that I use instead is five or six years old, and 110 horsepower. It does two rows at a time; using it, two men can fill a silo in one day. In other words, I don't use old equipment if it's not reasonably efficient. My time is important to me." But, many times older equipment does a perfectly good job.

"I use a hay mower and conditioner that are 15 years old. They're hooked together and pulled with a tractor. My mower is a seven-foot International. My New Idea hay conditioner crimps the hay to dry it sooner. The modern machine that does their work is called a hay bind; it cuts a swath ten feet wide and crimps the hay at the same time. The new machine costs at least $4,000, while my two when new ran about §2,000 together. You could buy used ones for about $500 per pair. Think about it; they're 70 percent as efficient as the new machine. They even have the same operating speed. To me, there's not too much advantage in having a new hay bind."

Rita Case mentioned another machine which could save money for a small farmer: the small tractor-pulled combine. Case elaborated, "From the thresher, the farmers went to a small combine that one man could pull with a tractor with power take-off (a two-plow tractor, 40 horsepower). A man could farm 150 acres, if he wanted to economize, with one of these. As far as 1 know, they haven't been made for at least ten years, but one of our neighbors bought a nice one at an auction. It's 20 years old, in good condition, can be pulled with his tractor, and cost him around §500. If he'd purchased a modern self-propelled combine, new, they start at around $26,000 and go up to $50,000."

Case talked about another used piece of equipment that the small farm could find valuable. "The Aliis-Chalmers G Model tractor is not the kind oE machine for a large crop farmer, but I hear they're very useful for the small vegetable farm. The motor's in the back, and they cultivate one row at a time. Most of the ones I see for sale are about 25 years old, but I hear they can be used for so many different jobs that they are handy to have around."

Rita Case offered some tips on collecting antique machinery. "We don't ever go to antique auctions. The prices are too prohibitive. Instead, we attend family farm sales, and a lot of times find pieces in fantastic condition. Of course, all our friends tip us off when they hear about something we would like to have. Also, sometimes we stop at farms when we see interesting pieces out in the yards. We have a 1929 McCormick-Deering 1020 tractor; w£ are its second owners. This is its first time off the original farm. And we have an old clover hauler in 100 percent working order. There's even a 1929 steel-wheeled tractor Schuyler cuts grain with,"

Schuyler Case added some advice on picking out old machinery. First, he pointed out that the machine in perfect working condition should be efficient in its use or it will be a worthless farm addition, as is his one-row corn binder, which is valuable only as an antique.

The second thing he stressed is that the shopper must use his or her mechanical knowledge to check out the machine. Case pointed out, "Remember that the old machinery runs with chains and gears, whereas the modern ones run with pulleys, bearings, and belts. Those parts make modern equipment tun smoother. It's an altogether different method of working."

"You can tell if a gear or a chain is- worn out; you can tell if it's good. Use your knowledge in dealing with and repairing other machines to pick out and evaluate farm equipment. Then you won't have any problems. Just keep your eyes open and your ears cocked, and you'll hear of all sorts of useful things that are available. Sometimes we drive hours to look at just one piece."

"That's so true," commented Rita Case. "It's become our major form of recreation."

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