Got Gravely?

We have a Gravely tractor now! I first learned of the wonder that is a Gravely walk-behind tractor from Bill Dow of Ayrshire Farm, while doing a sustainable agriculture course by visiting local farms about which I wrote about in a previous post. I later learned more about these great machines from a number of people who have been around North Carolina for some time, including the guy from whom we got all the pots (see that post too), who still uses his Gravely quite frequently, despite also having a full-sized tractor. If you’re not familiar with Gravelys (and why would you be unless you were doing small-scale farming), check out the Gravely Tractor Club of America.

Anyway, would you believe it, a Gravely became available on craigslist! I am excited about this not only because I have wanted such a tractor, but also because finding one in such pristine restored condition is not all that common. Due to the structure of agriculture in the United States, no manufacturers make anything for small-scale farmers; there are oodles of shinny new hobby tools at every hardware store and no shortage of large commercial machines for those growing 100s of acres of monoculture corn or soybeans, but nothing in between. Thus, those of us who want to do small-scale farming need to turn to the sturdy machines that supported small-scale farmers as they in turn supported the basis of the United States in decades past or import expensive European machines designed to do similar work. Because these American manufactured tractors just keep on going when well-maintained and are so valuable to the small-scale farmer, it is quite rare for them to appear for sale. They are, however, not uncommon and still, over thirty years after the last one was manufactured in the original plant in West Virginia, Gravely still produces replacement parts for these versatile machines. Anyway, after visiting the guy who beautifully restored our 1969 7.6 HP Gravely Custom Convertible with rotary plow, tiller, mower, and blade I discovered that he is the very same guy that both restored and maintains Bill Dow’s Gravelys. It was impossible for me to resist the deal and so now we have a Gravely! Make sure to check out the pictures of our Gravely!

So what are we going to do with our Gravely? The rotary plow, which was a great invention for walk-behind tractors, will allow us to make raised beds (or strips as they are termed by Eliot Coleman, The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener). The rotary plow also doubles as a way to dig holes for small trees, shrubs, etc. The tiller will be good for tilling in organic matter before planting the beds, although as we move towards no-till methods, which are less destructive to the soil structure, I may try to retrofit it to a reciprocating spader. The mower will initially be used for mowing our lawn but will eventually be good for cutting cover crops before tilling them into the beds; our present push mower will become dedicated to cutting the crap along our road. Finally, the blade will be good for moving dirt around, flattening some areas into terraces before preparing beds, and so forth. Of course additional implements can found or fashioned to be attached to the PTO and hitch as needed (e.g., chipper, pump for water from our pond, wood splitter, utility trailer, etc.). Anyone want to get me a riding sulky?

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