A couple of years ago I bought a 1953 International Farmall Cub tractor for cultivating vegetables. For reasons too lame to explain here I really never tried to use it despite attending a very helpful tractor cultivation workshop in Spring ’10 taught by Josh Volk of Slow Hand Farm. But the new year brought new motivation and a few days ago I started tinkering with the Cub. I added fresh fuel and was amazed when the thing started on the third try. I changed the oil, greased a few fittings, put some tools on the toolbar and waited for the soil to dry out.
Earlier in the week Amy had planted tomatoes in the bottom of a series of 8 trenches I had made down the center of some two hundred foot long beds. She had covered the root ball of each plant but the trenches were still largely open. Closing them with a rake is a boring, arduous task but easy work for a properly set-up cultivating tractor.
My first few attempts were less than satisfactory because the tools weren’t properly set and because the tractor was running poorly. The engine was bogging down under load and I couldn’t get enough speed to get a good curl, like a wave coming into the beach, on the soil as I tried to hill it into the center of the bed. My friend and fellow Cub owner/operator Mike Paine of Gaining Ground Farm answered on the first ring (cell phones are extremely useful farming tools!) and helped me through the carburation problems that were slowing me down. With the tractor running at speed I could properly adjust my tools and finally got what I wanted – a nicely hilled bed with a slight furrow to hold the drip irrigation tape in place.
I went back to redo my earlier work which proved to be trickier than I expected. At one point either the rear tire or one of the hilling tools got caught in furrow made on a previous pass and the very lightweight Cub got thrown a bit off course. Luckily, I only uprooted a single plant.
Normally the light weight of the tractor is an advantage for cultivation as it minimizes soil compaction. Notice in the pic below the very high clearance of the Cub which allows this kind of cultivation over the top of relatively tall crops like these tomatoes.
Here is a better pic of the detail of the tool setup. For this operation I had to adjust for depth, angle of attack, and width.
The star of the show – the Farmall Cub. These machines were made by the tens of thousands in the post-war golden era. They are simple and reliable and there are still lots of them around.