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All the Other Kings Said it was Daft to Build a Castle in a Swamp

July 15th, 2017


The house in northern Florida came through inspection okay. There are a couple of water-intrusion spots that have to be looked at, but all the other problems are BS. Example: leaky sprinkler heads. These things cost seven dollars each and can be installed without tools. I am relieved. The house is only 17 years old, and it was not built by Miami Home-Depot-Parking-Lot commandos, so I had every reason to expect it to be sound. I’m glad to know I was right.

In other news, the seller wants me to buy his tractor. He has a Kubota L3710 with a front end loader. It might be a good idea. I need one anyway, and based on the way this guy maintained the house, the tractor is probably two wipes of a rag short of tractor-show-ready. Kubota is Japanese, and they have a good reputation. The Japanese make tractors for John Deere. I’m going to try to get up to speed on prices.

Diesel tractors are not quite like cars. Like other diesel products, tractors have lifespans measured in engine hours. I have been trying to find out how many hours I should be willing to accept. People say all sorts of stupid things on the web “At 100,000 hours, International Harvesters are just getting broken in!”), so it was hard to get a good answer, but it looks like you should expect a major overhaul at 4000 hours, so I figure 2000 is a reasonable cap.

Why do I need a tractor? Because I am an idiot. Along with my dad, I chose a pretty big property. Dozens of acres. I like to think I’ll be able to sit back and do nothing, but I know there will be times when I’ll have to cut the weeds or move fallen trees or pull stumps. Things will need to be lifted. Dirt will have to be moved. When jobs like that come up, you can pay other people to do them and look like a sissy, or you can get on your tractor with your Yeti cup and get ‘er done.

The tractor has a front end loader and a bush hog. The front end loader would be fun for playing Truckasaurus on slow days. Unfortunately, it will not lift my milling machine or lathe, but I could move “little” stuff like my band saw, compressor, drill press, and table saw.

Do I want a bush hog? Maybe, but I am tempted to get a couple of goats instead. A bush hog won’t eat poison ivy while you sit in your cool bonus room watching reruns of Breaking Bad.

The seller also wants to get rid of a John Deere lawn tractor, which sounds fine, but it’s 20 years old. I didn’t know a lawn tractor could survive that long. Big diesel tractors can be rebuilt over and over. Little diesel lawn tractors…I dunno. And the stinging implication of a lawn tractor purchase is that I would be mowing the lawn.

Maybe there is still time to back out and get a condo.

The final offering: an E-Z-GO ST-350 gas-powered golf cart. This is the tool the seller used to entice us to buy the place. He had the realtor turn us loose on it, and we toured the property. His ploy worked, but the cart is not my cup of tea. It barely moves. I want to feel a little breeze when I drive. I’m pretty sure I can outrun the E-Z-GO.

The “350” in the model number refers to the size of the engine, in cc’s. Here, we see the problem. My Moto Guzzi motorcycle has 1064 cc’s and weighs a third as much. This is why it does 70 in second gear.

I hate to turn down anything that makes the place turn-key, but that cart is not going to get it. Not the way it is. Maybe it needs some work? I do not know. There’s always nitrous.

While I ponder my machinery options, I am busy throwing out and giving away bad furniture. There are some things I know the Salvation Army will not accept, so I don’t try. It would be insulting. When you give them something really nasty, you’re essentially asking them to be your unpaid garbage men. Today I broke up my dad’s office credenza. I didn’t just put it outside. I took off the doors and broke the drawers. I don’t want him to think there is any possibility that it can be saved.

My dad got his office furniture about 25 years ago. My grandfather had a car dealership, and the manager, who had been fired, got GM to terminate it. The property was then leased to a Western Auto, and they went Tango Uniform, leaving their junk behind. My dad scooped up their cardboard (okay, particle board) furniture, which had stickers with lot numbers on it, indicating it had already been sold at auction once. My dad was at least the third owner of these atrocities. No way was I paying to move this crap 300 miles.

I worked for a patent attorney who grossed 850K per year (1999 dollars) from a crappy desk. You don’t have to have great furniture to run a business. But paying maybe $300 to move junk? No. That’s not smart. They have junk where we’re going. We can pick up someone else’s trash and save money on shipping. Not that this is my plan.

If you have a parent who holds onto useless junk, you will understand how thrilling it was to see that credenza sitting by the road with no drawers. Bliss.

Time to relax and gather my energy for another day. Hope your weekend is as rewarding as mine.

13 Responses to “All the Other Kings Said it was Daft to Build a Castle in a Swamp”

  1. Terrapod Says:

    Get a solid opinion from a Kubota dealer on what it is worth and offer him 60% on it, then say you will bump it up if he throws in the mower, no interst in the golf cart. If he is smart, he will dicker you to closer to real value and throw in the two other items. The Kubota is the big ticket item and you WILL need it, especially the brush hog and the loader.

    Good luck with negotiations!

  2. Steve H. Says:

    The mower is a surprise. It sold for $2500 new (MSRP), but people are getting more than that for them now. Can’t figure that out.

  3. Mike Says:

    I own a 20 year old zero turn BushHog brand mower that still works like new. It has 1800 hours on a gasoline Kohler twin. My fear now is something will just break that thats not available. My wife had a Cub cadet zero turn when we married so its not like the jungle would overtake us before I could replace either one. With the size of the property you describe the tractor will be necessary. I have a friend that owns several hundred acres that he leases the majority to farmers but he still has two medium size tractors and implements of all sorts to do what the farmers overlook such as ditch maintenance etc.
    I’m happy for you and your father escaping Sodom. I know you won’t look back.

  4. Steve H. Says:

    Thanks, Mike. Looking back isn’t for me. There is nothing here to miss.

    It turns out the info I had on the mower’s price is wrong. They originally sold for nearly $10K, so now I see why a used one can bring $3K.

  5. Mike Says:

    I thought the mowers new price was low. I laid out $6500 for the Bush Hog in 1997. Your post made me look for spare stuff on the net, I may be able to keep it going for a while longer. I detest cutting grass. My wonderful bride loves it.

  6. Og Says:

    My lawn tractor is 53 years old, and would be on it’s original engine if someone hadn’t borrowed it and run it without the air filter, causing grit to get into the engine and score the cylinder. I still mow with it every week in the summer, and am going out to mow with it again in a few minutes.

    Older Deere products are made very well, and are in great demand. I have had professional dealings with the company, and for that reason would never do business with them or purchase anything made after the 70’s.

    The L series Kubotas are rugged and tough. Look at the resale on Deere tractors with loaders and Kubota tractors with loaders. That will tell you a better story than anything. Properly maintained I do not see any reason you should not get 10,000 hours. The hydraulic tractors are a bit more maintenance intensive, this is a shuttle shift and a lot more hardcore/like a regular farm tractor. For instance, you can’t really dig with a hydro, it beats the heck out of them. You can dig with a shuttle shift. Wear your seatbelt.

    The EZ go has a governor that can be defeated. It will never go fast. You can go for a Yamaha Rhino that will go 40 mph, but they are going to be ten grand even used. They’re only 700cc. SOme even smaller. Having the slow EZ go for light hauling chores is handy. You can also find a little used Kei truck, like a Suzuki Carry, and use it like a golf cart with air conditioning and an enclosed cab. Some even have dump beds. They are smaller than some golf carts. They go 60 mph. Since you intend to use it only for on-farm use, it’s not got to be licensed or titled or insured.

  7. lauraw Says:

    Long furniture rant follows. I appreciate your patience, if you have it.

    Good solid furniture that has stood the test of time (and is far superior to the cheap crap being sold today) is so inexpensive now that the antiques dealers near us won’t even take it for consignment. We saw a massive, gorgeous, antique oak dining room table worth $3000 all day long (years ago,) sell for $25 at auction. And the buyer resented having to do the moving.

    Well, that market has started to creep up a little. But still nowhere near where it was 15 years ago.

    One of our former clients had a warehouse full of the stuff. His business folded a few years ago, with his warehouse inventory worth a minute fraction of what he had spent on it. All fine home furnishings manufactured from the 1700s to the 1920s.

    I don’t know if that is the case in FL, but in the NE this is the situation. You might look around for classic pieces, sturdily and aesthetically made.

    The only thing selling well and for good prices for the past few years is the stuff your grandma owned in the 50s and 60s. That’s hot and pricey. Chrome and oiled teak, you remember that stuff. Scandinavian stuff, too.

    Not that you might even care about such things as furniture, but there’s the ‘buy low sell high’ aspect to it. If a piece of stout Americana that sold for $5k fifteen years ago is $300 now, and you like it, you can think about it as an investment as well as useful and beautiful and a joy to own.

  8. Steve H. Says:

    Thanks for the info, Og. Sounds like you like the Kubota. As for the Deere, if I understand you correctly, you like the product but think the manufacturers are jerks.

    As for the cart, I don’t want it to have a high top end, although 20 mph would be nice. I seriously thought I could outrun it. The acceleration was terrible, too. It didn’t seem like pushing the pedal harder increased the acceleration. Maybe it needs work.

  9. Ken Says:

    The Little Orange Tractors are nice toys, my neighbor has one with the front bucket and backhoe. Every week he puts the garbage can in the bucket and rolls down our 1/2 mile road to the county road where the garbage truck picks up.

    My knock on them is what they cost versus what they can do. $20K for one in good condition and implements.

    All three of us on our hill have full size backhoes, or did until MR. LOT moved in.

    For the $20K the LOT costs, you can get a Ford, Case, Cat backhoe that will actually pick up the mill (that’s exactly how my Bport got out of the p/u bed), or any other lifting or digging job.

    You will have a cubic yard and half in the front bucket, move dirt 3 times faster than the LOT.

    Need to dig a trench to bury a pipe or wire? Full size backhoe does it better.

    I’ve got 7.5 acres and dug the 1000 foot trench for the power and phone, Dug the septic field and tank install. Dug the foundation and then moved 100 cubic yards of crushed rock to provide the thermal mass under the slab that keeps the downstairs in the 70’s; even when it’s 105 outside. And NO AC while doing it.

    When you were looking at used lathes, I’m sure you noticed the 12×36 ones that a DIYer could use were more money than a 20×60 that required a rigging company to move, find a way to run a 3 phase motor, and just having the space to stick it.

    Same deal with the LOT versus a full size hoe. Lots more peeps have the small lot and limited demands for what the machine can do. I’m on a heavy equipment forum, whenever the question comes up about the size of a tractor/hoe; if you have the room, get a big one.

    Deere is WAAAYYY overpriced; I can see things they do better that could justify 15 or 20% more money. But they want 100% or more than the comparable equipment.

    They had the John Deere Open last weekend, one of the Deere ads has the guy riding a small tractor and trying to convince you the Deere is ‘affordable’. They know their reputation among potential buyers….

  10. Steve H. Says:

    Thanks for all that info.

    I had to look up “little orange tractor” to find out what you meant.

    The one the seller has should not cost $20K, unless I am sadly deceived. I have seen numbers centered around $10K for the tractor and loader. Maybe that’s wrong.

    Whatever it is, I would not buy it unless I were confident I could get my money out of it.

    If I can get into these machines at a good price, I suppose I should not worry too much about whether they’re the best choice. I can always take them now and trade up later.

  11. Steve H. Says:

    I’m also wondering if I should just spend $5000 on a big, creaky tractor somewhere in the 75-HP area. It wouldn’t suck up much cash, and it would probably be fine until I figured out what I really needed.

  12. og Says:

    A 75 hp tractor will be a much bigger investment, and if it’s cheap, it will be worn out. Nothing like having to spend 3-400 bucks every time you want to turn the tractor on. We had a 75 hp Deutz Allis at our hunting property, and we were constantly working on it, and it had been fairly well cared for. It immolated itself earlier this year and we replaced it with a 55 horsepower Mahindra shuttle shift, and we could not be happier.

    The smaller Deere tractors are made by Yanmar. Yanmar thought they would break into the US market with their line of very inexpensive, very well made tractors. Once Deere got the golden handcuffs on them, they were done. A Yanmar compact tractor should cost about half what a Kubota costs, but they can’t import due to non compete agreements. Only ones you can buy here are ‘Used, reconditioned”. In order for the joints on a loader and backhoe to remain in good shape, you should grease them about every time you use them. Imagine how well that Craigslist backhoe has been maintained. Bigger can indeed be better, but it comes with bigger issues as well.

    Spot on on your assessment, I try not to deal with intentionally unethical people.

  13. Steve H. Says:

    Laura, you get the prize for worst comment in the history of my blog. First WordPress labeled it spam. Then, when I finally noticed it, I restored it. Then I found it in the trash. I restored it again. Then I found it in spam again. I just restored it, and finally people are able to read it. I have no idea what you put in your comment to make WordPress hate it so much, but you have outdone every other commenter I’ve ever had.