Last month, in the midst of several heavy snowfalls, I wrote my column and wondered what previous generations of farmers used to clear their lanes with before tractors with three-point hitches were fairly common. Various implements, from pull-type road graders to blades mounted to loader arms, were among some of the equipment used to move snow.
One reader shares his experiences with us in this month's column. Here is what Verne Schlueter, of Arlington, Minnesota, wrote:
"In the 1960s and 1970s, I used a three-point, rear-mounted homemade snow blower. It was made from a John Deere silage blower and the rear auger come from a Case pull-type combine. The gear case to run the rear auger also came from another old piece of equipment.
"After about 10 to 12 years of use, we hit some hard drifts and it was then replaced with new blower from Schweiss, a well-known Minnesota company.
"The homemade blower was mounted on a John Deere 620 tractor, which had a homemade cab, similar to the Hiniker on your 4020. The snow blower duty has been taken over since by a John Deere 4055.
"This 620 is the one my wife tipped over in the shed. Both escaped without injury. A long story for another time."
Thanks to Verne for taking the time to send me his story about his homemade snow blower. And Verne knows how to write a story in which you leave your audience wanting more!
I suppose this is another option I did not think about -- farmers building their own snow moving equipment. If you can't find the equipment you need, build it yourself was some farmers' thinking.
I have always deeply admired those who could create something functional from parts taken from other farm machinery. We each have own strengths, but this is certainly not a skill I possess.
The one piece of equipment that seems to be altered fairly often is vintage combines. I have seen farmers take an old combine and turn it into something else, whether it be a sprayer, a loader machine and even a snow blower.
When I was kid, one of the local gas station/car repair shops used to have a white loader tractor, which always sat on the one side of their building. It was not your normal-looking loader tractor, at least not anything I had seen before.
As you have probably guessed by now, the loader tractor was some sort of old self-propelled combine -- I think it was a Case combine. The shop owners had made it into a loader tractor to push snow in winter and lift heavy items.
The subject of tractor-mounted, three-point snow blowers is one I have mixed feelings on. I have seen many blowers for sale on equipment dealer lots and even on farm equipment auctions and I have debated on buying one.
On the one hand, these machines look to be extremely handy when you receive a lot of snow. You just lower the blower, adjust the spout to where you want the snow to go and drive. There is little starting and stopping, which would come in handy on our quarter mile lane.
I had an uncle who had bought a used tractor-mounted snow blower on a farm auction probably 20 years ago. I can't remember the brand (it was red) but it seemed to work well -- when he got to use it.
Being in eastern Nebraska, about once every decade it seems we get a winter in which we receive a lot of snow, which for us is about 30 to 40 inches. It's usually cold every winter but most winters we don't get THAT much snow.
Maybe I'm a little tight with my money, but I think about the other nine years we only maybe 15 to 20 inches of snow all winter. Is it worth the investment of thousands of dollars to move a few inches of snow most every year and then maybe a lot of snow one year in 10?
I guess the answer to that question for me is a strong "No." I am sure in more northern areas, where they get much more snow, having a tractor-mounted three-point snow blower would be a very wise investment.
So, in the meantime I guess I will continue to use a tractor and loader and three-point blade to keep my lane open in the winter.
Russ Quinn can be reached at email@example.com
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