When we moved here, several people told me I’d have to get a junker truck with a plow, a tractor, or a four-wheeler with a blade to clear the 250-yard-long lane. Slapping down a thousand or several thousand dollars just to have something that moved snow seems ridiculous. I figured I’d try to adapt what I already have —the humble BCS walk-behind “tractor”.
I already have a snowblower attachment for the BCS, a 30+ year-old Mainline single-stage that is so over-built it will hurl chunks of broken bricks and concrete blocks without stopping (and a slight bend in the auger that took some serious whacks from a 6 lb sledge to straighten. I no longer pile rocks and bricks next to fence posts near driveways though). Though the Mainline will eat through eighteen-inch-deep, wind-packed snow easily, it’s too narrow and slow for light snows.
Earth Tools in Kentucky sells snow blades for these machines, but I didn’t want to dump $600 for a blade and then find out that I didn’t like it. Instead, I built one from ATV plow purchased through Craigslist for just over $100. I can’t adjust the side-to-side angle from behind the handle bars like the blades from Earth Tools, but that hasn’t been a big drawback.
Thanks to our recent weather, I’ve been able to test the plow twice. I can blade the full width of the lane in minutes and keep warm (because I run behind it in the "transport" gear). A truck plow would eat my rig for lunch, and a four-wheeler with the same (50” Moose Plow) blade will push more snow before losing traction. However, for my time, money, and work style, I’m happy with it.
(Video on the Odyssey Farm Facebook Page)
For anyone interested in the details of making a diesel walk-behind tractor push snow:
-5w-40 synthetic engine oil —the same stuff I use in our VW Golf TDI— it flows better in cold temperatures.
-Block heater: I put a 500-watt halogen work light under the engine for half an hour, warming up the entire bottom of the crankcase. It starts easily and is ready to work.
-Winter Fuel: Standard #2 Diesel will gel below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Filling stations switch over to a lighter winter fuel mix as soon as the temperature drops. In a pinch you can mix a little Kerosene in the tank. You don’t need much. Better to buy winter fuel, though.
-Weights and tires: The main limits of two-wheeled tractors are weight and traction, so I adapted mine to maximize both. I run 27” tall hay rake tires for extra clearance and ground speed. I made axles from 1” keyed shaft so I could quickly change my tread width for different tasks, easily swap tires sizes, and use the older 1” plate weights for wheel weights. The axles allow me to hang up to 100 lbs of weights for each wheel. The tractor and blade also have weight brackets that allow me to find the perfect ballast and balance point for each implement and task. The picture shows 35 lbs on the blade. I’m now running 45lbs there. As it’s currently outfitted, my tractor has 75 lbs on each wheel and 45lbs on the blade for 195 lbs total. I could go up to 250 lbs easily if I felt I needed it. I run the tires at 5 psi so they flex and “bite”.
-Speed: The larger BCS tractors have a “transport” gear. Though it’s technically only for use with a cart or sulky, 4th gear lets me move the machine from point to point at a comfortably fast walk while the engine is barely above idle—saving me fuel and time. I run behind the machine to mow pastures with the 44” sickle bar mower (cuts like a giant set of hair clippers) at about 5-6 MPH. Running at 5-6 MPH clears 4-5” of fluffy snow from the lane pretty quickly.
Former Marine Infantry Officer. Iraq Vet. Interested in Regenerative Agriculture at any scale.
Odyssey Farm, LLC.
The Odyssey Farm Journal
Odyssey Farm, LLC
Dane County 2022 Climate Champion
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