Monday, February 27, 2012

Why am I building a Tractor?

The simple and honest answer is that my dad had one on the property that I grew up on. It was so endlessly useful that I can't imagine living on any sizable property without one. There is more to it than that though.

A reminder: This is what I'm building =)
I'm building my own tractor because I want to understand it and be able to maintain it. It's also a project that will teach me many valuable skills. I've already learned a ton about machining and CAD.

Finally, I'm interested in joining the material economy at some time in my life. So far I've earned my living by working in the knowledge economy. I think really hard and get paid to do it. I'm employed as a programmer. It's a job I love, but constrains my life quite a lot-- I work 40hr a week and have to commute to my place of work. One day, I'd like to have a bit more control-- perhaps program as a hobby.

What do I mean by 'material economy' (a green wing article)? I mean that I take ingredients and make a product. The product is a tangible thing that solves a tangible problem like hunger, need for shelter, etc. This is important because the tangible problems are the ones that force the average person to take a 9 to 5. If I can provide fixes for these root human needs, I'll have high security (someone somewhere is hungry) and be encouraging smaller scale self sufficiency. The OSE folk argue (see Village Scale here) that a material economy of about 200 people is enough for comfortable modern living locally. That sounds like somewhere I'd want to live.

So what will I produce in the material economy? I mean really, what will my tractor produce? I don't have a firm plan, but my current thoughts are to produce pelletized biomass. With a few tools (Tractor, Hay Cutter, Hammer Mill, Pelletizer) and some land, I may be able to produce a renewable, carbon neutral (or even negative!) local fuel.

This is Pellitized Wood (wikipedia)
I'm not yet clear on the economics-- how much land make how many pellets? How much labor for each acre of land? How much do pellets cost? Where would I sell them? But, I'm going to have a tractor regardless so if the economics don't work, I'll find a different plan.

Time Card & Bill of Materials updated.