One of the many facets of self-sufficiency and prepping is having the proper equipment to get your tasks and chores done effectively and efficiently, however for those of us on a limited budget, some creativity and elbow grease can get you the equipment you need, or a reasonable facsimile.
Over the years, I have been able to collect a vast assortment of either free or dirt cheap tools to help with tasks around the property. From light garden tractors to Stihl chainsaws to rototillers, there are deals out there that, given enough patience, anyone can take advantage of.
One of the benefits of the Web is the proliferation of recycling and freecycle types of websites. I placed an ad on Craigslist for a “Garden Tractor, working or not” and ended up purchasing an LGT145 Ford tractor for $75.00! It had been sitting in the back forty and he wanted to get rid of it. It came with a working PTO, rototiller, front blade, mower deck and vacuum attachment with a separate engine.
After getting it home and cleaning out the carb, I was driving it with only a couple of hours of work. To this day, it is the tractor of choice for tilling our gardens.
Just last summer, I was driving on a back road when I passed a really nice looking wood chipper with a sign that stated “free, hard to start, but runs good”
I got it home and realized it was a carb issue, so $23.00 later, a new eBay replacement carb showed up and “presto” I had a killer chipper shredder. I had some old tires from a junked John Deere garden tractor that I installed along with a hitch, and now I add amendments to my garden, pulled by a Craftsman Lawn tractor that was given to me because it didn’t have a deck. (note the new feedbag tractor seat cover).
My son called me last spring to tell me that he had seen an ad for a Case 444 tractor on a local “Facebook Yard Sale” site so I gave her a call. She said she wanted $300.00 for it and sent me a photo. I told her sold, and drove 55 miles to pick it up. When I got there she showed me a bucket of spare parts and told me it had a plow and rototiller as well. My wife said it was “in a million pieces” and didn’t want it rusting behind my shop. I tackled it that weekend after downloading a manual and within half a day had it up and running and it is a snow pushing beast.
One simple note, the lady said she had numerous calls for it, and for a lot more money, however as I committed over the phone and was on my way, she would hold it for me. The moral is, don’t delay on a bargain, other people will snap it up if you don’t.
Granted, most but not all of the items I get do require some work, however, in the vast majority of cases, it is carburetion, due to the addition of ethanol in today’s’ fuels.
I floated an ad in freecycle saying I was looking for a chainsaw (as mine had finally died) and was given not one, but two 18” Homelite saws, both like new. When a friend gave me a Stihl, I gave the working saws away.
Keep your eyes open for equipment that just has weeds growing up around it. If you are respectful and ask the owner, a worst case scenario is a simple “no”.
Find and join local sites like Craigslist, Freecycle, trash nothing and the free section of the local paper. Remember, you have to be timely and follow through. Before I got my Case to push snow, I saw a freecycle ad for a running Craftsman riding garden tractor with a blade, mower and snow thrower. The owner was moving and didn’t want to hassle with selling it. It was gone in a heartbeat and he had dozens of calls before he could remove the posting.
There are deals to be made, and I have done my share of bartering as well, with much success. I’ve also been able to repair and donate mowers and other equipment to people that needed it.
Another tip, wait for the right season to start looking. In the spring, when people can’t start their weed trimmers and mowers, they often prefer to get another out of frustration.
As far as wheelbarrows, shovels and other hand tools, they are everywhere. I have several barrows and found they usually simply have a flat tire. Wal Mart has a super heavy duty tire for $10.00 (or at least they used to) and in several cases, I simply replaced the tire with a marathon flat free tire.
For shovels and rakes, I simply replace the broken handle with a steel tube that I tack weld in place. It’s a lifetime repair.
As I stated earlier, gas equipment, mowers, tillers and the like will probably have a carb issue. To find out, just give the air filter a squirt of starting fluid and give it a tug. If it fires then dies, it’s probably the carb. Brand new knockoffs are available on eBay for $10.00 up, depending on the type.
Swapping out a carb is easy, and usually, it fixes the issue. To keep your carbs from getting damaged, get some non-ethanol gas before you put them up for the winter, and add a shot of sta-bil or another gas preservative. Chances are when Spring rolls around a couple of pulls and you’ll be on your way.
Let me know if you’ve ever gotten a piece of equipment for a deal or if you have any tips.