Rustic Cyberpunk

Coffee & Cabins

Two-wheel / Walking Tractors

3 min read

I was thinking about self-sustaining long after the tech jobs are gone from my life and I've moved on to other, more enjoyable, pursuits. Unfortunately, life doesn't survive on happiness alone. There's the option to farm with a big enough land parcel and maybe haul wood to make furniture. But these are only viable with enough resources, time, and of course equipment.

If I do some farming or gardening, it's highly unlikely I can sustain myself with that alone. One needs clothes, tools, fuel etc. And bartering alone isn't viable to help me procure all of them. I'll need an additional source of income even if it's to maintain any equipment. Speaking of equipment...

I just discovered there's a fandom wiki for two-wheeled tractors.

two wheel tractor
A Chinese tractor I found on AliExpress

I remember seeing these everywhere when I was a little kid. Farmers were tilling rice paddy fields while walking behind them or they were on the road pulling bales of hay and whatnot on trailers. Among other very large and conspicuously unsafe-looking loads. I also remember how versitile these are with a myriad of attachments and varying towing capacities.

They're the larger cousins of rotor tillers now found in many gardening and home-improvement stores. Tillers themselves aren't terribly complicated, but spare parts are harder to come by for older models. With the prevelance of planned obsolescence and copious amounts of copyrights and DRM on farming equipment, I wondered whether there's an alternative that I can maybe DIY or buy cheaply and modify as needed. The tricky bits are usually the attachments and accessories.

There's the Open Source Ecology project that aims to bring machinery to the masses with a modular, extensible, and maintainable focus. Some of the machines look very promising, while the rest are prototypes and rough drafts. There is a tractor there too, but it's still in the planning stage. It also seems to be setting aside some common conventions already prevelant in existing equipment in order to be more compatible with its own ecosystem, like their "power cube".

A more fancy model with a seat

I was thinking of what's possible to build using off-the-shelf parts today. Electric motors are nice, but the battery costs can't be ignored. A cheap gas engine may not be as ecologically friendly, but I wonder if a 4-stroke generator engine can be repurposed to power a small tractor. The weight is just about right to prevent it from sinking into the soil (with the right wheel width), and has enough ballast to give traction while pulling useful loads.

I wondered if I can use the axle of an old trailer as a starting point, but it would help to have a proper transmission. My first thought was to use a motorcycle transmission, but this too has its own share of complications.

Then I remembered golf carts. I don't know how well they'll deal with mud, but I'm sure some of the more rugged versions are a better fit for these. A solar powered, two-wheel, electric tractor that I can use

for hauling equipment or double as a simple DIY farm vehicle would be ideal, if not for the cost. A tractor powered by a small gas engine would be the next best thing. Especially if I can work in some of the same attachments that are used for their commercial counterparts.

This is going to be a huge project and it would definitely have to wait until after the cabing. It was still an interesting adventure imagining the possibilities while researching the working principles of a simple tractor.