Thursday 28 November 2013

"Can We Fix It? Yes We Can!" A mechanical digger gets a new home on a Smallholding.

We have been early Christmas shopping for a second hand mechanical digger. She arrived last week on our smallholding.  Here's a few quotes from  recent farm visitors:

"I have never seen one of those before".

"Is she from over the water?"

"Isn't she a mighty yolk?"

"Where did ye get her from?"
Me and Number 1 son fitting a newly made leg to our Smalley digger.

The Ford 4000 tractor tows the digger.  She will self propel her self by pushing her a long with the bucket pressed into the ground.  

Domino our farm cat says "It's all too much."  Smallholding cats seem to have a different time schedule to us.

I have been dreaming of a mechanical digger for many months.  Every morning I have been looking on the Internet ('Done Deal') for vintage and plant machinery.  They have all either been too far away or far too expensive.  The other week number one son informed me he had a phone call from a tractor mechanic who had just found something interesting.  Already she's ripped out a big hedge and moved a big pile of stone for us.  She starts by turning a starting handle.  The best thing about her is she hardly drinks any diesel.  The smallholding fleet keeps growing.  What mechanical equipment would you like for Christmas?  


  1. Looks a great addition, and very useful. My neighbour comes over with his tractor to help me out which is great, but yesterday I acquired an old sit on mower which will really help me out.

  2. The digger is a great addition, Bedford Gypsy. My son made a trailer for a neighbours ride on mower and he uses it for moving, soil, logs and farm manure. It also saves your legs. We will have to think of names for our new smallholding mechanical pals.

    Thanks a lot for your comment!

  3. Think I saw something similar once, it was used in a cemetery as a grave digger, but perhaps not quite as heavy as that.
    Always a useful machine to have though, and great to see some older equipment kept in service, sure there's too much sent to scrap with years of service left in them.
    What sort of engine? Used to have a boat with a starting handle, Lister twin air-cooled with the decompression lever and heavy flywheel, it ran all day on a very small amount of diesel.

    Domino looking well relaxed, they seem to find all the most comfortable places.

  4. Hi Cumbrian. Yes the Smalley diggers have been used a lot for digging graves. Invented by a Richard Smalley. They were the first 'mini' diggers. Mini cars tried to stop them using the name 'mini'. Quite a bit about them on the old Internet. Found a great site called : "Oily Hands".

    She's got the exact same Lister engine with the decompression lever and flywheel. She runs on a thimble (almost) of diesel. She was made in 1976. I reckon we have half got our money back in the last week. Especially when we normally pay about fifty Euros an hour for a track machine and driver. That's five hundred a day! We also bought an oldish dumper truck. She's also a Lister engine but with 4 wheel drive and key start ignition. We've moved round bales of straw and piles of 2 inch stone with her this week.

    Domino puts up for the boss and always sits in my place. Hope you had a great holiday? Great to have you back.

  5. Sure a small digger and dumper beat a shovel and wheelbarrow any day of the week, and running on red diesel (or is yours blue?) cost will be a few cents.

    The old Listers will probably be still running for our grandkids, they just seem to go on for ever with minimum attention, They were popular for generating electric on remote farms before the mains caught up with them, usually stuck in the corner of a shed somewhere and generating just about enough to run the milking machines. Some of them are probably still there, and with the cost of mains electric I can foresee them coming back into use.

    Raggy cat seemed happy to see us back, its hedonistic fireside routine has been re-established already.

    Weather not too cold, windy and damp though, makes it feel a lot colder. Trees just about bare now, leaves everywhere.

  6. We have green agricultural diesel in Ireland, Cumbrian.

    Lister engines are incredible aren't they? Don't know why most machines don't stillhave them. Talking to a lorry driver the other day who collects old vintage tractors. Says all the modern lorries and tractors need computers to fix them and some won't move when a sensor stops them and they hold all the traffic up. The old two wheel drive tractors were made to be fixed by the farmer and in the field, if need be.

    I believe a lot of the old people were reluctant to have electricity installed in their rural houses because they had never had a utilitiy bill and they want to be mortgaged to one. Must get a lister generator for the gales or when the ESB (Irish electricity) supposed to go on strike at Christmas. Think you can get an electrician to connect a wire to the generator and run all your house lights and sockets?

    I know somebody who put a dynamo on his stream (river) and he powers his farm enginering workshop and even sells some back to the electricity companies. Every river should have waterwheels on them.

    Incredibly calm and dry here. Wild roses in flower. Is it the calm before the storm? Been a decent year compared to recent times.


  7. I'll have to join the 'Never seen one of those before' brigade. Isn't that the same colour as modern JCB's? Who got their idea from whom, I wonder?

    I have a couple of jobs here for her.

  8. Yes, computer diagnostics seem to be standard on modern engines, even cars. Sad really that a lot of the mechanics knowledge and skills are being lost in favour of yet more computers.

    Sure a decent electrician could wire a few lights and sockets to run from a Lister-powered generator, they seemed to manage OK in years (decades) gone by. In fact you might be so pleased by the cost of green diesel-generated electric versus the cost of mains power you could disconnect from the grid, or at least only have it as back-up (but a spare Lister would also provide this). As I think a lot of people may be considering.

    I know what the old people mean, and often think they weren't wrong. Our lives seem so dependent on electric now, and it's not so long ago. I remember my parents house being wired in, about mid 50s, and a lot of remote farms well after that. Young people seem to think that electric power's been here for ever, but it's only relatively recent.

    I've often wondered why we don't make much more use of waterwheels, I can't see any down-side, any number of wheels could be turned by every river, both sides, with no environmental or pollution issues, and a lot of power could be used direct for mills of all types without the need to convert it to electric. Sure wheels or dymanos could power an awful lot of farms and houses, even light industrial (they were everywhere with a stream, powering sawmills, grinding mills, bobbin mills, etc) on their route to the sea.
    The only losers would be the power generating companies and their directors pockets, and the government with no VAT from it.
    So 10/10 to your friend with his dynamo.

    Sun's out this morning, damp but not raining, keeps cool,

    Raggy cat curled up in front of fire, it was reluctant to go out last night, think it's maybe getting a bit too domesticated?

  9. I think the colour is 'Catterpillar' yellow Cro. She was probably an ex highway or local authority digger. JCB have been going since 1945. So they are probably the pioneers. She's earning her keep at the moment round our smallholding - Thanks!

  10. Thanks for that Cumbrian, Totally agree with you. I don't understand either why we always seem in a rush to disregard any thing previous generations have made. I once read that Morris cars sold their 1950's blue prints to India in the 1980's and they set about making brand new Minors and Travellers. I wish they still made 'big' mobile phones. Think the new one's are made for small people.

    Number one son spent the afternoon filling my wheel barrow with stone from the digger and I pushed it and raked it out. So we were half mechanical and half manual labour. Wonder who invented the wheelbarrow?

    Dog and cat spent day sleeping near the range. Think its us who are daft not them. Another fantastic dry days work.


  11. Yes, it just seems to be a "throw-away" society we live in now, what a lot of things have become smaller, lighter and with built-in obsolescence, nothing made to last any more.

    Remember the Morris Minor, I had one, split windshield model, when it blew a gasket I changed the engine in about 4 hours, everything seemed so much easier to work on.

    And the phones and calculators now seem to be designed with women and children in mind, I've seen a calculator on a wrist-watch, un-usable unless you have good eyesight and a needle to punch the buttons, a finger hits too many of them.
    Even houses, we used to build walls to hold roofs up, now they're used to tie them down they're so light.

    I don't know who first devised the wheelbarrow, it seems to have survived the test of time, but some of the modern ones are so light they look incapable of taking any weight. I've even seen motorised wheelbarrows.

    Raggy cat showing increased reluctance to go outside. hedonistic little animal it's becoming, tend to agree they sometimes show more sense than some people.

  12. The wheelbarrow does seem to have stood the test of time. James Dyson invented the ball barrow but it seems to have really taken off. The pneumatic tyre was not the best invention for a wheel barrow. I much prefer the first mobile phones with the big buttons. They were almost like an army battlefield phone.

    Still dry here. Rain for Wednesday and Thursday. Lots of room painting needs doing. Could do with somebody to invent an odourless paint. I hate painting.

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