In response to the excellent article, "The Micro-Farm Tractor", I have to say my best bet for all-around small farm tool would be the diesel all terrain vehicle (ATV). ATVs have quickly infiltrated into many farms today, as haulers, sprayers, snowplows, transport, and so on. You can purchase many available farm accessories that make it into the equivalent of a mini-tractor, as well has many hunting related accessories, since they appeal to the hunter's market as well, like gun racks, camo, storage, and essential noise-cutting mufflers (very effective units can be had at Cabela's). I would suggest a diesel unit, since they are longer lasting, more reliable, and you can use stored (for several years with proper preservation) or improvised diesel (biodiesel.) I was out elk hunting last year in foul weather and I immediately saw the advantage hunters had getting around in the muck with an ATV. If we had actually taken an elk, we would have had to spend all weekend hauling pieces of it out! (In a way we were glad we didn't get one where we were hunting, seven miles down a mucky old road, with steep hills to the right and a steep ravine to the left). With an ATV, we could have gotten a whole animal out in one or two goes, with a lot less slogging in the muck. Just make sure you've got a winch, and maybe even a come-along. Also, many of the hunters were able to cruise with an ATV on trails that would (and have) gotten me stuck in the mud. To sum it up, I plan on purchasing one or two as soon as our move to a few acres of rural property in southern utah is completed early next year to use as my mini-tractor, hunting companion, snowplower, all-around hauler and 4 wheel drive short distance transport. - Dustin
JWR Replies: In addition to biodiesel, you can also legally use home heating oil if operating off road. (The only significant differences between diesel and home heating oil are the "no tax cheating" added dye and the standard for ash content.) There are several options for diesel-powered ATVs. These include:
The Kawasaki Mule. See: http://www.atvsource.com/manufacturers/kawasaki/2003/mule_3010_diesel.htm
The John Deere Gator. See: http://off-road.com/atv/reviews/quads/gator-2003_02/
(The U.S. Army Special Forces uses John Deere Gators, but I'm not sure if that's because they are the best ones made, or just because of a "Buy American" contracting clause. Perhaps one of our SurvivalBlog readers in SOCOM can comment on their opinion of the Gators.
Note: Polaris also made a diesel quad back around 2002, but they were reportedly problematic, so they were quickly discontinued.