Without a bulk diesel tank at the farm I run down the highway to the local service station for tractor fuel. Out of curiosity I measured the TAFE’s consumption over a week of bush hogging around 20 acres of seedlings. Note at the end of the article I built in a correction for tach hours.

1995 Tafe 351DI fuel consumption observation

June 9-13, 2010

5′ medium-duty rotary mower, trimming long grass, medium density to light on moderate slopes
8.5 km paved road surface transit

hrs observed 424.5- 412.8 = 11.7

tank topped 28.31 litres

consumption rate 2.41965812 litres per hour at PTO speed

According to the charts I found on the Internet, it must be using between 16 and 18 hp to do its thing with the 710 lb. cutter, loader, loaded tires and all.

Here’s the lastest raw data.  Again I was mowing medium to light hay and grass, though I ran the TAFE in high range, first gear today to see how the new mower would cut at a ground speed of about 6 mph.  No problem.  That’s not a misprint below:  the thing seems to use $2.00 worth of diesel per indicated hour at June, 2010 diesel prices in Ontario.

june 29/10 436.6 hr filled at 436.3
0.929 25.4 litres 11.8 hours
2.152542373 litres per hour at PTO speed
Cost of fuel per hour $2.00

UPDATE: The manual states that the tach/hour meter measures at 1500 rpm. Pto delivers 604 at 2000 rpm, so that means it runs at 1788.07947 to deliver 540 pto rpm. So if you multiply the consumption rate by 1.19 you’ll get a more accurate figure, somewhere between 2.5 and 2.8 litres per hour. Still good, but not unbelievable.

july 18/10 449.3 449

30.88 12.7

2.431496063 litres per hour at PTO speed

Corrected, that’s 2.89 litres/hour for this interval.

august 9/10 468.8 468.5
32.64 19.5 hours on this tankful
1.673846154 litres per hour, at 1500 rpm
loader work, highway runs, limited mowing with pto
corrected consumption: 1.991876923 l/hr at mixed speeds
for PTO at 1870 rpm
That’s an honest 2 litres per hour.

The guy at U.S. Customs burst into laughter when I told him we were on our way to see the square dancing tractors at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, but he promised to look them up on You-Tube and see for himself.

The morning’s drive south on Route 81 took us from sleet to radiant sunshine and temperatures in the low 50’s.  The first thing Tom did when we arrived in Reading was get out a hose and wash the grit off our car.

Next morning, dressed in light jackets and no long underwear, off we went for the drive to Harrisburg to share the air with over 6000 animals on display in a million square feet of indoor agricultural exhibit.

Groups being what they are, our first stop was the lineups of the food court, but then we toured some equipment displays.  Lots of people crowded the huge halls, ordinary folks with young kids in strollers, enjoying the day.

We made our way to the main hall well in advance of the noon show.  I spent the next twenty minutes trying to figure out how to operate the latest credit card-sized Canon my son had left with me.   Turns out the thing’s smarter than I am, and every adjustment I made to its programming made the pictures worse.  In desperation I switched to movie mode, and tried to hold it steady as the show began and the battery gradually grew hotter and hotter in my hand.  Charlie had warned me that if I wanted to avoid making my viewers sick I would have to avoid sudden movements with the camera, so I sat rigidly and framed the activity while to my left Bet and Kate dissolved into gales of laughter at the antics of the players in the drama below.  They certainly seemed to be amused.  I vowed to check the film later and see why.

The caller sang his instructions and the drivers did their moves in the large sand-covered arena.  Tractor square dancing pivots on the ability of a row crop tractor to turn in its own length with the help of one-wheel braking.  Someone undoubtedly discovered that a pair of these machines could do a fair approximation of many square dancing moves if the drivers knew their machines and had a fair bit of skill.

Leave it to an American to organize this into a sport.  This was the fourth annual tractor square dancing competition at the Farm Show, with three teams competing.

First up were the Middlecreek Swingers from Pleasant Creek PA.  They ran Farmall Bs for the girl’s parts and a John Deere M, an Oliver 70,  two Farmalls, a C and an H, for the boy parts.  The Bs mostly had two seats, which proved handy when they started to stall at various points during the show.  The mechanic would walk out, switch seats with the driver, and have at it while the caller and the other tractors waited.  Nobody seemed in much of a hurry.  If this didn’t work, a couple of crew-members would come out and push the tractor off and another from the bull pen would take its place.

I should mention that the “girls” in the first group did consist of two women, one teenaged boy in work boots, skirt, and pink rollers over a wig, and one bald headed guy in a t-shirt driving a pink B who didn’t put much effort into his costume.  The guys wore overalls, straw hats, and often sported large white beards.

The announcer segwayed into the next act by bringing another eight tractors, the Middle Creek Tractor Dancers, on to join the first group in a 16-tractor pinwheel.  He admitted that there had been no time to practice this complex step, but started four machines off in a tight circle, then had the others come on by twos to balance the wheel as it grew.  The outside tractors were moving quite quickly as the fourth ring took its place, and one John Deere needed to get to the other side of the circle to complete the dance.  This required a burst of speed around the perimeter, wowing the audience.

This bootleg turn set the tone for the rest of the show, which became progressively less dance and more stunt driving competition.  The Roof Garden Tractor Buddies didn’t bother with a caller singing instructions.  Their announcer called the moves and these eight tractors executed them with military skill.

The prettiest tractor of the show was a 1944 Massey Harris Orchard Model whose driver obviously enjoyed the fresh engine’s throttle response.  He did do-nuts when the announcer called for pirouettes, and while his turns left me gasping, they weren’t very dance-like.  His fellow drivers seemed to enjoy seeing how close they could come to each other without sharing paint in head-on collisions.  These guys drove very well, and the tractors were exquisite restorations which ran without a hitch, but they couldn’t capture the goofy charm of the first group.

So now I have to locate a row crop tractor light enough to tow behind my truck.

New Tractor Gloat

January 11, 2010

The constitutional crisis in Ottawa will just have to wait because I want to tell you about my new tractor.  It’s not as though prorogation will go away in a week, right?  And I have the snow in our driveway just about worn out now, so I think it’s time for a report.

The new addition to the family is a TAFE 35DI.  I went to look at a backhoe but the huge thing intimidated me with its advanced age and complexity.  This little Indian Massey Ferguson seemed the same size as my beloved MF 35, only with power steering, a modern loader, and “part of a cab” as my neighbour Lloyd charitably described it.  Somehow over the past fifteen years it had accumulated only 345 hours on the meter.

A slightly smaller 4X4 Kubota just hadn’t felt right.  I hated the weathered plastic dash and it was very cold in the field where it sat.  For all its homeliness, the TAFE seemed solidly built, in excellent condition, and it offered a bit of shelter from the biting wind.  Besides, it looked lonely and it was Christmas.  Hey, people bring puppies home at Christmas.  How dumb is that?

On the BBC car show Top Gear, host Jeremy Clarkson filmed a test in which an Audi A8 completely outclassed a Corvette – yet he picked the Corvette as his favourite.  He rationalized that the Audi was just “too good a car” for him.  I could understand that.  Driving around a muddy field in my Toyota 4Runner just made ruts.  The same drive in a golf cart was an absolute gas.  A vehicle can be too competent to be fun.

O.K. the tractor’s basically a toy.  Walnut trees are not a dairy herd, and it’s not as though they will die if it doesn’t work.  That said, the TAFE can run my snow blower, the bucket does a great job scraping the driveway, and the lights enable me to play outside after dark.  Snow removal in the very early morning may prove essential with a commuter in the house, and I think a good set of lights on the tractor at the end of the driveway should prove reassuring to drivers passing over Young’s Hill.

My friends Tony and Anne hadn’t been to The Lodge for three weeks, I’d run out of snow around the house in Forfar, so I decided to nip up to Newboro to tackle their large, pristine driveway. “I have a cab on my tractor now,” I thought smugly, so off I went with a light hat, rather than my trusty helmet and face shield.

The TAFE ran strongly on the road and steered with reasonable precision.  I soon discovered, however, what Lloyd Stone had meant when he said I had part of a cab. There sure is a lot of wind on that stretch from Forfar to Crosby, and most of it came in under my right-hand window.  From the screws embedded in the metal frame, it’s clear the previous owner had installed a piece of carpet to take up the space not filled with hydraulic hoses and controls below the window.  I would have given a lot to get it back from him right then.

Debating whether to continue in the cold or not, I stopped at the highway building to turn away from the wind and warm up a bit.  Out of the wind, though, things were fine.  The reforestation north of Crosby dramatically cuts down on the sweep of a north wind, so the rest of the drive was much easier, even pleasant.

The traffic was another matter.  All of those Saturday drivers politely insisted on sharing the road with me.  The band of ice along the edge of the pavement and the glare, steep shoulders looked like suicide from my perch, and I resolved to keep at least two tires on pavement, regardless of the traffic behind.  A misadventure in the ditch at fifteen miles per hour would have gruesome consequences inside this box of steel and glass.

Now I understand why those guys in backhoes and tractors won’t get over to let traffic pass, even when there seems to be an ample shoulder on the highway.  Look down into a frozen ditch from a sloping, ice-covered shoulder, and suddenly holding onto that dry asphalt for dear life becomes a real priority.

Soon it became pointless to look back, so I just soldiered on down my portion of the lane and let the cars find their own way.  Drivers seemed quite good-natured about it, but the guilt I felt couldn’t match the fear of sudden death if I ventured too far over out of politeness.

In any case, the driveway-cleanout went well, and on the return trip the wind was on the left side of the tractor with its full door, and thus the cabin was much warmer.  Tony contributed a piece of carpet, so the next project is to close in the rest of the cabin.  Unless it snows.


December 27, 2009

Update: December 30, 2014

How to un-stick a tractor transmission

I notice someone is Googling “how to un-stick a TAFE transmission stuck in 4th gear.”
My TAFE has never done this, but I have had ample experience freeing my Massey Ferguson 35, and the transmissions are similar. After they get a lot of hours on them, they occasionally stick between gears when shifting on uneven ground, especially during loader work.

Remove the oil filler plug. It takes a 1″ or adjustable wrench. Inside you’ll see a combination of bars and gears and such. If you have switched into the neutral between high and low ranges, you can run the tractor with the clutch out and observe the oil cycling down there. Now that things are warm and nicely lubed, make sure nothing is turning down there. I would shut the engine off. Reach in with a large screwdriver (or pry bar) and gently wiggle things back and forth on the horizontal bars you see down there. Remove screw driver. Start up and circulate the oil again. Continue until the gearshift is unexpectedly out of gear. Then put it back into gear and discover nothing is damaged. Put the plug back on and go back to work.

This seems like a terrifying task the first time, but it becomes much easier with practice. My neighbour speaks of “rocking it out of gear when it’s jammed.” He doesn’t even bother with the pry bar. The key thing to remember is that no real force is needed to unjam the gears, so be gentle with the old girl.

Update: 18 January, 2014

IMPORTANT note about engine oil changes

The owner’s manual warns about adding oil to the fuel pump when changing the crankcase oil. Because there was no useful diagram and the wording confused me, the instruction went in one ear and out the other.

I finally asked my neighbour about it, and Peter directed me to a fill plug to the right of where the injector lines leave the pump. After 790 engine hours it was dry, though when I poured engine oil in, a thin mystery fluid ran out a small overflow on the side of the engine. I think a combination of water from condensation and leaked diesel has been lubricating the pump for the last while.

Update, 29 January, 2014:

Duck Dynasty t-shirts are turning up all over the place as the popular reality show gradually colonizes the culture. But I’m just sitting back counting my money as I wait for the collectors to come calling, for I own the exact model of TAFE Tractor that Phil Robertson uses on his property. His machine is missing its battery cover, but apart from that it’s a 1995 35DI, same as mine. Redneck status! I plow my snow with a Phil Robertson Special!

New update:

Today I noticed a Google question about the operation of a TAFE lift which was directed to this article, which would have been of no help.  If you have a specific question about the TAFE 351’s operation, contact me at rodcros at gmail.com.

The lift’s learning curve is quite steep, but it works well, once mastered.  Contrary to the manual’s instructions, for example, the forward setting for the diverter is OFF, not remote auxiliary (tipping lever).  The remote operates with the loader.  Both control levers must be at the top of their travel for good flow to the loader.

A switch to the 3 point hitch setting on the diverter will cause an instant lift to maximum height unless the operator adjusts the levers down to the middle before the change.  This took me a while to figure out.

If there’s too much weight on the hitch, a 750 pound bush hog, for example, the loader will only operate if the hitch is set fairly low to the ground.  If the implement is at full height, you can spend all day trying to get the loader to work.

The lift operation is one area where the TAFE behaves differently than my Massey Ferguson 35.  It’s much more powerful, though.


Day 1:

At the local Massey Ferguson dealer I have just committed to buy a 1995 Tafe 35DI tractor with 340 hours on it, a very good loader and jury-rigged cab.

I looked at an ’87 Kubota 4X4, but after an hour of playing with this one I decided I like it and that was that.  Never went back to the high-hours Kubota.

The dealer has a couple of little things to fix, but I expect to have it in the driveway, all cab lights aglow, by the middle of next week.

Two previous owners have traded up to new 4X4 Massey-Fergusons from this tractor.  Neither, apparently, had any trouble with parts or durability.  Mechanically it’s a clone of my 1960 Massey-Ferguson 35, only with marginally better hydraulics, power steering, Roll Over Protection System, lights and safety interlocks.  The unblemished Allied loader is likely worth several thousand in its own right.

I really needed a set of working lights for snow removal in early morning at the end of the driveway on the Hill.  If the commuter needs to get onto the road before daylight, some snow removal must be done in the dark.  It’s too risky without lights.

The downside is that I have bought an orphan, and have very little prospect of ever selling it, so I’d better like it.  Mind you, a significant part of the Canadian 2010 Massey Ferguson line is made up of repainted TAFEs.

Day 2:

It went up against a high-hours, Kubota 4WD L2580 for 150% of the price.  What sold me?  I hated the Kubota’s weathered plastic dash.  The Tafe seemed very solidly and simply built.  The cab helped as well, as the day was cold.  Everything was right where I expected it, as the tractor is a homage to the Massey Ferguson 35.  What’s more, it started cold the way I expected and ran like an engine which would use very little fuel to do its job.  The 340 hours accumulated so far did not hurt.  The modern loader is just as slow as the one on the 35, but it’s a lot more symetrical, i.e:  not skewed to the left.

The layout of the back window may prove impractical.  It doesn’t open, and I’m not sure I can reach out through it to turn the handle to rotate the snow blower flume, nor can I be certain that raising the implement won’t put said handle through the rear panel.

It was Christmas and people do stupid things like taking in stray animals while imbued with the Christmas spirit.  I think I did something similar with a homeless  tractor.

After some thought I am less inclined to rue my impulse.  When it comes right down to it, what I want from a tractor isn’t necessarily practicality.  I want something that is a challenge:  what fun was it driving a 4Runner around a muddy field?  Just made ruts.  A Yamaha G1 golf cart in the same environment, on the other hand, was an absolute gas.

Like the way BBC Top Gear personality Jeremy Clarkson recommended a Corvette over an Audi R8 after a day of testing in which the Audi completely outclassed the Vette, I wanted a tractor “less good” than the Kubota.

Day 3:

I have a wicked case of tennis elbow this morning from a day on the couch with the laptop.  Holding the thing perched on my chest while performing the series of movements that works the mouse pad on the thing turns out to be surprisingly hard on the body.

I had to do my research on the TAFE in a manner a Phd. student  would approve:  exhaust the material.  When taken in bulk, online comments from tractor owners seem to be a reliable source of information.  I’ve found over the last year that similar data about politics is garbage, but tractors don’t lie and cheat, so they engender greater objectivity and respect from their observers.

TAFEs have been built from Massey Ferguson plans and castings in India since 1961.  The MF 35 was the basis of the original tractor.  Simpson is the brand on the licensed Perkins 3 cylinder diesels.  The product is painted red and labelled Massey Ferguson in India, but for export they get orange and gray and the moniker TAFE, which is an acronym for something or other.  Compact TAFEs are now built by LS with Mitsibishi engines.  The current North American Massey Ferguson 2WD midsized line, i.e.: 2600, are TAFEs.  The 4WDs are built by LS, formerly a subsidiary of LG, the Korean home appliance giant, which AGCO, Massey Ferguson/TAFE’s parent company, bought outright.  I’m pretty sure similar tractors are painted green and sold as Montanas, as well.

Massey Ferguson handles parts for TAFEs, but some dealers don’t even know what the name means.  Market penetration of the brand in North America is almost non-existent, but apparently the MF 231 is a handy parts donor.

The only complaint I read online about a TAFE 35DI was from one guy whose high-hours transmission locked between gears.  I could have told him what to do about that:  old Masseys do it all the time once they get some wear on them.  You take off the transmission oil filler cap and reach in with a large screwdriver to wiggle the fork loose.  A tranny rebuild is not needed, just ten minutes of routine maintenance for the owner of an old Massey.

Built with replaceable sleeves like their Perkins antecedents, Simpson diesel engines are reputed to be among the cleanest in the world, meeting modern emissions standards, and they are even more efficient than the Perkins diesels from which they were patterned.

Youtube has a good supply of TAFE-porn, short videos of TAFE tractors working on some British island.  They seem very much like Massey Fergusons, solid traditional tractors, but a little newer.

There was actually a line of clones of the MF 35 before the TAFE company was formed.  They were built in either Turkey or Yugoslavia, and reportedly weren’t very good.  The Indian workmanship and attention to detail are much better.

Currently the classic rounded body which looks like a British 1960 MF 35 is used on the TAFE 25DI, a two-cylinder, 25 hp beauty made in Korea.  Online advice is overwhelmingly to sacrifice the rounded styling in favour of ten more horsepower with the 35DI, the object of my current obsession.


This morning dawned clear and cold, with a wicked north wind.  I dropped by the dealership on my way to Ottawa to ask him to plug the tractor in so that I could play with it upon my return two hours later.  When I next approached the lot, a pickup was idling with battery cables attached, and a small generator was pumping 110 into the recirculating heater.  Battery dead?

The mechanic assured me that he just wanted to give the battery a good boost because “They really should be plugged in overnight when it’s this cold, but this one has a good pre-heater.”  He preheated the engine for what seemed a very long time to me, but then it lit up on the first touch of the starter and ran smoothly.  When I asked he said he had heated it for about a minute.  I’d never run my old Massey’s heater for more than fifteen seconds, but this obviously worked.

When I moved the tractor I was greeted by a ghastly squeal from the left rear wheel, most likely a brake drum dragging a bit.  It was very noisy but went away after I drove it for a few minutes.  I had started the tractor cold just to see if it had glitches like this.  The seat kept bottoming out with my weight.  Adjustments helped a bit, but were difficult in the extreme cold.

The tractor ran well.  The cab kept me warm while going east, but froze me a bit on the westward leg of my road test, as more of the north wind could get under the right hand side of the cab.

Things didn’t go so well when I parked the TAFE out of the wind behind the garage and checked for leaks.  Coolant was bubbling out of the cracked top rad hose.  A simple fix.  The power steering cylinder has a wet end, and there’s moisure around the rubber hose which leads from the pump to the cylinder.  But that’s not too bad.  More troubling was the shape of the link arm, the long, heavy metal triangle which connects the axle to the frame near the steering box.  It seems twisted about twenty degrees, yet the power steering cylinder fits it and operates in that position.  At the other end of that cylinder is a tie rod which has been welded and had a reinforcing piece added.  This doesn’t look good.  The manual specifically cautions about the temptation to weld steering gear parts.

Of course I haven’t tried the three point hitch yet because the diverter valve, a 3-way model to provide rear hydraulics, still doesn’t have a handle.

To keep the tractor from rolling down a slight slope while I poked and prodded, I lowered the bucket and lifted the front wheels slightly off the ground.  When I tried to close the cab door, it wouldn’t, by about 1/8″.  I let the pressure off the loader, and then it could squeeze closed.  I wonder if there is always this much flex in the body/cab of a loader tractor?

I left my “wish list” with the salesman and came home.  They are to have it ready in a week or so.

Day 6:

Just in from a night-time session of snow blowing, my clothes smell faintly of diesel exhaust, but this is a far cry from my earlier routine of shedding the full snowmobile suit and helmet, then changing all my sodden clothes underneath it.  The cab works surprisingly well to shut out blowing snow.  I had a giddy pass behind the garage where the snow blew right over the tractor, completely covering it.  No misery.  That’s strange.  I’ve never blown snow over my tractor before without becoming soaking wet!  This is good, I think.

The transfer of the snowblower from the Massey Ferguson 35 to the TAFE 35 went seamlessly.  Every meaningful dimension was the same.  Away I went, only with one more gear per range and quite a bit more horsepower.  The power steering, of course, wasn’t hard to take at all.

So now I’ve gone from agoraphobia to claustrophobia:  what if I were to tip the tractor over on its door and get trapped in there?  Eeep.  I think I’ll strap a hammer to the inside of the cab for emergency exits.

The lights are great.  I’ve never had lights on a tractor before.  The two additional pairs on the top of the cab illuminate the work fore and aft very well.

Now my winter nights hold more than T.V., novels, and the Internet.  I can blow snow!

Day 7, January 8, 2010:

This is one cool toy!  I have discovered that clearing snow with the bucket is way more fun than using the blower.  Things happen in high range, and thus at a much higher speed than with the blower.  Skill is required.  Less snow blows the wrong direction.  I’m less inhibited about blocking traffic when pushing a ditch-load of snow in front of me.  Backing up with the blower is painfully slow or dangerously fast, and after a while it wears on one’s spine, I am told.

The hours are running up and the fuel bill is rising because I keep moving more snow than necessary so that I can explore the limits of the machine and my growing skill.  Hey, I have to have the loader figured out before I end up stalled, blocking traffic on the hill because of a mistake.

I popped a shear pin on the blower this morning when I raised the lift too high.  The PTO shaft is a little long for the application, I think.  The Massey Ferguson’s lift  would rise up and stall when it ran out of play.  This one is much more powerful, so when it rises up, away goes the shear pin.  A bit of thought should solve this one.

The parking brake groans fiercely after I release it.  Something must be sticking down there.  I had mentioned it to the dealer, but it’s an intermittent problem, and I guess it wouldn’t happen for them so they ignored it.

A disadvantage of a powerful loader is that one is inclined to misuse it a bit.  A corner of the old concrete step at the front of our house bit the dust this morning when I tried to use the 5′ snow bucket as a shovel.  Gotta learn where the corners are on this thing.  Oh, well.  A new step was in the budget for spring, anyway.

Day 8:  January 9 2010

Now I understand why those guys in backhoes and farm tractors won’t get over to let traffic pass, even when there seems to be ample shoulder on the highway.  When you look down into a frozen ditch from a sloping, ice-covered shoulder, holding onto that dry asphalt becomes a matter of life and death.

Tony and Anne hadn’t been at The Lodge for three weeks, so in a fit of friendliness I decided to walk the tractor up to Newboro to clean out their driveway.  I have a cab on my tractor now, I thought smugly, so off I went with a light hat, rather than my trusty helmet and face mask.

The TAFE runs strongly on the road and steers with reasonable precision.  I soon discovered what Lloyd Stone had meant when he first looked at the TAFE: “You have part of a cab.”  There sure is a lot of wind on that stretch from Forfar to Crosby, and most of it came in under my right-hand window.  From the screws embedded in the metal frame, it’s clear the previous owner had a piece of carpet fitted to take up the space not filled with hydraulic hoses and controls below the window.  I would have given a lot to get it from him right then.

Debating whether to continue in the cold or not, I stopped at the highway building to turn away from the wind and warm up a bit.  Out of the wind, things were fine.  The reforestation north of Crosby dramatically cuts down on the sweep of a north wind, so the drive was much easier, even pleasant.

The traffic was another matter.  All of those Saturday drivers politely insisted on sharing the road with me.  The band of ice along the edge of the pavement and the icy shoulders looked like suicide from my perch, and I resolved to keep at least two tires on pavement, regardless of the traffic behind.  A misadventure in the ditch at fifteen miles per hour would have gruesome consequences inside this box of steel and glass.

Soon it became pointless to look back, so I just soldiered on down my portion of the driving lane and let the cars find their own way.  Drivers seemed quite good natured about it, but the guilt I felt couldn’t match the threat of sudden death if I ventured too far over onto the icy shoulder out of politeness.  From now on I’ll be less quick to curse those clods on Hwy 15 who tour their tractors and backhoes up and down the driving lane, day after day, without a care in the world.

February 13, 2010 UPDATE

I’ve noticed a few hits on this article, so here are some observations based upon 20 hours of accumulated use so far.

The snow has stopped, producing good footing on the frozen ground. Over the last week I have taken advantage of the weather to prey upon dead and dying elms around the house with the help of a logging winch installed on the Massey Ferguson 35. A logging winch is an amazingly good tool, but that’s another story.

The TAFE has proven to be the machine of choice for carrying sawn firewood around. The bucket holds a useful quantity of firewood; it’s easy to load and even more convenient to dump. As my skill with the loader has improved, I’ve discovered that I can build a fairly neat pile without dismounting. The TAFE’s rickety cab makes it fairly noisy to operate in comparison to the Massey Ferguson, which has always been an uncommonly smooth and good-natured beast. The loader on the new one is much better for carrying firewood than the one on the old one, and the extra gear in each range on the TAFE is a real advantage for general work around the farm. Needless to say, the power steering is a boon.

I had to extract the wood and brush after I cut up an elm which I felled over a ploughed section frozen rock-hard. This made for tricky footing for man and machine. The TAFE worked around the rough ground without injuring its front end. I was a bit worried about the power steering’s durability in this punishing environment, but it held up well with careful use. It shifts very well in circumstances where the Massey Ferguson 35 has been prone to lock its transmission.

The cab may come off in spring, as it is annoyingly tight getting in and out, and it vibrates unpleasantly. That said, I am more than happy to have the cab’s protection in the frigid wind on the quarter-mile run from the landing to the woodpile. Fuel consumption seems low, oil consumption nil, and I usually leave the Simpson engine idling while I load the bucket. The engine sounds a bit coarser than the much older Perkins on the Massey, but this is likely evidence of better compression. Someone told me once that a smooth-sounding diesel isn’t in the best of health.

I have run the block heater for an hour before starting, and the almost new engine leaps into action without the use of the pre-heater, immediately firing cleanly on all cylinders. As the mechanic told me, it’s a good starter in cold weather.

One search was for TAFE tractor prices, so I’ll add that this one, a 1995 with 340 hours, generally very good condition, serviceable cab and Allied 395 loader with automatic levelling, cost $8900 CDN. I saw a 1995 Massey Ferguson 231 with 600 hours and no cab or loader listed for 14,900 CDN. by way of comparison, so it appears as though the orange and gray paint costs less than Massey red.

February 24, 2010:
The TAFE starts well in winter, even when not plugged in. The switch on the 110 volt plug-in spent the night turned off, I discovered this morning at 5:00 a.m. with four inches of snow on the ground. As I mentioned before, the tractor has spent most of its time hauling blocks around in the bucket over the last two weeks. Local farmers have hit upon the loader as the most efficient way to move firewood short distances, or to load their dump trailers for longer hauls. The bucket can be placed on the ground or at any other convenient height for loading. At the other end the wood can be dumped or held in place for convenient piling without requiring that the old guy bend down to pick the blocks up.

The upside of the cab, of course, is that it is much warmer in there than outside when a strong north wind is blowing or snow from the blower swirls back at the operator.. The wiper and lights have received quite a workout over the last two mornings on snow removal duty, and they have functioned well.

This morning it cost me a shear pin to discover that tidying up with a blower after doing the bulk of the work with a loader requires that the operator keep a close eye out for gravel balls, those large round balls of slushy snow which can, I discovered, contain a great deal of aggregate. Gravel from the driveway, if concentrated, does not pump well through a snowblower.

June 27, 2010:

I notice some readers are looking for a parts book for the TAFE 35DI.  I don’t know of one online, but you can download one for the similar TAFE 45DI from the TAFE South African website.  The power steering is more elaborate with two opposing hydraulic cylinders instead of one, and most 45’s are 4WD, but it might be useful still.

I have an operator’s manual for my 35DI, but can’t scan stuff.  Specific questions I can research in the book, though.