Small Farmer's Journal

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John Deere Model A Tractor

Many Journal readers rely solely on horse or mule power. Quite a few use only tractors and a whole ‘nother bunch prefer to combine power sources. A small group of farmer folk keep an old tractor around soley for belt power for such things as stationery threshing machines. A popular model for such jobs is the John Deere Model A tractor showcased in this article. The information we have is extensive, we are presenting just a small portion.


John Deere Model A Tractor

John Deere Model A Tractor

John Deere Model A Tractor

John Deere Model A Tractor

Clutch lever, throttle, fuel control and radiator shutter control are reached easily from the operator’s seat. Under your feet are the brakes, hydraulic power lift foot control pedal, and a large, comfortable platform on which you can stand if you so desire.

Familiarize yourself with all the controls provided for safe and easy operation of your new tractor. Regardless of your previous tractor experience, study this section covering controls carefully before you operate your tractor.

John Deere Model A Tractor


The large, bucket-type seat is high up and well forward. You are generally out of the dust where you have a clear, unobstructed view of your work.

The seat (and seat standard) ride on a coil spring that can be tightened or loosened to conform with the operator’s weight for improved riding comfort. When working on rough ground or for heavy operators, more compression should be applied to the coil spring.

Whether you are tall or short, the seat can be adjusted backward or forward to a comfortable position by means of seat attaching bolt located directly under the seat.

John Deere Model A Tractor


Due to the high, centered seat location, tapered fuel tank, and narrow, streamlined design, you can easily see what you are doing at either side. This design, coupled with a steering mechanism built to eliminate entirely objectionable wobble, backlash, or whipping of the steering wheel, even in the roughest going, permits you to work in freedom and comfort.

Smooth, responsive steering can be maintained throughout the life of your tractor by means of the adjustments provided for this purpose.

Adjustments can be quickly and easily made by your John Deere dealer’s serviceman.

John Deere Model A Tractor

John Deere Model A Tractor


The temperature of the tractor is effectively controlled from the driver’s seat by means of a manually operated radiator shutter.

The engine temperature gauge is located in plain sight of the operator and indicates when to adjust the shutter.

For best operation, the engine should always be operated up to its proper temperature, which is 190°F. registered on heat indicator. This results in greater all-around economy, better lubrication and more power.

A convenient, three-way fuel control lever, located on the instrument panel, enables the operator to switch from gasoline to low-cost fuel or to shut off the fuel supply entirely without leaving his position at the wheel.

Also located on the instrument panel is the oil pressure gauge. This gauge does not in any way tell the amount or condition of the oil in the crankcase. It only indicates whether the oil pump is working. The indicator hand of the gauge should rest between the letters “M” and “H” when the engine is running fast idle. If pressure is not registered on the oil gauge when the engine is started, stop the engine immediately.

John Deere Model A Tractor


When starting the engine, set choke in full choke position. (On tractors equipped with electric starters, choking is accomplished by a button, mounted on the instrument panel.) On tractors not equipped with electric starters, choke lever is on the carburetor.

Over-choking or excessive use of the choke will flood the engine, causing hard starting.

John Deere Model A Tractor


Hand Cranking: The flywheel method of starting is simple, safe, and easy. You simply grasp the flywheel and roll it forward slowly.

All controls are within easy reach.

John Deere Model A Tractor

Electric Starting: To start the tractor, pull choke, and step on starter lever.

The starter motor is geared into the flywheel which is protected by a guard.

John Deere Model A Tractor


Individually foot-operated differential brakes makes possible short turns to right or left at the row ends.

If the brakes are pressed simultaneously with both feet, they assure you safe stopping at high transport speeds.

A brake latch is conveniently located for locking each brake when doing belt work or when stopping the tractor on a hill or incline.

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Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.


Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Bamboo A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

Bamboo: A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

from issue:

The bamboos are gaining increased attention as an alternative crop with multiple uses and benefits: 1) domestic use around the farm (e.g., vegetable stakes, trellis poles, shade laths); 2) commercial production for use in construction, food, and the arts (e.g., concrete reinforcement, fishing poles, furniture, crafts, edible bamboo shoots, musical instruments); and 3) ornamental, landscape, and conservation uses (e.g., specimen plants, screens, hedges, riparian buffer zone).

Fjordworks Horse Powered Potatoes Part 2

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes Part Two

These types of team implements for digging potatoes were the first big innovation in horse powered potato harvesting in the mid-19th century. Prior to the horse drawn digger the limitation on how many potatoes a farmer could plant was how many the farm crew could dig by hand. The basic design of these early diggers works so well that new models of this type of digger are once again being manufactured by contemporary horse drawn equipment suppliers.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.


Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.


Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Cultivating Questions Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.



from issue:

The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

from issue:

Any claim about winter production of fresh vegetables, with minimal or no heating or heat storage systems, seems highly improbable. The weather is too cold and the days are too short. Low winter temperatures, however, are not an insurmountable barrier. Nor is winter day-length the barrier it may appear to be. In fact most of the continental US has far more winter sunshine than parts of the world where, due to milder temperatures, fresh winter vegetable production has a long tradition.

Of Peace and Quiet

LittleField Notes: Of Peace and Quiet

from issue:

Movement catches your eye, and in the distance you see a threesome hard at work in the hayfield. Two Suffolk horses, heads bobbing, making good time followed by a man comfortably seated on a mowing machine. The waist high grass and clover falls steadily in neat swaths behind the mower. What you can’t help but notice is the quiet.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

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Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
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