Historic Somerset: A Rare Opportunity to Own a Piece of HistoryWhen Frascati was completed in 1823 in Orange County, Virginia for Phillip Barbour who had just retired as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Somerset was already a pretty good...
When I first looked at Firefly Farm in 1985 its 13 acres were overgrown with broom sage, vicious blackberries, and two foot tall cedars. I had walked it, carefully avoiding rusty barb wire fencing, truck parts, rows of abandoned dog houses and a three sided barn that was home to a very skinny holstein cow. The back pasture was a wide swale of about eight acres with a spring at the bottom of it and when I squinted my eyes enough I could imagine my horses grazing peacefully on its lush green pasture. It had a 1920’s asbestos sided farmhouse with no central heat, an old hand dug well and a two seater out house in the back yard. I was single, a wet behind the ears Realtor with five horses, a dog and a cat. This place looked perfect. A property I had just sold had a tractor I could buy. It was a 1953 Ferguson TO35 and came with a bush-hog, a blade and a boom. I got everything for $2500 and proudly drove it down Route 20 from Stony Point to Barboursville.
The first job for “Fergie” and I was with the boom. The boom attaches to the three point hitch and you can raise and lower it with your hydraulics. By attaching a good chain you can pull a fence post straight out of the ground and you can drag great loads out to a burn pile. Ours was over the out house hole. The boom is a simple implement and one of the most useful. After weeks of clearing old fence lines and pulling out what debris I could find among the three foot high broom sage it was time for the Bush-hog.
The Bush-Hog is a brand name that is used for just about any rotary cutter. It attaches to the three point hitch at the rear of the tractor and has a shaft that attaches to the PTO (power take off), which powers the bush-hog or any other implement that requires mechanical power. My bush hog was five feet wide with two heavy blades capable of cutting everything from grass to baby cedar trees and even occasional rock outcroppings. I still had no idea what my fields looked like under all the scrub so I carefully ventured forth with the bush hog in a fairly high position. I marveled as I glanced behind me to see clean pasture emerging pass by pass as Fergie chugged along in second gear. Finishing that back field was one of the most rewarding moments of my life as I gazed at the neat mowed rows with nary a blemish. No rocks, no unwieldy ditches, hardly even a bump as this hidden gem showed itself once more. I patted Fergie on her cowling as I would a horse after a good ride and marveled at my luck.
I lived at Firefly Farm for thirty years and raised two great kids in our old farmhouse which also cleaned up nicely. It really was perfect for that time in my life. One year I forgot to put antifreeze in Fergie’s radiator and a hard freeze cracked the block. I felt guilty for being a poor steward for this hard working tractor but she was done for. A neighboring mechanic took her for parts. On my 50th birthday, (2003), I gave myself a brand new Kubota L3400 (34 horse power). It’s a mid sized diesel tractor and came with a front end loader and a new bush-hog. Unlike Fergie, this Kubota is tinker free and now twenty years later still serves as well as when it was new. The front end loader is indispensable now and I could not imagine getting a tractor without one. I guess I’ve never named this “new” tractor but I have given it many pats on the neck after a good work out.
Today, Gaby and I live at lovely Somerview Farm just 10 minutes from dear Firefly Farm. We’ve just two horses now and grown, well settled kids and our first grandson. I still have pasture to maintain and firewood to cut and move and fences to take care of. Of all my passions and hobbies, those moments of working on our land, man and machine, with my tractor are a favorite.
I did not mean to tell a story but really just wanted to offer advice to anyone contemplating their first tractor. It means much more than just buying a tool. It means a new lifestyle. Congratulations if that’s you!