Member of the Month: Rob Liefveld
Username: 3RRL & my wife Loretta is Mrs3RRL
Posts: 6, 714 (Mrs3RRL: 61)
Location: Three Rivers, CA.
Three Rivers is the gateway town for the South entrance to Sequoia National Park, the home of the Giant Sequoia Redwoods. We live in the Western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range at an elevation of about 1600 feet. There are 3 rivers that come into one and dump into nearby Lake Kaweah 9 miles from our home. Can you figure out how I came upon my user name?
How long have you been a member of TractorByNet.com?
I’ve been a member for over five years now.
How did you find the site?
My wife, Loretta, introduced me to TBN while searching the Internet for information to buy a tractor.
What do you like best about TractorByNet.com?
At first I used the site to gather information to determine what size and kind of tractor I should buy. After that, I found information how to best use and service the tractor and implements. Immediately following, I found threads that helped me make improvements and modifications to my tractor and implements to make my tractor experience easier and more enjoyable, while getting more work done. Now I share my personal projects and have made many, many friends through the site.
I love to read about other member’s projects and help by sharing information I have learned over the years from TBN. It’s very satisfying to be able to help another member – not just through replies in a thread, but many times by building or making something for another member. We share services with each other, using each person’s expertise to help one another, even though sometimes we are separated across the nation and even worlds apart. Through this unique relationship, I have made many, many new friends.
What type of tractors do you own?
My wife and I own 2 Chinese tractors. The first one is the Red tractor, a 55 hp Kama 554 4wd bought new in 2005. The 2nd, is a Yellow 28hp Jinma 284 4wd tractor for my wife. Both tractors are equipped the same and have many hydraulic features added to them. They have front-end loaders, bucket grapples, extra lights, tool and chain boxes, hydraulic top link with two hydraulic side links, and additional hydraulic rear remotes. All of the modifications were done together by my wife, Loretta and I while we were camping here and after the log home was built.
How long have you owned or operated tractors?
Five years for the Kama and 3 years for the Jinma. Neither of us had owned nor operated tractors before.
What do you enjoy most about tractors?
Most enjoyable is being able to spend a lot of time together in an activity we both enjoy. Of course, additionally we love to use all that Diesel power to move, dig and drag items that otherwise would be impossible to do without them. I’ve always been fascinated by heavy equipment. We’ve moved things like trees, rocks and dirt for the many projects we have had in building our new log home below the remote foothills of Sequoia Nation Park. I particularly enjoy smoothing our ½ mile long dirt road every week.
Mowing the meadows in the spring is very relaxing. Loretta uses her tractor in her garden and gathering wood for our heating.
How often do you use your tractor?
We use one or both tractors almost every week, but there are times when we don’t use them for a while, of course, and then it seems like both are used every day at times such as in the Pond Project we have going on right now.
Tell us about your property:
As I said above, we own 27 acres located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, below and West of the Giant Sequoias. It is a very remote and rural place with limited access. We are completely “Off Grid” with no ties to the city electrical, gas, telephone or water.
We have our own solar-powered electricity, a deep hard rock well, and we use propane for gas. Our only phones are cell phones.
When we first bought the property, we camped there nearly every weekend for 3-1/2 years. It is a 4-hour drive each way from our city home. At first it was just for fun—to get away from the city. But when we bought the tractors, we used those weekends to prepare the home site for building and to make trails and roads on the property. We still maintain our “South Camp” for when our children and grandkids come up to visit. They love camping at our place and they visit frequently. We have many special memories.
Our first building was a power shed, which houses the batteries, inverters, and standby generator. I built this with my son Matt, who was helping me. These components store the Sun’s energy into batteries and convert it so we can use 110v and 220v ac electricity.
Next, we built (through a general contractor) a 3,200sq/ft log home and a 2-car garage. Then there is a 2,000sq/ft metal barn/workshop, which serves as a machine shop, vehicle maintenance area and wood-shop, and a garden area in the surrounding yard.
We are now in the process of building a separate garden shed. Half of it will house our lawn mower, custom-built garden cart and manual garden tools. The other half will be for Loretta to use in her garden work.
We are also currently working on a project to build a pond. We looked at many areas of the property for the ‘best’ spot, and finally settled on a location fairly close to the house, so we would be able to view the pond from our deck. There’s a natural watershed feeding into the area, which we hope will provide enough water to keep the pond at least partially full. So far, we’ve been able to do all of the work just with our two tractors, but there sure is a lot of dirt to move!
Tell us about your vehicles (trucks, trailers, ATVs, etc.):
We bought a used Arctic Cat ATV to get around on the property before our home was built. My wife, Loretta, thought I was nuts for buying it, saying it was just a “big boy’s toy”, but, once we had our well drilled, we found it invaluable for transporting 5-gallon water jugs to camp and carrying tools and supplies around the property. She eventually took it over to use for spraying herbicide on our new road, and on the non-native thistles threatening to take over this part of the country. She even secretly put some ‘license plates’ on the ATV that say ‘Girls Rule’.
We have a Jeep Compass with a CVT transmission, and all-wheel drive. We bought it to replace Loretta’s 2-wd vehicle, since we knew our dirt road would be very muddy in the winter. We also have an electric golf cart that we use to get the mail from the street because our driveway is almost a ½ mile long. My 4-wd Chevy Silverado was purchased after my Chevy Blazer caught on fire on New Year’s Day in 2008, leaving us stranded with our brand new 16’x 8’ trailer that we bought to move all of our household belongings from Rancho Cucamonga, Ca. to Three Rivers. As a matter of fact, we used that trailer to haul all of my machine shop equipment (including mills, a lathe, and surface grinders shown above).
Do you have any pets?
Yes. Coco is a black, 13-year old lab-mix, with real heart. She was rescued from an abusive home when she was about 6 months old, and is incredibly affectionate, as well as incredibly brave. Raised as a city dog, she adapted to country life immediately, patrolling our camp area several times throughout the night. When a bear came into camp one night, she barked one time, then took off after it, chasing it out of camp and up into a tree within about 10 seconds. She has learned not to bark at the cows next door, and generally leaves the deer alone, but still goes after coyotes.
Our latest addition early this year is Daisy, a 3 month old, golden retriever/aussie mix. Well, that’s what we were told. But she looks more like a yellow lab/aussie mix. She’s a real sweetheart, and is learning from Coco, who wasn’t at all happy about this at first. But now they get a long great and patrol together.
Last year, Loretta decided she wanted chickens. Begrudgingly, I agreed, and we got 4 chicks, which turned into 2 roosters and 2 hens. I soon became entranced with their personalities, and this year, we decided to get more pullets. We now have 13 chickens altogether: ‘Red’ is a very friendly Rhode Island Red rooster, and he’s the ‘king rooster’ of the flock. His mate is Pinky, but now he has 9 other females to choose from. ‘Velder’ is a very aggressive, very protective Lakenvelder. He’s beautiful, but he attacks people all the time. Tutu is a Leghorn that got her name because we had 3 white chicks that we couldn’t tell apart, so Loretta marked their heads with dots (Sheesh, can you believe it?). Her head was marked with two dots (therefore, Two-Two). The newest batch of chicks consists of: 3 New Hampshire Reds (which we can hardly tell apart), 2 Barred Rocks and 4 Aracauna/Americaunas I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it is to sit and watch them. I never knew that chickens had personalities.
What sort of modifications or customization have you done to your tractor?
What haven’t I modified? (ha-ha). One reason I decided on a Chinese tractor is that they are very bare bones, Spartan-like, and old technology. I figured I couldn’t screw it up too much, as opposed to buying a John Deere and worrying about perhaps ruining it up by fiddling with it. The Chinese tractors are mechanically and fundamentally sound, but lend themselves to much alteration to improve and add features to them.
It actually started with electrical problems which I didn’t know anything about. I met my good friend Larry on TBN and he offered to help me with the problem. He flew out from New Mexico to California to do this—like we had been long time friends or something. Anyway, it was a bad ground and he found it out in about 5 minutes. The fuses were very old school, since they were simply different thicknesses of wire, wound onto a fuse holder. So, the first modification was to change it out to use American fuses. Larry did all of that for me. He has since visited again as well as many other TBN members such as Eddie, Ken, Brian and others from another Chinese Tractor forum I belong to. Larry is on the left. Then Ken, Mark, and Brian from left to right with Loretta and me. Last is when Eddie and his family visited.
After the tractor got running again, it didn’t take long to decide that getting on and off the tractor to change the rippers on the box blade was way too inefficient. So I made a hydraulic ripper-lifter. With this modification, box blading became very, very efficient, since I can raise and lower the rippers at will, from the tractor seat on the fly. I added hydraulic side links and top link, 3 sets of rear remotes, and another valve to control it all.
I then added a set of bucket grapples for the FEL, which is controlled with a true third function electric over hydraulic solenoid valve and push button control. Soon afterwards, I added an articulating mechanical thumb to the backhoe. In fact, I’ve done many, many modifications and made several implements…many repairs too! Most of them I have shared on TBN over the years.
When we got the Jinma, I had learned from the modifications I had already made on the Kama. So far, I have added extra rear remotes, hydraulic side and top link, a very nice Prince SV valve to control it all and a homemade bucket grapple for the FEL which Loretta did a lot of the machining and welding herself.
I also added rear FEL stabilizers and many other improvements such as a “Filter Minder”, extra lighting, cup holders, etc. By doing the modification ourselves, we have saved thousands of dollars. These modifications not only increased our ability to use the tractors in many ways that we couldn’t have used them before, but made them much more pleasurable and easy to use.
What sort of tools, attachments or equipment do you use with your tractor on a regular basis? Tell us about them:
The attachments I use most frequently are the FEL and the box blade. With the hydraulic side and top links, the ripper lifter modification, I can maintain our dirt road on a daily or weekly basis. Everyone that uses the road comments on how nice it is to drive on. I also dig up decomposed granite from our ‘granite pit’, using the rippers. I’ve added a lot of decomposed granite to the road surface, reducing the dust in the summer and the mud in the winter. I also use the rippers a lot for our current Pond Project, using the rippers to loosen the dirt. I even plowed my food plot with the rippers on the boxblade because I had no plow or disc.
I use the FEL all the time. Just about every time I get on the tractor. After I use the box blade rippers to loosen up the dirt, I use the FEL to pick up and move the dirt. Once I put the grapples on the FEL, it became even handier. I also use the FEL with bucket grapples to move downed trees and even giant boulders as seen in some of the photos above.
The third attachment that I use a lot is the backhoe. We have a lot of oak trees that we needed to remove, either for safety sake (because they were dead), or the tree fell, leaving the stump, or they were shading on our solar panels. The oaks have gigantic root systems, and I use the backhoe to dig all around the stump, cutting some roots, and then pulling the stump out. Not to mention the thousands of feet of trenching I’ve done for the barn and home project and all the irrigation lines I’ve installed.