Last week, while my daughter Alaina was still visiting, we went ahead and did some chores with the DR Towable Backhoe demo unit that’s in the barn. When DR first offered to send a Towable Backhoe to Kansas for testing, I was just a little skeptical that something so seemingly small and relatively light weight could really perform, but I was burning with curiosity because of the company’s history of building awesome machines that do what they are designed to do quite well.
When the DR Towable Backhoe first arrived, I hitched it to my pickup and pulled it down the highway to the farm without incident. This particular model is equipped with fenders and lights, in addition to highway hubs and wheels. The company recommends that you don’t exceed 45 mph while towing. Even though the speed limit was 70 mph for much of my trip to the farm, I never came close to towing the backhoe at that speed but I might have been a tad over 45 a time or two. The backhoe tracked well; the drive was completely free of any white knuckle syndrome.
Setting up the DR Towable backhoe was a piece of cake. All I needed to do was to pour 10 gallons of hydraulic fluid into the reservoir and fire it up. Oops, don’t worry Julia I also added premium diesel-engine-quality motor oil to the Robin engine’s crankcase, before firing it up. It took more time to unwrap the Towable Backhoe than it did to get it ready to go to work.
Since our Kansas ground is hard when dry and sticky when wet, and since there are plenty of plate-size pieces of limestone in it, I used the Polaris Ranger as an anchor point when digging with DR’s diminutive hoe. It is possible to dig with the DR Towable Backhoe without attaching it to another vehicle, but the vehicle makes it pretty easy to move the hoe around and helps keep it from moving when you don’t want it to. After several uses now, I find the DR Towable Backhoe to be robust, capable and really handy for getting into tight spots and steep places that might upset a tractor.
So what do you use a little backhoe like this for? I find it to be really adept at digging holes for transplanting larger trees, cutting in relatively short waterlines (for long lines, a hydraulic excavator or trencher will cut the time substantially), digging out the broken sewer line that got crushed earlier this spring and digging large, deep holes for setting big, irregularly-shaped Osage orange posts (think butt end of a 50-year-old tree’s trunk). The 6.0 horsepower Robin gas engine is an easy recoil-starting model that has plenty of oomph to supply 2.6 gallons of hydraulic fluid per minute at 2500 psi – even under heavy load. At one point I hooked a piece of limestone ledge about 3 feet down; curling the bucket dragged the entire backhoe and Polaris Ranger toward the hole. The engine’s governor kicked in, but it didn’t lose significant speed.
At right around $5500 (including shipping), the DR Towable Backhoe’s cost is comparable to small tractor-mounted backhoe attachments. This machine is perfect for folks who use ATVs, UTVs, or garden tractors to maintain their places. If you have a compact (or larger) tractor and anticipate a moderate amount of backhoe work, then it will be difficult to decide between the DR unit and a mounted hoe. In either case, the beauty of the DR Towable Backhoe is in its self-contained nature and ease of attaching to and disconnecting from the anchor vehicle. If you use your tractor as an anchor point you may get the full digging power of the DR Towable Backhoe to boot. Other advantages to the DR hoe include being able to relocate at up to 45 mph, and being able to squeeze into places that larger machines simply won’t fit. It also takes up way less space in the shed and you can move it around with ease.
Once I was finished with the dirt work, I hooked the DR Trailing Field and Brush mower to the Polaris Ranger. Alaina and I had a lovely conversation while I clipped about 10 acres of pasture that the cattle had just been moved off of. I know that such heavy mowing isn’t really what the mower was designed for, but it continues to work like a trooper. Stay tuned for more reports on DR’s remarkable products.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.