Clearing Land - Tractor with Bush Hog

What Kind of Tractor Do You Need for Clearing Land to Create a Homestead?

Posted by Nelson Tractor Company on April 10, 2018

What kind of tractor do you need to carve out your homestead on a timber tract? We walk you through the process of clearing land with the help of Nelson Tractor Company.

Shaping your land to be what you want it to be is the ultimate first step in becoming a homesteader. Keep the following tips and ideas in mind as you begin clearing out a timber tract for your homestead.

Essential Steps for Clearing Land for Your Homestead

Get Your Gear

First things first, “you need a tractor with a good, heavy-built rotary cutter – a bush hog,” explains Will Nelson, owner of Nelson Tractor Company. A bush hog will be helpful for the initial and ongoing removal of small saplings and underbrush on your land. A small, four-wheel drive tractor equipped with a loader and box blade or scrape blade will be all you need for making trails and performing garden tasks.

But one tractor can’t do everything: you need to go a step further to take down full-grown trees.

“Any trees with more than a 6-inch diameter will need to be felled with a chainsaw and the stump will need to be removed with a trackhoe or tractor with a backhoe,” Nelson says.

Vintage Tractor

Remove The Stumps

Removing stumps can require a lot of power. This may come as a surprise, but a pick-up truck won’t cut it.

“TV commercials will make you think you can hook your pick-up truck to a stump and rip it out of the ground, but I don't recommend you try this unless you want to destroy your truck,” Nelson explains.

Depending on the kind of trees you have, the roots may:

  • Run very deep, such as the tap root of a pine
  • Spread over a wide and shallow area, such as a birch or poplar
  • Run wide and fairly deep like an oak

All of this will put too much stress on a truck, which makes it a good time to get a professional involved, someone who can haul out the trees themselves, along with the stumps. The best part about bringing someone else in is that it lets you focus on fun stuff, like the design and maintenance of your garden, landscaping and trails.

“If you have to do it yourself, like me,” Nelson says, it’s time to take your gear to the next level. Nelson recommends renting a 12,000-pound trackhoe for digging the stumps, while still leaving the large tree-cutting to someone with experience.

When you haul the stumps out of the ground, it’s time to decide what to do with them.

“People used to simply bury the stumps in a deep hole, but now you need to have them hauled to a grinder to be ground up. In some parts of the country, you can burn stumps or haul them to a landfill,” Nelson says. “Depending on the size, you could try loading them with the trackhoe you rented or if they are small enough, load them with a smaller tractor and loader.”

You can also put your DIY skills to the test and create seating or table legs with the stumps you’ve pulled out. Perhaps this will be your first big project on your new property—outside of removing the trees, of course.

Ultimately, the best tip Nelson can offer is to “be careful.” While it may sound obvious, keep the area clear of all people and debris.

“You don't want a tree falling on someone or a rock slung through by the rotary cutter,” warns Nelson.

Using Professionals

While it’s nice to cut back on costs, it may be wise to pay a professional in this instance.

“My best advice is to let the professionals do the heavy lifting, like tree cutting and stump removal,” Nelson advises.

Not only because of the danger and challenge of the task, but because when it comes to landscaping, gardening, and other smaller property maintenance and preparation tasks, you need a different machine anyway.

As Nelson explains, “You don't want to buy one tractor for clearing and stumping only to then trade it in for a smaller unit to do the finish work. Clearing land requires more power while gardening, landscaping and trail maintenance is considered more finish work; you just can't find a piece of equipment that is great for both tasks.”

Build Your Dream Homestead

These are just a few considerations to make as you start clearing a timber tract for your homestead. The best advice is to refer to the professionals for the big projects, like clearing massive trees and pulling out stumps. Then you can invest in a tractor that will be perfect for all other tasks around the property, from clearing brush to creating trails in your new backyard.

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Nelson Tractor Company

This piece was contributed by Nelson Tractor Co., which has locations in Blairsville and Jasper, Georgia. Nelson Tractor Company is actively involved in the local community, from participating in FFA events to supporting young farmers and coaching local team sports, to name a few. Learn more at

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