Short version and long to follow.
So, basically, the short version is:
Are the Trac-Vac style collection systems (separate engine/blower) worth the small investment?
What do you guys who pile up leaves do with them down the road?
A bit of background.
I grew up in town, where the city picked up leaves, as long as you got them to the curb. Thats not all that difficult, no matter how big your lot in town.
Well, I lived in town. I spent quite a lot of time, probably as much as at home, at my Grandfathers, out in the country.
He had 2 acres. I used to think he had a lot of trees, but now that I have a ton of trees, he didnt have much at all, lol.
Anyway, Ive used my current 318, which used to be his, since it was new mowing and cleaning up leaves in the Fall at his place. It always worked ok, but not great. The 318 has a 50" deck, and powerflow with JRCO cart bagger (about the same as the MCS from Deere).
Anyway, it would pick up the leaves, but doesnt do much to chop them up. This lead to a lot of emptying of the cart. Out there, we just dumped them in the little stream, on the outside of a bend, where it was eroding. This, and the grass dumped there, helped keep it from getting worse. Oddly, it actually built that part back up fairly well after years of doing that.
Anyway, point being, at that place, it worked just ok. It left a lot of small stuff behind, but got the majority.
Fast forward about 15 years, and where we are now, in the middle of a 10 acre woods, 5.5 of which is ours, we have a small yard. Normally, its not a problem. Heck, I could push mow it if I had an hour or so. Trouble is, in the Fall, the leaves are crazy.
I have to be out every other day or they are too heavy to even think about picking up with the tractor.
My current issue is this.
Even at every other day or so, sometimes the leaves are so thick, the deck ends up pushing them, as it doesnt have good suction with the powerflow attached. Without it, its a monster. It leaves nothing under the deck. With it, it leaves (pun not intended) quite a bit of small chunks.
It also doesnt pack well, because its not really chopping anything up, just throwing them into the cart.
Because it doesnt pick up well, I cant go over the drive or other large gravel areas around the house. Those I use my blower on and just push them into the woods.
This creates basically a large "ridge" around the edge where they get piled up.
Along my drive, this ridge is about a foot tall, even in Summer due to this. I try to take the loader and push them back a bit, but the woods is pretty thick in places so that can be difficult.
Now, the thing is, even when I dump them, I have to eventually relocate them to burn them. This isnt too big a deal, but what I keep thinking is, if I had a Trac-Vac style collection system, they generally chop the leaves as they go through the "blower" into the hopper. Ive seen these fairly cheap locally.
My other thought, just last night after seeing a smaller version, is that maybe I should get one for my Exmark. It is lighter than the 318, and isnt wearing Tru-Powers on the rear to tear up the soft ground. It also does better with deep leaves than the 318, maybe due to the deck design, not sure why.
I could smooth out the trail somewhat, but that doesnt help the burning issues. I suspect I could get the Exmark back there and out easily enough...its more the problem of massive amounts of leaves that need to be dealt with over time.
My thought on the Trac-vac type system is that I could likely pick up leaves off the gravel areas too, instead of just blowing them into a ridge as is happening now.
Anyway, Id still have to dump the hopper and then move them later with the loader or something, as my trail to the burn pile isnt smooth enough to get my Exmark back there.
The reason I dont take the 318 and JRCO back there is because I already have a big pile of leaves on it now, and its been wet/damp so much that I cant burn them yet.
This is also something I need suggestions for.