Great expectations deliver on digging holes

REGULAR READERS of this column will recall that the act of digging holes in the ground without a shovel has at times proven the bane of my existence.

In the early 2000s, I cut my teeth on a late 1980s JCB 3CX — and likely didn’t know how lucky I was at the time.

Since then it’s been a succession of sub optimal outcomes. Like the Chamberlain that seized on day two, and the high hour Case that dug like a beast and attacked the hip pocket just as ferociously.

Then there was a series of hired machines that did well but made for an expensive weekend followed by the slow drip of regret afterwards as overlooked jobs were discovered.

I’ve consequently been looking at other options, including (Chinese) Rhinoceros mini excavators that look to be becoming a bit of a cult classic. However, those things are pretty small, and if I’m going to have yet another engine to service (and run on Earth Hour) I want it to count.

So, I took a pass on that and invested in something I never thought I would ever own. A three-point linkage backhoe.

If you’ve ever operated a real backhoe, the 3pl mounted version is the equivalent of rice juice to proper dairy milk. Cheap, nasty and leaves an awful taste in your mouth.

It’s also not very good for your health, if the various stories about operators being killed when pins break are close to the mark.

That said, unlike food I put in my mouth, cheap and nasty is a principle to be (cautiously and advisedly) embraced in the low-budget machinery world.

So here I am with a Hayes BH8600 linkage backhoe. And what can I say?

It meets all my expectations for a linkage backhoe. And it was cheap. All it has in common with the old 3CX is that you need a hammer and a punch to change buckets.

What I should also say is that whilst it is made in China, it is by far the best manufactured and finished farm implement I’ve ever seen from that part of the world.

The paint job puts some local equivalents to shame, and the whole thing seems very well thought out design-wise. For what it is, it’s actually quite impressive.

My question going into the experience was: ‘Can it dig?’

Nobody has ever been prepared to answer me that, so my expectations going in were pretty low.

Fortunately, the thing can dig — it’s just that it isn’t very quick at it, even in our relatively forgiving upper Koo Wee Rup swamp soil.

If you’re mindful of any stress being put on the linkage, it’s also a mentally taxing affair. This is especially applicable having come from the proper backhoes that you can generally flog to your heart’s content, and the worst they will do is run out of hydraulic power.

But if you don’t mind going back to your amateur days making one movement at a time with the controls, and fancy yourself to spot a failing pin (or have great life insurance), this might just work out for you.