Long story short, this -
It's a Ford 861, which was not only in our price range, but actually started right up and ran when Dan went to look at it.
Your First Tractor: Purchase, Operation and Service. It gives pointers on what to look for, what to avoid, and discusses different makes and models from a repair point of view. For example, some years saw specific problems in either design or manufacturing which were later corrected, or not.
Another useful resource is a website called TractorData.com. It has sections for both farm tractors and lawn tractors, giving specifics for almost every make and model out there. For example, ours is here.
Dan haggled down the price a bit and even got delivery thrown in for free. Even though it is in better shape than everything else he's looked at, it still needs some work.
|Dan had to replace some parts for the life and stabilizer bars. The lift|
lifts the implement off the ground for transport, and the stabilizer bars
keep the implement in line while in use rather than bouncing around.
Fords are common tractors here (old ones anyway), so parts will hopefully be fairly easy to find. If not, there are several sites that offer parts due to hobbyists enthusiasm for restoring old tractors and keeping them running.
Secretly, I think Dan would still rather have a draft horse, although that option is neither feasible nor realistic for us. If he can convert this gasoline tractor to a wood gasifier, it has the potential to be quite a mechanical work horse for us. Not only in terms of field work and pulling things (like maybe we can now make some portable animal housing on skids), but also the power take off (PTO).
All manner of equipment can be powered from this: saw mills, mixers, post hole diggers, log splitter, you name it. It's just a matter of being able to find it.
Finding the attachments and implements will be the challenge. We live in an area where the most common use for farm tractors is either mowing or brush hogging. Still, it's not completely uncommon for someone to be selling off daddy's or granddaddy's old tractor and equipment. As long as they aren't selling them as antiques, vintage, or collectors items, prices can be pretty fair. Time will tell on that one.
So there you have it. Dan even thinks I can learn to operate it. Me, one of the original non-mechanical, hand tool only, ex-flower children? We'll have to see about that.