We have purchased a tractor. It was a months long process finding the right one, but so far I am pleased with my ultimate decision.

We wanted a tractor with the following attributes:
Power steering (so it'd be easy to drive on our hilly terrain)
Diesel engine (so we can run it on WVO in the warm months)
Three Point Hitch (so we can use implements)
Power Take Off (so we can use implements that spin)
55+ Horsepower at the PTO (so we can use bigger implements)
A loader/bucket (so we can move shit around that isn't on wheels)

Basically, we need a tractor that is useful in the front and useful in the back. Since we're only going to have one, it needs to wear many hats. A tractor with these qualities is not cheap, I see them on Craig's List for anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000, depending on age, condition, ego, etc. I wanted to spend under $4,000, we have a $10K budget this year for farm/house improvements and it needs to go a long way. We've been going to auctions and I've been religiously checking Craig's List and Ebay within a 2 hour radius, and many machines have slipped through my fingers. At the auctions I'd been the second highest bidder on half a dozen tractors, but my price was firm. Last weekend I went to an auction and bid on an International 674, it was pretty beat up but it had a loader. The tractor ended up selling for $3,500 (I bid up to $3,250.) When it was up, and I had lost, a fellow approached me and said he had an International 574 for sale, but it didn't have a loader. I took his information and went on my way.

The thing about our list of desired attributes is that all of them are inherent to the machine, you can't increase horsepower, you can't add a PTO if the machine doesn't have one, etc. All of them but a loader, that is. Loaders were made at the time both by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers, Ford making loaders for Ford tractors) and by aftermarket companies (Bethlehem Steel making loaders for J. I. Case.) There were also, as can be expected, homebrew loaders, and everything in between. Some loaders can bolt right on to some tractors, and pretty much any loader can be modified to fit pretty much any tractor with enough patience and money, although some might look pretty silly. The other thing is that most of the time the parts cost more than the whole, Loader + Tractor > Tractor that comes with a loader. If I could find a cheap loader that could fit this 574 then it'd be a good buy.

I went through Craig's List and Ebay again and happened upon a nice loader, at the time it was only $10.50. The more I looked at it the more I liked it. The construction is quite rigid, there's plate steel between a pipe frame, whereas many other loaders only have the pipe frame. The bucket tilts and has down pressure (some buckets are a trip style, where the bucket is fixed in one position but you can pull a lever to make it dump it's load, then you have to bring it down to the ground to reset it. Other buckets have hydraulic tilt, but instead of using the hydraulic pressure to push the bucket down they just let gravity do the job. The nice thing about a tilt bucket with down pressure is that if you ever get a flat tire you can use the loader to jack up the front end.) This bucket came off of an International, so while the front brackets may not be perfect, the general fit will be correct. The auction was up at 10 PM on a Wednesday, and as of then I had not seen the tractor. I took my chances and bid on it, thinking worst case I could resell it or even scrap it and recoup the price.

I ended up winning the loader for $220, and on Friday I bought the tractor for $2,850, delivered to our door. The tractor had belonged to the seller's father, who passed away recently. The seller had 5 Ford tractors and wanted to keep it that way. I had to put a new battery in it and rewire the starter, which is pretty minimal. It has a few small hydraulic leaks and a coolant leak but I hope to ferret them out in the coming weekends. All in all, not bad for a 40 year old machine. Johnson's aunt can hopefully haul the loader up here from southern PA and we'll be in business. The immediate tractor projects, fence post digging and brushhogging, are not loader related anyway.