Today we took possession of a critical tool, a necessary implement, and a dream-come-true for my husband: a NEW TRACTOR!!!
This is the second expensive purchase we made late last year (the other being the wood cookstove). I'll leave you to speculate how difficult it is to get heavy work done around a homestead without a force multiplier. In the absence of trained horses, a tractor is the next best thing.
Not long after we moved to Idaho in 2003, we purchased a 1949 Ford 8N tractor. It worked well for a few years...
...then died. We hauled it in for repair.
When we got it back, it worked for, oh, half an hour and died again.
We hauled it in for repair again. Same story -- it worked beautifully for a short time, then died. Hauled it in again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 8N tractors are fairly simple beasts, mechanically-speaking, but our mechanic couldn't keep this baby dependable no matter how much time it spent in his shop. It has been inoperable for about the last six years.
Don is a jack of many trades, but mechanics isn't one of them. The continuous trouble the old tractor gave him was endlessly frustrating.
In the absence of a working workhorse, we borrowed a tractor from obliging friends and neighbors whenever we needed one. But we needed the use of a tractor far more frequently than we felt we could borrow... after all, we could only trespass so far on their good graces. This meant many of our improvement projects were put off and we only used the borrowed tractor for immediate and pressing needs.
In other words, we needed a tractor of our own.
But my goodness, tractors are expensive. For twelve years -- since moving to Idaho -- we were unable to afford one. We've flirted with the idea of buying a used tractor, but in light of Don's (self-described) lack of mechanical aptitude, he was leery of buying a machine that might repeat the same problems as our Ford 8N -- more time in the shop than in the field.
All these issues seemed insurmountable until two things happened.
One, last fall we sold our booth at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival after 18 years. It was a hard decision to give up the booth, but the workload around KC was so intense that it was burning us out. We didn't receive a huge amount for its sale, but it was a lump sum we were unlikely to ever see in one fell swoop again. So we earmarked this money for the purchase of a tractor.
And two, Don found NEW tractors offered for a far more affordable price than he anticipated, through Northern Tool & Equipment. These are Chinese-made (though American assembled) machines. He was wary of purchasing a Chinese-made tractor until he did some intense research on reviews... and came away impressed. It appeared these beasts of burden have an excellent track record.
So we made the decision to take out a small loan to finance the difference in purchasing price... and bought a tractor. We placed the order in mid-December and waited patiently while it was assembled.
Well, *I* was patient. Don was a bundle of nerves. He's wanted a tractor so badly for twelve years that he was like a little kid on Christmas Eve, waiting for it to arrive.
At long long last we got the call that it was on its way (shipping from Minnesota). Don stayed in contact with the driver and gave him directions. Since the tractor was coming in on what we thought was a flatbed 18-wheeler, we agreed to meet him on the paved road a couple miles from our house.
Here's the trucker, arriving on the highway.
Look at that beauty!
To our surprise, the driver had a fifth-wheel flatbed on a dually truck (rather than an 18-wheeler). So Don arranged with the driver to put his rig in four-wheel drive and followed us home, rather than off-load the tractor on the paved road.
Here he is, pulling into our driveway.
Next step: unstrapping.
Once the tractor was free, Don climbed into the driver's seat and tried to figure out how to start it (he had the instruction manual). This is a working man's tractor, not a hobby tractor, which meant it was more complicated to operate.
At first the engine didn't want to turn over (giving us some heart-stopping moments) but it turns out the engine was just cold after traveling in a northern route between Minnesota and north Idaho (particularly North Dakota, the driver told us, where the temp dropped to -27F). But eventually it turned over, began purring beautifully, and Don drove it carefully down the ramp.
That's one Happy Husband!!!
A neighbor came over to admire, and he and Don spent half an hour in typical masculine camaraderie of admiring a beautiful piece of machinery.
The neighbor came away "jealous." LOL -- tractor envy, the scourge of rural men everywhere.
As evening came, Don fired up his new baby...
...and lovingly parked it in the barn, where we had a spot reserved for it.
We're on a strictly frugal new year as we work to pay off the loan, but let me tell you... I have a very Happy Husband tonight!
Meanwhile, we have an old Ford 8N tractor for sale, if anyone's interested.