This is our second weekend with the Hemi in a bazillion pieces in the garage while we work on the exhaust. It started as a loose exhaust manifold heat shield. Turned out the shield was messed up from a couple broken bolts in the actual manifold. So we order the bolts, a new gasket, and started taking it apart–only to realize the whole exhaust is just rusted to dust and the tailpipe bracket broke off while we were taking it down.
So we had to order more parts and were back under there this weekend. And here it is Monday and the truck is still in a million pieces because one (of the four) broken bolts just will not come out.
Which brings up an interesting point about tools on the homestead–we talk about the farming and gardening part a lot–the hoses, the shovels, and buckets, the wood and tin. But sometimes we skip over the mechanical side of things.
What Do You Need to Have?
Someone on a homesteading forum recently asked “what are your essential tools if you were starting a homestead?” I think the question is a little overwhelming! It’s also extremely dependent on your personal skill set as well as the size and nature of your individual homestead. But you could break it down into categories to start getting a grasp on it.
First, you would have your gardening and growing tools—shovels, buckets, hoses, sprinklers, hoes, pruners, weed trimmer, mowers, etc.
Then you would have your infrastructure building and maintenance tools—fence supplies, hammers, pliers, saw, sander, grinder, paint supplies, etc.
Finally, you would have your mechanics tools–the stuff you need for working on all your other stuff! Tools for maintaining the truck, tractor, lawn mower, bush hog, chainsaw…all your equipment and implements. Cleaning and changing filters, belts, hoses, tires, plugs, starters, etc. And of course, then there’s actual repair work when something is broken!
An important thing to remember when talking about tools is that the best tools to have are ones you know how to use! There’s regular maintenance and then there’s what I would call heavy-maintenance. The exhaust work on the truck is more than a lot of folks would take on by themselves, but it’s still just heavy-maintenance. It doesn’t have to be done often, but it is eventually required just from normal wear and tear–the Dodge has 190,000 miles on it!
[bctt tweet=”The best tools to have on the #farm are the ones you know how to use! #homestead” username=”va_grown”]
Mr. Fix-It has a natural mechanical inclination, as well as years of hands-on mechanical work, so around here he tackles everything from the basic oil changes to yanking out the transfer case–and he has the tools to reflect that (although I’m sure he wishes our garage looked more like a Snap-On truck than a DIY Craftsman commercial!) You need tools for the jobs you actually do!
Where Do You Get What You Need?
Most small farmers and homesteaders are on tight budgets. Really tight budgets. Even with both of us working off the farm full-time, resources are tight. So where do you get all these tools and equipment without going broke–or when you’re pretty much already broke?
Our garage is a conglomeration of tools that we each had before getting married, and what we’ve acquired slowly over the last 15 years. We inherited some (like our air compressor) from my father’s garage after the accident. We’ve also had a lot passed to us from family members that were downsizing. We exchange tools (or gift cards for tools!) as a family for birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, and Christmas, and a plethora of other sources.
Here are some ideas:
- Gifts from family and friends (go ahead and ask for them!)
- Auctions and Estate Sales
- Yard Sales/Moving Sales (we love the “how much for the whole box” approach!)
- Family and friends downsizing (or upsizing and letting go of the old stuff!)
- Antique stores (a lot of times they don’t even know what it is, or it looks awful but just needs a little TLC!)
- Regular Retailers (look for great bargains and coupons at Father’s Day!)
- Amazon (I’ve found particularly good deals on name brand cordless pieces/sets at Christmas time!)
Where Do You Put What You Get?
Ugh! This is a constant issue for us! Space to store, plus space to work is always a problem. We find ourselves moving equipment around constantly so that whatever needs work can be in the garage. But my dad worked in our open driveway with no cover for years before he could build a garage, so if you have a covered space, no matter what it is, be thankful!
Obviously, I don’t have a great answer for this. Our post on Buildings and Shelters gives some ideas as far as barns and garages are concerned.
But here are a couple points to think about when planning your space:
- Think in phases to help your budget–an open carport can eventually be enclosed. A dirt floor can be graveled, a gravel floor can eventually be concreted. In the meantime, rubber mats on the floor will help and tarps across the open sides will keep some of the worse weather out.
- Think carefully about your height–especially doors! A landscaping trailer doesn’t need the height that an enclosed livestock or horse trailer needs. A tractor with a folding roll bar doesn’t need the height of a non-folding bar or cab roof–but you have to put it up and down. High walls and ceilings give you storage space for a loft or for hanging things.
- Think carefully about your width–especially doors! Our tractor with the disc on the back is wider than our truck. The wheel wells and fenders on our biggest trailer are also wider than the truck. And you want to be able to actually move around your equipment when you’re inside to work on it!
- Think about your length. Our longest trailer doesn’t fit all the way in the garage–the tongue has to stick out. Which means we can’t lock the garage with the trailer inside–the door actually has to stay open at least a little bit.
- Think about moisture. Moisture can wreak havoc on your tools and equipment. Again, I don’t have a great answer because this is something we still struggle with. Metal buildings (like our garage and two of our lean-tos) have more condensation. But the more moisture-controlled your space is the more expensive it’s going to be. Everything is a compromise.
There’s a lot more to the homestead than just feeding the animals and building new pens and shelters. I’d say that repair and maintenance are actually more than 60% of how we spend our time. You have to keep what you build and use in good working order!
I’ve got Mr. Fix-It to depend on around here, of course. But if you’re more like me and need to see it or read it–I highly recommend Chilton manuals for your vehicles (we have one for every car and truck we’ve ever owned!), the owners manual for your other equipment (and you can usually google them if you didn’t get them with your purchase!), and YouTube. There are so many specific videos on YouTube for free! I searched “broken exhaust manifold bolts dodge ram” and came up with a whole list of videos on how to fix it step-by-step specifically on our Hemi.
I think I’m going to go back to the Dollars and Cents series and fit in a post about tools and equipment! I think this cost is overlooked too often! People think about buying the tractor and don’t think about how much it costs to change the oil and filters!
How was your weekend? Have you had good spring weather?
Starting a Small Farm: HEALTH and WELLNESS (with printable!)
Starting a Small Farm: THE HOMESTEAD GARAGE
Starting a Small Farm: SMALL FARM TAX BINDER
Starting a Small Farm: USING GOOGLE CALENDAR FOR MAINTENANCE RECORDS