In the 3 years we’ve had land, we’ve reached for some items so often it’s hard to imagine life without them.
There are usual suspects: the tractor, the bushhog, the farm truck, the zero-turn, the weed eater, the golf cart. Not to mention chainsaws. OMG, chainsaws. It’s good to have at least 2, since one will always be bent, dull, or run out of gas in the middle of clearing the latest tree blocking the driveway.
But this post is about the unusual suspects, gadgets you might not expect. The following, in no particular order, make life easier in nature. It’s funny how we never thought about these things in the suburbs compared to how much we value them now.
1. Measuring Wheel
What sorcery is this!? As you push an enchanted wheel on a stick, it ticks off the distance it’s rolled.
Why the hubbub? I defy you to estimate fencing materials or calculate potential electrical-load drop with a tape measure. The wheel is indispensable measuring long distances. We reach for this thing more than we ever expected.
2. A Good Generator
We’re on grid power, but our generator is still one of our most valued tools. Our power infrastructure is regularly tested by fallen trees and other “rural issues” (a squirrel snuck into a substation and knocked out power to thousands of people in our county recently). While you might be as lucky as we are to have lightning-fast linemen, you can’t always rely on being a #1 priority during events of scale.
“Wait,” you say, “I’m burying my powerlines. No outages for me.” Think again, unless all the lines in your area are buried. If any lines on your circuit go down, your power will go out. A neighbor felled a hickory on our line the other day and knocked out 65 households, even though he only snapped the little powerline on our right-of-way that serves 2 houses.
A good, gas-powered generator provides enormous peace of mind. It’s essential for construction projects, since power tools notoriously overload circuits. Even as I write this, I hear a generator humming at the neighbors’ homebuild. One afternoon during a recent power loss, I wandered down the hill to see if their power was out, too. They hadn’t realized it was because the generator was running all their tools.
3. Snake-Proof Boots
Credit to Chris for realizing hunting gear makes great homesteading gear. A lot of hunting is just being outside, so hunters have the secrets for staying comfortable: light clothing that dries fast, bright flashlights, sharp knives, oddly ergonomic chairs. My favorite are the snake-proof boots by LaCrosse (even though the snake version only comes in men’s sizes for some reason, pshaw).
Bushwhacking the wild acres around us has become a favorite pastime, but our mountain is known for timber rattlers. I got these for extra peace of mind. While I can’t vouch for their snake-proofness, these boots do protect against gnarly thorns and are the most legitimately waterproof footwear I’ve ever owned. Despite their weight, they’re amazingly comfortable. It’s a treat to pull these on and head into the great unknown.
4. Tractor Forks
We love a good tractor bucket, but the bucket fell short when we started receiving construction deliveries. It can’t pick up anything over 5′ wide. It’s also not graceful for picking up heavy things that are fragile.
Forks are an unexpectedly remarkable tractor attachment. A good tractor operator can inch them under items and lift without tilting. A single fork can even be used to trench in a pinch.
Nature is dark without streetlights. We reach for the spotlight every night to find out what that noise was and to scan for yodel dogs when the dogs go out.
6. Walkie Talkies
I can’t count how many times I’ve emerged from the woods to realize Chris was looking for me or needed a 2nd set of hands on a project and couldn’t reach me. Walkie talkies, if you remember to grab them before disappearing into the forest, are a great way to get in touch even when you forget to check your phone. We bought a $40 pair of Midlands 3 years ago. They’re light, sound clear, and hold a charge for a year! An additional benefit is they’re great for hiking safety where there’s no cell phone reception.
7. Game Camera
Your land can be a different place when you’re not there. We learn all kinds of secrets with our cadre of weatherproof, battery-operated, motion-triggered cameras.
Some of our favorites videos include a opossum scratching its back on a sapling, a bear scratching its back on the game camera, a squirrel fighting a woodpecker, and a bobcat playing with its food.
Game cameras are as practical as they are fun. Without the cameras, we would be less clear about the abundance of predators, which would make us less vigilant on behalf of our pets and livestock. Hearing coyotes yodeling in the distance isn’t nearly as impactful as seeing nightly videos of them trotting down the driveway. We’ve caught human interlopers, too, men who ignored the “no hunting” signs to turkey hunt our field before we lived here. Screenshots from the cams helped us peacefully address this misunderstanding among neighbors without any unpleasant confrontations.
- Marking paint, little flags, stakes & string – Even with a magical measuring wheel, it can take hours to measure spaces for fences, sheds, your house pad, where your well should go…we’re always grateful for tools to reliably mark our work. Flags are also great for protecting rare plants from mowing and keeping underground cables and pipes from being cut.
- Insulated tumblers – There is nothing, nothing, like walking your land at sunrise with a cup of coffee. Good tumblers keep it hot.
- Ear protection – You heard me. Don’t be stubborn about your hearing, especially when good ear protection only costs $25. Here’s an article about decibels to determine which noise reduction rating (NRR) to look for. Chris prefers the kind that connect behind your head, not over your head, so they can be worn with hats.
- Gloves – Kind of a “duh,” but we use all types of work gloves all the time, from heavy leather gloves to those awesome boxes of Viper rubber gloves that protect your hands from stains and sticky adhesives.
- Good shovels and posthole diggers – For some reason, we are always digging holes and trenches, for fence posts, the mailbox, outdoor drains, to level slanty land, etc. Keeping more than 1 quality shovel on hand means friends can help you get the dirt out of boss’ hole. Digging is hard. It’s nice to have help.
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Beth, you are so good about writing and sharing with us tips about living on your own land. Great job for good reading.
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Thank you, Mary!