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, the gadgets you might not expect. The following, in no particular order, make life easier when creating a livable space in nature. It’s funny how we never thought about these items in the suburbs compared to how much we value them now.
1. Measuring Wheel
What sorcery is this!? As you push this enchanted wheel on a stick, it ticks off the distance it’s rolled.
Why the hubbub? I defy you to estimate fencing materials, map a long trench, or calculate potential electrical load drop using a tape measure. The wheel is indispensable for jobs that require measuring long, exterior distances, like making sure fruit trees are planted the same distance apart. 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. If you live in an undeveloped area, rural power infrastructure may be regularly tested by falling trees or other “rural issues” (a squirrel snuck into a substation and knocked out power to thousands in our county a few weeks ago). While you might be as lucky as we are to have lightning-fast linemen (a big “thank you” to linemen!), you can’t always rely on being their #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, too. A neighbor felled a hickory on our line the other day, and it 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 offers enormous peace of mind and is essential for construction projects, since power tools notoriously overload circuits. Even as I write this, I hear a generator humming down 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, waterproof gloves, bright flashlights, sharp knives, oddly ergonomic chairs. My favorite are the snake-proof boots I found by LaCrosse (even though the snake version only comes in men’s sizes for some reason, pshaw).
Bushwhacking wild acres all around us has become a favorite pastime, but our mountain is known for timber rattlers, so I picked these up for extra peace of mind. While I can’t yet 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 because it can’t pick up anything over 5′ wide. It’s also not graceful for picking up heavy items that are fragile. Forks are an unexpectedly remarkable tractor attachment.
A good tractor operator can inch forks under items and lift them without tilting. Forks can even be used to help dig a quick 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 running off into the forest, are a great way for your partner 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 wouldn’t have known many of our land’s secrets without these amazing motion-triggered cameras.
Game cameras capture all kinds of treasure. Some of our favorites 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 if you have 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 carefullyplotted measurements. Flags are great for protecting rare plants from being mowed or or 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 that coffee hot.
- Ear protection – You heard me. Don’t be stubborn about your hearing, especially when good ear protection only costs $25. Here’s a good article about decibels to determine the 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 stain and sticky adhesives.
- Good shovels and posthole diggers – For some reason, we are always digging holes and trenches out here, for fence posts, the mailbox, outdoor drains, leveling slanty land, etc. Be sure to keep more than 1 quality shovel on hand so friends can help you get the dirt out of boss’ hole. Digging is hard. It’s nice to have help.
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