It is an incredible responsibility to be in charge not only of your own well-being but those of your family as well. We have two growing and beautiful children, but we have 19 chickens, a beehive, 3 dogs and 4 goats. Each one deserves a series of blogs covering what we’ve done right and what we wish we could change. Parenthood is indeed a challenge and full of discoveries and there isn’t anything that really prepares us except actually doing it! This blog will be devoted to our newest family members - Milk Dud, Snickers, Daisy and Delilah.
Momma is Daisy and she’s the biggest with all of our goats being Nubians. Daisy was bred with a Nubian dwarf and they produced Milk Dud and Snickers. (Milk Dud is a boy and Snickers is a girl.) We aren’t sure if Delilah is a pure bred Nubian or not but she’s small and at least mostly Nubian. We did a lot of research on the different types of goats and decided that for now, Nubian is the way to go. They are a hardy group of goats that are good for milking and meat; which at the end of the day, is exactly what we are looking for. Originally we were going to get Milk Dud and Snickers once they were weaned along with Delilah and her sister. A sad story later, we had to hurriedly pick up the ones we have now. And that in and of itself was a bit of the problem. We had to hurry to prepare for them. Instead of having 6 weeks to prepare for their arrival, we had just a few days during the hectic work-week to become ready. I felt like the count-down was on and ready or not, here they came!
Mackay had researched the goat the fencing in advance and it was actually ready. Please check out his youtube video on the brand/model here: https://youtu.be/CJRDcpKTmkM
While I was out working my day job, he had to put it out himself and get it ready, all 200 yards. It worked just fine and the solar battery was charging. We had a lovely Friday after work trip to Tractor Supply to pick up food, salt blocks and stands, formula and then baby bottles from Dollar General. (Tractor Supply was out of the nipples and bottles.) We dropped those items off and then went to get the goats. After talking a bit with their owners, we loaded them up in the back of our truck (it has a topper so no one could jump out) and we gave them some food to munch on for the short drive home. By now, it was almost pitch black. This was turning into a problem - it was extremely dark and we were holding flashlights in our mouths so that we could have both hands free to carry the kids and get the ladies out and settled. Finally, we get our own kids to bed and set out to see how our other kids are doing in their new home.
The electric fence is ticking as it should and we checked every panel to see if it was on - it was but… just didn’t have a kick or any juice. Now we are concerned, not that our goats would get out, but that something would get in - our goats were sticking their heads through the fencing and leaning on it like it wasn’t electrified! This is a BIG problem! It’s really late now, pitch black, we’re tired but know we won’t sleep knowing our goats are essentially unprotected. After some quick texts with their previous owner, Mackay works a little magic! Off comes the solar panel on goes a new power source that we jerry rig from our workshop. There is a definite bite now to the fence and we call it a day.
The next morning, it’s time time feed milk to the babies. Based off of what we were told, the girl would Not bottle feed but the buckling would be hungry and eat because Daisy wasn’t producing enough milk. Dollar General nipples for babies do not work nearly as well as nipples designed for goats - we learned that the hard way! Every few sucks you have to pull the nipple back out from inside the bottle so the babies can reattach and that gets old. Fortunately, it appears Daisy is producing more and Milk Dud and Snickers are getting enough to eat. We do still occasionally supplement but not regularly. We have seen both kids trying to eat fresh clippings although it seems they’re trying to figure out what all they can and can’t eat. Daisy and Delilah LOVE animal crackers like it’s crack but the babies could care less. Daisy and Delilah are much more coaxable when they know you have their treats. One shake of the canister will bring them running.
24 hours goes by and we relax a bit until a very strong storm moves suddenly into our area with a lot of lightening. We had not had time to build a shelter for them and we were really worried about the babies. The ladies were accustomed to being outside in the rain and weather, but the babies were not. After a break in the storm about 1am or so, Mackay was able to bring them all over to our enclosed porch and warm Milk Dud and Snickers with his body heat and towels. He gave them warm milk, all four of them actually although Snickers wasn’t really interested. The babies stopped shivering and Milk Dud now idolizes Mackay and thinks he is a rock star. The next day, Mackay made a make-shift shelter to keep them dry and our kids added several buckets full of pine needles to give them a bed. Success! Last night it rained again and everyone was snug as a bug in a rug. In fact, the kids think it’s fun to jump on the tarp and they all seem to like being under it together. Quality family bonding time perhaps?
All in all, what a joy they are! And it’s good family bonding time for us too - instead of sitting in front of the tv, we all sit in the goat pen playing with the Milk Dud, Snickers while trying to get Daisy and Delilah more comfortable with us. Our kids enjoy playing on the brush pile along with the goats. The chickens often come join us and peck around. The dogs each were shocked by the fence and keep their distance now, which is a blessing because Freyja was all about trying to get herself a goat sandwich. Peace and routine, once again, has settled upon Iron Side Ranch. Not sure how long it will last but for now, we savor it and thank God for our beautiful and growing family.
Luke Bryant says that “days go slow and years go fast” and that seems to fit life right now. There’s not enough hours in a day to get everything done and yet the year goes by as it should. The kids are growing fast and when Facebook pops old posts of the kids from 2 or 3 years ago, I’m amazed at the difference. I find that I think I’ll remember these happy moments forever of their childhood but quickly realize I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, let alone what cute phrase the kids said years ago. I wish that every moment of joy could be captured in a bottle to be released in moments of hardship! Just the other day, Hannah was saying that today was the best day ever. Her reasons for why are simple and beautiful. She has a lot of ‘best days ever’ for which I am deeply grateful. (And since she can’t remember her last favorite days and why, I don’t feel so bad at forgetting mine so quickly either.)
Yesterday we received the call that our precious little baby goats were going to be have to be bottle fed because mommy goat had unexpectedly lost the ability to produce enough milk. Last week we watched as they jumped and played and nursed. And now, the girl is fighting to stay alive because she doesn’t want to bottle feed. Their owners have asked that we pick them up this weekend because bottle feeding two babies just isn’t in their hectic schedule. And on top of that, we were going to bring home two other of their mature girls to help thin their herd! Now we are hastily trying to figure out fencing and lodging for four goats instead of two. We received a call this very morning that something (probably a very large dog based on track marks) had jumped their fence and killed two of their goats, one being one of the girls we were going to take. This is real life on a farm! One day everything is fine and the next, things have drastically changed.
Had to laugh at myself when I started comparing our ranch with my real estate business. Life in both worlds can completely change quickly although real estate isn’t generally life or death thank goodness! Just the other day, we had the green light to close and then two days before closing received word the seller (a company that handles foreclosures) didn’t have their paperwork straight and had no idea when it could close. Talk about frustrating! Yes, I get that they aren’t exactly the same thing but the disappointment and change is just as real. And… you have to go with the flow! Life could be stressful if we let every disappointment and change weigh us down. Instead, we have to look at the positive. One goat gets eaten, mommy goat gets to come to our ranch and stay with her babies instead. One closing falls through and we get to look for another house that’ll be even better. We ended up rescuing a starving dog about two hours before an open house I was hosting at our current Iron Side Ranch location and that was fun! 3 dogs all getting to know each other all the while I’m showing potential buyers through the house and property. Am happy to report the rescue has adjusted nicely into the pack and all is well in the animal world here. Next step is to see how all 3 dogs respond to the new arrivals that are coming. We have made our trip to our favorite local feed and hardware store - Tractor Supply and we are ready for the 4 new family additions! Life is good. Life IS good.
We have our goats! Next blog will go over the first lessons and mistakes we learned! And there are a LOT… :o)
Life on a farm has subtle rhythms and it’s those familiarities of routine that I thrive on. Wake up is the same every day during the week and a consistent time on the weekend. Coffee is the first order before anything except the sun coming up which thankfully doesn’t require my immediate attention to do. (It’s going to come up whether I’m ready or not.) The kids eat breakfast and get ready for school. Morning chores with the animals can almost be done half asleep because we generally are and everything still gets done right. And then the day progresses between rote chores and daytime career demands. The fire needs attending to every hour or so to keep it going just right in the winter. The chickens move around the property with regularity and the crowing of the roosters is somehow comforting and reassuring. The dogs are in a sleep rhythm until something I can’t hear gets their attention. The coo-coo clock ticks and chimes punctually. (Punctually doesn’t mean on time, having the hardest time getting it set to keep the right time but that’s another story.) Mackay and I have our own texting and calling rituals that I love. It’s comfortable and pleasant amidst the chaos of the world.
Sword fights do break out in gleeful randomness and the sibling squabbling does occur. Chickens get left out accidentally and a predator snatches one away right under our noses. Cars break down. Someone catches a cold but the gentle rhythm of the ranch never strays for long. I can imagine the cows munching along happily. Goats playing and eating without a care and pigs grunting and snorting and digging. Ah yes, these three animals are all still in my imagination and dreams but they’re coming this year. (4 goats arrive later this week!) The electric fence on my entry bench is a daily reminder that they really are coming. I think Saturday’s are my favorite with Sunday’s as a close second because that’s when we are all together. The kids bring a lot of noise and energy and Saturday’s are work days. We all pitch in together whether it’s cleaning out the chicken coop, stacking wood, working on the tractor, planting trees or cleaning the house. It’s the day we relax by working outside and together. Sunday’s are family days. Morning ranch chores, church and then home to a nice lunch prepared by Mackay and then we play. Corn hole is a new family favorite although a game of cards or Clue is definitely a possibility. This is the day we slow down and reconnect with each other as a family. We talk, we laugh, we relax and thank God for the life we have together. This is the day we plan out our week, review our family budget and if possible, steal a nap or run to the ice cream store for a sweet treat. (The kids are way more in favor of the ice cream but that’s no surprise there.)
Slowing down and working harder and smarter has been a life changer. Sure, there’s always stress when things happen - life happens and the unexpected hits BUT savoring the simple moments, stopping to enjoy the fire in the stove, petting the dogs or even taking a few seconds to breath in the sunlight, spending time in the Word has never been a moment regretted. When I take these few moments during the day to reconnect with those around me, I’m present in the moment, present for those I love and care about and more focused on work when I need to be. The more we live without tv and electronic distractions, the more meaningful time becomes. At this moment, we are considering a small possibility of selling our property and moving to an area of 150 acres that doesn’t have anything on it except dreams and possibilities, trees, a pond, a stream and wildlife. Could we sell our home and move into something temporary while we build a home from the ground up? We’d have to dig a well, put in a septic tank and get a propane tank and a solar array almost immediately. There isn’t a power grid to join. No cable. No internet that we know of and it’s a bit of a drive to the local grocery.
It’s an intriguing idea. Honestly, I’m not sure we do it and enjoy it without killing each other! Part of me says “hell yes!” and the other part says “are you crazy, no A/C with Alabama summers?”. But to live on just over 150 acres would mean we could become full time homesteaders and ranchers within a few short years and we would eventually build a bigger house as funds became available. Well, the reality is that we are about to find out because we close on this precious land later this month! And no matter what happens, I’m not sorry that we dared to dream and are striving to reach those dreams one moment at a time. Let’s see what today holds and tomorrow dreams up while keeping pace with the gentle rhythms of our farm…
Nothing says farmer better than a big green John Deere tractor and you never forget your first! We spent countless hours discussing what type of tractor we needed for Iron Side Ranch and what was/is important in one and looking online at ones for sale all over the country. There are more types and variations of tractors than I thought possible and even now am amazed at what all they can do. After many phone calls between his dad and Granddad, we finally decided a 4-wheel drive tractor, manual transmission and one with a front loading bucket are the way to go. I’m ashamed to admit that there are many more features that are important and need to be thoroughly reviewed before purchasing but they escape me now that it’s time to put pen to paper.
~ our tractor cost more than my car and our tractor is twice as old
~ when I can’t find Mackay inside our home but I know he’s here somewhere, he’s outside on it
~ it really is sexy (although maybe it’s the man driving it that makes it so)
~ it is Very powerful and is better than a wheelbarrow
~ I don’t get a turn driving it very often
I actually found it on facebook marketplace for sale just down the street from us and we jumped for joy - literally. We could max out our tractor budget because we didn’t have to pay for shipping and it was everything that we thought we needed. We drove on down to the house and took it for a test drive and Mackay was in love. At that moment, I felt like I should have knelt down on one knee and asked him to marry me and handed him the keys to the tractor as his engagement ring! (Side note: We were already planning our wedding at the time but chose not to get an engagement ring for me yet because of our ranching demands and were married in Dec 2018.) And because it was so close to our home, Mackay was able to drive it home and the kids and I followed behind with our blinkers on warning other vehicles of our slow passage. Each mile passed became symbolic of a new mile marker about to be in our ranching experiences!
That was also my first lesson in tractor driving etiquette. Whenever a vehicle would come up behind us, Mackay would move the tractor over and wave it on around us when it was safe to do so. I was really impressed that he was considerate of the other drivers to the point of giving himself a neck ache because he had to keep turning around to look. The kids and I rolled our windows down and turned the A/C on full blast because it was a scorching day. We put our hands out the windows and pretended to fly as we drove about 10 miles an hour down back country roads. And we did this for almost 45 minutes!
We finally arrive home and the kids tumble out of the car and race over to see this enchanted new thing that has finally arrived. Stern safety talks would be done later but at this moment, everyone basked in the glow of being tractor owners and it was time to explore every button, hidden compartment, knob to turn and lever to switch. It would have been apparent to any observer that we had given up t.v awhile ago because this tractor was very entertaining to us. The kids ran around it playing tag while Mackay sat learning what did what and I sat back and soaked it in. Not only is a tractor important for a working farm but it also symbolizes a step towards freedom. Freedom one day of being completely debt-free. The freedom of eating livestock that we’ve raised without hormones or antibiotics. Freedom to learn how to shoot our firearms safely and effectively because of the range this tractor is building. Freedom to escape the pressures of work and it gives us the freedom to dream. To me, this green John Deere tractor symbolizes a happy family unit loving life exactly where we are, in this moment, drinking in the smell of the freshly moved dirt. The smell of Mackay as he’s walking over to me to kiss me after slaving away in the hot sun on his tractor and feeling his sweaty kiss mixed with dust and grass. Eventually, I know we will add to our tractor collection but this one is special - this is the one that gives me permission to dream of what’s now and what’s to come. It’s our first together…
Living on a ranch was never something I thought would ever be a possibility for a ‘city-girl’ like me. I’m not strong, am a city girl brought up in the suburbs of a town in the Smokey Mountains. Sure, I’ve always enjoyed riding horses, shooting guns, having a dog and wearing jeans and boots but living on a ranch? You know, one with chickens and dogs and one day goats and cattle and a garden. Me - I kill every houseplant I’ve ever owned and had to give away a cactus just to ensure it stayed alive. And yet, here I am, 39 years old and living the dream. It may have taken a while and a few bumps in the road but I found my cowboy, dogs and chickens. Goats, cattle and yes, a garden, are coming soon whether I’m ready or not and I cannot wait to share this adventure with you.
In my early 20’s, I was diagnosed with an incurable illness that left me on a lot of medicine, surgery and without hope of ever having children, a big yard and ranch home for the kids to play in and of finding a husband to share life with. I struggled with loosing my good looks and freedom to the side-effects of the medications and constant trips to the doctor and hospital. Eventually, I sought treatment overseas in the hopes of alternative treatment. Things started to change with a series of acupuncture, asian medication mixed with conventional medication and I was able to have two healthy children! What a blessing and a miracle!
Moving back to the US with these two bundles of joy brought on new challenges - being a single mom with a chronic illness brought on a new set of obstacles to work through and at the end of the day, I’m sitting in front of our wood burning stove, 2 kids, 2 dogs and with the most incredible man I have ever known. God is good. This last year has been incredible and I have done farm things I never imagined doing!
Getting our chickens was an interesting process. Did you know baby chicks are sent through the mail? I didn’t know that and it was fun going to the post office and picking up a chirping box. We all gathered around this box like it was magical; took off the lid and much to our surprise (although it shouldn’t have been a surprise), we were chicken parents! 50 baby chicks all portioned off neatly ready for a new home. How hard it was not to try and name them all because most of them were going to become dinner in a few short months. Little puffs of soft fur moving in a small mob toward the heat source and food. That’s all they cared about. Food, pooping and eating - the life of a chick. Watching the wonderment through the eyes of our kids is a whole other story.
As life went on, the chicks grew and soon it was time to butcher them. Ohhhhhh I cannot adequately describe the fear, apprehension and curiousness of the whole experience. The sound of that first machete chop on the chicken’s neck, the feel of it jerking as I held it upside down to the let the blood drain out and then the smell. The smell of the warm chicken as the skin is being ripped off mixed with smell of the gut and then when I nicked the intestines and all the crap squishing out. All the while trying to act brave in front of my kids and Mackay. I could do this and I did. Yes, I cried during and afterwards and even writing about it makes me want to cry but more than that, am thankful for the nourishment those chickens are providing my family. That homemade chicken soup, the chicken potpie, broth and other foods Mackay so tenderly makes for us is worth every chicken that has to be butchered.
Gathering eggs is a daily chore we do together. Farm fresh eggs taste so much better than even the expensive cage-free eggs from the store. We did a blind taste test for everyone and it was apparent quickly which bite of egg was from our ranch and which was not. We eat eggs almost every day and there is something so satisfying about knowing the chickens we protect and care for are in turn helping and feeding us. At this point we have 14 hens that lay and it’s fun counting the egg production every day and picking off the feathers and washing off the poop before cracking them over a hot iron skillet. Mackay and I love to simply hold hands and go out and watch them all pecking around and listening to the roosters crow. Simple and intimate and a perfect quick escape together.
We started the summer off with our four year old German Shepherd named Freyja and ended the summer with an addition, Razor Blade. He is a sweet boy that’s some sort of mixture of Doberman and possibly a terrier. He was about six months old and just days away from becoming a snack for some predator. It’s hard to believe someone could dump this sweet boy who wants nothing more than to cuddle and sleep on your favorite blanket. They run and play, tease each other and are best friends now. Freyja is definitely the alpha and leader of the two and Razor has gracefully accepted his role of being at the bottom of the pecking order. Freyja has had an interesting year as well. She went from being Mackay’s one and only girl with the run of the house to having to share her best friend with a new female and two more ahead of her in the chain of command. She too has had her own growing pains and adjustments to make with her new family. Her first love will always be Mackay and wherever he is, she is. I always know when Mackay is almost home because she instinctually seems to know and sits on alert for him. At times, I think she remembers her quiet previous life and flashes of her simple past shine in her eyes as she adoringly looks upon Mackay. She is very talkative and communicative for a dog who doesn’t bark much. She has this beautiful whine when she sees Mackay and one can almost hear her love for him in those tender moments of joy for her. She is moody like me and grunts when I ask her to move over so I can sit next to Mackay which she grudgingly does when told. Last night she buried herself in his legs while he was outstretched on the couch. She needed her love bucket filled and reassurance that she was still Mackay’s girl. Both Freyja and Razor are great with the kids and are fine-turning the art of playing all together. Freyja is their protector and Razor is the instigator. It’s a joy listening to shrieks of joy from the kids and dogs barking and yipping outside. They all bring such joy to our family.
Mackay is the absolute love of my life and best friend. It’s hard not to gush on and on about him. This handsome man that took my breath away the first time I saw him speak at a networking event who still takes my breath away and makes my heart race. He may be a tough army veteran with tattoos and pierced ears with vocabulary that makes me blush but he is thoughtful, kind, super smart with a mind that never shuts off. He is patient with me as he teaches me the basics of how to do everything here at Ironside Ranch. He steals kisses from me at every opportunity and is quick to grab my hand as we work or walk the property. He prays for me and the kids, talks to his mom every day and gives himself sacrificially for us every single day. He cooks gourmet meals just about every day and has ruined me for life from restaurant food. Every meal out gets compared to his cooking and generally falls short big time. Life suddenly changes when you can share it with someone you can completely trust, laugh with, love and cry with. He doesn’t seem to mind my hidden talent of belching either! Can’t tell you how much time I’ve lost just catching myself daydreaming about him when we aren’t together; it would probably be embarrassing. I love how he focuses his attention and time on our family and seems to be as content as can be here at the ranch all together. I pray we can add to our family of 4 with another little one sometime soon. He is such a good father and treats Joshua and Hannah as his own. One day, I will share more about Joshua and Hannah but at this moment let's leave it at them being safe, happy and well-adjusted, super smart kids with a mom and dad that adore them and are proud of them.
Mackay and I both have full time jobs on top of caring for our ranch. Mackay is a co-owner of Timberline Inspections, LLC and I am a realtor with Keller Williams Metro South and owner of Rosewood Realty, LLC in Birmingham, Al. We both enjoy our jobs and find them very fulfilling. And yet, at the end of the day, we enjoy nothing more than coming home to our family here at Ironside Ranch. As I turn down our gravel driveway, it’s like the weight and worries of the day evaporate. I’m greeted first by two rambunctious dogs, kisses and hugs from the kids and then a smile and kiss from a man that stops my heart. Doing laundry and cleaning, homework and taking care of the animals no longer seem like a chore but a blessing. What a gift to be able to come home to a safe place and enter a whole new world of animals, livestock, trees, dirt, guns, tractors, plants and life! I’m filled with wonder every day at God’s beautiful workmanship! It’s quiet here and easy to hear to the wind whispering through the trees, chickens cackling and causing a raucous, squirrels jumping from tree to tree and noticing unidentifiable bird calls. We have a spider on our water pump that won’t go away and spin her web elsewhere. It seems like she’d tire of constantly rebuilding it! We walk the property dreaming of what is to come, the new life stirring within - which hill will be transformed into wildflowers for the bees that will arrive in March, which spot will be the launching pad for our barn, the area for our orchard and which trees we want to plant where. And the list goes on. Will be sharing all the updates on our ranch with everyone bit by bit and I cannot wait to share this wonderful life with you.
Lately, I have been researching composting and everything involved with starting one as well as discussing ways to improve our future garden site’s soil. As I look at the clay mess that’ll one day hopefully bear fruit; literally, I’m amazed at how much our life revolves around dirt. My house is dirty. The kids are often covered in dirt. The dogs need a bath because of the dried mud that’s now shedding on my floor. My boots are dirty and covered in who knows what. My car is dirty, inside and out. Dirt gets everywhere! And yet, without it, we simply couldn’t live.
As I look about our culture in general and see kids suffering from so many illnesses that didn’t exist with such prevalence even 50 years ago, namely obesity and everything associated with childhood obesity, I can’t help but wonder if a little dirt might not be part of the solution. We have taken away most electronic devices for our children with the exception of a Kindle that is strictly monitored and the few family movie night together. We do not have wii’s or Nintendo’s or X-boxes. No cell phones for the kids to play on. We do have an iPad that is collecting dust and was last used during a 23 hour road trip to Colorado which was really more to help preserve the sanity of us parents vs the kids really needing it. Thankfully, our kids are considered fairly healthy and definitely within normal weight range for kids their age/height. But even a case study on them makes me wonder just how much healthier they are now that we live on a ranch.
For example, two years ago, we lived in a subdivision with houses practically on top of each other, the tv was on a fair portion of the time, the iPad had regular but monitored usage, the kids ate school lunches and rode the school bus daily. They missed an average amount of school due to the common cold and our daughter missed almost two weeks because of the flu. This past year, they stopped riding the bus, eat healthy most days, take homemade lunches (much to their chagrin I daresay) to school and there are virtually no electronics around and certainly not for everyday use. The main kicker? They play outside now almost every single day. They have farm chores consisting of collecting eggs and keeping the wood crypt full during the winter. They run and play, often shrieking in delight. They play with the dogs and roll around on the ground (much to my chagrin). Coincidence or not, they have not had a single cold or flu since they’ve started playing in the dirt!
Now, dirt is not the end all miracle cure for the common cold but I do somehow wonder if there isn’t something powerful at work when we are closer to it. Is it an excuse not to clean and keep order? No, unfortunately not. But even I myself have seen drastic health improvements by being in the dirt more and mine are documented through regular checkups. Whatever I’m doing, my doctor instructed me to keep doing, because it’s working. I have an autoimmune disorder that has taken it’s toll on my body and at the age of 39, am now healthier than I was 2 years ago and even 15 years ago. A lot of answered prayers, I have no doubt. Cleaner cooking by Mackay and a lot less stress. But also a simpler lifestyle revolving around dirt. The four letter word that good clean southern ladies don’t say or allow in their immaculate houses.
We have been planting blueberry bushes, peach trees and various trees along the border of driveway. We are digging in the dirt making a shooting range, clearing land and trees for pasture. Using our tractor to till the land for our garden. I sift through seed catalogue pages and books about gardens in hopes of discovering some of the magic hidden in the soil, dreaming of tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, onions and hot watermelons fresh from the vine and ground. I can almost smell the dirt as I sit by the fire looking at the wind tearing through the Pines on the hill swirling the dirt that I hope and pray will help heal our bodies as the work heals our minds and souls. Dirt around here is no longer a four letter dirty word but one one we laugh over as we wash off in the sink, we play over as we run the fields with the chickens and dogs and the occasional tumble upon all the while playing swords or throwing pinecones. Dirt. The good stuff of life. Yes, the vacuum comes out tonight along with a bath for the dogs and kids (although not together) and I’m a stickler for hand-washing, but now, I look fondly upon the dirty faces full of smudges and kiss their noses while giving them a few more minutes to go outside and play. Maybe, just maybe, a little dirt don’t hurt.
I meet with a lot of home buyers (obviously for my profession), and a large majority do not have even a basic set of tools. However, new home owners especially first time buyers tend to have one common problem; they just bought a house and have no money. I could have drawn up a list of 100 or even 1000 tools everyone needs! I don't usually have a problem justifying the need for more tools, and most guys that grew up similar to me don’t. Keep in mind this is different than the video I did talking about ten tools for new homesteaders.
Before we get in to the mix of tools to start with let me make one point clear. Nothing drives me crazier then to have people use my tools because they don't want to mess their's up. Tools were meant to get used, beat up, and banged around. Care for them, but use them! Don’t shy away from using them for their intended purpose, and always remember you use the 1 right tool not 3 wrong tools.
I tried to put these in some type of order to buy the ones you need first but don't stress about that. Get the ones YOU need immediately first but preferably all 10 at one shopping spree.
#1 A Good Hammer
Every home owner will be hanging pictures, tapping rusted and worn hinges, and in general beating stubborn objects. My number one pick is a quality hammer; I use it more then just about any tool in my shop and they cannot be substituted without sacrificing precision, finesse, and fingers!
Working construction as a teenager my foreman told me once that when I buy my hammer only buy brands that start with a V. Not knowing what he meant I went to the nearest hardware store and learned that the V he was speaking of was Vaughan, score one for me at less then $20 for a hammer and I’m set. Though Vaughan is not the best hammer out there it is a quality hammer and the best bang for the buck. My hammer has built many houses since then and it still has the original wood handle.
Now you ask “what type of hammer do I need?” A framing hammer tends to be the most versatile and can be used for any job but is only perfect for framing. I’ll be honest I cheat here and rarely ever grab another hammer over my framing hammer. Choking up on the grip gives you good support for driving finishing nails and all the way back will remove a rusted wheel rotor.
Grips change preference by many people, though most prefer a curved wood handle. Wood is easy to replace and lasts a long time, fiberglass handles cant always be replaced. They also seem to balance and generally feel better in your hand. Plus there’s just something that makes you feel like a man holding something your ancestors could have been using to pound their way through history! $24.95
#2 Screw Driver
Ok so technically 2 tools but since they really go as a pair screwdrivers will be considered 1 tool. For basic jobs you need a flat head and a phillips and they will likely cure anything that ails you. However, an 8 piece Craftsman set is $14.99 and well worth the cost. This set will cover most anything you need it for and will take apart almost anything in your home.
A quality screwgy will do everything from hanging a TV mount and removing the remote battery screw to changing a will socket. My old Drill Sergeant told me there’s 3 rules a man needs to live by: Don’t ever mess with another mans kids, never take his money, and the last beer in the fridge belongs to the one who bought it. Since then I’ve added a fourth one… buy quality screwdrivers! There’s nothing worse then the tip breaking in the middle of a job forcing your immediate surrender.
#3 Needle Nose Pliers
Needle nose pliers, can grab about anything you have in the house and can even assist you in reaching those hard to get areas. Believe me the list is endless as to what you will use these for! Wires will need to be re-routed, clasps pinched, and rusted knobs turned. This list truly needs to have more then 1 number 1, because tools like this are invaluable and impossible to substitute.
#4 Channel Locks
Now some of you reading this are asking why I said needle nose pliers instead of regular pliers and here’s why. You truly need both but when starting out you can accomplish most tasks with a decent set of channel locks and needle nose pliers.
Channel locks cannot be substituted with pliers but pliers can be substituted with channel locks. You cannot use pliers to open a beer bottle, it’s simply uncivilized! But Channel locks provide the necessary torque and mannliness required for such a task and you then upgrade from uncivilized to truly barbaric!
Ok in seriousness, channel locks provide more versatility for a home owners tasks then do pliers and you always have the needle nose pliers when they cannot be used.
A lower end but still quality set of channel locks can run you about $15 until you can afford something a little higher end. However I would urge you not to purchase Husky pliers, they seem to break when you attempt to pick up a pudding pack. Stanley may not be the best brand anymore but their channel locks will rip the legs off a bear... that you happened to strangle with your bare hands.
#5 Adjustable Crescent Wrench
Adjustable crescent wrenches are not necessarily fun but a 20 inch one does complete your art of manliness starter package. But lets dial it down for just a bit and look at a 12 inch adjustable crescent. They can fit in to almost any space your home provides (admittedly they can get a little tight in an engine compartment) and are up to the task of most home maintenance projects.
If you're really in a jam you can always grab your channel locks and framing hammer and they will rip the door out of its frame and you can just hang a blanket. Again it’s another item that falls in to that $15 range.
#6 Tape Measure
This item could have easily gone higher on the list but a tape measure is invaluable. I like a Stanley Fat Max 25’ or 35’ but you don't necessarily need that much of a hog to carry around. Fat Max is nice if you use it a lot because the wider tape makes it easier to span distances without support, I’ve had that bad Larry out to 14’ unsupported!
You can stick to the 25’ tape as this will suffice for home repairs but when you start doing framing and landscaping a 35’ is nicer. Buy a second one when the time comes right now you just want to handle repairs.
A Fat Max will run you about $30 but you can get a knock off 25’ tape for around $15 at your local hardware. The choice is yours and unlike Highlander their can be more then 1! One last thing to consider is the tape measures with the magnetic tip. They can be very handy when you're working alone, so its worth a little extra if you don't find them irritating.
#7 Torpedo Level
Next you need a torpedo! Every guy reading this is salivating right now running to their spouse with their well thought out excuse to buy an underwater projectile that explodes on impact. Unfortunately We are talking about a level that you can use to plumb pictures.
These levels can be substituted for longer ones by strapping a straight edge to it. Though guys do not tend to care if the Wolverine mount in their man cave is level, or if it looks like you bolted it to the wall while you were drunk with a rabid ferret clawing at your balls, your spouse will thank me for this one and your marriage will likely last at least another 6 months. It’s all about sacrifice boys!
Look for a level with a magnetic strip on one of the sides because when you actually start using it to do minor repairs and remodels the strip is invaluable. Plumbing a metal fence post will never be easier then with two of these with a magnet.
Now you may be tempted to buy the electronic calibrated level for $735 (I’m not joking this really exists) you can pick up a normal duty use level for $15 - $30 depending on the brand. Again though this is another great item to go with Stanley, I’ve had mine for over 10 years and I use it constantly.
Ok so I hate to even stick this one in there but it has to be said, because it blows my mind how many people do not own a flashlight. You're home repair tool box should have a decent flashlight. $20 gets you an LED Maglight that is perfect for repairs, I love Surefires too but this isn't weapons training 101, just get what you can afford and Maglights are a good bang for the buck.
The reasons for the flashlight should be fairly obvious; bottom line here is that you cannot do anything if you can’t see. Not to mention often when you are doing home repairs you have to shut off the electricity so you have no light from the inherent light source of the room. So when you pull out your straight razor in the morning and go to trim the neck line of your 2 and a half foot beard and the power goes out, you can immediately wash the razor and realize that shaving is second priority to swinging a hammer for 8 hours in the dark!
#9 Allen Wrench
Allen wrenches are unfortunately one of those things that seem to be on every mechanical piece in your home and there is truly no substitute. Everything from your furnace to your sink will have them and you need it to really get anything done. A quick tip if you haven't yet purchased your allen wrenches and you desperately need them you can always pound the furnace cover like Thor with your hammer and harvest the power of Zeus to rip the cover off with the channel locks. This again can be something to anger the beast (wife) I recommend the $14 for allen wrenches.
#10 A Ladder
Lastly, A ladder though not fun or mannly they keep you from breaking both your legs instead of balancing a bucket on a chair on the hood of your wife’s Honda while your best friend moves it forward as you clean the debris out of the gutters.
This is the most expensive item on this list and brings up the price for the list as a whole. An articulating ladder is best if you're only going to own one and can accomplish almost any home owner task unless have an extremely high roof. 17’ or 19’ articulating ladder is ideal for the home owner and allows you to the highest peaks of 90% of homes. If you do have an exceptionally high roof you can get a 25’ extension ladder and get your man card back from your neighbor who uses an articulating ladder.
The Little Giant is the gold standard for these types of ladders but they are overpriced and knock off brands can be had for less then half the price with the same material quality. You just have to lower your standard of aesthetically pleasing. Northern Tool often has them on sale for $125 delivered to your door, or a little cheaper in stores.
I'm a wife, mom of 3 wonderful children, homeschool teacher and loving ranching. After Mackay and I married, we've been steadily pursing our goals of having a self sufficient life and teaching others along the way.