Tools of the Trade



The ranch wife should always have a few basic tools handy to get through her day. At least I suppose you could call them tools, even though they vary from items of dress to transportation. They also vary according to the seasons; I sure don’t want to be wearing my heavy wool sweaters in the middle of summer.

Hats are useful for keeping the sun out of your eyes, the hail off your tender nose and the rain off your glasses. They make a good container for carrying eggs to the house when you’ve forgotten your egg basket. I like a double-layer knit cap in winter and a broad-brimmed shady straw hat in summer. Hubby prefers ball caps, but the way they sit on my head, I’m always peering up under the brim and it gives me a crook in my neck.

Never go out without a pocketknife. You’ll use it to cut stubborn tomatoes off the vine, open a bale of hay, dig out a splinter or clean your fingernails. It should be sharp; dull knives tend to cause cuts because you’re sawing and putting pressure on the blade when it slips and finds your finger. My husband also has a version of the Swiss Army knife he says is called a Leatherman that includes a screwdriver, mini-vise grips and several other tools.

Glasses — even when your vision is 20-20, you will probably want a pair of sunglasses. And any time you are doing anything related to construction, cutting firewood or sawing boards, wear a pair of safety glasses.

Your hands will hold up much better if you wear gloves. In winter they keep your hands warmer (I like a pair of thin silk gloves under my other gloves for insulation) and in summer they prevent burns from the hot metal on equipment and tools. They also keep splinters, stickers and other pointy objects out of your fingers (mostly). I prefer leather to synthetic, as they hold up better.

If we lived on a 10-acre place, I probably wouldn’t need this last item, but on 180 acres, it’s a necessity. I’m talking about the 4-wheeler. We haul hay, milk, water, fertilizer, pig slop, metal fence panels, bales of wood shavings, buckets or boxes of produce and grandkids on a daily basis. We also have a small trailer, recycled from an old motorcycle trailer by my clever husband, that is just the right size to pull with the 4-wheeler.

Ranch workhorse.

Ranch workhorse.

Of course, this is the most basic of lists. You’ll need specialized tools for some work, such as the pruning shears and long-handled loppers for doing the fruit trees, or the pressure canner for the applesauce, or the welder for fixing the backhoe…

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