I will be the first to admit I am a through and through firearms nut. Like many fellow firearms “nuts,” I frequently cruise online rifle forums where just about everyone with a keyboard, an ego, and an AR-15 likes to gently and quietly share opinions about just about everything. If you are a fellow gun nut, then you know I only stretched things a bit. If you’re not, I apologize — and I have a point.
A common topic on any firearm forum is often: “If you could only have 5-10 items ….” But I have yet to see a solid list on any website of what the average homesteader should have before starting out. So I thought I’d give it a try.
This list is based on personal experience in running a small farm, fixing just about everything entailed with the farm, and hunting wild game.
1. Tools. If you have not started building a collection of tools to fix everything and anything that is on your homestead, start now. DO NOT purchase junk. Yes, it is cheaper, but no, it does not last. Think Estwing Hammers (good solid all-steel construction that is built to last), Craftsman or Snap-On hand tools, and Dewalt Power Tools, just to name brands I trust. An extensive set of ratchets and sockets is a must-have.
If you have a vehicle, you had better have the equipment to keep it running. Oil filter wrenches, tire irons and floor jacks are all things you need to consider. If you have a tractor(s), the tools just get bigger.
I cannot stress the importance of tools for the homestead.
2. A good sewing kit. Pants, flannels and just about everything else you wear daily will wear out. Repairing worn clothing or making new work pants from scratch is a skill you will need to learn. A well-equipped sewing kit is important to the continued operation of any farm or homestead, especially if one day the lights go out and don’t come back on.
3. Firearms. At the very least, a well-built and reliable rifle chambered in .22 long rifle is a serious need. From killing varmints to putting dinner on the table, a .22 is an indispensible tool to have on any homestead. If you are going to buy a brand new rifle, in today’s world I would pursue a Mossberg 802 Plinkster bolt action or the venerable Ruger 10-22 semi-auto. If you want to step back in time and buy used, head to a pawn or gun shop and purchase an older Marlin bolt action or a Remington.
I recommend also purchasing a pump action .12 gauge or .20 gauge shotgun. A shotgun comes in handy in pursuing a variety of game and is an excellent choice in home defense. However, you will be limited in range as opposed to a rifle.
I also recommend a rifle chambered in a caliber capable of taking deer-sized game. A rifle like this can provide much meat for a family, and can even be used to dispatch farm animals set for slaughter quickly and humanely.
4. A quality axe. Not a hatchet. A high quality Council tool or even better, a Gransfors axe. A felling axe, and possibly a splitting maul are two items that are indispensable on a homestead.
5. Chainsaw. You will need an axe. But try clearing a lot of brush or trees by yourself with your trusty felling axe. You’ll wish you had a chainsaw and you’ll wish you were dead. A chainsaw speeds up work, and can allow one man to perform the task it would take three men with just axes. There is a learning curve to the proper use of a saw, and don’t go at it without knowing how to take down a tree properly. There are only three brands of solid chainsaws (the rest are equivalent to Cracker Jack box toys): Stihl, Efco and Husqvarna. Any one of these brands will last a very long time if properly taken care of. As with any combustion driven tool, you will need gas. If storing gas for long term, you will want to research fuel stabilizers.
6. Wheel barrow. Haul manure, top soil, plants, tools, stone, etc., and you will find you will need a wheel barrow. Don’t buy a junky one, but invest in a good piece of equipment that will last for decades.
7. Nails and screws. I could have included this with tools, but I believe they need their own place on the list. On a homestead or farm, the question is not if you will need to repair or build something, but when. New chicken coop? Leaking roof? New outhouse? All of this requires nails and screws. They are cheap, and it does not take a ton of cash to stock up on the necessary supply to last decades. Believe me, if the worst happens, you will wish you had a ton on hand.
8. Quality knives. You always need a blade. Cutting rope, opening seed bags, or performing emergency dentistry on Cousin Billy all require a blade. A quality knife (or better, multiple knives) with good steel is paramount. You don’t want to sharpen a knife every day, and you don’t want a blade that breaks easily or chips. Buck (especially their USA-made line), Case, Ka-Bar, Gerber, Columbia River Knife & Tool are all knives I’ve owned, used and trust with my life.
I fell out of a deer stand once when I was young and dumb, without a safety harness. If my Ka-Bar USMC knife had not caught a branch and stopped my fall, I would have been drinking my food out of a straw the rest of my life, or I would be standing before Christ. Thankfully, the Almighty still had work for me to do, and I had worn my trusty knife that day. Any piece of Chinese-made trash would have snapped. Ka-Bar makes a quality USA-made knife and there is a reason the US Military uses it to this day.
9. A solid tractor. I know I just stepped on a purist’s toes. I respect a person who desires to not use machinery. I’m not one of them. A tractor is a tremendous benefit to a small farm or homestead. Plowing, planting, harvesting, pulling, towing and so much more is made easier with the addition of a tractor. In my world, a tractor comes in only two colors: green or red. I have used John Deere equipment for many years, and there is a reason they have the reputation they do. I also hold a dear love of the International Farmall line. Both brands build or built reliable tractors. An old gas or diesel Farmall can be had for a relative low price, and you will pay more for a Deere. I’ve used both brands extensively and I trust them for their reliability and ease of maintenance. If you only are going to have one tractor, I recommend purchasing one with a front-end loader.
Honestly, Ford, Massey-Ferguson, Mahindra, and Kubota also make decent machines. But there is a huge problem with these machines. They are not a John Deere or an IH Farmall, so (in my opinion) don’t even consider one.
10. A Sense of Humor. Farming and homesteading can often lead to frustration. At times, even tears. Having a sense of humor can lighten the atmosphere for you and your family. Learn to find the joy even in the midst of hardship. A man who can laugh at his circumstances can often wake up the next day, and with trust in the Lord, can face the day’s challenges.
What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below: