Top 20 Homesteading Tools

With the right homesteading tools, you can keep your homestead running smoothly.

| April/May 2001

If you're serious about swapping the urban rat race for a life of frugal, back-to-the-land self-sufficiency, the right equipment will make the difference between paradise and peril. We looked back on 30 years of building, tilling, harvesting and fence stringing to come up with the following list of essential tools we wish we'd had when we first stepped off the well-paved map and went homesteading.

Basic Hauling

1. Wheeled Machine

You'll need a properly sized, wheeled, perhaps engine-powered machine to do the heavy hauling. The capacity you'll need and the amount you'll pay will be determined by the size and topography of your place, the nature of the work you intend to carry out, your financial resources, maintenance tools and skills, and available storage facilities. Ideal, albeit impractical for most of us, would be a team of horses, mules or oxen along with a hay wagon for field work, a buckboard for trips to town, and a barn and paddock. If you obtain beasts of burden, you'll also need pasture, hay and grain to sustain them.

The most universally capable modern homesteading machine we know of is a commercial-grade compact diesel tractor. We like Kubota tractors, John Deere's 20- to 48 hp 2000 class and New Holland's Boomer line. Even the smallest models — which look like sturdily built lawn tractor mowers — are equipped with powerful diesel engines and industrial quality transmissions and running gear. They also sport a three-point rear hitch that will mount commercial farm land plows, harrows and rakes and provide attachment points for a hay or field corn cutter bar or silage chopper, a sprayer or buzz saw. These tractors include a hydraulic system that will power remote motors on the chopper's flails, the sprayer's pump or the saw's blade. They'll also mount hydraulic cylinders to pull the plow up or dig it in and hold it down and will run any number of other hydraulic attachments such as a front-end snow thrower or plow blade, a bucket loader to carry soil, gravel or building bricks, a rear-mount backhoe to dig trenches, a forklift to raise hay bales into your barn loft, an electric generator to power the house and barn if the power lines go down in a storm, or a pump to fill a pond or empty the cellar after a flood. A modern, small diesel tractor is a major investment for a ranch or truck-farming operation — but one that will expand your homesteading capabilities beyond muscle-power, and will pay off every day for a lifetime or two of strenuous use.

An alternative to a new and relatively expensive tractor is a well-running antique. They're not quite as capable or dependable as a contemporary tractor, but they're considerably less expensive. Small, still working antique tractors such as a late '40s or `50s Farmall Cub or a low-riding, auto-style Ford 9N currently sell for about $2,500, a bit more if they're outfitted with new rear tires or hydraulics. If at all possible, buy one with a newly rebuilt engine, an onboard hydraulic system, a rear-mount three-point hitch and one or two mechanical power takeoffs (PTOs) rather than just a drawbar.

Invest in a modern underframe (Woods), rotary brush hog or field mower and other post-1950s attachments. Look carefully, because museum-quality antiques from the 1930s and earlier often lack hydraulics and PTOs. (Farm Collector is a great source of info on older models better suited for displaying on the front yard than grinding in the cornrows).

If you intend to do any really heavy work, such as logging, trenching for soil-drainage pipe, digging in a septic tank or cutting a logging road through heavy woods, consider a full-size industrial tractor with a log grapple or excavating bucket on the front and a backhoe on the stem. New, they cost five or six figures. Good used ones cost about $15,000.

10/6/2017 3:38:20 PM

A decent 4 wheel wagon can be very handy. You can pull it (or a big wheel cart) with a sled harness and save strain on your hands, arms, and shoulders. It can also be pulled gently by an ATV or small tractor.

10/6/2017 3:38:17 PM

Heavy duty wagons are nice. You can pull them (or a big wheel cart) with a sled harness and save strain on your hands, arms, and shoulders.

Jan Steinman
9/22/2010 1:18:58 AM

I'm not a huge fan of cordless drills. A corded drill will have much more power, and cordless drills -- especially off-brand ones -- are rendered obsolete when their battery packs inevitably fail. But they are quite handy. For that reason, I get only 12 volt ones. When the battery packs go, I take the pack apart and solder wires on to the main contacts, and bring them out for connection to a car battery or gell-cell sealed battery. This doesn't significantly limit the drill's portability, as you can haul a sizeable gell-cell around with you just as easily as several drill-specific battery packs and their charger, and you'll have a much longer battery lifetime. 12 volt gell-cells are also much less expensive than drill-specific packs, which are often priced exorbitantly. (Actually, I bring the wires out and put Anderson Power Pole red and black connectors on them. ( This is a standard way that ham radio operators connect to 12 volt sources, and they are much more reliable than either cigarette-lighter plugs or even big battery clamps.)

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