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Starting a new homestead from scratch - what are the most essential tools?

 
pollinator
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I hoped when I bought my property there would be some useful tools and kitchen gear there, but sadly in the two years the place was unoccupied everything useful has been taken. So, I am starting from nothing, and it's not going to be possible to move much of what I currently own there. I need to buy a lot of tools and equipment for both the yard and the kitchen, and don't want to waste money buying things I won't end up using.

The situation - former smallholding, left unoccupied and uncared for for two years. Zone 7a/b border, less than 20" rain a year, hot summers. 1/4 acre was previously gardened around the house for vegetables and fruit, and has a peach, apple, and walnut tree, plus some others I haven't identified yet that aren't in good condition. Much of this area hasn't got much growing which concerns me - could be due to drought, but maybe it was sprayed with herbicide. The remaining 1/2 acre was once pasture and now has a lot of self-seeded black locust and wild plums, and I'd like to manage this as a coppice for firewood. There's a separate 1/2 acre block which I'd also like to use as coppice. Once I live there full-time, I want to grow as much of my fruit and vegetables as I can which means preserving enough for winter, but am undecided whether I'll keep livestock. I don't eat meat and can get eggs and dairy products from neighbours.

I can't move for four years so will be doing what I can in two week visits several times a year. That will be getting the house renovated, setting up rainwater collection and water-harvesting ground work, throwing seeds around to see what grows, and keeping weeds under control, but not trying to really "garden". I have some ideas what I might need, and would love to hear what others think, especially as I'm a lot older now than I was last time I actively gardened and the tools I used as a twenty and thirty-something might not be so good as a sixty-something. So far all I have purchased is a few cheap junky tools from the local hardware, but I'd prefer to buy better tools that will last.

In this situation, what would you consider the most essential tools for the house and the garden, and why?
 
pollinator
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Hi Jane, congrats on the homestead! Sounds like you will doing a lot of clearing. Maybe mowing some edges and pathways. I don't have a favorite mower. I don't like zero turns or large mower decks. They seem to cause the most soil damage.

Some of my favorite tools are Stihl loppers, long handled. Light weight and easy to sharpen. I also enjoy using a corona hand saw.
Think my best pair of hand pruners are a fedco. If you can find the ones that viticulturist use, they have a spring in the action. Makes it easy on the hand to prune all day.

My best shovel is metal handled. It's heavy, been great for digging in tough spaces.

By not moving there soon, you can watch the water and sun angles through the property for an amazing thoughtful design.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Thanks, Sena!I will look at those tool suggestions.
I probably won't have a powered mower, so will need to look at scythes or other weed slashing tools for that. There's no lawn at all to maintain, a good thing!
Yes, I want to rush into planting things, or at least throwing seeds down to see what survive with complete neglect and no watering. I need to get some ground cover on the huge front yard that has been ploughed and possibly sprayed. For bigger work that may be more permanent, it's wiser to observe first.
 
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This is a tricky question to work on because there are many variables.   In virtually all cases, higher quality tools beat lower quality tools. The significant exception is if a couple high quality tools sinks your entire tool budget. Then, there is the definition of the word “tool”.  But to begin, here are 20 ….

One can never have too many buckets.
Work gloves
Wheel barrow
Shovel
Pick
Some kind of hoe
Knife
Hammer
Adjustable wrench
Pipe wrench
Vice
Pliers
Wire cutter
Saw
Hacksaw
Drill
Chainsaw
Measuring tape
Flashlight
Wench (come along)
Socket set

On the subject of power tools, I have become partial to Makita, though I will not argue with the idea that Milwaukee is the better brand.

 
Jane Mulberry
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An excellent list, thanks, John! It's difficult because I had to leave my extensive tool collection behind when I left Australia, and as our current place in the UK has an extremely small garden and my husband freaks at the thought of my doing any DIY on "his" house, I haven't collected many tools. I'd like to buy some better quality older hand tools second hand here, but then I have the problem of getting them to Bulgaria.

I am in Europe, so I don't think Milwaukee is easily available here, though Makita is. I have a bow saw but will need to be doing a lot of tree cutting. No big timber, I won't try to tackle anything bigger than 6" diameter, and will probably stick to far smaller branches and trees to start. I love hand tools, but realistically will have to buy a medium sized electric chainsaw, one with batteries that are interchangeable with the drill.
 
Sena Kassim
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Hi Jane, you mentioning battery tools, reminded me of ours. I have a battery powered chainsaw and string trimmer. They use the same batteries as my circular saw, sanders and drills. Love it! Little to no vibration, no hauling gas around the farm. The chainsaw is helpful, being only a 12 inch it's small enough to climb with or use on a ladder.

We use dewalt, there are probably many brands available in Europe. Not sure what it's like transporting tools across borders. You may find lots of good deals being able to shop in many places.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Sena, what size timber can you cut with your 12"?
 
Sena Kassim
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Hi, smaller branches about 10 inch max. The saw seems to prefer 8 inch and smaller.
 
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Everything John already said.  But add to that:

Vice Grips/locking pliers
level
some type of prybar
hatchet/axe

I would seriously consider one of the standard 5-tool 18 or 20 volt kits.  John has already mentioned Makita and Milwaukee (excellent but very pricey).  I have Ridgid and I like them a lot.  Nothing wrong with Dewalt.  Bosch is good too.  Lots of other brands I have not mentioned.  Personally I would aim for power tools that are professional or prosumer grade tools.  They are more durable that the homeowner grade tools.

Eric
 
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A lot of great suggestions here!
My approach would probably be to start with a work plan, with discrete jobs each trip, and to get the basic tools I need for each job. For example, if your first task is to prune and work with the woodlot, then loping shears, a chainsaw, wheelbarrow or wagon, and maybe a hatchet or machete. If, on the other hand, the priority is fixing up the house, then hammer, drill, screws, and saws are probably your first order of business. And so on. That way, you aren’t likely to buy a tool you won’t use.
I would say some very basics - a knife, shovel, hammer, pliers, and nails would be good for emergency maintenance. Good luck!
 
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Years ago when we bought our homestead the very first thing we did was to put up a fence.

The fence for half the property was chain link and the other half was barbed wire.  We cross-fenced with a field wire fence.

So we need tools to put in three different kinds of fence.

Unless you plan to put up fencing you probably don't need those kinds of tools.

The next thing we did was buy a tractor though you might not need that either.

We had inherited a lot of tools from our grandparents so I don't remember buying tools other than the fencing ones.

One thing we did need was a swing hoe to cut down grass, it is something like scythe though entirely different.  Luckily we already had one.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Eric Hanson wrote:Everything John already said.  But add to that:
Vice Grips/locking pliers
level
some type of prybar
hatchet/axe


Definitely adding these! All very useful tools!
Looks like for the tools I need, Ridgid branded isn't easily available in Europe, at least, their website isn't helpful. It's showing Canada no matter what location I add to the search box! And Amazon UK or Germany only seem to have Ridgid plumbing tools. When the time comes to look for power tools I'll do a search on the site and see which of the mentioned brands are available to me.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Lina Joana wrote:My approach would probably be to start with a work plan, with discrete jobs each trip, and to get the basic tools I need for each job.



That's a sensible way to approach it, to just buy what I need for each trip there. I may end up needing to buy some tools twice -- the closest hardware store stocks only cheap, low-quality tools -- but to start off till I see which tools are worth investing more in, it may be the way to go.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Anne Miller wrote:Years ago when we bought our homestead the very first thing we did was to put up a fence.
One thing we did need was a swing hoe to cut down grass, it is something like scythe though entirely different.  Luckily we already had one.



A lot of work for you when you first moved, Anne! Part of my property is fenced, so to start with I will work with what is there. I may need to fence the rest to stop deer eating the new growth after coppicing the trees, but that will be some time away. Or I may try pollarding instead. I've read conflicting things about pollarding for black locust.

I'm sure I'll need something like a swing hoe or a heavy-duty scythe equivalent. There's a lot of what I think is either hogweed or wild parsnip, and I don't want a weedeater spraying the juice from those around!
 
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Don't forget buckets.  You will never have too many.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Trace Oswald wrote:Don't forget buckets.  You will never have too many.


So true! Thankfully I can get metal buckets there for the same price as a plastic bucket here!
 
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Don’t forget the tool BOXES. Many homesteaders, myself included, waste time looking for tools and parts because we never really get organized and are running seven different projects at once.

Make sure to have plenty of fasteners, nails screws bolts plumbing and electrical parts etc, handy. You will always need them and things usually break when the store is closed.
 
Lina Joana
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Jane Mulberry wrote:
That's a sensible way to approach it, to just buy what I need for each trip there. I may end up needing to buy some tools twice -- the closest hardware store stocks only cheap, low-quality tools -- but to start off till I see which tools are worth investing more in, it may be the way to go.



I remember a friend saying once “buy the cheap version. If it breaks, get the high quality. If you lose it before it can break, buy another cheap one.” Not good for everything - sometimes the cheap version works poorly enough that it makes the job harder - but I definitely follow that advice for small tools and gloves!
 
pollinator
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Do not forget tarps!

You can pile twigs and cuttings on a tarp and drag the whole lot all at once to your compost or dead hedge!

You can cover various things from the elements.

You can use a tarp as a weedkiller.


 
Jane Mulberry
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R Scott wrote:Make sure to have plenty of fasteners, nails screws bolts plumbing and electrical parts etc, handy. You will always need them and things usually break when the store is closed.



So true! Especially when I don't drive, the hardware store is in the next town 10 miles away, and there are only 2 buses a day, and none on weekends. A trip to get a single needed item loses half a work day!
 
Eric Hanson
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Jane,

Ridgid is a North American brand name, but the same tools are sold practically everywhere else on the planet by the brand name AEG.

By the way, just how large is your plot of land.  From the description it seems it might be 1.25 acres, or is it different from this?

Also, as you mentioned you are getting older, have you considered any power equipment to help you?  Although you don't need a riding mower, a garden tractor can be very handy (pull carts, mow grass/weeds into windrows to make for easy raking for compost materials, etc.).  A diesel subcompact tractor is amazing, but gets pretty pricey and I totally understand wanting to understand wanting to stick to a budget.  They are incredibly useful though.  


Good luck!

Eric
 
Jane Mulberry
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Thanks, Eric! Yes, AEG power tools are readily available here. Good to have a brand recommendation!

It's a little over 1.25 acres, but in two separate lots. The bigger block with the main house has quite a slope but easy road access, the other is flatter but has poorer access and is a wilder as it's been essentially abandoned for years. A portion of the main block is semi-wild too, another section used to be pasture but is now weeds and self-seeded black locust from the neighbours small woodlot. I hope to actively garden the .25 acre around the house, planting as many trees, shrubs, and perennials as I can, then let most of the rest become coppice/wild herbs/forage.

Hmm, me with a tractor? It would be fun!
 
Eric Hanson
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Jane,

I wanted to answer this a couple of days ago but the time just wasn’t there.  So as I read the description of your land, I see that it is two non-contiguous plots (having no shared boundaries), one with a steep slope, the other down the road.  In my opinion, this makes a garden tractor and a trailer more attractive.  Again, I don’t want to spend your money, I am just thinking about the energy I would expend carrying tools alone to a remote worksite.

Just something to ponder,

Eric
 
Jane Mulberry
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I do agree, Eric! Especially as if things work out as I hope I will need to be moving coppiced firewood from the top block to the other one.
The catch for me - due to a health issue that affects my speed and distance perception, I've lost my driver's license on medical grounds. Here in the UK, even to drive a tractor a short distance on public roads one needs a driver's license and the vehicle needs to be registered. It may be different in Bulgaria, but I'll need to check. My thought was maybe an electric cargo bike oor trike with a trailer. Which would probably cost more than a garden tractor with less functions, but would be legal!
 
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Not to hijack the post, as all the suggestions are worthy. The first things I bought for the process included a backhoe with a loader bucket. God knows it is also my diesel powered wheelbarrow. But why have you chosen Bulgaria? I am sure the lower costs factor in, any other reasons that might interest others looking abroad?
 
Jane Mulberry
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Hi Michael! LOL, a backhoe is a very useful tool but maybe a bit too much for my homestead (or me!) to handle! My earthworks will have to be done with a shovel. My helpful neighbour ploughed the bigger front garden section on contour to keep down the weeds while the place was unoccupied, so that's a start.

Okay, a long answer to your simple question of "Why Bulgaria?"

Lower cost is a significant factor, though not the only one. I am currently in the UK, where buying a smallholding, even an old house on under an acre like my new place, is ridiculously expensive. Our current 1 bedroom house has paper thin walls between us and the adjoining neighbours on two sides, a busy railway line 100 metres away, a motorway 200 metres away, drug deals in the streets, loads of petty crime, and a tiny garden I've tried to turn into a food forest but where the fruit from my trees is considered "free for the taking" as a neighbour told me.  NHS healthcare here ranks among the worst in the country. Yet this is in a "nice" commuter town, not the badlands! Though I'm also Australian, I can't possibly afford to buy anything back home. Partly due to huge jumps in prices, partly due to marrying someone with health problems who required care then developing health problems myself, and mostly due to thirty years of making financial choices that focused on short-term experiences rather than long-term investments. I won't call them bad choices, but probably they were financially less wise choices. We do own our home which is a blessing, and will need to preserve what we get when we sell this place to supplement our pensions, as some of those "less wise" choices seriously impacted our retirement finances.

Bulgaria has a lot of things going for it:
1.The lowest cost of living of the European Union countries, which will help stretch our retirement money.
2. Lots of low-cost former mini-homesteads for sale. There's a long tradition of near-self-sufficiency in the villages that communism didn't manage to destroy, though post-communism is dangerously close to doing so. In the villages it's still normal to keep livestock and grow and preserve as much fruit and veg as possible. My neighbour on one side keeps hens and has a huge productive vegetable garden. My neighbour on the other side has a big garden, a dairy cow and makes wonderful cheese.
3. Almost everyone we've met, whether in the villages or in the town and cities, has been friendly and helpful. Most villages, apart from in a few touristy areas, are shrinking as younger people move to the cities or overseas in search of better earning jobs so newcomers are welcomed.
4. Shrinking villages also have their problems, but the big plus is space and quiet. It's not a crowded country.
5. Though officially the country is insanely bureaucratic with complicated paperwork for anything to do with the government, I get the sense that provided nothing I do interferes with my neighbours, no one is likely to complain or report me if I build a cob outbuilding or add rainwater tanks or or build an RMH or start humanure composting and set up a greywater system.  

It's not perfect, by any means:
1. The language is a challenge. I can read quite a bit but can't speak or understand more than a few words in conversation. My accent is appallingly bad.  Google Translate on my phone helps, but I do wonder how much of my conversations with my neighbours are getting lost in translation. Thankfully hubby has a gift for languages that I lack.
2. The bureaucracy can't be ignored completely, and post-Brexit getting to live there will require a huge amount of paperwork, officially translated, apostilled, and rubber-stamped in triplicate. Including some wonderful Catch-22s like needing a Bulgarian bank account to get residency, but without residency one can't open a Bulgarian bank account!
3. The shrinking villages mean shrinking services. The bakery and garage in my village are now closed, and I wonder how long the remaining shop and cafe will last. I can't drive anymore, and the bus service is meant to be three times daily but the times are erratic. There's a part-time medical centre in the village, but for medical emergencies, it's quite a distance to the nearest hospital.
4. I accidentally chose the driest part of the country, with only 500mm of rain a year and dry wells. Though I don't think this village has had issues with the municipal water supplies yet, some areas have been without mains water for weeks at a time. Aging infrastructure and minimal spending on updating it by the privatised water companies since the fall of communism are starting to have an effect.
5. Some villages have theft problems, especially for foreigners who drive into the village in big SUV/ 4x4s, get  expensive electrical items delivered, and flash a lot of cash at the poorer locals. That would not be me, the only items I've had delivered so far are a bucket toilet and some sawdust cat litter which I can't imagine anyone wanting to steal! My neighbours assure me there are no thieves in their village, so hopefully that won't be an issue for us.
6. The cheap house (total cost including legal fees will be under 10,000 GBP) needs a lot of work done, starting with the leaky roof, lack-of back-up water supply, minimal kitchen, and bizarre plumbing. It does have working wood stoves and some basic furniture, big blessings. I may end up leaving the dirt floors (under lino and rugs) in some rooms provided they aren't too cold in winter.

Regardless of the problems, I love the place. I just wish I'd done this sooner, in my 40s. Now, health issues make me slower getting things done, and by the time I have things set up how I want, garden laid out, outdoor kitchen working well, I may not have as many years as I'd like left to enjoy it. But I can sit in the back yard and listen to the leaves of the black locust trees in the woodlot next door rustling like rain. I can eat the most delicious walnuts just by bending to collect the nuts. When I'm too old to bend, I can use a pick-up stick. There's no train or motorway noise, and the air is clean. When all the issues with the place feel overwhelming, I can go sit out there and breathe and remember why I chose it.

I think neighbouring Romania is probably another beautiful country offering much the same opportunities for those looking for a more grounded way of life on a budget that doesn't stretch to France or Italy. But Bulgaria called to me first.  
 
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For old fashioned quality tools, sometimes a yard sale can fill your treasure trove. I got some good shears and things from neighbours who tidied up . Also we have neighbourhood groups on the internet (freegle, freecycle) where I ask for stuff and browse offers.
My favourite 'tools' are cardboard and tarps. I have a large area covered where wildflower seeds shall  soon become a meadow
Favourite tools, traditional variety: wiggle hoe, loppers, (tree)saws  and a good, comfortable ladder for trees.
 
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Thank you Jane, I admire your courage learning a language so different from your own!
 
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Extension cords, heavy duty
Reciprocating saw (can be used both for demolition and tree pruning)
Hacksaw (for cutting metal)
Extra blades for the above
Files (to sharpen tools and for smoothing out openings, like the holes I drill in plastic barrels for hose bibbs for water collection)
Utility knife
Sledge hammer
Strong iron bar (for digging holes to put fenceposts in, or unburying pipes that leak, or removing tree stumps)
Wire, used for all sorts of repairs
Basin wrench if you'll be doing plumbing repairs
Slip joint pliers (large--to take off the nuts holding toilet tank pieces in; use the tank as free, long-life planters)
Rope
Twine for binding things or for gardening
5-gallon bucket with a bucket buddy (thing with a bunch of pockets, so you can use the bucket as a tool holder)
or a tool chest/carrier/box of some sort
Leather gloves
plastic-coated gardening gloves
Putty knife
Caulking gun
Soldering iron and solder
Teflon tape (for plumbing)
Miscellaneous hardware--nuts, bolts, washers, screws, staples, tacks, etc
(anything I take apart, I save the hardware from if it's not completely bent and rusty or ruined)
Caulk
2-part epoxy
Electrical tape
Wire nuts
Wire stripping tool
PVC pipe cutter
Glue if you'll glue any PVC together
Wood glue
Sandpaper
Tape measure
Square
Saw horses and piece of plywood, or some sort of work area/table
Miter cutting jig (so you can cut 45 and 90 degrees with a hand saw)
Rake
Broom and dustbin
Whisk broom and dust pan
Clamps for holding things in place while you glue/screw/nail them

I guess some of it is "supplies," not tools...just thinking of the stuff I've used recently...

I have multiple sets of some things, like screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, scissors, utility knives--because if you do repairs/maintenance in various places, it helps to have one set so you don't end up misplacing stuff.  (or if you do, you'll still have another to work with...until you find that pair of scissors years later in the compost pile...sigh)

Think of what you might do at your place, close your eyes, walk through the job/repair, and start making lists of exactly what you'd need.

And I'd keep my eye out for stuff other people throw away, because old hardware, gates, lumber, pipes, broomsticks--all can come in handy for building and repair.  Especially if you care more about saving money, than the way something looks.

Definitely get to thrift stores, yard sales, estate sales.  You can find tools that need to be de-rusted and sharpened and oiled.  In general old stuff is WAY better quality, and usually cheaper.  You may need to re-handle things yourself, though.

Make friends with a local woodturning or woodworking group--lots of nice people with tools to sell cheap, plus wood, and help, and lots of smart minds who can figure out to make stuff out of other stuff (lots of engineer types do woodturning, I've discovered.)

I pick up all kinds of treasures from what people throw away.  Most would call it junk.  But with some creativity and time, I put back all the bits and pieces of discarded furniture to make garden trellises, and painter poles and wire scraps, to make fruit picking poles.

And when you want to fix things on an old homestead, many times, they no longer sell the parts.  So you must find old stuff, for the parts, or figure something out yourself.  (And YES to having spare parts at home all the time--at the very least, single and three-way light switches, toilet wax seal, water connection hoses, and spare pipe nipples and fittings.

For some reason, plumbing tends to break late at night or on holidays, or when the stores are closed!  haha)

One of the BEST tools I have is a cheater bar...just a spare length of galvanized pipe (is it 2" diameter?)  You put that over the end of your wrench and use that as leverage, to help loosen the pipe or fitting.  I learned that from asking one of the plumbers.

Whenever I PAY for a repair professional, I take copious notes and ask them about everything.  I figure I better learn as much as I can from them, because they have all the tips and tricks...especially the old guys!!
 
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What an exciting project!

We moved to Spain from the UK, and I've decided to keep to manual rather than electric gardening tools.  My most useful ones are:

Long handled trimmers to lop the carob tree

Shears to keep the grasses down (although I'm getting closer to eradicating the biggest clumps as I replace them with various different levels of canopy plants in my mini food forest)

Sturdy secateurs  

A small spade

Strong trowel

MANY trugs

Wheelbarrow

I've found that price and quality don't always go together.   My loppers were €14 from Carrefour, and they have outperformed my (way) more expensive previous pair.

For the kitchen my suggestion is an instant pot.  I use it for everything!  It cooks dried beans without the need for soaking.  It uses minimal electricity, is quick and easy to use and clean, I even use it to reheat things.

Good luck with your adventure!
 
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I can trim so much more with ratchet pruners...up to 1/2 to 3/4" limbs and sticks. Always carry them in my back jeans pocket when outside.
 
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Jane Mulberry wrote:I am in Europe, so I don't think Milwaukee is easily available here, though Makita is. I have a bow saw but will need to be doing a lot of tree cutting. No big timber, I won't try to tackle anything bigger than 6" diameter, and will probably stick to far smaller branches and trees to start. I love hand tools, but realistically will have to buy a medium sized electric chainsaw, one with batteries that are interchangeable with the drill.



I spent much of the first year on our land working with bow saws and pruning saws. Whilst it is peaceful, it is hard on the body and I feel as though I damaged myself by not listening to my self (wrists and shoulder). We bought a Makita 18v electric chainsaw (DUC256Z) and, whilst it's not the most powerful thing, for branch wood and the occasional fell, it feels much faster and safer than using hand tools - being able to complete a felling cut quickly, rather than battling with a hand tool as you tire (and the tree becomes less supported). It does use battery fairly quickly though so it pays to have a few available (we have 4 5Ah ones).

We also have a 2x18v Makita strimmer/brushcutter (DUR369AZ) and that has been very useful for keeping down brambles around our boundaries. We dispensed with the nylon strimmer head and use the metal blade exclusively to avoid spreading plastics around.

In terms of power tool brands, much has been said on that already. Most people in the UK that I know have either Makita or DeWalt for their cordless tools. I picked Makita as it is what my close friends were using and it made it easy to share batteries/tools. For what it is worth, I think their tools tend to be of pretty high quality as long as you pick the higher-end models. Builders and contractors often have really high-end tools like Hilti and Festool but they are out of my budget and I've not found any good second-hand offers.

On batteries, we got 2x 5.0Ah batteries as part of a cheap drill promotion at Screwfix (a UK hardware store, for those elsewhere). I think it was £130. I then re-sold the drill and kept the batteries which are usually closer to £100 each.

Car boot sales and Facebook marketplace have been great sources of hand tools for us. I believe there are flea markets in Bulgaria that often sell old farming tools so that might be worth a look when you are over there. I imagine there are some bargains to be had.

My "desert island tools" list would be as follows:

- Long-handled loppers
- Secateurs
- Strong space for digging (I have a Faithfull all-steel trenching spade that is great and has a good warranty, which I have had to use once; I also have a few old Elwell spades for lighter work)
- Strong fork for digging out stones, roots and turning muck/soil (again, all-steel might be the way to go, although older forks/spades with decent ash handles are a joy to use)
- Shovel for moving woodchip/soil/mulch
- Long-handled trowel (like a regular trowel but more versatile)
- Spring-tine rake for grass/leaves (might not be necessary in Bulgaria?)
- Fixed-tine rake for stones, preparing seed bed and moving large piles of debris
- Pruning saw (we have a few Silky PocketBoy saws and they are excellent; the Stihl ones are also v. good)
- Hoe (I like a draw hoe but everyone seems to have a favourite)
- Barrows, buckets and trugs

From what I've seen online, there seem to be lots of billhooks, sickles, axes and similar tools that are traditional to Bulgaria. An assortment of those may be useful for clearing and for coppicing and processing wood.

You might also consider a few good lengths of rope and some shade cloth for creating shadier microclimates.
 
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Starting from scratch on my place when much younger (in my 70's now), I had to learn how to do most tasks single-handed, and without electricity for quite a while.  I still value tools that are multi-functional, as lightweight as possible without losing strength, and hand-powered rather than petrol or electric. So, a "come-along" as it's known in Canada (essentially a lightweight, use-anywhere, hand cable winch) has seen use for everything from hoisting timbers into place to erecting and tightening fencing, shifting small boulders, persuading a tree to fall where it needs to go when being felled... you get the picture? It's a simple force multiplier, good for those of us not built like a horse.

I learnt a lot from the expression "The more you know how to do, the fewer tools you need to do it with," a maxim from the bushcraft way of thought.  A tool, even if somewhat expensive, that can do quite a range of tasks and still fits in your pocket, ends up being cheaper and more useful than ten tools that are all back at the house/workshop.  So maybe it will be helpful for you to take a look at the range of Leatherman or equivalent hand-tools that can replace or extend many of the single-function screwdrivers, pliers, wirecutters, and similar. You may well need to buy some of those screwdrivers etc later on anyway, but it's very helpful having a single tool that can fix or adjust a great many things, and is quickly available to you, in your pocket etc.  Same with eg a "Swiss Army knife".

Since I have a lot of trees on my forested land (Gulf Islands of Canada), there's always a need for a saw that can handle many of the everyday tasks without all the weight, noise, petrol and hassle of fetching a chainsaw. Your mentions of coppicing and pollarding made me think of the two saws that have really helped me greatly: a folding saw, easy to carry and under 1 lb in weight, from the Japanese 'Silky' range called Bigboy 360. Since it cuts on the pull stroke rather than the push, it uses a much thinner blade (14 1/2" long) for a narrower kerf. This way, it is extremely swift cutting with little effort, even in maple. With a longish, grippy handle the same length, it's comfortable for two-handed use, so much less tiring for extended work. It's comparable in speed of cutting with my battery-powered Makita recip. saw with a 10 or 12" blade, but less weight and no vibration.  I also use the smaller Silky folding saw with ~7" blade, sold with a compact plastic holster to carry on your belt - very handy for many tasks.

The other saw, useful for tree work, is a long-handled extending  lopper/saw for pruning and branch cutting. The telescoping handle extends to around 11 ft long, with a pulley-equipped secateur-like action at the head operated by a cord.  Beside that is a curved 14" saw-blade that can cut through decent-size branches, maybe 10-12" dia. Best of all, your feet can stay safely on the ground for much of the work.  The length of handle is useful too in permitting a much greater range of angles and locations for the operator, even if up higher and on a ladder.  Being able to stay well away from the path of a falling branch is a benefit itself.  The tool is still quite light and manoeuverable, since the handle is tubular.
The coated sawblade is quite quick cutting, and the tool weight with the extended handle helps keep the saw in the kerf, for long and smooth strokes without extra effort.

I have a number of Makita power tools, both corded and battery-powered, and have been very satisfied with their affordability, durability and ruggedness, having built my family home and studio with them. No complaints there.  

For a couple of decades, I have not bothered with splitting firewood unless it was unavoidable. These days, I bring in the firewood I heat my home with, sometimes also cook on, in the form of Douglas fir poles up to 6-8" dia. and whatever length is easy to drag or carry to the house from the forest. Once I have a pile of poles, I place my Makita chopsaw on a sawhorse bench, feeding each pole into it and cutting to length for the wood cookstove or the open-hearth fireplace.  It is so much less work, both in ease of transport and in labour of splitting. The less handling required, the greater the efficiency of the whole operation.  My petrol chainsaw still gets used occasionally, and my corded electric chainsaw also, but much less these days than previously. The noisy work with the chopsaw is brief and all completed in a short bout of work for most of the winter season's needs. Instead of lugging the saw around to the trees, the trees come as slimmer poles to the saw near the house, where they'll be cut to length and stacked to dry.  My ridgetop land is hit by the full force of gales that constantly prune the forest of both big branches and skinny trees, so there's plenty of firewood without the need to kill living trees here.

The suggestion for a long 'n strong iron bar (chisel-ended or pointed) is one I'd agree with - its weight can be an asset for some tasks, both in digging holes and as a pry-bar, as well as moving rocks.
If you find you need to move tree trunks or heavy timbers around single-handed, then a peavey may be a worthwhile addition to your tools. It's amazing to see what a not very big human can do with a peavey, once a little practice has given some hints about fulcrums, pivots, rollers and inclined ramps.

A draw-knife for de-barking and shaping/smoothing wood is a tool worth having also.
A good safe extending ladder that can be relied upon is important, particularly when you are working alone much of the time.... and please keep your hips between the uprights!  Maybe another post will have to address the ladder topic, once you have decided what kinds of tasks will require one.

Best of luck with your project. It will be interesting to read of any of your future experiences that you feel like sharing. Stay safe, and enjoy your new horizons and neighbours - they both sound hopeful.
 
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Jane Mulberry wrote:So far all I have purchased is a few cheap junky tools from the local hardware, but I'd prefer to buy better tools that will last.



This is an excellent topic for anytime. One thing to consider in regard to your statement about "a few cheap junky tools." is once you have a list started begin to buy vintage tools that were manufactured when quality mattered. There are plenty of them out there and you can get them for decent prices, probably less than buying new junky tools. While you are not at your project property hit some of the tool centric flea markets, estate sales and keep your eye on your local Freecycle. In fact in addition to free searches ask in community forums with the intent to purchase vintage tools and offer a short list. Once you acquire tools often all you need to do is maintenance and some refinishing or minor repairs.

Continued good luck with this great project.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Thank you so much for your comments, everyone! I will save this thread and refer back to it often.

One of the biggest challenges is doing this in a different country with a different language and different culture. Things I take for granted here like yard sales /car boot sales/garage sales as sources of good older tools don't exist. No one throws anything useful out in the village, it's very much a conserver society there. I do need to discover whether there's a second-hand market in the big town. I've visited markets in other parts of the country that had a good range of tools for sale. I was disappointed to find that the small nearest town doesn't seem to have one.

The main thing I need to approach the project with is patience. Taking things slowly and carefully, rather than rushing into jobs that may not need doing after buying tools I may not need again and risking injuring myself with poor work practices, is essential.

Unfortunately I do tend to be a jump in and do things person!
 
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Buckets: We have at least half a dozen different size "Tubtrugs" from Red Gorilla. (I checked where they're based - UK, Faulks and Co. ) They're super-rugged and quite flexible, which makes them useful for all sorts of situations around the house and garden. They used to highlight that the colored ones were food grade - but I don't see that on the site now.

I have a "weed wrench" that is invaluable for removing small trees (up to maybe 2" diameter) and their roots. It sounds like there might be areas with small trees growing in that you'd rather keep open. Getting out the bulk of the roots keeps them from re-sprouting, and this makes the job way easier than anything else I've tried.
The company stopped making it. Best I can tell two former employees are now making slightly revised versions under the names Weed Wrench and Uprooter. The latter sells both brands. Based in Oregon. If I were getting a tool today, I might go with the Pullerbear or Extractigator, both from Canada; both ship world-wide.



 
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You’ve said that you don’t want chickens but I have found that my best weeding tool has been my hens. Just a thought…
 
Jane Mulberry
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Sig Andersen wrote:Buckets: I have a "weed wrench" that is invaluable for removing small trees (up to maybe 2" diameter) and their roots. It sounds like there might be areas with small trees growing in that you'd rather keep open. Getting out the bulk of the roots keeps them from re-sprouting, and this makes the job way easier than anything else I've tried.



That looks like an interesting tool! I need to do a thorough assessment of what is there, and if there's a bunch of small woody stuff to remove, something that that could be very helpful.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Shari Samuel wrote:You’ve said that you don’t want chickens but I have found that my best weeding tool has been my hens. Just a thought…



Shari, I'd love to have hens or ducks! But I won't be living there permanently till 2027, so unfortunately livestock aren't an option yet.
 
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Great suggestions from everyone.

Very much second the Makita battery powered chainsaw.
I love mine.

Perhaps look for tools in yard sales/flea markets while you're still in England?

If water might be an issue perhaps a good idea to have some alternatives.

The Humanure technique handbook for waste disposal.

https://humanurehandbook.com

Food grade plastic 55 gallon barrels to store water. Best to chlorinate it if you do that.
I use these for thermal mass in my greenhouse and they're also backup water storage for me in a pinch.

Rain barrels

A watering can for plant/tree starts etc.

All the old timers circumvent the no drivers license here with riding lawnmowers.
That may be a higher level of complexity than you want.
There are some killer cargo bikes/trikes with large cargo platforms out there and good you're considering those.
electric powered would be a plus considering your age factor.
They're a nice end run around "regulations."

cargo trailers are a plus for any vehicle. There are lots of plans out there on how to build bicycle cargo trailers from next to nothing.

books are a great tool in guiding you to the smarter, not harder way to go.

here's a lot of good stuff in one place:

https://soilandhealth.org/agricultural-library/

The guy who runs this is Steve Solomon. He also wrote some of the best veggie gardening books out there.
His last one, the Intelligent Gardner, is a good summation of all he knows.

Another top favorite book of mine is Tree Crops.
This one saved me a lot of work and probable disappointment by pointing out the wisdom of going for nearly bulletproof tree crops. In my area that was stuff like mulberries, loquats and persimmons instead of peaches and the like. It turned out to be major great advice.

Your new neighbors are surely a wealth of knowledge on what plants/trees/planting schedules work well locally.

https://archive.org/details/TreeCrops-J.RussellSmith

Have a look at Charles Dowding's Youtube vids or books. His garden advice is probably very applicable to where you'll be.
He's a master at great results with the least possible inputs. All done with minimal hand tools.

https://www.youtube.com/@CharlesDowding1nodig

fertilizer plants as tools, preferably perennial.

Bocking 4 or 14 comfrey, because those two won't go invasive and can propagate from root cuttings.
This assumes they'll grow where you're going.
These go deep on roots, pulling up nutrients for the plants or trees around them.

Elaegnus family, Goumi berry, silver berry, autumn olive etc.

These pull nitrogen out of the air and make it available in the soil to plants around them.
A lot of old time nursery operators would plant these around new fruit trees to help them get going, then cut them down later. I happen to like the berries on the named cultivars so mine stay right where they are with no risk of me cutting them down.

All these are easily propagated now for use later and the root or branch cuttings are easily transport when small.
here's good info on getting cuttings going:

https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2011/07/a-simple-way-to-root-plants-from-cuttings/

https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2016/09/hardwood-cuttings-winter-of-20152016/

He has lots more free vids on youtube and his site. he's an old hand at nursery work and has definitely figured out the easy way. He's focused on ornamentals for sale but fruit trees work the same.


 
Wait for it ... wait .... wait .... NOW! Pafiffle! A perfect tiny ad!
Our perennial nursery has sprouted!
https://permies.com/t/174246
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