The Farmer’s Wife Her Own Carpenter
A 1905 article by Ruth Fuller Field, author of The Stone Wall: An Autobiography (1930), the first memoir by a lesbian woman in the Americas
How many farmers’ wives are sorely tried because they have to wait and wait for the men to do numberless little jobs of repairing about the house! “Some rainy day I will fix it!” they say, and yet we all know how many things are laid aside in the shop and barn for them to do on the rainy days. And so the house things are left.
Many an energetic woman will try to do the repairing herself. She hunts up an old hammer, she finds three or four tolerably straight nails, all different sizes. These, with the old hand saw covered with rust, and with a cracked handle, make the “kit of tools” at her command.
She succeeds in sawing a board about the length she requires for a little shelf. She finds it a little too broad, so she gets a kitchen knife and hacks away at the edge until it looks as though the rats had gnawed it. She pounds her own finger nails instead of the rusty ones, and in the end the shelf is neither plumb nor very secure. Her husband laughs at it when he comes in to dinner and she has to admit she is no carpenter.
Don’t go to a 10-cent counter to buy tools, but ask your village carpenter for the names of the makers of his tools. Buy a good hammer, not too heavy, and a pound or two of nails, assorted sizes. Take hold of the hammer well back from the head and drive a few nails just for the satisfaction of seeing that with a good hammer you can “hit the nail on the head” every time. Don’t drive them way in, but leave just enough to get hold of and then use the claw and pull them out. If one is a little hard to pull, put a small block of wood under the head of the hammer to brace against, and see how quickly it will come.
Next get a good saw and keep it in the house, but don’t be tempted to saw a meat bone with it. After you have marked your board with your yard stick, see how easily you can saw on the line. Very often it is necessary to have a new saw filed before it will do the best work. Do this, for it will pay to have it right at the start.
Now with a good sharp jackknife that you can open without breaking your thumb nail, you will be surprised how independent you will feel. I have suffered trying to use “farmers’ tools” and I know what is to be gained by using good ones. I will be glad to tell in these columns of the many things I have been able to do with my good tools during the past year.
From the American Agriculturist (Vol 76, iss.9, August 26, 1905). You can buy Ruth’s memoir, published under the pseudonym Mary Casal, on Amazon (Kindle, paperback). I have recently translated it into Brazilian Portuguese, and it was published by Ímã Editorial (link).