Heirloom vegetables, heirloom fruit trees, family heirloomsâ€”the term “heirloom” gets tossed around with some frequency, typically in regard to something old and valuable. Heirloom plants are prized for their historic, proven genetics. Family heirlooms are items passed down from generation to generation until they take on an aura of historical significance, regardless of whether they have any monetary value.
You might not consider tools as items that fall into the category of â€śfamily heirlooms,â€ť but for hobby farmers and those who appreciate the quality of good tools, maybe the notion isnâ€™t so far-fetched. In fact, I would argue that heirloom tools can be just as specialâ€”if not more soâ€”as any other type of heirlooms, be they objects or plants. Allow me to explain.
Recently, I visited the small farm where my grandparents spent their summers. Itâ€™s been years since Grandpa (who gave our John Deere Model 40 its nickname â€śLittle Moâ€ť) lived in the small farmhouse on the hill, but the farm is still in the family, and during my visit I aimed to transplant a few small lilac bushes to propagate on my own farm.
While there, I also walked into Grandpaâ€™s tool shed, which is pretty much just how he left it. Thereâ€™s still a rope to keep the door from opening too wide, while inside, gathering dust, are a few empty gas cans, a pile of screws â€¦ and a handful of old tools.
Iâ€™ve long been a big fan of hand sawsâ€”Iâ€™ve written about them extensively in the pastâ€”and hanging on a nail in the tool shed I saw a long, fine-toothed saw that still looked reasonably sharp despite its age. I carefully removed it from the wall, realizing that I was probably the first to touch it since Grandpa hung it there years ago. So I wiped off the cobwebs.
Also in the tool shed was a pitchfork with four tines; it was old, but the tines were straight, and it looked ready for a busy summer of garden work after years of sitting in the shed with the saw.
Itâ€™s hard to say where these tools came fromâ€”itâ€™s possible that Grandpa â€śborrowedâ€ť them from us at some point in the pastâ€”but I certainly know where the tools are going. Theyâ€™re coming back to my farm, where theyâ€™ll get cleaned up and put back into service. And whenever Iâ€™m pruning trees or turning over sod, I can look down at the tools in my handâ€”Grandpaâ€™s toolsâ€”and be reminded of those summer days when he would build a clothesline, dig a drainage ditch or simply relax with the family and play cards while everyone laughed at his jokes.
Thanks for the tools, Grandpa. Heirloom tools, I guess, passed on to a new generation. Thatâ€™s pretty special, isnâ€™t it?