My First Hammer

Segue: childhood

When I was three my parents bought a partially condemned old school house out in the country. They always joke that it was my dad’s hobby gone haywire, as there was no plumbing and no staircase to the second floor except for the rusty old fire escape in the back. Dead bird skeletons, hives of bees, and mouse cities dwelled inside.

A model of my childhood home in the Radnor museum

I have vague memories, the kind of memories that exist because you’ve been told the story and seen the picture a thousand times, of my older sister and I biking around on our Little Tykes in the living room. Needless to say, I grew up in a construction zone. The sound of a saw and hammers going at 7am on a Saturday sounds like nostalgia to me. Maybe that’s why I’m such a morning person? A couple decades later and my Mom and Dad can proudly say that the upstairs is finished. Now on to finish the downstairs.

Bike babes

My dad did almost all of the work himself. He made fancy baseboards and trimming, built the walls to our bedrooms, installed all the things, built all the things. When I still too young to wield a hammer I got to pull nails from old boards. It always seemed like HOURS of nail pulling, but I realistically probably only lasted 10 minutes.

My first toolbox

Fast forward a few years and Dad gave me my first toolbox, which I still have. I remember when I was young one of his friends pulled a total dude move, lamenting the fact that my Dad doesn’t have any sons he can give his tools too. My dad puffed out his chest and said, “I’ve got Anna.” Heck yes he’s got me.


I learned a lot of my building skills in my non-religious, all-inclusive youth group in high school: Ecumenical Youth Group. There we did week long Workcamps in the summer re-roofing houses, tearing down and re-framing whole rooms, siding, painting, building decks and wheelchair ramps. You name it, I probably helped build it.

Now as an adult I have the honor of being a counsellor for the group and passing down the knowledge I learned as a kid. It is such an amazing feeling to teach students how to use a power tool, square edges, and build something, and then by the end of the week I’m not teaching anything. They are teaching each other.

The project

This project at the Farm is a natural culmination of my life journey. It’s always been my dream to either buy a fixer upper or build my own place. While the tiny cabin won’t be a permanent home it will be a great learning experience for me. Fixing houses and building decks is one thing, but coming up with the drafts and plans and everything? I’ve got quite a learning curve ahead of me. But as my Aunt Gretchen said, I can read.