The shop is always locked, unless the roll-up door is open and Greg is inside doing those things that only Greg does inside his shop. There are woodworking tools, including a bandsaw, a table saw, a planer and assorted hand-held electric tools, such as sanders, drills and circular saws. There are metal-working tools, including lathes, a sheet metal bending machine, a forge and an anvil, as well as all the necessary blacksmith’s tools and
every kind of wrench you could imagine.

Please do not mention this to Greg, if you happen see him out and about, but even though he might have regularly swept the floor, his shop really was in need of a serious cleaning and some major organizational attention. There there were woodworking tools mixed in with the metal tools, screws intermingling with nails, electric and handheld tools laying here and there and raw material, in the form of assorted pieces of wood and various kinds
of metal, scattered all about.

I gathered my courage and asked Greg if he would mind if I tidied up his shop. To my great surprise, he was pleased with the idea. The only caveat was that I could not throw anything away without his approval. My timing seemed to be perfect.

Greg had several mechanical tractor projects to work on before he worked the ground with spring tilling. Greg unlocked the shop door, and I followed him inside. He set to work draining fluids, wrenching and rebuilding tractor parts, while I set to work sorting and cleaning.

I put all of the paint I found on the paint shelf. All of the oils and fluids went in the oil and fluid department, the cleaners in the cleaning department. I placed every metric wrench I found in the metric wrench drawer, and all of those pesky fractional wrenches I put in the fractional wrench drawer (math was never my thing when I was in school).

All of the pens and pencils went in the top of his main tool chest, measuring devices beside them. The metal raw material I placed together, and the odds and ends of scrap wood I hauled up to the burn pile. All of the woodworking tools I placed in one tool chest, and the metal working tools I put in the drawers under one of the lathes. I dusted and I swept, and after two days I had gathered a few bags of garbage, with Greg’s consent, and added a fair amount of weight to our metal scrap yard haul.

Greg smiled and told me that I had done a great job.

Then he mentioned that he could not find any sandpaper to knock some rust off of a metal working tool. I told him it was in the woodworking toolbox, in the sandpaper department.

Greg next inquired after his tap and die sets. I showed him where I had placed them on a lathe. He told me that he used the lathe frequently, but not the taps and dies, and he let me know that the sets would be better placed out of his way on a now-empty shelf. I obliged.

Later that evening, we ran into some neighbors who asked how things were going down at the creek. Greg told them happily that I had cleaned up his shop and bragged that I had done a wonderful job. The only problem, he informed them, was that he now had no idea where to find any of his tools.

I suppose it was true. They all laughed, and I laughed right along with them.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at