My Favorite Things
Tools and other items I have found useful around the farm.
My Austrian Scythe - I never realized how useful this tool would be. I have an inborn adversion/inability to manage gasoline powered tools. The scythe replaces two of these, one I fought with for a time, the other I just avoided. The first is the push lawn mower. It was not my friend. It was heavy, stinky and always quit when the going got tough, the grass or weeds were too wet or the vegetation too high. It got overheated, too. The second is the weed whacker, aka string trimmer. I only ever used an electric one because I just didn't want to deal with a gasoline powered one. Even the electric one needed you to practically wear body armor to use, cut indiscriminately, was too wimpy for big weeds and had a limited cord. My scythe to the rescue:
1. You use the scythe in the cool of the morning before the dew dries from the grass.
2. You can use it barefoot, there is no danger of flying objects hitting you.
3. It can handle tall grass and tough weeds if you have a ditch blade.
4. You can use it in steep areas and hard to reach areas.
5. It is quiet.
6. Parts of my yard and garden which were neglected for years are now clean and productive once again.
7. It is a valuable tool for harvesting small grain and even hay.
Here is a resource for everything regarding European scythes: www.scythesupply.com.
My Hoss Wheel Hoe - Weed management has always been an issue for me. I get those little ads in my seed shipments for the little 25 pound rototillers, and they sure make them sound easy. However, in reality they are like trying to control a bucking bronco. I am 5'1" tall and it is not easy to control one of those things. We planted our garden rows far apart for years and my husband ran a small tractor pulled rototiller between the rows, but that wasted a lot of space, and as I now know, rototilling all season long just brings up more weed seeds to germinate a new crop. This year we finally found our answer - First of all, we learned to get good quality hoes and we learned the most important lesson - KEEP THEM SHARP. After gardening my whole life, you would think I would know such a simple thing, but I didn't. Keep on top of weeds when they are young, and your life will be made much simpler. Then we discovered the Hoss Wheel Hoe. Not all wheel hoes are made equal, which is why it took us awhile to get this one. We tried others that didn't work well because of their design. It is faster than a hand hoe, and my son loves using it, so that makes weeding easier for me!
Here is the Hoss website: www.hosstools.com
My New Greenhouse - I like several of its features. It has straight sides so I don't lose space in the curves like my old greenhouse. It has poly-carbonate panels which are stronger and more durable, so I don't have to worry about ripping plastic which has to be replaced every four years. It has a double door, so I can fit wagons and carts in the door. It has a "Dutch" door, so I can open the top and leave the bottom closed. It has roof vents - two of which are equipped with an automatic solar opener - this is mechanical, not electric - to open the vents when it gets too hot inside. It has drain pipes that allow rainwater collection from the roof. They are conveniently placed so a five gallon plastic bucket fits perfectly under them. This model is 16' long and 12' wide, four feet longer than my old one and with much more usable space. It is taller, too. It has a steel frame, giving it stability even in very strong winds. We built benches in 2/3 of the space, giving me the same amount as the old greenhouse had. We then added two small 2' X 4' raised beds inside to make a walk-in cold frame, in which we grow greens and herbs year 'round. It cost a little over $5,000, but for that price everything was included even the hardware and the caulk. Most economy kits have a list of materials you have to buy separately which actually puts your costs much higher. The instructions were detailed. My husband described it as his "giant erector set". This came from Farm-Tek. Their website is: www.farmtek.com. Inside you can see the potting bench my husband and son built for me. The plans for that came from the same place as:
My Outdoor Sink - This is so incredibly handy! It is stainless steel, uses a garden hose to bring water to it, and then has a drain hose, which you can just drain into the ground, or a bucket. I drain it directly into the flower bed. I bought a food grade hose to hook up to the outdoor spigot. We use this to wash our vegetables, especially the CSA veggies. It is especially handy for root vegetables, which have a lot of dirt on them. It keeps my kitchen clean and my kitchen sink free of all that garden dirt. Plus, the dirt goes directly out into the yard instead of back through my septic system. I got this from Lee Valley.
My hand pump well - I didn't think about including this until I read an article in one of my magazines about necessary things on a homestead. We keep our male goats on another piece of property from where the house and doe barn is. There is no electricity over there. For several years I ran water over there in buckets from the doe barn. That required me to drive a vehicle, even though it is in walking distance. It was also difficult in the winter. We finally made the choice to have a well drilled and have a hand pump installed. A year later my husband built this nice well house over it with a cement pad. This is a regular well, so it cost what a regular well costs. It was expensive, but not more expensive than a well with an electric pump. The bonus is that if we lose power at the house we can go over there and pump water. Now I can just walk (or ski in the winter) over to the buck barn and pump their water in all weather in relative comfort. I park my extra boots in there in the winter so I don't have to wear my ski boots in the buck barn!
Caprine Feeder - We have been feeding baby goats with pop bottles since 2006. Suddenly the number of hands available for feeding has decreased, and I found that it is hard to feed several babies at once with only two or four hands! The Caprine Feeder to the rescue! This allows me to feed up to ten babies at once, with only two hands! Although it cost me around $50 to purchase, it replaces four extra people to feed bottles, so it is certainly worth it. I got this from Caprine Supply.
Galvanized dog door - This solved a problem we had for a long time. Our dogs literally ate the normal dog door flaps. It took about a week to train the dog in the picture, but now they have a solid door to keep out weather and mice, and they can't snack on it! I got this from QC Supply.
Ryobi Battery Powered Push Mower - What my scythe can't reach or can effectively trim I can now reach with this battery powered, 20" mower. I have it set on mulch, so it spits out nothing, it doesn't stink, and I can trim down overgrown beds and keep my garden paths neat and accessible. I even use it around the beehives. It makes summer maintenance and fall prep so much easier. The battery works for an hour, it is as powerful as the old stinky gasoline mower and it comes with a double fast charger. It even has an extra slot to carry an extra battery with you. The battery is compatible with other Ryobi tools like our weed-whacker. I found this at the local Home Depot.
My "Roo" harvest apron - Have you ever tried to carry produce in your shirt when you can't reach a basket? This is so much better. The bottom of the apron folds up to form a bag that holds literally a half bushel of produce. When you want to empty it, you stand over your basket, unhook the strings and it gently falls into your basket the way it was picked, with the top on the top and the bottom on the bottom. It is great when deep in the tomato patch especially. I found this at Stark Bros. Nursery, where I buy most of my fruit trees and plants.
My "intern" hoof trimming stand - My son created this to help me with hoof trimming. I always trim hooves on the milking stand, but the goats are used to the stand being against the wall. I have to move around all sides to trim their hooves, but they wouldn't get on the stand if it wasn't against the wall. We dealt with that by having a second person stand on the opposite of me while I trimmed, but it was a boring job for the "intern", and sometimes the goat still wouldn't get on the stand. It is flat on the floor, but has a head stanchion and a grain dish to keep the goat secured. I can drag it to wherever I want. I successfully got all goats, young and old to go into this stanchion for hoof trimming and could complete the task all by myself!