Do You Drip?

I think each of us battles with hoses and faucets that drip. When a faucet drips, it’s generally a leak that occurs at the base of the handle stem. You will probably notice that the handle is really easy to turn. What is supposed to seal the handle stem within the faucet is what is called a pressure washer. Over time these tend to shrink so that they no longer seal well against the stem. What you need to do is get an adjustable wrench and tighten the large nut at the base of the handle stem. This nut is probably “frozen” so you may have to use considerable force to tighten it. Hold the faucet firmly with your other hand to prevent damage elsewhere. Tighten the nut until the faucet handle is still easy to turn.

Many hose leaks occur where the hose attaches to the faucet. If you replace the rubber or plastic washer in the female fitting, your leak will generally be solved. Grab the old washer with pliers—a needle nose works best–and pull it out. Insert a new washer. If the hose end still leaks, try tightening it further. A channel lock wrench works well for this. If the leak continues, you may have to replace the female hose end. Washers and replacement hose ends are common in nurseries and hardware stores. Make sure though that you buy the proper size end replacement for your hose size—3/4”, 5/8”, or ½”. You may also choose to buy a new hose particularly if the old one is constantly kinking. Here I would advise you that you get what you pay for. Make sure that you are getting the right length to fit your needs—too much hose can be a pain also.

Now that I think of it, hose leaks frequently occur at the other end where you attach a sprayer of some kind. Here, again, the problem is generally the washer. If replacing the washer doesn’t help, check the end of the male hose fitting. If the surface that meets the washer is not smooth, you will need to flatten the end surface with a file. If the male hose end cannot be repaired, replace it noting the advice a gave you above. Of course, if the leak is within the sprayer attachment, it is time for it to go.

Stan, The Blog Man

P.S. LaVille, my editor, mentioned that the biggest problem with leaks is that your shoes get wet and can sometimes be ruined. So this is a very serious matter!

The Thumb Knife

I was out in the garden today doing maintenance. That’s my job. LaVille does the creating, and I try to do the maintaining. So I am deadheading—mainly Lantana—and it occurred to me that the job would be easier if I had a tool that would fit over my thumb and allow me to pinch off spent blooms. After lunch and the daily nap, I decided to see if there was actually such a tool, I googled “thumb garden pruner” and discovered that there were several models available. When I found they were available on Amazon, I went to the site and read over the comments on different brands. I chose a brand that offered a size option since my fingers definitely fit the large category—besides it was “Amazon’s Choice.” So my thumb knives will arrive in a couple days and I’ll give you a person evaluation.

Thumb Knives
Thumb Knives

I would give this device 4 out of 5 stars. My first problem was that I had trouble inserting my thumb. Although I ordered the “large” version, it was too snug. Perhaps it is designed for a woman’s large thumb—and indeed it fits LaVille’s thumb just fine. I measured the circumference of my thumb and it was 3 1/8 inches. Now before you call Guinness World Records, let you remind you that this is circumference. Remember how you get diameter out of circumference? Dividing 3 1/8 by 3.14, you get 1 inch. See—no freak here. So maybe that gives you some idea of the size you need. Anyway, as I tried to pull the device on, it separated. Re-attaching the two parts was a challenge, but I succeeded. The first plant I attacked was a gazania that had gone crazy with blooms. For a long time I attempted to severe the flower stalks by pinching between the thumb blade and my sleeve protected forefinger. It didn’t take too long for my forefinger to get sore. I thought that the thumb knife would be used in the same manner that I had used to deadhead by pinching my thumbnail against my forefinger. I discovered that no pinching is needed. You simply twist your wrist downward so that the knife edge presses against the stalk. So why is this device better than what you have been doing forever? First, you can cut the stalk deep in the plant by sliding your hand down the stalk. Then, since the cut stalk in already in your hand, you can simply move to another stalk without using your other hand. Also, since you are using only one hand, you don’t have to bend over as far to get both hands involved. Now I have to tell you that LaVille loves this tool. She was even using it without the forefinger sleeve. She said that in some instances she used the cutting edge to slice through a bunch of stalks she had gathered in her other hand. So she would rate the thumb knife 5 stars. If you choose to use the thumb knife, eventually it will lose its razor sharp edge. I can sharpen it for you if that ever happens. I guess I’ll have to say it’s “thumbs up” for the thumb knife.
Happy deadheading, Stan The Tool Man

Duplicity is Good?

I thought that duplicity was a good thing—having duplicates of things you value should be a good thing.  My wife straightened me out—as she is prone to do—that duplicity is not a desired trait.  So . . you can call this practice of having multiple items whatever you want—I still prefer duplicity.  Actually . . “multiplicity” is not a bad alternative.  Anyway, let me tell you about the extent of my duplicity—I’ll stick to garden related items.  The logic for my practice is many-fold:  It is so frustrating when you want to use a particular tool, and you can’t find it.  Having many around solves this.  I have four 2 x 5 inch trowels used for the daily hunt for weeds.  There are 3 or 4 moisture meters around here somewhere.  I have only 2 of those thinning pruners that I have shown you, which is scary—only two.  There are 2 sets of knee pads.  I only have one weed torch, but I seem never to lose it, so one will do.  What I am definitely going to have to buy is another pair of gloves.  I am constantly misplacing the one pair—so maddening.  Gloves are not something I think you can just buy online.  I think you really need to try them on before purchase.  3 gardening hats, 2 neck braces. And 2 forearm bands round out my multiplicity needs.  It should be mentioned that other than the problem of misplacement, there is also the consideration of wearing out a loved item and not being able to replace it.  So I would suggest that when you find a gardening item, or anything else that you really love, immediately buy a second (or third) one.  I have to admit that my fetish for multiplicity ends with my wife—I can only handle one of these at a time.  Anyway, where would I find another one as good as I have right now?

Stan

Leaky Tires

Here’s some advice if you have a leaking pneumatic tire:

One of the four tires on my garden cart had a bad leak.  Every time I wanted to use it, I had to add air.  The next day it would be flat again.  I assumed that the inner tube had a hole in it, so with significant difficulty, I removed the tube, added air, and submerged it in a bucket of water.  To my surprise bubbles appeared not from a hole in the tube, but from the valve stem.  I happened to have an extra valve, so replaced it.  That solved the problem, but it would have been so much easier to test the valve stem before I went to all the trouble of removing the tube.  So my advice to you is that if you have a leaking tire, fill the tire, and then place a drop of soapy water over the valve stem.  If you are lucky, bubbles will appear and the fix will be easy.  You can order a tool and replacement valves from Amazon Prime:  Slime 20088 4–Way Valve Tool with 4 valve cores ($3.99)

Valve stem

Valve stems

Now that I think of it, perhaps the reason that the valve went bad was that it had no valve cap.  If that is the case also with you, you might consider ordering valve caps as well:  Samikiva Black (30 pack) Tire Stem Valve Caps ($3.99)  (Or you could call me—I have lots.)

 

 

 

 

I hope this solves your leaking problem.

Stan, The Tool Man

Replacement Bucket Handle

bucket handles
bucket handles

            I hate to throw anything away.  I go to extreme ends to fix something before I give up on it.  For example, when the plastic handle surrounding the bail on a bucket starts to crack, I wrap layers of duct tape around it making last years longer.  Recently I learned of a new device that solves this problem even better.  Now available is a replacement handle that will snap around the bail when the old plastic handle gives way.  The best feature is the fact that it is a larger handle that makes carrying thing even easier.  If you google Amazon, you will see that “replacement bucket handles” come in a variety of colors for about $2 each.  If you treasure your buckets as much as I do, I think you’ll give it a go.

Stan, The Tool Man

Plant Ties

Plant Ties
Plant Ties

            I’ll bet that you have a roll of green plastic tape in your garden supplies which you use throughout the year to strap up various plants as they grow.  There is now a great product that can replace this product.  It is Velcro tape.  You can buy it in ½ inch wide rolls that are various lengths.  For instance, at this writing, a 75-foot roll costs $7.69 which means, of course, that you a paying about 10 cents a foot.

             So why would you use this Velcro tape rather than plastic tape.  First of all, it is easier to apply.  You simply cut off the desired length and wrap it around your plant and the supportive structure—no tying involved.  Second, and most importantly, the tape can be reused.  You are not cutting the plastic tape and throwing it in the trash.  Now I will admit that it is task to save the tape for use the next time.  You need to have some system of storing used tape.  But that is the cost of reusing materials instead of dumping them into the environment.

            If you are interested in this product, it is available on Amazon under “Velcro Brand One-Wrap Garden Tape”.

Stan, The Tool Man  (article suggested by Janice)

Got Camel?

Camel Clip
Camel Clip

            OK, so this article is not about camels, but I thought it might get your attention.

I want to tell you about a tool that you might want to add to your arsenal.  It’s called the “Handy Camel Bag Clip”.  This device is a sturdy plastic clip that you can use to seal large bags—like fertilizer, potting soil, mulch, perlite, rock salt, pet food and bird seed.  There is a handle on the clip that allows you to easily carry the bag.  The “Giant” version can carry a 50 pound bag, and the regular model is for 10 pound bags.  If you clip just the corner of an opened bag top, you can more easily pour contents into a container.  Google “Handy Camel Bag Clip” for a demonstration.

            Let me tell you why I personally value this tool.  Have you ever opened a previously used bag of fertilizer and discovered after unrolling the top that the fertilizer was damp?  I did.  Damp fertilizer does not work well in spreaders.  So I poured the damp mix into a tub and set it out in the sun to dry.  The next day I had a tub of fertilizer soup.  Many fertilizers are hydroscopic—that is, they love water—they will absorb it from the air.  This is why I value a substantial bag clip that will seal off the air.

 These clips are reasonably priced.  You can order them on Amazon for about $10 for the giant version and $6 for the regular size.  It is a tool that you can use over and over again, and I think it is a good investment.

Stan, The Tool Man (article suggested by Lorraine)

Another Shovel

Another Shovel
Another Shovel

            “So why do I need another shovel?” you ask?  Well, probably you don’t.  But if your garden soil is hard, then you probably do.  I’ve talked about the 2-tiner before.  Remember that the advantage of having only two tines is that not only do they penetrate soil more easily, but they also make removing peripheral iris rhizomes easier.  This new shovel is called a spear head spade.  It has the advantage of a narrow, pointed head that makes it easier to dig into a hard surface.  It is stronger than a 2-tiner which sometimes can have its tines bent when the soil is really tough.  The base of the spade’s blade is still wide enough for your foot to get a good purchase.  I think the cost of this spear headed spade is rather pricey, but it may be worth it and become your favorite tool.  I would avoid the really short handled version—it wouldn’t give you enough leverage.  Below is the model available from Amazon which is probably your best bet for $52.  Google “spear head shovel” to see options.

Stan, The Tool Man

New Sharpening Tool

Sharpening Tool
Sharpening Tool

I am really excited about a new tool that I just discovered.  I was sharpening tools for the volunteers pruning the roses at the Sacramento Historical Cemetery, and one of the workers showed me a sharpening tool that I had never used.  I had avoided it because it seemed like just a gadget too simple to be effective.  But I tried it out on the spot, and it really works!  This tool consists of a handle with a slim rectangle of carbide at the end.  Even though the carbide has 90 degree edges, those edges are so sharp that they are able to shave off metal from the cutting edge of a pruner or lopper.  Using this tool takes just a little practice, and I could show you the technique in few seconds if you end up buying one.  So why would you use this tool instead of the metal file that I’ve touted before?  Using a file is tricky because you have to stabilize the garden tool and then establish the proper angle with the file.  Then too, sometimes there is very little space to fit a file near the hinge point of the blades.  This new tool avoids these complications.  It is such a small tool that it can easily be carried in your pocket if you want to sharpen your pruner on the job.  So I think this tool should be on your must buy list if you like to keep your pruners and lopper sharp.

The Corona AC 8300 Sharpening Tool can be purchased on Amazon for $10.

Stan, still The Tool Man

Fruit Picker Head

Fruit Picker Head
Fruit Picker Head

This tool article comes with a story:

            Every time LaVille and I are at home for lunch we have a huge salad.  It is basically a salad made with chicken and romaine lettuce.  The chicken is strips of meat cut off a Costco rotisserie chicken.  I call it “carcass chicken”.  The final carcass, by the way, is never wasted.  After 2 or 3 carcasses accumulate in the freezer, they are boiled in a pot that is first used to caramelize an onion and diced carrots and celery.  While boiling, crushed pepper corns and celery are added.  After 3 or 4 hours of slow boiling the mixture is poured into a colander and the liquid collected.  After the liquid cools and is then refrigerated, the solidified fat is scooped off the surface.  This chicken stock forms the basis for making various kinds of soups that are the mainstay of our evening meals. 

But I digress—back to the salad:  To the mixture of lettuce and chicken meat, we add a great number of things:  chopped walnuts, raisins, Craisins , grapes which have been cut in half so they won’t roll off the fork, tomato, cucumber, green onion, red or yellow bell pepper, sliced boiled egg, apple, avocado, and mushrooms.  Now, admittedly, not every one of these items is added every time, but what really adds a punch is pieces of fresh orange.  Here’s the problem:   All of the oranges on our orange tree have been picked . . . but there are still oranges on our neighbor’s tree and it is right next to the fence that divides our yards.  I have found that the fruit picker that I bought at a garage sale years ago works really well to pick off one orange each day to add that extra treat to our salads.

Now if your neighbor’s trees are away from the fence, you should consider ordering a pole that is extendable.  If you google “fruit picker head” on Amazon, you will find the basket alone costs only $8.  It should attach to an old broom or mop stick.  The extendable pole can be found at the same site for about $26.

If your neighbor’s trees are really far from the fence, I suggest you invest in a good 6 foot ladder and dark clothing for night time harvesting.  A black hoody would be appropriate.  I always prefer fiberglass ladders.  They are more stable than aluminum and will last you a lifetime, which may be shortened if you slip and get impaled on the fence.  That reminds me of our visit to Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania when we were learned about Vlad The Impaler—not a nice guy.  But then that’s a whole different story that you don’t want to think about while eating your healthy salad.

Stan, The Tool Man

Addendum:  You know, it’s rather embarrassing when you are trying to remove a stubbornly held orange from a neighbor’s tree, and the picker head comes off and hangs there like some sort of a weird out of season Xmas ornament.  Make sure you tighten the hose clamp securely to your pole . . . or you’ll just be standing there with a stick in your hand . . . like I said . . . rather embarrassing.