Drip—Don’t Squirt!

I have always been cheap.  My wife has been working on me to change this attitude for 50 years now, and I must admit that she has largely been successful.  I still, however, really resist throwing anything away.  It’s not that I am a hoarder, I just find extreme pleasure on finding a use for an object after I have saved it for years.  I have junk drawers that are a challenge to close.  This cheapness applies to tools as well.  For instance, I am still using the wheelbarrow and sawhorses my dad (who was a contractor) gave me nearly 50 years ago—and they were old and beat up then!

Anyway, this impulsion to save stuff has resulted for instance in collection of old soaker hoses and pieces of soaker hoses that fill a garbage can.  I’ve now decided that the garbage can is the best destination for this accumulation.  You see, our main iris garden was watered by a variety of soaker hoses—different sizes and different ages.  The result was very uneven watering—some parts were completely dry, some parts over watered, and there were frequent squirts here and there.  LaVille would have to drag a hose through the garden and water everything every week.  After listening to several complaints (she is careful not to nag), I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy new soaker hose.  I was looking for ½  inch hose everywhere, but only found 3/8”.  Interesting enough, I found the same brand at every store.  For instance, the 50 foot SoakerPro by Element was about $17 at Home Depot.  However, the same hose was $5.72 at the Lowes in West Sacramento.  I jumped on that one!  In fact, I bought two.

The hoses were easy to install.  I first unrolled the coils and twisted it to take out all of the loops.  Then as I dragged it through the garden I pinned it using “U” shaped wires made from coat hangers that I had been saving.  When I turned on the water, I couldn’t believe how well the water was distributed.  I bet this system could also be used to water lines of potted plants if they were, say, all one-gallon pots.

So, if you find that your soaker hose is squirting rather than dripping, head for West Sacramento.  Don’t be cheap and take the hose out in the street and run over it with the car—which is the old, recommended treatment for soaker hoses that get clogged by minerals.  You will love how much better a new hose works.

Happy dripping!

Stan, The Tool Man

Teased to Death

Do you remember that day in high school biology when you dissected a night crawler?  If you don’t, let me tell you that it is an earthworm about 7 inches long.  You used your scalpel to carefully cut in incision in the dorsal surface at the anterior end.  Then using a probe, you scratched at the tissue of the wall segments and pulled back and pinned the body walls to the wax of the dissection tray.  Further scratching with the probe finally revealed the brain which consisted of two connected tiny white lumps lying on top of the esophagus.  We called this process teasing, and I am reminded of my first dissection back in 1957 whenever I am fighting the oxalis growing in my lawn.  I only have a few spots where oxalis insists on returning.  Several years ago. I removed 8 square feet of lawn that was hopelessly infested with this weed.  I thought I had eradicated it, but 2 or 3 areas continue to be a problem. 

So weekly, after each mowing, I get down on my hands and knees and use a teasing technique to remove any oxalis before it has a chance to go to seed.  The tool I use is a dinner plate knife because is it rigid, narrow, and had a dull rounded end.  I grab the oxalis by the neck (not really the neck) and pull gently.  At the same time, I tease (scratch) the soil where I figure the root is located.  Generally. the root gives way and another plant bites the dust (so to speak).

I figure that I have a right to tell you about this experience because it does involve a tool, albeit a tool with very limited use.  By the way, this is also the tool I use to spread peanut butter in the rat traps that I try to keep baited year-round.

I guess the one question remains—will I be able to completely tease the oxalis to death—or will it outlast me and tease me to death?

Stan, The Tool Man

P.S.  My editor says the last line is a little grim.

Table knife as garden tool
Table knife as garden tool

 

The Dumpster Stomp

Have you recently been frustrated by having more garden refuse than your bin can hold?  This has been my case in recent weeks as fall approaches and I have increasing amount of debris to get rid of.  I have found that by climbing into my bin, and jumping up and down, I can compress the plant material into a much smaller volume.  Now although this activity is a lot of fun, there are several dangers of which you must be aware.  The plant material itself can be a threat if there are sharp pokey things that might penetrate your legs.  Then too, the act of climbing into or out of a bin creates the possibility of a tumble.  Then too, if you compress the plant material too low, you may not be able to escape.  But I guess that’s OK since it’s an organic bin, and you are definitely organic.  Sounds like a gruesome episode you might watch on TV about a missing person.  Yuck.

I hope that you don’t have to face the weekly volume problem of garden refuse like I do.  The City of Davis doesn’t do street pickups for 6 straight months!  In any case, perhaps you should leave dumpster stomping to a local neighborhood child.  They would probably love it.

Stan, The Tool Man

Polypropylene Dolly
Polypropylene Dolly

Hello Dolly

Have you recently been frustrated by having more garden refuse than your bin can hold?  This has been my case in recent weeks as fall approaches and I have increasing amount of debris to get rid of.  I have found that by climbing into my bin, and jumping up and down, I can compress the plant material into a much smaller volume.  Now although this activity is a lot of fun, there are several dangers of which you must be aware.  The plant material itself can be a threat if there are sharp pokey things that might penetrate your legs.  Then too, the act of climbing into or out of a bin creates the possibility of a tumble.  Then too, if you compress the plant material too low, you may not be able to escape.  But I guess that’s OK since it’s an organic bin, and you are definitely organic.  Sounds like a gruesome episode you might watch on TV about a missing person.  Yuck.

I hope that you don’t have to face the weekly volume problem of garden refuse like I do.  The City of Davis doesn’t do street pickups for 6 straight months!  In any case, perhaps you should leave dumpster stomping to a local neighborhood child.  They would probably love it.

Stan, The Tool Man

 

Organic Dumpster Diving

How is organic dumpster diving different from ordinary dumpster diving?  Well, ordinary dumpster diving has been around for decades—ever since dumpsters have been created to store discarded items.  Organic dumpster diving is a more recent activity allowed by the recent effort to keep organic materials out of the landfill.  Now, searching through the contents of your organic bin may seem somewhat unpleasant, if not downright disgusting.  However, sometime a dive seems imperative.  Have you ever been working with a favorite tool, and after depositing plant clipping or weeds into your organic bin, that beloved tool has disappeared?  After endless searches has revealed no misplaced tool, the fear slowly arises that you have thrown away your tool.  This happened to me several days ago when my hand rake suddenly disappeared.  So, I pulled the garden refuse out of my bin.  No tool.  Then I went over to my neighbor’s bin, to which I had added my excess, and pulled all the plant material out and into a garbage can.  No tool.  Now I must admit that most organic dumpster dives are unsuccessful.  I figure the success rate is about 20%.  And sure enough, I later found the hand rake lying on the back of the Prius in the driveway.  I continues to amaze me how I will have absolutely no recollection of where I put something down.

So, I guess I’d have to say that organic dumpster diving is not something I think you’ll enjoy, but it is the only way that you can be assured that your treasured tool is not gone forever.

Happy diving (?)

Stan, The Tool Man

Don’t Fence Me In

LaVille and I were poking in 36” fencing around a Rudbeckia that had grown crazy tall and threatened to bend over into a mess.  Beneath that fencing was another grouping of 18” fence sections that were no longer effective.  I was reminded of how often we have used the short fence sections.  Here are several reasons you may want to consider a purchase.  Frequently one plant will outgrow an adjacent one and shade it out.  A single fence section can be placed between them to separate the foliage.  Simply propping up a plant that is unable to support itself is useful.  Plants can be held away from your lawn to prevent interference with mowing.  You can create a safety barrier to protect plants when you drag a hose around the garden.  Finally you can make a reminder barrier to stop human traffic.  I can’t tell you how many mini sprayers I broke off by stepping across a planted area.  A single section of fence stopped that.  You might even want to spray paint a traffic stopper white to make it more noticeable. 

If you purchase sturdy fencing, it will last a lifetime.  I would suggest you avoid “wire” fencing as it may not have the strength or durability you require.  Also pick a style that has a loop attached to one side.  This is for joining sections together as you will slide the stake at the unlooped end of a second section though that loop.  This means of attachment makes all kinds of articulation possible. The fact that sections can be separated make storage easier, and they can be stored out in the weather.

“So . . . Why the weird title,” you ask.  Well, I just couldn’t resist.  You see, if you were my age, that sentence would have more meaning.  But then even if you are old, you may never have played cowboy and Indians, which of course would be completely unacceptable in current times.  Still confused?  Google “Don’t fence me in”, and you will be able to listen to a song of that title.  Then you may ask LaVille who she sat next to on a fire engine in a parade when she was seven.  You see, her dad had a lot of pull those days in Imperial Valley.

A lot of fencing examples can be found on Amazon—just google “garden fencing”.  I think 18” by 18” panels are the most practical size.

Hope to hear you singing those familiar lyrics the next time I see you.

Stan, The Singing Cowboy (I wish)

Wire Fencing
Wire Fencing

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!

Knee Pads

Knee Pads
Knee Pads

It seems unavoidable that some gardening activities are going to be done on your knees.  But you really should never kneel on a hard surface without using some sort of cushioning.  Kneeling pads are useful, but if you want to be efficient and look professional, get a pair of knee pads.

I have been known to look professional all day long during gardening season.  I have also looked particularly professional when walking around the neighborhood with knee pads, or especially when napping in my recliner.

I have 2 pairs of knee pads—one for inside the house, and one for outside. The outside pair sometimes gets grit stuck to them and that can cause damage to hardwood floors as you move around.  (You do clean the condensing coils beneath your refrigerator, don’t you?)

There are numerous knee pad styles.  I prefer a style that has a foam pad inside a harder rubber outer cover.  This is the style shown below.  I have seen these knee pads sold at Home Depot, and they are available for $23.71 at Amazon Prime.

The main consideration in choosing knee pads is the comfort of the securing straps.  Unfortunately there is no trial program for testing knee pads.  I suppose you could strap on a pair and crawl down the aisle of your local big box or garden store, but I’m afraid that would not look professional.  Those of you who garden in shorts may be particularly handicapped trying to find a comfortable set.  Be persistent in your search.  Soon you find that you too will be eating meals and napping in your knee pads.

 Stan, The (professional looking) Tool Man

 

 

Fitness Tracker

fitness tracker
fitness tracker

I was thinking of you today . . . yes, I mean you.  I was down on my hands and knees using one of my rectangular 2 x 5” trowels to weed around some drip hose.  As I used my trowel, I wondered, as I often do, about the Perennial Club members and whether or not they have purchased the particular tool I’m using.  Moments later I’m using my thinning pruners to cut off oak tree seedlings beneath the soil surface.  The jays will plant acorns right in among iris rhizomes  so I need a slender, long nosed pruner to extricate the seedling.  So, I was thinking of you today.  (It doesn’t bother me if you weren’t thinking of me.)

            Now to the matter at hand . . . or really, at wrist.  The tool I want to talk about is the fitness tracker.   In its simplest form it is a electronic device that is worn as a bracelet.  The tracker sends messages to your computer (when closer than 20 feet) or to your smart phone.  It records how many steps you take each day.  Who cares, you say, and what does this have to do with garden tools?  Have you walked out to the garden and realized that you forgot to bring an essential tool (like a thinning pruner).  You were probably a little upset with yourself, and you hated every step you had to take to retrieve your tool.  When you are wearing a tracker, your whole attitude changes.  You say to yourself, “I’m just getting more steps.”  I know it probably sounds stupid, but it really does improve how you feel about yourself.  And, of course, the whole premise of counting your steps is to encourage you to be more active, and therefore to be more healthy.  Let me caution you, however.  You have to temper your enthusiasm for this new program.  Both LaVille and I enjoyed  walking so much in the first couple of weeks (around the neighborhood and along bike paths) that we got sore feet.  Now we are more moderate in our forays around Davis.  But after several years of monitoring our steps, the additional exercise has made us healthier.  That is what I wish for you, and the fitness tracker is a tool to help you achieve this. 

            But wait . . . there’s more.  Many of the tracker systems allow you to create a friends group that lets you to keep track of how others are doing.  You can compete with others if you need extra motivation.  I tend to be this way while LaVille simply enjoys setting personal goals and competing with herself.  Once again, I caution you to take it easy at first.

            But wait . . . there’s even more.  This device keeps track of your sleep pattern.  Once again, I can hear you say, “Who cares!”  The amount of sleep you get is as important as how much you exercise.  You can see the number of hours of sleep you get nightly, when you went to the bathroom, and when you were restless.  When you pay attention to your sleep pattern, you will work at getting better sleep.

            I have just barely touched on all that the fitness tracker programs have to offer.  There are many different brands and models of trackers.  Check out fitness trackers on Amazon.  Read the reviews.  I think you will be impressed.  I know that most of you need no motivation to be active.  But just knowing that retracing your steps to get that forgotten tool is making you physically healthier will make you a mentally healthier person as well.

Just thinking of you,

Stan, The Tool Man

Recipes

 

Almond-Chocolate Truffles

 

Servings 24

 

Ingredients

1/3 cup chopped and pitted soft dates

1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water for 3 hours and then drained

3 tablespoons almond butter

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup date sugar (can substitute brown sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ground almonds for coating

 

Instructions

Combine the dates and cashews in a food processor and process
to a paste.

Add the almond butter and process to combine. Add the cocoa powder, date sugar, vanilla and 1 teaspoon of water. Pulse until well combined.

Pinch some of the mixture between your fingers to see whether it holds together.

If it’s too dry, add a little more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the mixture can be shaped into balls.

If the mixture is too soft, refrigerate it for 20 minutes or longer to firm up.
If it’s still too soft, add a little more cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon at a time.

Use your hands to shape and roll a small amount of the mixture into
a 1-inch ball and transfer to a plate.

Repeat until all the mixture has been rolled into balls.

Place the ground almonds in a shallow bowl. Roll the truffles in the almonds until they’re coated, pressing on them if needed to cover completely.

Transfer the coated truffles to a plate and refrigerate until firm before serving.

 

Recipe Notes

Note: If your dates are not soft, soak them in hot water for 20 minutes; then drain and pat dry before using.

 

From: The How Not To Die Cookbook, by Michael Greger, M.D. & Gene Stone