3M VHB Heavy Duty Mounting Tape

This product is a game-changer. Goodbye glue, screws, nails, rivets and studs. In the right application, it permanently bonds plastic, fiberglass, porcelain, glass, PVC, wood, cloth, concrete and just about any other material you’re likely to encounter.

Mounting a GPS unit on a car dash? Done. Need to secure a circuit board to a metal rack? No problem. Want to stick together tricky space-age materials, like Velcro to a Kydex knife sheath? Forget about exotic adhesives; use VHB tape (it stands for Very High Bond, by the way).

Don’t mistake this stuff for temporary mounting tape. It forms a PERMANENT bond, and trying to remove it will likely remove the finish on both bonded surfaces.

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-- Douglas Cawley  

3M VHB Heavy Duty Mounting Tape
$36

Available from Amazon



IKEA Ljusa hand powered flashlight

Over the last five years, I have owned a number of hand powered LED flashlights, some of them using a “direct feed” approach (generated electricity is used directly to power the light), others using a rechargeable battery to store the electricity.

My issue with the direct feed type is, that you need to “keep the motion going.” Stop operating the generator it, and you don’t have any light. This means that — for instance — you cannot put the flashlight down if you need both hands to do a job (replacing a defective fuse comes to mind).

The rechargeable battery type tends to work a little bit better, but I’ve yet to find an affordable type where the battery capacity does not start to diminish sharply after a fairly low number of recharge cycles.

Then, when shopping at Ikea a couple of months ago, I came across the LJUSA flashlight. It’s not the nicest looking or smallest flashlight out there, but it does have a number of things going for it: It’s sturdy, quick to charge (wind lever 20-30 times for 1-2 minutes of light), and fairly bright. Furthermore, it uses a capacitor rather than a battery to store electricity, so no more degrading battery capacity. What really blew me away, though, was the price: at €3.99 ($4.99 US) they are a true steal!

I immediately bought a couple for my kids. While I had some initial concerns about the quality of the lever, both flashlights have withstood months of abuse without breaking, and still function as well as the day we bought them. I’ve since been back to Ikea, and have bought a couple of additional units to keep them handy in our car, near our home’s fuse box etc., and have also recommended them to family and friends.

-- Remko Klaassen  



M-1 Series Snake Tongs

We live on the edge of canyon open space and celebrate sharing our ridge with the local wildlife, including the local Northern Pacific rattler. And a few times/year one of our rattlesnake neighbors curls up right next to the house and thus must be gently moved back out beyond our back fence into the open space.

Efficiency is crucial to this process, both for the sake of personal safety and to minimize the stress to the snake. And of course the right tools: snake tongs, a snake hook and a 5-gallon bucket with proper lid. (snake pros use a pillowcase or equivalent to bag their quarry; I prefer a bucket with nice thick plastic wall between me and my potentially unhappy guest)

My favorite tong/stick combo comes from Forestry Suppliers: the “Gentle Giant M-1 Series Collapsable Snake Tongs (SKU 81086) and Collapsable Snake Hook (SKU 81061). Both also come in collapsable and non-collapsable versions, but I find the collapsable versions easier to store at the ready.

The tongs come in either a 1-inch or 2-1/4 inch wide jaw. Unless you are dealing with very large and heavy snakes, get the 1-inch version, as trying to capture a smaller (5 ft long or less) snake with the wide jaws risks the snake being able to wriggle free in the jaws. Not a good thing when you are on the other end of the stick.

Also one can get either a 40-inch or 52-inch lengths: for our mostly mellow and not-so-big California rattlers, 40-inches is plenty, especially as the longer the tong, the harder it is to manage when one actually has a snake on the end. If I lived in Texas or New Mexico, where the rattlers are bigger and more nasty-tempered, I’d probably get the longer tongs. (Well, actually, I’d just run in the opposite direction.)

-- Paul Saffo  

Available from Amazon



CritterZone

As all cat owners know, dealing with litter box odor is a never ending battle. I’ve tried lots of air purifying products that have promised to keep down odor, and have always been disappointed, until now. The Critter Zone is a small, affordable, and effective air purifier that has really worked to keep down the odor in the room where I keep my cat’s litter boxes.

You just plug it in and let it go to work. The instructions do suggest a fan in the room to circulate the air, but I haven’t found that to be necessary. They have a version you plug into the outlet and a corded one so you can reach areas further from an outlet.

It works so well that my “super-sniffer” mother who is usually bothered by my well-maintained litter boxes didn’t even realize they were in the laundry room. I’ve also used it for managing other odors. I burned a bag of popcorn one night and by the morning all trace of the smell was gone. It also worked fabulously to get rid of the sweaty smell in my bedroom when I was sick with a fever.

There’s no filters to replace, nothing to clean, and no loud noises to get used to. I just plugged it in, switched it on, and forgot about it, until I realized how much less I was avoiding going into my laundry room! I’ve been so happy with it in the three months that I’ve had it that I’ve just purchased a second CritterZone to go in my second litter box area. Even my skittish cat has no hesitation about going near it so I’m able to put it around all the litter boxes. I’ve got nothing but great things to say about this tiny box that makes the stinky side of having fur babies far less painful.

-- Allison Gilson  

[This video explains that the CritterZone uses "continuous charged flow" to break down bad-smelling chemicals.]

Available from Amazon



Oz-Post Instant Post Holes

Last summer, I needed to fence in my 1/2 acre back yard to contain our new puppies. Digging post holes is not a task that I particularly enjoy, even using a power auger, so I decided to try out the E-Z Spike fence post spike, which was carried at my local Home Depot. This consists of a long spike with a sleeve on top that receives a 4×4 fence post.

This worked fairly well. The resulting posts were sturdy, but the spikes had to be driven in with a sledge hammer. This task was perhaps more odious than digging post holes.

Then, I discovered the Oz-Post Instant Post Hole. These are similar in concept to the E-Z Spike but a bit beefier and made from galvanized steel. However, the big difference is that the manufacturer sells a special insert and bit that allow you to drive them into the ground with a jackhammer, which greatly reduces the installation time.

I had never used a jackhammer before, so I entered into this endeavor with a certain amount of trepidation. However, it ended up not being bad at all. I rented an electric one from Home Depot (the heaviest of the three types they rented out), and was able to get almost all of the spikes driven in one day. (I would have gotten all of them, but I miscalculated how many I needed and didn’t get enough.)

I hit rocks and tree roots several times, but just kept hammering away, and eventually the spike went in. It is difficult to keep the spike exactly vertical as you drive it, but there is enough play in the sleeve that I was able to shim all of my posts plumb.

All of the posts ended up being extremely sturdy, and since the posts are treated and not in direct contact with the ground, I expect that they will last a very long time.

-- Clark Case  

Oz-Post T4-600 4 in. Square Fence Post Anchor
$113.20 / case of 8



Backyard Sugarin’

I really like this small guide because the author emphasizes the cheapest possible way to get up and running. While commercial maple sugaring has gone all high tech, with miles of plastic tubing and vacuum pumps, a weekend backyarder can use traditional homemade apparatus to produce a few gallons of golden syrup each season. Don’t need much if you have the minimum trees, scrap wood, outdoor workspace and time. (And BTW, you can get syrup form all kinds of maples in the right climate zone.)

From my few clumsy experiments using an earlier edition of this book, I can tell you it’s a lot of work for a little syrup — but because its your syrup, it tastes like ambrosia.

-- KK  

Backyard Sugarin’
Rink Mann, Daniel Wolf
2006, 96 pages
$10

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

So, let’s sum up the things you ought to be thinking about well in advance if you’re aiming to make 5 gallons of syrup.

So, let’s sum up the things you ought to be thinking about well in advance if you’re aiming to make 5 gallons of syrup.

  • Save up at least 20 plastic milk bottles or other containers to serve as sap buckets.
  • Pick out your trees for tapping and get permission, if necessary, to tap them. You’re going to drill 20 holes.
  • Collect about a half cord of good dry wood, pile it near your planned evaporator site and cover it over.
  • Save up 10 2-pound coffee cans with plastic lids, or something comparable for storing your syrup.

There are other preparations that can be made in advance, too, like designing and collecting parts for your homemade evaporator, and perhaps whittling your own sap spouts, but these things can be done over the winter.

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Remember that if you’re standing on top of a four-foot snowbank when making your tap holes at the beginning of the season, those taps may be seven feet off the ground near the end of the season when the snowbank has melted. It’s hard to collect sap from buckets seven feet off the ground.

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Apart from eliminating the high cost of buckets, the Idlenot Dairy Low-Fat Sap Bucket has some very real advantages over conventional buckets. For one thing, except for the 3/4″ hole, it is completely enclosed, so you don’t get any debris or unwanted predators in the sap. For another thing, it’s semi-transparent, so you can see from a distance whether or not it will be worth slogging through the snow to empty it. And, maybe best of all, when the season is over, you don’t have to go to all the bother of washing and storing your buckets. You can just drop them off at your local recycling center and start with a fresh set of buckets next season.

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Canning maple syrup presents the same problems as the hot canning of cooked vegetables, with at least one important (and happy) difference. If a jar of canned tomatoes goes bad, you’ve had it. With syrup, if it gets moldy, you can scoop off the mold, bring the syrup back up to a boil, and you’re back in business.

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This is what syrup looks like when it’s about to boil over. Quick! Someone lift the pot off the burner (or touch the syrup with a bit of butter).




Little Giant MegaLite Ladder

Unfolds to allow access to the roof, folds to allow use as a four-foot or ten-foot step ladder. One ladder that is light weight, serves multiple purposes, and is well-designed and built. Comparable folding ladders are either flimsy, heavy, or a pain to use.

-- Jim  

Little Giant Megalite Aluminum Ladder
$209

Available from Amazon



Surgical Huck Towels

Huck towels are durable low-lint cotton towels canonically used for wiping down surgical instruments after sterilization, but they are useful for many other tasks where a clean strong towel is optimal. They are praised by window-washers, auto detailers, and professional housecleaners, and they are very popular in my household.

I got some from a nurse friend and found them to be much superior to my existing “cleaning rag” options. I have had many lint-based disappointments with traditional “shop towels” and huck towels have displaced them for most uses.

Because they are designed to retain their advantages over a long life of many washings, they are a good value and there is a secondary market of still-functional towels removed from institutional service.

They are available new and “reclaimed” from many outlets. Check with a local janitorial supply merchant, or look online. Of course, there are several vendors on Amazon and Ebay. The big institutional distributors such as Uline and Grainger carry them, too.

Pricing varies quite a bit, but seems to cluster around $0.50 per towel when buying a small case.

-- Erik Hoover  

Surgical Cotton Huck Towels Blue 15″ X 25″ – Pack of 12 Pcs
$10

Available from Amazon



OXO Good Grips Microfiber Slim Duster

I was looking for something to clean under my major appliances without removing them. Vacuum crevasse tools are never long enough and nothing beats cloth-to-surface contact like this microfiber duster.

You’ll make a yuck face after extracting years of accumulated cat food kibbles and M&Ms from underneath your range and fridge.

The duster sleeve (washable and replaceable) is very fluffy along the edges and I’m slightly concerned about it catching on something under the appliance. Hasn’t happened yet, though. I ordered another just in case.

Yet another OXO win.

-- John Coke  

OXO Good Grips Microfiber Slim Duster
$23

Available from Amazon



Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits

For nearly 40 years this guide has introduced boy scouts, 4H-ers, homesteaders, survivalists, and pet keepers to the practicalities of raising rabbits. Now in a new 4th edition, it’s still the best manual for getting started with rabbits for food or show.

-- KK  

Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits
Bob Bennett
2009, 256 pages
$15

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Watch carefully at feeding time

A good raiser watches stock closely at feeding time. While they are eating, run your hand over each rabbit. A rabbit that’s a bit bony should get more feed. If a rabbit hasn’t cleaned up its pellets something is wrong.

To determine the cause of appetite loss, first check the water supply. Is the crock or jug empty? Is the valve plugged? Rabbits don’t eat when they are thirsty. They must have plenty of water. Most of the time a rabbit that isn’t eating isn’t drinking.

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If you run your hand over each rabbit at feeding time, you will know if you should increase the ration or not.

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If the doe starts to carry straw around, she probably will kindle in a day or so.

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The doe needs peace and quiet a few days before the litter is born and a few days after. Dogs and children can be particularly disturbing at this time. Upsetting the rabbitry routine can cause the doe to kill her young or abandoned them, so it it is vital that you keep things calm and quiet.

You will, of course, be very curious to see the litter. If you have placed the nest box in the back of the hutch but in full view from the front, you will be able to see into it, and by the 31st day you should see a pile of fluffy fur toward the rear of it, moving slightly up and down.

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Ten-day old babies in the nest. Newborns should be handled rarely if at all, so the doe will not be upset by the intrusion in her nest and so you avoid passing your sent to the young.