Havalon Piranta Skinning Knife

The Havalon Piranta is my favorite skinning knife. It uses replaceable 60XT stainless steel blades, which cost less than a dollar apiece. I like it better than the “Wyoming Knife,” which I used for years. The Piranta is certainly good for field dressing animals and has worked well for me with roadkill foxes, squirrels, bobcats and skunks (once in a while a skunk will be hit in the head by a car and not have time to activate the scent gland, and the skin is beautiful).

There are a number of optional blades in this series. Taxidermists use these other blades because they can be more precise in getting the entire skin. If you are serious about skinning, you might want to check out the Taxidermy Blades and Tools on the Havalon website. You can call the people at Havalon; they are knowledgeable about the whole process of taxidermy and can guide you in choosing the proper knife and blades. 1-800-836-3204. They also have a very good guide to field dressing a deer, which I’ve printed out and plan to use for my next deer.

-- Lloyd Kahn  

Piranta Pro Trophy Skinning Knife
$33

Available from Amazon



Twister Fruit Picker

This fruit picker blows away any other one we’ve had.

Most fruit pickers use a “hook and basket” which requires you to pull the fruit to remove it from the tree. The problem with this system is fruit that is notoriously difficult to pull. On more than one occasion, the basket detached from the pole and was then stuck in the tree. As a rule, the basket designs are not very good and there’s really no way to definitively attach the basket to the end of the pole so that it WON’T come off.

This one works very differently. It’s like actually having a hand with two 4-inch looped fingers at the end of the pole that grips the fruit (there’s a very ingenious cord system that controls the opening and closing of the jaws of the picker) tightly, but not so tightly that it injures the fruit. This then allows you to twist the fruit until the stem snaps and frees the fruit.

We have avocado and pomegranate trees. These are NOTORIOUSLY difficult to pull using a conventional “hook and pull” basket picker. This picker made short work of picking both of these types of fruits/veggies.

The design is ingenious and works REALLY well.

I have it attached to a 12-foot telescoping pole that I use to change light bulbs. The great thing is that if you already have a pole with a standard threaded end (the same end you might have on a push broom or mop), you can attach this picker easily.

My feeling is that if you wanted to use a longer pole (say 20 feet) the picking might be a 2 person job which has nothing to do with the picker and everything to do with “targeting” a piece of fruit with a 20 foot pole.

Compared to the other fruit pickers I’ve tried, the design, durability, and ease of use can’t be matched.

Pros:

  • Picks even difficult to remove fruit/vegetable varieties.
  • Ease of use
  • Ingenious Design
    Cons:

  • Cost
  • You have to bring your own pole
  • Set up is a little tricky but well documented
-- Fred Raimondi  

The Twister Fruit Picker
$40

Available from Amazon



 

Building Chicken Coops For Dummies / Backyard Chickens

Here are a couple of chickeny resources for the wanna-be chicken keeper:

Building Chicken Coops For Dummies
Like all of the For Dummies books, this takes an arcane art and breaks it down into simple, clearly-explained steps. It presents the basics of constructing a simple structure, and adapts them to rearing chickens. It also presents detailed plans and instructions for five different coops of varying complexity. Using this book, I was able to build a safe, moveable, attractive coop for my three chickens, with only a moderate amount of swearing. It was the first structure I’ve ever built all by myself, and I’m inordinately, excessively proud of it. More importantly, the chooks have lived in it for almost two years now, and I haven’t lost one yet.

Backyard Chickens
Chickens are social animals, and so are their owners. BackyardChickens is a website devoted to chicken keeping. It’s my go-to site when I have a chicken question. It’s helped me plan a coop, select breeds, build a cheap and comfortable brooder, ease health concerns, and understand my chickens’ behavior. Also, it’s fun to read other people’s adventures with chickens. I’ve been using the site ever since I started dreaming chickeny dreams, and it’s been a very helpful resource. Though I’ve been using the site for a couple of years, I’ve only recently joined as a member. Chicken books are helpful, but sometimes you just need some hands-on advice.

-- Amy Thomson  

Sample Excerpts:

Building Chicken Coops For Dummies:

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Backyard Chickens:

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Understanding the yolk sack
Growth of a chick begins in the small fertilized area at the top of the yolk. A network of blood vessels begins to develop spreading from the embryo out over the yolk. The yolk sac is attached to the chick’s navel and the chick draws nourishment from it, producing an enzyme that changes the yolk material so that it can be used as a food by the developing embryo. As the chick hatches any remaining unused yolk is drawn into the chick’s abdomen or “navel”. It will supply nourishment for the chicks first few days after hatching.




EGear 30-Day Lantern

I have used this one for over a year. My grandmother was thrilled to have a couple during an extended power outage last year. When we got power back we passed the lanterns on to her friends until they had power restored. We never changed the batteries and neither did they. My grandmother gave one to all her friends last Christmas — best received gift ever. One of the best features is that it is actually bright enough to be useful. I love the hook on the bottom that lets me hang it from a fixture or pipe. (There was a huge battery shortage before, during and after the storm so now I keep a set of rechargeable batteries on hand for them.)

-- Tim Stone  

eGear 30-day lantern
$40

Available from Amazon



Suncast Lawn & Garden Cart

The Suncast Yard Cart is rated 4.8 stars on Amazon. (And that’s the average of 124 reviews!) It is superior to a wheelbarrow for most of a homeowner’s purposes. It is easier to navigate (it’s pulled, not pushed), less tippy, less costly, lower-maintenance (no inflatable tire or rust-prone body), lighter (mostly plastic), less of a space hog, and less tiring (since none of the weight is borne by the shoulders).

I’ve used it for collecting lawn clippings and yard debris. (It can also be used to bring grocery bags into the house from the car.) I’ve been pleased by all the features I mentioned above, plus by my ability to unload it into my yard-waste “dumpster” by lifting it over the latter’s upper edge. (There is a recess at the bottom that one can grasp to lift it.) Try that with a wheelbarrow!

It has two minor flaws. It tends to tip backward on a slope when empty, and its handle is a bit short for taller people (over 5’11”). The floor of the cart should be changed so it slants upward to its front. (Not much capacity would be lost.) Then it wouldn’t tend to tip backwards when “at rest” on a slanted surface, even if its handle were higher because it had extra screw holes in it 2 or 3 inches below the current set, for use by tall people.

I used a similar cart of a different brand, Easy Go, for about a year. The Suncast Cart is superior in having larger wheels, a better handhold at the bottom, greater capacity (I put my old Easy Go completely inside my Suncast), squarer corners (making it easier to fit certain borderline-size rectangular objects securely inside), being cheaper ($28 vs. $38), and being more sturdily built. It has a metal (not plastic) handle and appears to have a thicker plastic body. (Its shipping weight—the only weight data available on Amazon—is 7 lbs. vs. 5 lbs. for the Easy Go.) Its bottom isn’t flat but domed, for strength.

-- Roger Knights  

Suncast LC1250D 15.5-Gallon Capacity Poly Rolling Lawn Cart
$28

Available from Amazon



Avalanche Roof Snow Rake

I’ve used the Avalanche Snow Rake for the past three Duluth, Minnesota winters and it’s the best snow removal tool I’ve ever used. Old school roof rakes were clumsy, hard to use and damaged shingles. Climbing around on a snow covered roof is no treat either. The Avalanche Snow Rake makes quick work of snow removal with a fraction of the effort. The snow slides off the roof with ease, even on roofs with a relatively shallow pitch. By far one of the best investments I’ve ever made!

-- Ivan Hohnstadt  

Original Roof Snow Removal System AVA500
$163

Available from Amazon



Husqvarna Helmet

I’ve been using chainsaws for many years. Over the decades I have
probably owned 5 or 6 different ones. In the 1960s and ’70s I used
chainsaws extensively, cutting up redwood (from the beaches or
windfallen trees in the woods) into bolts, and which I then split into
shakes for roofs and siding. These days I use a Stihl Woodboss MS270,
24″ bar for firewood. Every year I find wind-felled oak on country
roads, haul it home, cut it into stove-size lengths, then rent a
splitter for a day and stockpile a year’s or more worth of firewood.
Point is, I’ve had a lot of chainsaw experience.

The other day I was sawing through a piece of wood on the woodpile and
as I finished the cut, the blade hit a log below it and snapped back
towards my face. It sent a chill of adrenaline that I somehow felt in my
ears. Very scary.

BUT I was wearing my Husqvarna helmet, which combines skull protection,
ear guards, and a metal mesh facemask. I’ve only been using the helmet
the last few years, prompted by a log rolling down the hill and knocking
me down. I felt then I should have had one of these helmets all along.
Good thing. This time the blade didn’t reach my face, but if it had, the
mask would have blocked it from carving up my flesh.

I urge you chainsaw users: get one of these. $40 or so. Play it safe,
please. The more hours you’ve operated chainsaws, the more the chance of
a freak accident. Experience doesn’t make you invulnerable.

-- Lloyd Kahn  

Husqvarna ProForest Chain Saw Helmet System
$37

Available from Amazon



Trenching tool

We use these for trenching in dripline in difficult conditions, and for other trenching work. The wood handles last a long time, unless you are careless with them. Lee Valley sells spare handles and I keep a couple on hand. I have not replaced any for several years now. They work best if sharp, of course. Sharpen them with a large chainsaw (round) file on the inner curve of the tool and clean up the outer edge a bit with a flat file if
needed.

Trenching depth: typically about 6″ to 8″, any deeper than 12″ and it is a bit awkward.

I also find them handy for general excavation (e.g. digging out a bit of extra soil for
a valve box) and one of the people who works for me uses one in his garden a fair bit.

-- Ian Ralston  

Trench Digger
$45



Mann Lake Beekeeping Starter Kit

This is the least expensive kit for starting beekeeping. It has everything you need to raise some honey, except 3 things. You’ll need bees; order them by mail separately, or find a swarm. You’ll need to add at least one “upper” story of frames to store your share of the honey, and you’ll need access to an extractor — extracting honey by hand from this upper is possible but extremely messy. With care the equipment included should last many decades. You need only keep adding boxes of frames.

Used bee equipment is not advisable these days because of rampant bee disease. A beginner should start with new gear. There are a few sources with cheaper kits, but their shipping costs — between costs $60-$90 — will kill any bargain. Mann Lake offers free shipping, a fantastic deal with such bulky stuff. Also, their boxes and frames come fully assembled, which is also not the norm. That can save you several hours, and for a beginner, it provides assurance everything is right. Get the unpainted option; that’s easy enough to do and you can choose your color (they don’t have to be white).

If you have Amazon Prime you can get the same deal through Amazon.

-- KK  

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

The Basic Starter Kit Includes:

  • Assembled Hive Bodies or Supers
  • Assembled Frames with Rite-Cell® Foundation OR
    Waxed Standard Plastic Frames
  • Assembled Telescoping Cover w/Inner Cover
  • Assembled Bottom Board w/Reducer
  • 9 1/2″ (24.13 cm) Hive Tool
  • Economy Leather Gloves (Large, color may vary)
  • Alexander Bee Veil
  • Dome Top Smoker w/Guard
  • “The New Starting Right With Bees” Book



Ammo Can Organizer

I can’t believe it took me this long to find this set of three organizer trays that stack neatly inside a common .50 caliber ammo can (available at any military surplus store, or here on Amazon).

The three sturdy  trays contain a total of 22 compartments of varying sizes and can be stacked in any order. The largest compartment runs the length of one of the trays and is large enough to hold a couple of screwdrivers. The organizer is made in the U.S.A. from chemical-resistant polypropylene.

Combined with the toughness of a .50 cal. ammo can, it should be a waterproof and practically indestructible small parts storage solution.

-- Curt Nelson