22 May 2018
Multipurpose design for lifting, pulling and spreading
Homesteading involves lots of pulling, prying, yanking, and tugging on things — everything from ripping out stumps, moving structures, to dismantling fences. Mechanical advantage is a must. There are a lot of tools out there that can give you the needed leverage, but one of the humblest and most versatile is the farm jack. The farm jack is a lot like any other jack you might have used, reduced to its simplest form. The entire thing has about seven parts, and it works with a simple spring loaded ratchet-and-pawl system that is nearly indestructible. I’ve had the Pittsburgh farm jack for a year and I’ve used it for a variety of tasks that would otherwise have been either a big nuisance or just plain impossible, including moving a 400-pound chicken coop, pulling stubborn U-posts out of the ground, and lifting equipment into an elevated position for repair. This jack is rated to 3.5 tons and has a maximum lift of 42 inches. The base has bolt holes in case you want to mount it to a board for better weight distribution, and the jack prong is just the right size to hook under a 2×4 to prevent marring whatever you are jacking up. You’ll also often see farm jacks strapped to the hoods of Jeeps among those who go off-roading — if your vehicle flips, it’s useful to have something available to help flip it back. As a testament to the value of this particular jack, it’s one of the few pieces of equipment at Harbor Freight that almost never goes on sale — but with a 20-percent coupon you can get it for under $50.
22 May 2018
Best emergency radio
I picked this up for around $60 on Amazon. I never thought I’d pay that much for a radio, but I’ll show you why I did, and if you want for yourself, the Amazon link in the description helps support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.
Chalk it up to paranoia or the fact that I live in earthquake country, but I’ve recently been bolstering my emergency supplies. Browsing through an emergency prep guide on The Wirecutter, I came across this radio as a clear, standout pick, and something I didn’t have anything like.
What you get is this relatively light, plastic brick with a ton of features, all of which can be run from an included rechargeable battery that you can recharge from the sun using the built-in solar panel, or by cranking it, or with a USB charging input. AA batteries can also be used as an alternative. The rechargeable battery is rated at 32 hours.
For features, you get an AM/FM radio, plus a National Weather Service radio band that can tell you about current and upcoming weather conditions. With that, you also get a weather alarm you can turn on that’s tied to the weather service. So if a weather alert goes out, this thing sounds an alarm.
There’s a nice, sturdy antenna here that gets good reception. I also like that there’s a bright Cree brand LED flashlight on one side, which is also powered by the rechargeable battery. It has two brightness settings and an SOS flash mode.
Below that there’s this ultrasonic dog whistle, which you activate with a long press of the flashlight button. You can’t hear it, but if it works, it’s supposed to help rescue teams locate you.
Finally, on the other side you also have a USB output so you can use the radio’s battery to recharge other things, like your phone. There’s also a headphone output if you want to be able to listen to the radio without bothering anyone else.
All-in-all, it feels like a well-constructed, well thought out device. I keep mine set up in the window so it stays charged. And, I sleep better knowing that I have it. For me that’s $60 well spent.05/22/18
21 May 2018
Easy way to grow fresh mushrooms
Over a year ago, I received a mushroom-growing kit as a gift. Since I often find that novelties like this can require time and attention to detail that I didn’t have, I kept putting it off until finally last week I decided enough was enough. The thing was causing unnecessary clutter in my life, so I thought I’ll just throw it out. But before tossing it, why not at least open it up and see what happens.
The kit is a cream-colored log-shaped object encased in a plastic bag. The instructions say it needs an environment where the temperature varies by about ten degrees through the course of a day, and it must be not be in direct sunlight. Springtime in the Northwest certainly meets that requirement, so I cut off the top of the plastic wrapping with a scissors, hand-sprinkled a little water on it, and set it outside under our front doorstep. That’s it.
I forgot about it until a week later my son happened to be under the steps again and noticed that the thing was covered in mushrooms! The mushrooms share a single root, so I simply grabbed the base and pulled out the entire flush, and then separated them into smaller strips. A little olive oil, pinch of salt, a couple teaspoons of sugar and soy sauce and five minutes later we were eating enough mushrooms for our family of four. I can’t believe how easy this was. The instructions say that I’ll get multiple flushes if I continue to feed the log. I haven’t tried that yet, but even if I don’t, that one single meal was maybe a pound of fresh, organic mushrooms that at a farmers market probably would have cost me close to the $16 price of the kit itself.05/21/18
21 May 2018
Durable steel hands
As a former cook in four restaurants, I’ve found these simple tongs to be an indispensable utensil day in and day out. Stirring, cooking and tossing pasta, flipping steaks, and grabbing anything hot including pans. They become an extension of your hands. I continue to use them in my own kitchen. I often see a lot of inferior, cheap and just plain useless tongs included with BBQ sets. They are usually too long or poorly designed to be effective. Get these: Williams-Sonoma Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs, or a pair of OXO Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs.
— Alan Hachey
I learned how indispensable a decent pair of tongs can be around the campfire while working as a river and ocean kayak guide. We cooked as much of the meals as possible on a grill over the fire to conserve fuel on multi-day trips. I still cook this way whenever possible and use these OXO Stainless Steel Locking Tongs to not only move food around on the grill, but also to move hot coals or briquettes! These tongs lock closed for easy storage and have a ‘hook hole’ for hanging up. The non-slip rubber grip has held up for years in the dishwasher. Available in 9-inch, 12-inch, and 16-inch models. For obvious reasons, I would suggest the 16-inch ones for outdoor cooking. Buy one of these for that unfortunate soul still using — gasp! — a fork at the barbecue.
— Lewis Duffy05/21/18
(Readers Adam Fields and Lisa Williams also recommend the OXO Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs. These sport handy rubber grips, lock closed for storage, and are the ideal surrogate hands in the kitchen. It's the pair we have. -- KK — editors)
20 May 2018
Recomendo: issue no. 95
Title of this article says it all: 27 useful things you didn’t know the Chrome browser could do. Pretty neat. — KK
My favorite coffee maker
I drink coffee every day, and I use the Bialetti 6-Cup Espresso Coffee Maker($40) more often than any of my other coffee making machines (I have a few). I fill the lower chamber with water, add ground coffee in the funnel, screw on the top, and put it on the stovetop. In about three minutes I pour a cup of strong, delicious coffee. — MF
Fix holes in shirts
This hack for repairing holes in shirts worked! I have a few shirts that fit really well on me, but the cotton is so thin that it easily gets holes. I followed the video using this fusible interface and now the hole is gone. It looks a tiny bit bunched up, but I don’t mind. — CD
Metal prints from Costco
Everyone is now a photographer and our audience is on the small screen. But there’s a real joy in seeing a large image on a wall. The best way to do that is via the Metal Print from Costco Photo. You send a digital file to the online Costco and then you pick up the piece at your local store. Your image is printed in gorgeous quality on a thick piece of aluminum sheet so that it is perfectly 100% flat and glossy – much flatter than can be done by framing. No glass or plastic cover required, which makes this style very light weight even for big pieces. And since it is frameless, hung with an internal French cleat, it is cheap. A huge 24 x 36 inch picture, printed and ready to hang in your room, or gallery, is $120. A large 11 x 14 is only $34. These show pieces really wow; even a decent shot from a new phone will work. — KK
Send yourself a future email
FutureMe is a tried and true free service for sending yourself letters in the future. I use it to remind myself of goals I have or enlightening quotes I want to be reminded of. — CD
Netflix viewing activity
Netflix bases its recommendations on what you watch. If you want to change what its algorithm sees, or if you are just curious to see everything you’ve watched on Netflix, go here. You can delete a show from the list by clicking the X next to it. I was surprised to see that the oldest item on my list was Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, which someone in my family watched on 12/12/11. — MF
20 May 2018
Paint Roller Cleaner
This is the best way I have found to clean paint rollers.
After squeezing and/or scraping as much paint out of the fur of the roller as possible, it only takes the Roller Washer about a minute or two to blast water deep into the roller and rinse away the remaining
I usually then give my rollers a “shampoo” with some liquid soap, and moving the roller up and down inside the Roller Washer until the soap bubbles disappear. This is followed by spinning the roller on the frame with an air compressor blow gun to remove the water and fluff the fibers.05/20/18
Essential keyboard for iPad
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