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MOTHER’s product picks for February / March 2018

February / March 2018
Compiled by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors

Photo courtesy Mountain Rose Herbs 

Desktop Diffuser

$19.99 at Mountain Rose Herbs

We editors work in an open environment — noisy, and sometimes smelly. Many of us deploy a variety of essential oil diffusers to help calm us during deadline (lavender), energize us when we’re dragging (peppermint), and improve our moods when work isn’t going quite as expected (sweet orange).

Editor Casey Marshall enjoys the Aromatherapy Fan Diffuser offered by Mountain Rose Herbs. The unit is small — just 3-3⁄4 inches wide and 1-3⁄4 inches tall — with muted LED lights that change color during operation. Casey keeps the diffuser on her desk, where she can plug it into her computer with the included USB cable. The cable is long enough that she can move the diffuser to different locations on her desktop. Casey says, “It’s easy to use. For a mini-diffuser it can produce a heady amount of fragrance, resulting in a notably positive impact on my day.”

To operate the diffuser, simply lift off the cover and place one of the included absorbent pads inside. Then, add a few drops of essential oil to the pad, replace the cover, and hit the power button.

Almost any small space would benefit from this petite diffuser — even your car, if you have a USB port or adapter to plug into. If not, the diffuser can also operate on three AAA batteries. The fan operates silently, making it an unassuming addition to your space.

Photo courtesy Opinel USA


From $10 at Opinel-USA

Editor Russell Mullin was first introduced to Opinel knives while volunteering on organic farms in France. “The host at every farm I went to, without fail, gave me an Opinel knife to keep in my pocket for harvesting, cutting baling twine, slicing apples, or any number of tasks. I liked the knives so much that I bought six to send back home — one for myself and the other five to give to relatives,” he says.

Opinel is a small French company whose classic knife design has remained basically unchanged since 1890, when the Opinel family developed its first pocketknife. These distinctive knives feature a rotating ring that locks the blade in the open or closed position. The company prides itself on sourcing nearly all the wood for the handles from sustainably managed French forests.

The knife blades are available in either carbon or stainless steel. Carbon steel blades are easy to resharpen, but must be regularly lubricated and stored in a dry place. Stainless steel blades (pictured) can be cleaned with warm water and soap. The Opinel warranty covers its knives under normal use.

Classic pocketknives by Opinel start at $10. Pocketknives with the safety ring start at $13. The company also offers knives with unfinished, ready-to-carve handles in olive, cherry, walnut, and boxwood.

Photo courtesy Premier 1 Supplies

Heated Poultry Waterer

$56.00 at Premier 1 Supplies

Chicken owners work hard during winter to provide clean, unfrozen water to their birds. Queren King-Orozco is one flockster on our staff who’s been appreciating the operation of Premier 1’s Heated Poultry Waterer this winter. “It’s so easy to use,” she says. “You just plug it in!”

Premier 1’s waterer is a 2-1⁄4-gallon bucket equipped with three recessed nipples and an insulated lid. The lid helps back up the work done by the 50-watt heater. The waterer isn’t designed to hang, so be sure to perch it atop a bucket or block to place the nipples at or just above head height for your birds.

To use the heated waterer, fill the bucket from the top, replace the lid, and plug in the 6-foot-long power cord. The built-in thermostat will turn on the heating element when the water temperature hits 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and will turn it off at 60 degrees. Electrical consumption is low. The folks at Premier 1 say they’ve used this waterer in temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees — in a coop and protected from the wind. The waterer is best suited for indoor use.

Queren is impressed. She says, “We don’t have to worry about changing the water twice a day when the temperature drops below freezing.” Premier 1 promises that the waterer will service up to 26 adult birds.

Photo courtesy Omlet

Chicken Tractor

From $675 at Omlet

What happens to chicks hatched at the Mother Earth News headquarters? They go home with lucky employees. Queren King-Orozco just adopted a small flock hatched at the office last fall. Those birds now nestle comfortably inside the New Eglu Cube Chicken Coop on Queren’s family farm.

The New Eglu Cube is made by Omlet, a company based in the United Kingdom. The coop package comes with food and water containers, roosting bars, and a nesting box. The cube is insulated and will hold up to 10 small-breed hens or 4 to 5 large-breed hens.

It took Queren and her family about six hours to assemble the basic coop. She’s discovered that the Eglu is very easy to clean and move around, so you can keep a flock in an urban backyard without offending your neighbors. The polymer surfaces wipe clean, and the roosting area is fitted with a slatted floor so droppings fall onto a slide-out tray for easy emptying. A removable back panel makes cleaning the cube interior a breeze, and a side door the company calls the “eggport” makes it easy to collect eggs. The front door slides closed so you can shut in your flock every night.

Besides the basic cube, Omlet also sells wheels to make the coop even easier to move around your property. There’s an optional 6-foot steel mesh run with a flat, ground-hugging skirt to prevent predators from tunneling in, plus extensions to the run. “Our chickens are safe from predators, and our schedule is open for other activities,” Queren says.

Photo by Queren King-Orozco

Butter Mold

$64.50 at Homesteader’s Supply

Our editors are fueled by prodigious amounts of homemade bread during winter (case in point, Beautiful Bread) — and nothing goes better with homemade bread than homemade butter.

Editor Russell Mullin and his family press their fresh butter with the Sweet Mary’s Wood Butter Mold offered by Homesteader’s Supply. “I love simple and effective tools that do their job and do it well, and this butter mold fits that bill,” Russell says. Named after the founder’s great-aunt Mary, who churned, pressed, and sold butter from her small herd of Jerseys, the Sweet Mary’s mold is handmade in Sparta, Tennessee. The word “butter” is impressed into the side of the mold, which is available in either maple or cherry wood. Every mold arrives with a culture packet and a recipe for making butter.

“The Sweet Mary’s mold puts out an incredibly accurate 1-pound block of butter with no fuss,” Russell says. “I especially like that there’s no need to soak this mold in water before using it — and the hardwood construction is attractive, sturdy, and easy to clean and maintain.” The mold releases fresh butter easily because it’s treated with organic coconut oil — just reapply oil as needed. Although the mold is designed to press exactly 1 pound of freshly made butter, you can also produce smaller blocks by controlling the position of the press.

Photo by Queren King-Orozco

Elderberry Juice

$19.99 at River Hills Harvest

Folk medicine has long revered the elderberry for its healthful properties. The shrub bears clusters of dark-purple fruit that’s loaded with flavonoids — powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Elderberries also contain a variety of vitamins, and trace elements and minerals.

Researchers are beginning to study this traditional remedy for its beneficial effects. Some clinical trials have shown that elderberry may support the immune system and reduce the symptoms and duration of the flu. That’s enough for editor Rebecca Martin to use River Hills Harvest’s elderberry juice during the flu season. As the company recommends, she adds a splash of juice to about 8 ounces of water. “It’s a refreshing treat — tart and fruity,” Rebecca says.

River Hills Harvest is based in the Missouri countryside, where the American black elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) thrives. The company has cultivated a network of farmers who grow elderberries sustainably, some of them Certified Organic. River Hills bottles up 100 percent elderberry juice from the berries harvested by these farmers. The unsweetened juice is available in 11-ounce bottles for $19.99. Other elderberry products offered by River Hills include jelly ($7.49) and lemonade ($7.49). The Throat Coat ($19.99) is diluted elderberry juice with honey and spices. You can also buy cuttings from River Hills to grow your own elderberries.

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