Mercantile

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MOTHER’s product picks for June/July 2018

Compiled by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors

Outdoor Clothesline

From $174 at Sunshine Clotheslines

One of the best smells in the world is that of laundry dried in sunshine and wind. Forget dryer sheets — you can enjoy a fresh, natural smell by drying your clothes and towels on an outdoor clothes drying rack.

The Sunshine Clothesline is modeled after an umbrella-style outdoor clothesline patented in 1915 and used by Americans for more than a century. Made in Parkersburg, Iowa, the clothesline rotates in the wind, thereby shortening drying time. And you can easily spin the clothesline to bring open spaces directly to you instead of having to drag around a heavy laundry basket.

Available in 9-foot-diameter ($174) and 14-foot-diameter models ($209), the Sunshine Clothesline has a center post and arm brackets of galvanized steel. The wooden arms have been double-dipped in industrial enamel to withstand Mother Nature’s efforts. The polyethylene rope line wipes clean and can hold several washer loads of clothing.

Installation is simple — just dig a hole and drop in the socket assembly. The clothes drying rack can be removed from the socket so the lawn is clear for other uses, and because its top is flush with the soil’s surface, the socket can also be mowed over.

Our staff member Tonya Olson uses the Sunshine Deluxe 14-foot-diameter clothesline. “I love the portability of this clothesline. It’s lightweight enough that I can set it up and put it away by myself. There’s a lot of line space for such a small footprint.”

The company also sends instructions for re-roping the outdoor clothesline when the time comes.

Cover Crop Seed Mix

$2.99 at Botanical Interests

Many gardeners embrace cover crops as a way of improving soil, even when a plot is out of production. But buying cover crop seeds in the small amounts needed for urban- or suburban-sized gardens can be difficult.

Botanical Interests is a family-owned and -operated company that offers cover crop seed packets suited to modestly sized plots. Editor Rebecca Martin uses the Soil Builder Peas/Oats mix and Common Buckwheat in her city garden. Both packets contain organic heirloom seeds.

The Soil Builder Peas/Oats mix will sow 70 square feet with field peas (Pisum sativum) and hulled oats (Avena sativa). Rebecca uses it for fall cover in beds that’ve been cleared of their summer crops. The pea plants fix nitrogen, and the young shoots and tendrils are tasty in salads. The oats hold nitrogen and help support the peas. Both crops suppress weeds and prevent erosion. The first killing freeze lays down the plants, which provide a winter mulch that’s tilled into the garden in spring.

The Colorado-based company also accepts direct orders for its 600-plus cultivars, many of them heirlooms.

Automatic Chicken Coop Door

From $180 at Chicken Doors

When your chickens come home to roost, are you there to protect them? Magazine art director Carolyn Lang and her husband have raised poultry on their rural property for a number of years. Last winter, an unknown culprit dispatched more than half of their flock, but they haven’t lost a single bird since they installed the automatic Standard Pullet-Shut Door on their coop.

Made by Texas-based company Nopec, the automatic chicken coop door is made of sturdy aluminum, is non-warping, and comes with a 1-year warranty. You can choose from different power combinations — a 3-watt solar panel with battery, or a charger (also with battery) that plugs into a standard outlet. A photo sensor add-on will open and close the door automatically at dawn and dusk, and a “straggler” feature allows pokey poultry one last chance to enter after the door closes for the night. A larger door for turkeys is also available.

“Installing it during the winter gave us a good chance to see how well the solar panel worked during short, overcast days,” Carolyn says. Two hours of direct sunlight per day kept the battery charged, even during the grayest weeks. “We really couldn’t be more pleased with this automatic chicken coop door and would recommend it to anyone looking to protect their flock.”