Gardening and Food Prep Mercantile

article image

Solar-Powered Electric Fence


Poultry producers who regularly move their flocks to fresh pastures may want to check out Premier 1’s PoultryNet Plus, an electrifiable, prefabricated fence that can easily be rolled up and relocated or attached to a mobile chicken tractor. The fence is 48 inches high by 164 feet long with 1/2-inch-diameter PVC posts for additional support. The electric fencing will arrive at your door as a complete roll with line posts already built in — ready to take straight to pasture.

You’ll need a fence energizer to electrify the net, either a 110-volt AC plug-in or a solar-charged battery. Try Premier 1’s Solar IntelliShock 60 Energizer Kit (also in our Store), which provides 0.60 joule of energy. “Intelli” is short for “intelligent” and refers to the energizer’s ability to reduce the energy demand during sustained high-voltage periods, such as when weeds touch the fence. The battery comes in handy during fall and winter when sunlight is scarce.

GoSun Solar Grill

This fuel-free cooker can bake, boil, or fry a meal using only the sun. The GoSun grill uses a large reflective surface to focus the sun’s energy into an insulated cooking tube — a design that’s similar to that of solar hot water collectors. Its steam and drip trays are especially handy for cooking multiple types of food at the same time, such as the meal of sausages, squash, and potatoes recently cooked by the Mother Earth News editors with the GoSun.

Because the grill can reach temperatures of up to 430 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s able to cook pretty much anything you can fit onto the sliding tray, which holds about 5 cups of food. For optimal cooking, face the grill south about two hours before noon, thereby preheating it to the desired temperature. After the grill has been preheated, your food will take between 25 minutes and 2 hours to cook.


Typically, gardeners are interested in anything — tool or tip — that can suppress weeds and promote healthier plants organically. ECO-disks have a distinctive coffee-filter shape, and their colorful circular disks are designed to easily slip around small stems and rest nicely on the soil surface. They help funnel water to the base of the plant while shading the surrounding area, thereby lowering soil temperature and suppressing weed growth.

The company offers two lines of ECO-disks: reusable and biodegradable. The reusable disks are manufactured entirely out of post-consumer carpet, and the company claims to have kept 1,650 pounds of carpet out of landfills. The biodegradable ECO-disk line is made with non-GMO, 100 percent biodegradable biopolymer that’s free of bisphenol A.

Electric Water Bath Canner

When summer crops start coming in, our staff likes to put up the harvest. Mother Earth News editor Rebecca Martin is especially impressed with the versatile Ball® 21-quart fresh TECH Electric Canner + Multi-Cooker, in part because she can easily plug it into an outdoor electrical outlet and keep her kitchen dry and comfortable on hot days.

This unit is for water bath canning — preserving jams, jellies, pickles, and other high-acid foods. To setup, simply fill the basin with water, set it on top of the detachable base, plug in the base, and turn the easy-to-read dial to the “Canning” setting. (Rebecca adds the empty jars at this point so they’ll preheat gently until she’s ready to fill them.) The canner’s tempered glass lid lets you see when the water has come to a rolling boil and is ready for the canning process. Eight pint jars or seven quart jars fit comfortably inside the pot.

When you’ve finished canning, you can use the exterior spigot to empty the boiling-hot water without having to hoist the entire canner. The spout also allows the canner to double as a beverage urn for dispensing hot tea, cider, or cocoa. Plus, the multipurpose pot can also be used to cook soups and stews, or to steam vegetables and seafood with the included steaming rack. The detachable base nests inside the pot for easy storage and cleaning. It can be found at Ball and Kerr.

Walk-In Cooler Controller

Unhappy with the cost of walk-in coolers for storing their farm’s produce, Kate and Ron Khosla of Huguenot Street Farm decided to develop a more affordable option. The CoolBot Walk-In Cooler Controller was born.

CoolBot turns an off-the-shelf, window-unit air conditioner into an inexpensive but highly efficient refrigeration system. The CoolBot creates a cold storage room for produce, flowers, and more, maintaining the temperature as low as 34 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives anyone the power to create their own, custom walk-in cooler (even mobile units are possible) at a fraction of the cost of conventional systems.

Created by small-scale farmers for small-scale farmers, the CoolBot controller offers a solution for keeping produce, cut flowers, and dairy products cold while using less energy than a conventional cooler.

Photos (top to bottom) by Premier 1 Supplies LLC; Allison Evans; ECO-disks; Jarden Home Brands; Store It Cold; Allison Evans.