MOTHER’s product picks for April/May 2017.
$319.99 at Hoss Tools
If you’re planning to seed long rows in tilled soil this growing season, a walk-behind seed planter is one of the best gifts you can give your back. The premise of the walk-behind planter design is that as you push it forward, the rolling coulter opens up a planting furrow at a preset depth. Meanwhile, a chain on the rear wheel drives a plate mechanism that evenly spaces the seed drop. Finally, a drag chain covers the seed, and the rear wheel presses the soil around the seed to maximize the germination rate.
We love the look of the Hoss Garden Seeder — the hardwood handles and simple mechanical drive give the model a heritage, made-to-hand-down flair — and we appreciate how easy it is to switch between seed plates as we turn from the turnip row to our string bean patch.
$44.95 at Maine Garden Products
Historically, the hod was the laborer’s cradle, and its contents were precious, whether a load of bricks, a harvest of clams, or a fresh tomato harvest. Maine Garden Products’ modern hod is a riff on the traditional. This washable basket is great for the harvest season, but we’ve found ours to be versatile enough to work as a garden toolkit, a kindling basket, or a knitting carryall. We recommend you drop an extra $4 for the hand-painted logo because you’ll be admiring it for many years to come. Beware: If this hod is left vacant for too long, you might have to fight your cat for it.
$40 at Hess Pottery
Tom Hess has been fashioning pie plates from red clay in the Missouri Ozarks since the mid-1970s. He prefers the native material because it can remain unglazed, minimizing his customers’ exposure to glazing chemicals. Hess has made his pie plates in a custom yurt for nearly three decades, and nothing about his craft is a secret: “I use a drill and a mixer to mix 50 pounds of natural red clay with 15 gallons of water in a crock. I pour the resulting slurry through a 200-mesh sieve and into 5-gallon plastic buckets. I throw the pie plates, trim them, scrape them with a metal rib, and then burnish them on a wheel.”
Hess claims the plate’s design produces a perfectly browned bottom crust, adding texture and taste to every slice. Imagine this spring’s strawberry-rhubarb pie in a red clay plate! The plate measures 9 1/2 inches in diameter by 1 1/2 inches deep, is easy to clean, and is microwave- and dishwasher-safe.
$295 from Quail Manufacturing
Mother Earth News editors are fans of rolling chicken tractors over spring pastures. We know the key to mobility is ground clearance and good wheels. For folks who don’t have the flock to justify a trailer-sized coop but need the durability and dependability that trailers offer, the Egg Cart’n Wheel/Lift Kit is a handsome option. You can use the wheel kit as a foundation for your new chicken tractor or attach it to the corners of your existing coop.
The system has two components: a front dolly that lifts the steering end and two independent rear-wheel assemblies that raise the other side of the unit. The rear-lift assemblies are simple to use — just step on the front pedal to raise the unit and the rear pedal to lower it — and they don’t require too much force. The kit comes with four wheels, ball bearings, and polyurethane tires; four corner gussets; and a dolly to raise and steer the unit.
$309.99 from Brinsea Products
The compact, quiet design of Brinsea’s Mini and Maxi incubators is perfect for beginners and small producers. We enjoy the visibility offered by the dome, which allows a view of every chick’s “pip” and hatching, but it’s the innovative humidity control that really comes in handy. Brinsea places the water fill outside the incubation chamber, so you won’t disrupt the temperature every time you add water. To decrease the humidity, simply open a small relief valve.
We recommend investing in the new Maxi II Advance, which holds 14 hen eggs or duck eggs. You can set the length of the incubation period using a simple, three-button interface. A controller monitors temperature and turns eggs at any interval between 30 and 180 minutes. The digital interface gives a countdown to “hatch day.” For peace of mind, Brinsea has added alarm features to warn you of power outages and temperature fluctuations inside the unit, and there are no moving interior parts to injure your newly hatched flock.
$119.95 from Nature’s Footprint
If you’re like us, cooking from scratch produces a sizable nightly pile of food scraps. We try to return nutrients to the soil via compost. Vermicomposting is an attractive technique for us gardeners hoping to maximize compost quality, or for urban homesteaders who need to operate with a smaller footprint. Vermicomposting employs worms to process food scraps into highly nutritious castings for our soil.
The Worm Factory 360’s stackable bins create easily manageable layers that can be independently moved. The worms quickly adjust to the design — most of your population will move upward to the fresh food, leaving castings behind in the lower trays. This design is ideal for kitchen applications where you’ll frequently add organic matter, such as newspapers and food scraps. Outdoors, the layered design helps prevent critters from digging through the entire container. Our favorite feature is the spigot, which we use to drain off excess moisture as compost tea.