Oct 022011

CoolBot air conditioner controllerThe CoolBot “turns any brand of off-the-shelf, window-type air conditioning unit (purchased separately) into a turbo-charged cooling machine. With it, you can transform a highly-insulated room into a walk-in cooler, keeping your vegetables fresh and thermostatically controlled cool down to 32° F!” And it’s only $300. Combined with a $300-500 air conditioner, CoolBot promises to deliver the performance of a commercial cooler compressor that would cost at least $3,000. It also saves around 60% on electricity bills. Installation is incredibly easy: tape a CoolBot sensor to the A/C unit’s temperature sensor.

For building a low-cost walk-in cooler, here are two articles that take entirely different approaches. Both are well worth the read:

Jan 202008

Gilmour hose menders

These Gilmour hose menders and couplers are absolutely brilliant. I discovered them last season, after messing around for years with regular brass fittings and hose clamps. Made of nylon, with stainless steel screws, they’re light, durable, and feel like precision parts. Inserting and screwing tight are both smooth and straightforward. They’re no more expensive than brass couplers, and they eliminate having to use a separate clamp. I use mainly the couplers, to make up custom pieces of hose (the top row is for 5/8″-3/4″ hose, the bottom for 1/2″), while the menders can be lifesavers if you accidentally slice a hose. I’ve yet to install a full drip irrigation system, so my small-scale irrigation is intimately connected with regular garden hoses. I suspect even with a fully installed irrigation set-up, hoses on the tiny farm will still play a part, and these will come in handy. I have tried one other plastic connector of similar design, but it broke. I’d recommend this particular brand since it’s the one I’ve field-tested with great success.

Jan 012008

Back to BasicsBack to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills (Second Edition) (Reader’s Digest) is on my order list! I came across it while looking at online articles on root cellars (somehow had reproduced an excellent basement root cellar cutaway iillustration). It sounds fantastic: “This book, first published in 1981 and recently updated, was probably many folks’ first in-depth exposure to the idea of a simpler life, making things by hand, and enjoying a stronger sense of control over personal budgets, home projects, and lifestyles. Hundreds of projects are listed, illustrated in step-by-step diagrams and instructions: growing and preserving your own food, converting trees to lumber and building a home from it, traditional crafts and homesteading skills, and having fun with recreational activities like camping, fishing, and folk dancing without spending a lot of money. This book will have you dreaming and planning from the first page!” I read endless positive reviews, and, while in the end you gotta make up your own mind, 52 of 55 reviews on Amazon.com gave it 5 stars (the other 3 gave it 4), and that’s a pretty resounding endorsement! It’s a little beyond the strict scope of tiny farming and gardening, but totally in the spirit and no doubt with lots of useful farm and garden stuff. As far as books go, can’t wait!!

Nov 162007

Build-it-yourself peat/soil pot maker

You’ll find building instructions and usage advice for this peat moss/soil block maker gardeninggrapevine.com, an interesting site full of gardening tips and tricks. Seems like a simple enough way to try soil blocks, without investing in a commercial block maker. And there’s more DIY block-making info, with diagrams and photos, at Okay.. How to make your soil block makers…