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Archive for the ‘tools’ Category

Master Nut Cracker1-BLOG

Master Nut Cracker

                                                                                                                              We have a couple of black walnut trees near our driveway. Until 2008 I had only paid passing attention to them, never taking the time to harvest the nuts at the right time. To do that, every day or two I would have to pick up the green balls that fell from the trees and throw them in the driveway. Driving over them would remove the green husks. Then I would gather the nuts to air-dry and store for later. If they weren’t gathered from the ground in a timely manner, I would find worms in them. Shelling them was a challenge. I tried cracking them using a hammer and by squeezing them in a vice. Both methods were unsatisfactory. You can find information about these methods and more at http://www.nemahaweb.com/blackwalnuts/crackers.htm. Black walnuts are much harder than the English walnuts you would find in the grocery store and regular nutcrackers won’t work for them. Finally I called my friend Margaret to borrow her black walnut cracker.

Margaret and Jerry moved to their 50 acre farm in late 1982. They had black walnut trees in the yard and intended to make use of them. When Margaret told me of her search for a suitable nutcracker, I told her of an article I had recently read in the December 1983 issue of Organic Gardening magazine. I located that issue on my bookshelf while preparing to write this post. It still contained a note to Xerox the article for Margaret. (Back then we didn’t copy things, we Xeroxed them.) The article profiled four nutcrackers suitable for hard-shelled nuts—hickories, butternuts, and black walnuts. The Potter nutcracker was one of them, and the one owned by the authors, Mike and Nancy Bubel.  At the time, I had also checked my copy of Home Food Systems which listed the Potter as the “largest, heaviest, most powerful nutcracker we tested.” Home Food Systems was published in 1981. Margaret bought one and has used it all these years.

Potter nut cracker-BLOG

Margaret’s Potter Nut Cracker

Our black walnut trees seem to bear every other year, so I didn’t throw myself into thinking about black walnuts again until the fall of 2010. The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe was hot off the press and the green balls were, once again, raining down. Deppe talks about gathering nuts in her book, specifically the need to get them off the ground promptly. I borrowed Margaret’s Potter nutcracker again. However, the best way to store nuts is in the shell, with the cracking done as needed. It became clear that I should have my own tool. With the harvest skipping a year, there were no new nuts to crack in 2011, but I still had some left from 2010 to play with. I had my eye out for a used Potter, since they aren’t manufactured anymore. What I found is the Master Nut Cracker, similar to the Potter.

My husband gave me a Master Nut Cracker for Christmas last year. It is the one in the top photo and it came with a bag of black walnuts. It was just what I needed for my black walnuts—and as I found later—for the hazelnuts (filberts) and peanuts. My husband had also given me small vice grips to use for the hazelnuts, an improvement over my other methods. I thought my hazelnuts would be too small for the Master Nut Cracker, but I found that it cracked all but the very smallest. Eventually I realized that I could shell peanuts with it, also.

This nut cracker lives up to its expectations for cracking black walnuts. If you see advertisements for nutcrackers, read them carefully. If they list walnuts (rather than black walnuts), they mean English walnuts, which are easier to shell. One of the great things about this nutcracker is that it has a second set of anvils. You can see these in the picture. They’re inserted into their storage holes to the right on the board. Just unscrew the larger anvils and put these in and you’re all set to crack smaller nuts. These smaller anvils are what I put on for the hazelnuts. The anvils are concave, allowing you to crack the shells without smashing everything together, which is what happens using the hammer method.

If you are thinking of getting a Master Nut Cracker, be on the watch for the Duke Nutcracker. The Duke is a Chinese knock-off and of lesser quality, according to what I’ve read. Often Chinese look-alikes are inferior and will soon break or be less than enjoyable to use. Do your internet homework and order from Gerald Gardner, developer of the Master Nut Cracker, himself. You will have to send a check to him and the address is on his website, along with the story of how it all came to be. You might want to put a Master Nut Cracker on your Christmas wish list, like I did. Happy cracking!

 

More about my experiences with the Master Nut Cracker at http://www.motherearthnews.com/permaculture/master-nut-cracker.aspx

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Tools I Use

spade, garden fork, mattock-BLOG

spade, garden fork, mattock

Since I advocate managing your garden with hand tools, I thought I would show you what hand tools I use.  When breaking new ground a mattock is great for taking off the existing vegetation.  Let the weight of the tool do the job for you, sliding the head under the sod and lifting it off.  It might be necessary to mow the area before you begin, depending on what is there.  You can find a mattock in your local hardware store.  Often the head and wood handle are sold separately.  The heads come in different sizes and weights and some heads have a sharp point (pick) on one side.  Make sure you are buying the style and size you need for the job.  If you were digging out bushes, you would find this extremely useful.

To double dig the beds I use a garden fork and spade.  Directions for double digging are in the book How to Grow More Vegetables.  My beds were double dug when I established them years ago and now the roots of my cover crops keeps them friable.  So for me, the spade gets used edging the beds and the fork is used for digging potatoes and sweet potatoes.  Sometimes I use the fork as a mini-broadfork to loosen the soil.  The fork has thick flat tines.  Notice the length of the handles.  Some people may find the tools available locally to be too short.  If you are over 5’5” tall, you may want a spade and fork that is 43” long.  Bountiful Gardens carries good quality forks and spades in 39” and 43” lengths.  My fork is from Bountiful Gardens and my spade was bought locally.

trowel, soil knife, Trake, Cobrahead-BLOG

trowel, soil knife, Trake, Cobrahead

For transplanting I use a trowel or a soil knife.  Good quality trowels are easy to find.  Poor quality trowels are even easier.  Choose a sturdy one that will hold up to lots of hard use.  I have a Lesche soil knife that I like to use when transplanting into the cover crop residue.  I got mine from www.waycooltools.com.  I also have a Trake that is pretty handy. It’s a trowel on one end and small cultivator on the other.  It was a gift from my aunt many years ago.  I’m sure there are sources on the web.  Colorful handles help ensure that you will find these small tools when you lay them down in your garden.  Once I had a trowel with a black handle that spent most of its time lost in the grass.  If you find that you are always losing your wood handled tools, you could paint them a bright color.  It might look gaudy, but it definitely makes them easier to find and distinguishable as yours if you take them anywhere.

cultivator and collinear hoe--BLOG

cultivator and collinear hoe

I use a long handled cultivator that I purchased at our local feed store.  It is a good sturdy tool that I use for incorporating broadcast seeds and for mixing in compost.  The hoe I’m currently using is a 7” collinear hoe.  Most often I turn it on its 1″ edge to make furrows or to weed among closely spaced plants. I also like a 5” wide trapezoid hoe.  Both hoes are available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Johnny’s is a good source for many tools for market growers.  Another cultivating tool that I really like is my short handled Cobrahead.  I use it for both light work and to chop out something tough.  It’s available many places, but I got mine from the folks who produce it.  You can find them at www.cobraheadllc.com.

sickle and machete--BLOG

sickle and machete

For managing my cornstalks, I use a machete.  It is available from Northern Tool+Equipment for $8 and even came with a cotton sheath to hang on a belt.  The Japanese sickle I use to cut rye and wheat is available from Hida Tool & Hardware Co., Inc.  I wrote about the sickle on May 17, 2011.  A less expensive model is available from Way Cool Tools.  You can see the sickle and machete in action in my video Cover Crops and Compost Crops IN Your Garden.

I hope this is helpful to you.  If it’s not too late, you might want to put something here on your Christmas list.  You could email this post to your Santa.  My Santa loves it when I give him suggestions including links of where to get them.  No doubt you will find many other items to put on your wish list when you browse these sources, but these are the tools that get me through the gardening year.

Anyone else have a favorite tool they would like to tell us about?

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