Sheet-Metal Mulch
& My Amazing Friend,
Steve Lonsky

Dateline: 31 May 2014

(click picture to see a larger view)

Today I visited my friend Steve Lonsky. I typically see him a couple times a year at different church functions and we always have a lot to talk about. But it has been a long time since I visited his place, so today was kind of special. Steve is one of the most resourceful, creative, hard working, down-to-earth, self reliant people I know. 

And Steve is an avid sheet-metal-mulch gardener. Fact is, I think Steve invented the whole concept of using old sheet metal as a garden mulch. 

I have used sheet metal as a mulch in my garden because I learned about it from Steve. I know one other person who also uses sheet metal mulch and they got the idea from Steve. Do a Google search of "sheet metal mulch" and you will find This Essay and This Essay, both of which mention Steve's idea and were written by me. I haven't found anything else on the internet about sheet metal mulch.

The picture of Steve's garden above is just one of many gardens he has. That garden is pretty much the size of my one and only garden. I am humbled by the amount of garden Steve plants and cares for. He is a very serious gardener, and he works a full time job as a welder. 

The whole area of that garden in the picture was covered with sheet metal all last year. The metal mulch killed out the annual and perennial weeds, including bindweed, which we refer to as "The Weed From Hell." If you have an infestation of bindweed in your garden, you know how it is.

The soil under sheet metal mulch that has been in place for a year is soft, and moist, and nice to work with.

In the spring, Steve removes some sheeting, repositions the sheets so there are rows of soil between them, and plants his garden. There is a fence of sheet metal all around the garden to keep rabbits and woodchucks out.

Steve has other sections of land covered with sheet metal this year, and will plant garden in those areas next year.

All the corrugated sheet metal Steve uses is recycled. Some of it came from roofs, some was once siding. I noticed some flat metal trailer roofing too. Steve says he uses Vise-Grip clamps to pinch the edge of the metal and make temporary handles for pulling the sheets from place to place.

He told me he recently bought a metal roof up the road. He paid the owner $50 for it and used an angle grinder to quickly cut away the nail heads to free the sheets. 

How long will sheet metal mulching last? Decades. Steve has some old roofing he has been using as mulch for twenty years, and it looks like it'll last at least another twenty.

Steve plants a LOT of potatoes every year. He knows that potatoes are one of the most important crops on a self-reliant  homestead. He removes the sheet metal mulch that was over the soil, then uses that old David Bradley walk-behind tractor in the picture above to make potato furrows. Notice the custom-made stainless steel furrow points behind the tractor. Nice.

After he plants his potatoes he mulches them. One big potato patch I saw was mulched with straw chaff he got for the hauling from a local farm. But Steve also makes his own mulch…

A custom mulching mower

That old lawn mower (which I would bet Steve picked up for free or practically free somewhere) is modified with an open front and will mow down grass and weeds without bogging down. Steve gave me a demonstration in an overgrown section of his yard…

The grass and weeds he was mowing through in that picture were as high as my waist (3 ft.). The mower chopped through it pretty easily. Steve says he lets the grass in his vineyard grow for three weeks before mowing it. Then, after it dries in the sun, he rakes it up and uses it as mulch in the garden. I need one of those things!

Steve Lonsky is a great inspiration to me. He showed me how to butcher my first chicken (before I ever thought of inventing a Whizbang chicken plucker). He inspired me to start growing grapes and sweet potatoes. I learned how to ferment apple cider vinegar from Steve. I also learned about syphon-tube rain barrels from him (they are featured in My Garden Idea Book). Steve made my stainless steel maple syrup evaporator pan back in 1999. This year he and his family made ten gallons of maple syrup. Last year they squeezed more than 200 gallons of apple cider (I had a delightful cold cup of last year's cider while I was visiting). Steve built his own house and hand-dug his own well (and it's deep too). Years ago he made himself a foot-powered (treadle) table saw. I could go on. You get the idea. The man is amazing.

Click Here to see a picture of Steve in his sheet metal mulched garden with an enormous homegrown Blue Hubbard squash.

See what I mean…. Amazing.

Whizbang Toe-Tapper
Faucet Switch

Dateline: 30 May 2014

I need more of me. One to take care of the Planet Whizbang mail order business. One to get making more Classic American Clothespins. One to work in my garden. And one to get the first 100 Toe-Tapper faucet switch prototypes made (as explained Here and Here). Oh, and one of me to blog and answer e-mails too.

My goal is to get the Toe-Tappers made and for sale on the internet within one month of coming up with the final design concept. So I need to have them done by June 17. I’m making good progress, considering that there is only one of me. I fully expect to be selling these nifty little devices by the 17th.

The picture at the top of the page shows one Toe-Tapper starting to be assembled in my shop. It's not all that impressive yet, but you just wait. As noted previously, it will consist of four HDPE components and a unique water valve that I recently discovered. 

Unfortunately, the only company I can find that sells the water valve has informed me that they don’t want to sell wholesale to me. It’s the first time in 14 years of creating products and selling by mail order that a company has refused to do business with me. Their focus is on “selling wholesale to garden centers and hardware stores nation-wide.” So they decided to “pass on the opportunity” to sell wholesale to me. Maybe if I called my company Whizbang Garden Center or Whizbang Hardware they would change their mind. Whatever. I ordered 100 of the valves at retail price.

(Hmmm..I do like the sound of Whizbang Garden Center.)

I have bought the domain name of (there is no web site yet). If you have never bought a domain name, it’s really simple to do. I buy mine at GoDaddy. I actually own 21 domain names. I’ve had more but let some lapse. I looked up and found that someone had already purchased it. But I could buy it for $688! And that's for just one year. It cost me $43.51 to get for three years. 

click the picture for a closer view

It’s fun to think up domain names and see if they are still available.  I took a few minutes to “free-think” some domain names and found that the following ones are all not available:

But the following domain names are available:

Stay tuned for more updates on the soon-to-be-released Planet Whizbang Toe-Tapper Faucet Switch.

Family Helping Family
(our son buys our house)

Dateline: 29 May 2014

This is the rural farmhouse my parents moved to from the suburbs of Syracuse, NY when I was 15 years old.  The outside of the house still looks pretty much just like it did 40 years ago. The yellow arrow shows my bedroom. With no central heating, it was the coldest room in the house during the winter. Snow flakes would often drift in around that window during a bad storm. It would get so cold that a glass of water in the room once froze overnight. I kid you not.

I’ve told the story (in My Book) of how I was totally opposed to going to the bank for a loan to build my first house back in the early 1980s and, instead, was able to get a $10,000 loan from Jay Myers, my father-in-law. That relatively small amount was enough to get Marlene and I off to a good start. We built the house ourselves, repaid the loan in full, have added on a couple of times, never had a bank mortgage, and still live in the house. 

Were I to do it over again, I would do the exact same thing. And, frankly, I wish I could do it all over again because, though it was a lot of hard work, it is a downright good feeling to live in a debt-free home that you built yourself. Be it ever so humble...

For most of our married life, Marlene and I struggled to keep the bills paid. She stopped working when our first son was born (26 years ago) to focus on being a full-time mother. I made relatively little working as a carpenter and home remodeler. I never thought during those years of raising our family on my one income that I would ever (short of receiving some sort of inheritance) be in a position to help my children financially, like my father-in-law was able to help Marlene and I.

But then I wrote that Whizbang chicken plucker plan book. One thing led to another, and God blessed me with a successful Planet Whizbang home business. It was our low-expense, debt-free lifestyle and the success of the home business that has now allowed Marlene and I to do for one of our children much the same thing Marlene's father once did for us...

Yesterday, we sold my boyhood home to our middle son, Robert. We will hold the mortgage. No banks or bank loans are involved.

We bought the property in July 2010 because my step-father was seriously sick and had to go into the Medicare system. His only financial asset was a paid-off house and he was going to have to sell it. If we purchased it, he would be able to continue to live in his home when he wasn’t in the hospital or at a rehab center. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Our thought was that, after my step-father died, we would sell the place and be done with it. But Robert expressed an interest in buying it from us. The property is only three miles from our house. If Robert bought it, he would be nearby. If Robert got married and had children, they would be nearby. It is my hope that all my sons and all my grandchildren can continue to live nearby, so we can continue to be a close family and be around to help each other. That is, after all, what family is all about. 

After six months of waiting for a survey to get done and for a Medicare-related lien release technicality to get settled, we signed the papers yesterday. Marlene and I will hold the mortgage. Robert will pay us monthly for the next 12 years. The monthly payment is comparable to what it would cost to rent an inexpensive apartment in town. If he makes his payments as per the agreement, he will have a debt-free home on 25 acres when he is 35 years old. Sooner if he wants to pay ahead.

Our intention was to sell the property for no more than we paid for it (which was somewhat less than the market value in 2010) and to not charge any interest. But it turns out that you can’t have a no-interest mortgage. The government has rules against that. And they set a minimum interest rate (currently 3.5%) that must be charged. This is what my attorney told me. He should know, right?

So how do parents who don’t want to charge their son interest get around that? Well, in our case, we lowered the selling price. In the end, the principle and interest my son pays will equal the amount we would have sold the place for if we were able to have a no-interest mortgage. The only downside to the scheme is that I will have to pay income taxes on the interest he pays me. In the final analysis, I will lose money on this deal, but that is really beside the point. 

Is it a good idea for a parent to help their children to purchase their first home? I’ve asked myself that question. I determined years ago that I would not help my three sons buy their first car, and I didn’t (my parents didn’t buy me any of my cars). Each of our three boys worked and saved to buy their first cars. Two of them have continued to save and pay only cash for their vehicles. I will admit, I paid their auto insurance until they were 21 years old.

I think, however, that a house is different. I think it is harder these days for a young person to be able to build or buy a first home than it was in the early 1980s, when Marlene and I were dreaming of our first home. So, as we are able, we’re inclined to help. We’re not giving the house to our son. We’re helping him. There is a big difference. 

Besides that, as the pictures show, this house is not exactly a high class place. It’s a fixer-upper. A lot of sweat equity will be required. But it’s a solid house with a lot of potential. It’s a starting place. It’s an opportunity. And I'm confident that this is an opportunity this son will not squander.

Lord willing, I hope to be able to help my other two sons in like manner.

I'm wondering if any of you who read this can relate similar experiences of family helping family to acquire property without the need for a bank loan?

A view from the yard out to the back-25 acres.  A nice old  barn was once located right in the middle of this picture, with an old apple orchard behind. The barn declined from neglect  and rotted away. Robert has worked at leveling the area and cleaning out the brush.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #37

The Stick Trick
For Planting Tomatoes

Dateline: 28 May 2014

Planting tomato seedlings is always something of an event for me. I raise them from a seed, nurture them carefully, and then the day comes when I  must plant them out into the big bad world. I suppose the planting of tomato seedlings (that you have raised yourself) could be analogous to sending your child off to the government school for the first day of kindergarden. Thankfully, I did not have to subject any of my children to the government school system, but tomato plants are different, and I digress. 

There was a time when I dug a deep hole to plant my seedlings. But that was a mistake on my part. Deep soil is colder and colder soil is not the best for a tomato. When I got schmarter on this matter I started "trench planting" my tomatoes, as explained in This Dependable Old Tomato-Growing Guide.

The picture above shows one of my seedlings about to get itself planted. I always soak the planting hole thoroughly with water. The lower leaves will be pinched off, leaving just the topmost leaves above the soil.

The picture above shows how much of that long seedling is exposed to the sun. Roots will form all along the buried stem. At this time in it's just-planted life the seedling is an inviting  morsel for cutworms. It is powerfully discouraging to see your tomato seedling wilt and die because a cutworm has encircled the tender stem and gnawed into it.

A common method for preventing cutworms from perpetrating their wickedness it to wrap the stem with newspaper. The method works but for the past couple of years I have used "sticks" instead of newspaper to protect the young stems, as the next picture shows…

(click the picture to see a  larger view)

One stick is probably enough to prevent a cutworm from encircling the stem, but I use three. The sticks are nothing more than pieces of split (with a utility knife) goldenrod stem. 

And that's the tomato-planting stick trick.

Gold & Potatoes
In Zimbabwe

Dateline: 27 May 2014

The movie below was posted to YouTube in 2009, which was during the worst of the hyper-inflationary crisis in Zimbabwe. The paper money of the country was worthless. Poor people were starving. Able-bodied poor were panning through tons of earth for minuscule specks of gold, which could be traded for minimal amounts of food. Older people, unable to dig and find the specks of gold, were dying.

One of the lessons that can be taken from the movie is that in an economic collapse, when the government's paper money became worthless, gold became a medium of exchange. If you had gold, you had something of value with which to buy the necessities of life.

But the movie raises more questions than it answers. For example, why are people on the land starving? Zimbabwe (the former Rhodesia) has decent land and a good climate to grow food. Why aren't the rural villagers tending productive gardens? The film shows one man with a hoe hacking the soil in a sorry-looking patch of corn. What's wrong with this picture?

I've watched the film clip a few times and I've come to the conclusion that the people in the village were not growing food because they didn't know how to grow their own food. And they didn't know how to grow their own food because, prior to the economic collapse, they had been dependent on the government to keep them fed. When the government teat ran dry, they were pretty much helpless. 

Without the tools and the experience needed to make the land productive, the people were unable to provide for their most basic needs. As the movie shows, it's not an experience that anyone would want to go through.

There is another aspect to the film that is painfully obvious to me. The village appears to consist of mostly women and children. Where are the fathers and grandfathers? What's wrong with this picture?

It is easy to look at a poor African nation and feel superior to them and their poor situation, but much of America resembles pre-collapse Zimbabwe in many ways. We are a nation of broken families, with large numbers of women and children totally dependent on the government for their sustenance. We are a nation of people who, for the most part, do not have the skills and the tools to grow our own food. And we have a paper money system that will eventually collapse.

In some ways, Zimbabwe was (is) in a better situation than America might be in a hyper-inflationary crisis.  For example, the poor of Zimbabwe live in small villages on land that could be productive. And their soil is peppered with little specks of gold.

The Antithesis

In stark contrast to the first film clip is the story of a Zimbabwe gold panner who learned about the Foundations For Farming Ministry in Zimbabwe. It changed his life. He brought the spiritual and agricultural principles taught in the Foundations For Farming program back to his village. The images of family, community, and productive farm land in the film clip above are an uplifting testament to the life-changing impact of this unique ministry.


After watching the movie about gold for currency in Zimbabwe, I happened upon the above film about a woman in Zimbabwe who has a business growing potatoes in sacks. The clip was posted to YouTube a couple of months ago. It's a downright interesting story.

It so happens that growing potatoes in sacks and pails is an idea that a lot of people are trying. YouTube has lots of movies on the subject. I'm not impressed with most of them, but This Guy's Yield is Impressive.

Personally, I'm resistant to the idea of growing potatoes in sacks. I once tried growing tomatoes in one of those upside-down bags, and they all died. I tend to think that potatoes grow best in the ground, with soil hilled up around them. But I may try growing a bag or two of potatoes next year.

Have any of you reading this grown potatoes in sacks. What was your experience?

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #36

Tommy Toe Experiment Results…

Dateline: 26 May 2014

"Is it possible to completely eliminate the fuss of starting tomato seeds indoors every spring by simply "planting" some tomatoes off the vine into the garden in the fall?"

That's the question I asked late last year as I mooshed several overripe Tommy Toe tomatoes into the soil of one of my Whizbang low-rider tire beds. As I explain in my Planet Whizbang Garden Idea Book, these little circular beds are a perfect place for garden experimentation. I blogged about the tomato experiment In This Post.

Early this spring I covered the tire bed with a Whizbang Solar Pyramid (also in the book). Yesterday I took the cover off…

The experimental test plot was full of weeds, as you can see, but there were some healthy tomato seedlings in there too…

Compared to the number of seeds I planted, relatively few tomato plants have come up. But there are enough. If you click the picture to get the enlarged view, you'll see the stake which indicates that I planted the tomatoes on October 26 of last year That is exactly seven months ago.

The tomato seedlings in the tire bed are smaller than my carefully-planted-and-tended seedlings in a plastic cell tray, but the "feral" tomato plants look healthier. This is an idea I intend to continue to experiment with.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #35

Ruth Stout

25 May 2014

There was a back-to-the-land movement happening when I was a teenager in the 1970s. One of the celebrities of that era was Ruth Stout. She wrote articles for Organic Gardening & Farming magazine, which I subscribed to.  She also wrote several books about gardening. Her unconventional gardening approach involved copious amounts of hay mulch, and "no work."

I am sure that most of the older gardeners reading this already know about Ruth Stout, but some younger readers may not. In either case, I think both will enjoy watching the 23 minute documentary below. It was filmed in 1976, when Ruth was 92 years old. She died four years later.

When you watch the movie, you will discover that Ruth was an eccentric personality. My favorite part of the film comes in the very end when she tells of her grandfather and something he told her when she was a little girl.

As for Ruth Stout's no-work gardening methods, they are certainly viable and well worth trying. My problem with natural mulch is that it harbors slugs. If I mulched my whole garden with hay and straw the slugs would proliferate and eat what I tried to grow. That has been my experience. But, like I said, it's worth trying. "No-work" is, however, something of a misnomer. "Less-work" would be a more accurate term.

An interesting fact about Ruth Stout is that she helped Carrie Nation bust up a saloon in Kansas in 1900. With that in mind, you can watch an interesting episode of What's My Line in 1964 with Ruth Stout (she was 80 years old then) At This Link.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #34

Barker, Rose & Kimball

Dateline: 24 May 2014

My son Robert was helping to clean out a barn. There was a rusty, pitted old axe head that was being thrown out. He brought it home and told me he was going to grind off the rust. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the axe head as he found it. The thing looked pretty hopeless.

After an hour or so of grinding, he brought the axe head to me and said, "Hey dad, it says Kimball on it."

(click picture to see an enlarged view)

A little web searching turned up a Barker, Rose & Kimball double-bit axe with a handle selling for $250 on Ebay. Then I found the Barker, Rose Kimball Collection at the Chemung, NY historical society.

The company was started as Ayrault & Rose in 1864. The name changed over the years as different partners came into the business. Howard Kimball came into the company in 1928 and was there until 1952. I can find no other information about Barker, Rose & Kimball, or the Cayuga Axe Company.

I am, of course, wondering if Howard Kimball might have been a relation to me. I'm going to assume he was a cousin of some sort. Most of us Kimballs are related, with our common ancestor being Richard Kimball, going back to 1864.

Robert plans to put a hickory handle on the axe and keep it for the rest of his life. I like that.

So, if you see an old, rusty, pitted axe somewhere, I suggest that you grind the rust off. Who knows, you might find your name on it.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #33

Toe-Tapper Faucet Switch
Progress Report

Dateline: 22 May 2014

It's an overcast, rainy day here in Central New York State. I'm waiting for a truck with a shipment of rubber plucker fingers to show up, and working in my shop on my first production run of prototype Planet Whizbang Toe-Tapper Faucet Switches.

In the picture above (click to see enlarged view) you can see a  pile of parts I've cut out. The material is 3/4" HDPE plastic. It's strong, durable, and totally water resistant. The toe-Tappers will consist of four HDPE components, assembled with stainless steel hardware, and, of course, the special water valve. 

I am still waiting to hear from the company that sells the valve to see if they will sell it to me wholesale. This is not usually a problem. I buy components wholesale from various manufacturers. But this company is, for some reason, different. They wanted to know all about my company. Getting an answer is taking more time than I thought it would. If I have to buy the part at retail price, I will.

I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from people about this Toe-Tapper Faucet Valve. That's a good indication. I'm excited to get these made and get them out to those of you who can put them to good use. I'm feeling very confident that this unique new product is something that you are going to really appreciate.

The price will be less than $30. And I'm pretty sure that price will also include the cost of USPS Priority mail shipping (which isn't cheap). 

Stay tuned….

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #32

A1 vs A2 Milk
(And The Holstein Connection)

Dateline: 22 May 2014

Fern, of the blog, Thoughts From Frank and Fern, e-mailed me and asked if I would help spread the word about the difference between A1 and A2 milk, and the possible health problems that can result from drinking A1 milk, which comes mostly from Holstein cows, which produce most of the milk that's consumed in America.

I have never heard of A1 and A2 milk, but I have known a few Holstein cows in my day and, frankly, I never trusted any of them. So this doesn't surprise me. 

Seriously, though, the difference between A1 and A2 milk is something we should all be aware of. You can read Fern's blog post here: Quality Homegrown Milk

And This Article From Mother Jones provides a lot more insights into A1 vs A2 milk.

photo link

Alex Jones,
And Rural America

Dateline 21 May 2014

I'll probably end up in a FEMA prison camp some day for publicly admitting this, but I do enjoy listening to Alex Jones' three hour daily radio program. I've known about Alex Jones for several years but haven't listened to his program until recently. The more I listen to it, the more I like Alex Jones.

I typically spend a lot of time every day working in my workshop and mail-order packing room. It's nice to have something to listen to that isn't the usual mainstream media pablum (I'm still on a mainstream media fast), and Alex Jones is the antithesis of mainstream media.

I used to listen to Glenn Beck but finally got fed up with the silly, foolish, pointless banter. You don't get any of that with Alex Jones. He is a serious, thought-provoking guy. Occasionally he's very funny, without meaning to be. On the downside, Alex Jones is prone to hyperbole, he's a know-it-all, and he can get a little kooky. 

But the more I listen to him, the more I like him. I like him because he's not a modern, feminized man. He's got a testosterone-fueled grittiness that's powerfully endearing. I like him because he is a warrior for truth and justice. I like him because a lot of what he values is what I value. I like him because he has moxie. I like him because he is unconventional, and original, and spontaneous, and he comes across as a real person. I like him because he is audacious. His legendary infiltration of the high-security Bohemian Grove gathering back in 2000 is but one example of that (Jones secretly filmed the occultic "Cremation of Care" nighttime ceremony at Bohemian Grove).

Alex Jones is a high-energy, info-warrior against the machinations of powerful global manipulators and the New World Order. He is suspicious of everything the government does. 

I don't have a problem with being suspicious of everything the government does. I know enough history to know that government is prone to grow too powerful and take away personal freedom. It's called tyranny. I think  more people should be suspicious of what our government is doing. That is, after all, what vigilance is all about. And it was Thomas Jefferson who wisely said: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." 

Jones believes that the forces of the New World Order seek to enslave all mankind. I think he's right, though I see industrialism and corporate-government fascism as the enslaving force. In the final analysis, globalism and industrialism are one and the same. The point is, we are all in this global-industrial matrix that seeks to make us dependents. Dependency is antithetical to freedom (read my New York Times Op-Ed).

In his May 16th program Alex Jones talked about the war being waged against rural people. Alex says that American military are training to fight against Americans, and a rural takeover is in the works.

You don't have to believe everything Alex Jones says 100% to enjoy his program. If you have never tuned into Alex Jones, I recommend that you check out This YouTube recording of his May 16th show. You needn't listen to the whole thing. Skip to 41 minutes and listen to 59 minutes (18 minutes in all). Jones talks about cattle ranching and his family's cattle operation in Texas. He ends up with a monologue praising country people, with Hank Williams, Jr. singing "A Country Boy Can Survive" in the background. A couple of quotes from that show…

"It's your duty to raise a garden."

"They don't want you self sufficient."

In another recent show he said…

"The globalists hate Christians. They hate anyone who doesn't worship them."

You can listen to The Alex Jones radio show online at The Infowars Web Site . Podcasts of past shows are archived there too.

If you'd like to listen to a good example of an Alex Jones program, listen to yesterday's broadcast. This Link gives it to you, without advertisements.

Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #31

Hops in May

Dateline: 20 May 2014

click picture to see an enlarged view

Things are busy around here. A lot of people are buying a lot of Poultry Shrink Bags. I wish I had more time to focus on my garden. This morning I went out and did a little wheel hoeing before having my morning cup of coffee, and then tackling the mail orders for the day. And I snapped the picture above.

I planted that hops years ago. It is in one corner of my garden. I was warned by a reader that I shouldn't plant hops because it will go wild. I can see where that could happen, but I have kept it from spreading. The picture shows the hops plant at the base of a 12' high T-Post hops pole like I show how to make in my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners (page 21 & 22).

Hops is a fun plant. 

That's it for today…..

Coming Soon…
The Planet Whizbang
Toe-Tapper Faucet Switch

Dateline: 19 May 2014

This contraption is NOT
the Planet Whizbang Toe-Tapper Faucet Switch.

I’ve been working off and on (in my brain and in my shop) for the past ten years, trying to design a simple foot-operated water valve for an outdoor sink. The idea being, you connect a garden hose to one side of the valve and run a hose out the other side, up to the sink faucet. When you want to turn the faucet on, you step on the valve. To shut it off, you step on the valve again. 

Such a device would be very useful if you are processing a batch of chickens in the backyard, at a sink you have set up for that purpose (as I show HERE).  A foot “switch” to operate the water would free up both hands and be a big convenience. The same device could be utilized in an outdoor sink that you put up for pre-washing produce from the garden.

Foot-operated water valves are available for commercial use, but they are very expensive. I've not been able to locate an inexpensive faucet switch with internet searches. My quest has been to figure out how to make a simple, reliable, affordable foot-operated water switch using common, off-the-shelf hardware. 

Well, I think I have finally done it. I recently saw a new water valve design on the internet and realized that it was perfectly suited to achieving my desired objective. I ordered three of the valves and started puttering in my shop. It took me three days to nail down a design concept that I’m pleased with. In fact, I’m really pleased with how well this idea has come together.

I arrived at my design breakthrough on the morning of Saturday, May 17th (two days ago). I showed it to my son, Robert, and he was impressed. Marlene gave it the thumbs up.

I want to get this product on the market as quickly as possible. In fact, I want to have it available for sale in less than a month. This will be an example of what can be done by a small-scale, down-home, internet entrepreneur. To take a product from completed design to the marketplace in less than a month is something that a large corporation could never do.

I started cutting parts to make the product in my workshop on Saturday afternoon (shortly after I had a design I was satisfied with). I ordered the hardware I’ll need to make 100 Planet Whizbang Toe-Tapper Faucet Switches that evening. I'm going to see if I can get a price break by purchasing 100 of the valves at once. I’m moving on this ASAP.

You may be wondering about product testing. I haven’t put the idea through a testing period to see how it holds up. Well, that’s where I have another idea....

The first 100 Whizbang Toe-Tapper Faucet Switches will be prototypes. They will be made exactly as I plan to make the final retail product, using durable HDPE plastic and never-rust stainless steel hardware, but the HDPE will be mostly scrap pieces that I’ve saved from years of making chicken plucker and cider press parts. So there will be some scuffing and an occasional out of place hole. The prototypes won’t be as "pretty" as a final retail product would be. 

I will sell these prototypes, but they will sell for quite a bit less than the final retail version (if I make a final retail version). The first 100 prototype toe-tappers will be stamped with a prototype serial number. My expectation is that those who purchase this product will use it and give me some feedback. Based on the feedback I get, I will decide to modify the design, if needed, and continue with the idea, or not.

If I were wealthy and/or I thought this idea would eventually make me a lot of money, I’d give away the 100 prototypes, but that’s not the situation. This amounts to a sort of “crowd-funded” community effort— I come up with the useful product idea and you participate in the idea by purchasing a low-cost prototype, which you then use and evaluate.

Even if you don’t have a need for this new product, you will still be able to help me bring it to market by telling others you know about it. Pinning. Blogging. Tweeting. Facebooking. It all helps to get the word out.

If this is something you might be interested in, stay tuned. I will be unveiling the product and providing purchase buttons when it is ready to go. If you raise your own poultry and process it yourself, this hands-free, toe-tapper faucet switch is a tool that you'll want to have.

Tom Doyle's
"Plant and Pick"
Vegetable Gardening System

Dateline: 17 May 2014

Thomas E Doyle

You've probably seen the above picture of Tom Doyle in magazine advertisements for the thornless blackberry he developed, and which his family still sells (Doyle's Thornless Blackberries, Inc.) I enjoyed reading Mr. Doyle's biography at the web site. He was clearly a hard-working, entrepreneurial man. He appears to have been a family man too. And he was an "avid gardener all his life." He was my kind of guy.

What really caught my eye in his bio was the following passage…

He became well known nationally as the "plastic man" and blackberry man" after 1959 when he developed a method of using black plastic to cover a garden and planted through small holes. Because the plastic was used for up to 10 years, he called it "Gardening without Cultivation" and marketed his special formulated plastic sheets under that name. He also wrote a gardening book that has been printed in 7 editions.

I did an internet search for Tom Doyle's book. I couldn't find a copy but I found This Web Page that revealed the book's title was Gardening Without Cultivation: "Plant and Pick." It was actually a 24-page booklet that Mr. Doyle sold through classified ads in magazines like Organic Gardening.

Then I found This 1971 Article from Mother Earth News. As that article explains, Tom Doyle's plant-and-pick gardening system utilized a large sheet of 6-mil black plastic, with the perimeter edges buried in the soil. Rows of holes were cut into the plastic. The rows were 30" apart and the holes were 12" apart in the rows. The concept is simple. The only detail missing is the size of the holes. All we know is that they were "small." 

In the parlance of gardening, each planting hole in the plastic would be a "hill." The Mother Earth article adds this information:

—Plant corn one gran to the hill.

—Plant potatoes and sweet potatoes on the end of the garden where you can cut off their tops and roll back the plastic when it's time to dig them.

—Plant peas early with 5 or 6 seeds to the hill.

—Plant 2 beans to a hill.

—Plant tomatoes 3 to 4 feet apart.

—Plant melons 2 seeds to a hill, and thin to one plant per hill,  3 to 4 feet apart.

—Plant lettuce several seeds to a hill and harvest the largest plants first to give the smaller ones a chance.

—If you plant strawberries, use overbearing varieties and cover them with straw in the fall.

—When a plant has fulfilled its usefulness, pull it up and plant something else in its place.

—Be sure to plant a row or two of flowers.

—Clear off the plastic in the fall in preparation for next year's garden.

So Tom Doyle came up with a gardening system that allowed him to garden on a large scale (one acre, according to his biography) and have time to do a lot of other things in his busy life. He was, I assume, using solid plastic, not the more modern woven "agricultural fabrics." The solid plastic sheet would not allow air and moisture to get into the soil, but the new mulching plastic fabrics do. 

I've decided to try Tom Doyle's idea in part of my garden. I'm going to invest in a wide roll of the 8-to-12-year landscape fabric, like I've been using for the first time elsewhere in my garden this year

I won't use this idea for potatoes because I'm persuaded that to grow good potatoes, the soil must be mounded up, and, besides that, I have my potatoes planted already. Peas are in too, and I think I already have a better system for tomatoes. As for root crops like carrots, beets and onions, I don't understand how they would integrate efficiently into the hills-in-plastic system, so I'll stick to growing those crops in beds. But I'll use Tom Doyle's "plant and pick" system it to plant beans, chard, lettuce, kale and squashes. 

I'll let you know how the idea works out. In the meantime, if anyone out there knows where I can get a copy of Tom Doyle's booklet, please let me know.