A Few Cool Tools and Other Neat Stuff

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Lucy, the author's Westie, directs thistle spraying from the seat of this Cub Cadet 4x4 LE UTV.
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The Miltronics Driveway Alert system lets you know when something is headed up your lane.
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The Miltronics Driveway Alert system lets you know when something is headed up your lane.
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During the past year, I have accumulated a number of products that won’t fit neatly into a theme-based column in the foreseeable future. Some of these items are fantastically useful, others are entertaining and fun, while still others offer extremely high quality with a twist, but they all have one thing in common. I have been using them for some time, and I really like them.

Cub Cadet 4×4 UTV – First Look

I don’t know how I would have gotten the thistles under control in the back 40 without the help of Cub Cadet’s new 4×4 LE utility vehicle. This little truck’s 20-horsepower Kohler V-Twin engine, two-speed transmission and 1,300-pound payload capacity (900 in the cargo bed) had no problem hauling me and a 60-gallon spot-sprayer over hill and dale and through a very steep ravine to get at those pesky plants before they seeded. With all that weight in back, I didn’t need to engage the electrically activated four-wheel-drive system; however, I did engage the rear differential lock (with the flip of a lever) once to get through a muddy section of trail between two ponds.

In the months I have had it, the Cub Cadet 4×4 has come in handy for many other chores, including hauling fencing supplies to remote locations, hauling firewood and carrying pruning debris to the burn pile. The Cub Cadet UTV (www.CubCadet.com) goes anywhere with minimal impact and saves wear and tear on the pickup truck. Stay tuned for more reports on the Cub Cadet 4×4 LE (price: under $10,000) as we continue to put it through its paces.

Self-Adjusting Locking Pliers

I first discovered Lockjaw’s self-adjusting and locking pliers at the welding supply shop in Claremont, New Hampshire, while retrieving a couple of oxygen bottles for Kate, my glass-working wife. Kate had “borrowed” my Vise-Grips and Leatherman Crunch one time too many, so I decided the only way to keep my toolbox contents intact was to get her a set of locking pliers of her own. I was initially disappointed because the store didn’t handle Vise-Grips. What I found instead was a pair of innovative locking pliers called LockJaw (www.LockJawPliers.com) – they were very well made and incredibly easy to use.

What sets LockJaw pliers apart is that they don’t require any fiddling to adjust the space between the jaws when closed. Instead, the pliers automatically adapt as you clamp them onto variously sized bolts and other targets. Changing the tool’s clamping pressure is accomplished by turning a small thumbscrew. I was so impressed with the LockJaws that I purchased a complete set and turned over all my other locking pliers to Kate. Price: about $15 and up, depending on the size and style.

Heavy-Duty Folding Cart

Back in April, I ran into Dave Leger at a trade show in Minneapolis. Dave is an amazing guy, who, among other things, invented a tool called the Fold-A-Cart and founded Fold-A-Tools (www.FoldATools.com/en-us/) to market it. Dave’s great idea is a heavy-duty two-wheeled utility cart that is as capable as a contractor’s wheelbarrow, easier to move around loaded or empty and, best of all, folds neatly (and easily) into a package that you can hang on the shed wall (hanging bracket included) or toss into the back of your truck.

Dave sent me home from the show with one of his Professional Series carts, and I have been using it regularly around the farm ever since. Whether loaded with a bale of peat moss, garden tools and mulch, or several hundred pounds of limestone, the cart is everything you would expect from a heavy-duty, space-robbing wheelbarrow. I haven’t babied the Fold-A-Cart’s flexible tub fabric either, and it has yet to show any wear or tear. Fold-A-Tools now offers several models of the Fold-A-Cart priced from about $140 to $220, depending on the size.

Unexpected Guests

The folks at Miltronics Manufactur-ing (www.Miltronics.com) in Keene, New Hampshire, sent me one of their long-range Driveway Alert systems about a year ago. The Driveway Alert™ is a wireless system that consists of an infrared sensor, signal transmitter and receiver. If a vehicle or other large object passes in front of the sensor, it triggers the generation of a signal that’s picked up at a remote location up to 1,500 feet away. The receiver will give you an audible and visual alert – and can be adapted to turn on lights or even activate security cameras.

The entire system took me about 5 minutes to set up and install (with the help of a screwdriver bit in my cordless drill) and works great. I like the product because it gives me a bit of warning when someone or something enters our farm’s lane. Price: about $200 for the complete kit.

Great Gloves

Early last year, while mourning the loss of my favorite pair of elk-hide gloves, I discovered the Yellowstone Glove Co., a small glove maker in Idaho Falls, Idaho, that offers the best American-made full-grain elk-hide gloves I have ever had the pleasure of wearing. I was a top-grain cowhide fan when it came to hand protection until about 25 years ago when an experienced rancher told me that elk was the only hide that could stand up to more than a season or two of fencing – barbed wire fencing at that. He gave me my first pair, and I’ve worn them since.

At Yellowstone, they take their glove making seriously. You will need to make a few measurements on your hand to determine the right size since the company’s form-fitting gloves don’t come in S, M, L or XL. If you don’t need the durability of elk, Yellowstone’s patented seamless-palm and seamless-back design is also available in premium goat and deer leathers with or without a foam cold-weather lining. Price: about $23 online, at www.YellowstoneGloves.com.

Just for the birds

I don’t have anything against squirrels – in fact, our property has several mature oak and black walnut trees that provide for them quite nicely. However, squirrels monopolizing feeders meant for the birds, and scattering seed all over the yard, gets under my skin, so when I learned of Droll Yankees’ (www.DrollYankees.com) new squirrel-proof Yankee Flipper (price: about $135), I was more than a little intrigued.

The Yankee Flipper’s design is such that a squirrel cannot hang from the feeder’s top to get at the goods – the reach is too far. And should those arboreal outlaws shinny down the feeder, hoping to hang onto the perch, their weight activates a micro-switch that spins them away. Yes, it is a battery powered feeder, but so far I haven’t had to recharge the battery, and it has been in the tree for about eight weeks now.

While on the subject of bird feeders, I want to mention the Audubon plastic hummingbird feeder that the folks at Woodlink (www.Woodlink.net) sent me to try. No joke, this feeder was visited by a ruby-throated hummingbird within 20 minutes of putting it out. The design is simple, unobtrusive and obviously attractive to those little nectar-loving nesters. Price: around $10 at your local discount store.


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper’s Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.