Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Suncast Garden Hose Reel

I have had some personal experience with Suncast. Last winter I bought one of their snow shovels and I loved it. As I am sure you remember it was a record year for snow fall and that shovel and I got quite the work out. It performed admirably and left a good impression with me regarding the Suncast brand

When I saw a hose reel made by the Illinois based company I felt confident in buying one. I was near the Home Depot check out when I say it, it was on sale for $19.88, I need one so I bought it. 

Then I got home and read some of the reviews, they were pretty bad. I hadn’t attached my hose reel yet, but it seemed fine in the store. I thought about returning it, but decided against that. The price was so low and I was tired of two weeks of hand reeling wet hoses. 

Having used my Suncast garden hose suncast hose reelreel  I can say with certainty that the reviews are wrong. They say the reel falls over all the time. Well, if you look inside, taped to the reel are a set of metal anchor hooks. They say it jams. Agin if you read the description, it’s a 100 foot reel. It you over fill it or wind the hose in a sloppy fashion it will over fill and jam. 

As I see it what we have here are people who are either too rough with their reel or they are not reading the directions. This is my only gripe with online reviews, they are only as good as the people who are writing them.

My experience with my Suncast garden hose reel has been fine. It worked as advertised. I have no complaints. If I choose to get something bigger and sturdier I will buy a metal reel, but that will cost a whole lot more and right now I am watching my budget.  

I am normally a big review guy, but in this instance they missed the mark. This is a solid little plastic garden house reel for an unbeatable price from a company that manufactures right here in the USA. I recommend it. 

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The PiggyBankBuilder Portfolio 1/2 year Update

We are six months chartinto 2014 and  my educational fictitious portfolio is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s performing so well that I am kicking myself for not following my own advice, perhaps next year. Two quarters in the books and here is where things stand:

  • Market Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH) – Purchase Price – $47.98, number of shares 26. Current Price: $57.68, a gain of $252.20
  • Cablevision (CVC) – Purchase price – $17.96, number of shares 68. Current Price: $18.29, a gain of $23.12
  • Microsoft (MSFT) – Purchase price $37.47, number of 33. Current Price: $41.80, a gain of $142.89
  • iShares Silver Trust (SLV) – Purchase Price $18.92, number of shares 66. Current Price: $20.29, a gain of $90.42

That is correct, not only is the portfolio up big, but all four stock are, for the first time, green as well. My fake portfolio is up $508.68, a hair over 10%! I can’t help but give myself a pat on the back. Last years portfolio was a failure, but I took those lessons and I applied them. I am feeling confident in the rest of the year, but I do plan to make some changes as we end the summer. Keep an eye out for my next big idea and please tell me what you think of my progress. 

***Please not that I am not and investment advisor.Please consult your investment advisors before making any financial decisions that could result in loss.

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Nelson RainTrain Review

At the beginning of this month I featured and raintrainpurchased a “Nelson RainTrain Traveling Sprinkler”. Now that I own it and have used it several times I would like to offer a review on this product.

Build: This thing is a tank, it’s made of cast iron and you can really feel it when you pick it up. The solidness suggests quality and it helps keep the “RainTrain” on the track. In this case the track is the hose.  The down side is that I don’t want to put it on any high shelves because I know that if it were to fall it would be a disaster. For now it stays on the garage floor. 

Ease of Use: Its pretty simple, you lay out the hose in the path you want the RainTrain to go, hook it up, and turn on the water. The pressure from the water propels the train slowly forward. It’s very simple. 

Value: This is very tricky. The rain train costs $60. You could get a stationary sprinkler for about $15. You would have to move it and I don’t think it would last as long as the “RainTrain”. For me the traveling aspect of this sprinkler makes it worth it. 

Effectiveness: This thing does a great job, I set it up, and let it go. It takes about 2 hours to cover my yard and it delivers an even, wide, water coverage on my plants and lawn. It makes a hypnotic whooshing sound as it goes and for some reason I find myself just watching it. 

Overall: I like the “RainTrain” and I am pleased with the purchase.  I believe that it will last me many years and will serve as a great alternative until I decide to get an unground system.  A-  

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My Gardening Adventure – 10 Days In

True patience is one of the traits that a good gardener must posses. I’d like to think I am patient, but when it comes to my “crops” I come up a little short. I planted them, the next day I watered and looked, then the next, nothing. By day four of this I had begun to think that I had failed as a farmer. Now I know that from everything I have read, none of my plants will emerge till at least day seven, but I just couldn’t shake my fears.

Then it happened! Corn! cornThat first set of corn leaves broke through my organic soil. The next day three more sets joined the first and some pumpkin leaves followed. Here I sit a week and a half later and I have started to see some success.

Of the 16 corn plantings, 11 have sprouted. For a healthy crop of corn, the saying goes, knee high by the forth of july. I am pretty confident that I can hit that mark or a least get pretty close to it.

All three of my pumpkin plantings have come up and they are very robust. Pumpkins grow on vines and these guys look like they are going to spread fast. With my limited amout of space it going to be a real challenge trying to wrangle them.

My “SugarBaby Watermelons” gave me a scare, they sprouted a few days after everything else. 10 DaysIt looks like both sets of plants are coming up, but neither looks strong. I don’t know if this is normal or if the plants just aren’t doing well.

Everyone said that starting tomatoes from seeds was very difficult, they were right because none of mine came up and neither did my strawberries. Its very disappointing, but fortunately for me my neighbor Bill gave us some of his fledgling tomato plants from his green house as a house warming gift. I will transfer them over tomorrow and the Bride has already claimed the empty strawberry section for her cucumber seedlings. We are making the most out of our set backs and we are pushing on.

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When the Yankees Win Big So Do You – PapaJohn’s

Last Tuesday when my family and I were enjoying our fantastic free Yankees tickets thanks to Hess and Pepsi I noticed an ad on the jumbotron. PapaJohnLogoWhen the Yankees score six or more runs and win you get 50% off any regular price menu items the next day. For the entire season if the Yankees win by score 6 or more runs all you have to do is go to PapaJohn’s site, place an order, and enter the promo code  “Yankees6″ to get 1/2 off any regular priced menu items. 

*** Please not that this promotion doesn’t appear to work outside of the NY area.***

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – The “No- Spill” Gas Can

I have a lawn now, and it needs to be mowed. I got a mower from my grandfather and I filled it up before I took it. That gas ran out, last wednesday, mid mow. A tank had lasted nearly one and a half mows. I was in trouble. Luckily I heard my neighbor edging and asked him to give me some gas. He did and we spoke for about an hour, nice guy.

So I finished mowing the lawn and as soon as I got back inside I went online to buy a gas can. I usually start most of my searches on Amazon and found their number one selling, highly rated gas can from “No- Spill”. At first gascanglance it looks like you are buying a gas can which claims that it doesn’t spill, but “No-Spill” is actually the name of the brand. The reviews were great and the price, $22.50 for a 2.5 gallon tank seemed fair. Cheaper gas cans were selling for around $14, but their reviews were weak. 

No-Spill” is a Kansas based company that proudly makes their gas scans in America. They have a patented push button pouring system that allows you to fill even the smallest device without spilling a drop. Their spokes person”No Spill Jill” demonstrates this very effectively, even going so far as to fill a shot glass without a single drop landing on the table. 

I received my No-Spill gas can last friday and I can attest that it is well made, feels sturdy in the hand, and has a wide neck opening to pour the gas in to the can. This is clearly a product that was designed with all the possible scenarios and situations that a user might encounter. 

This gas can has a viewing strip so you can easily see the capacity level and it comes with a limited 3 year warranty.

In a market that is flooded with cheap shotty “China Made” products No-Spill stands apart because of its innovation and quality. As soon as I took it out of the box I knew I had made the right choice. I suspect you will feel the same way. 

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Growing My Own Food – My Gardening Adventure Begins

For quite some time I have wanted to create a vegetable garden. One of my main reasons for doings so is what I see as the declining quality of our food. A growing portion of our fruits and vegetable are genetically modified,  grow thousands of miles away,  harvested before they are ripe, and loose much of their flavor and vitamins before they reach our plates. Like a growing number of people I found this distressing and decided to take control of my food supply. 

I began, as all gardens do, with seed. The selection of high quality seeds is crucial. I selected my seeds from “Annie’s Heirloom Seeds”.  I have featured them before in one of my “Made in the USA Monday” pieces. They have been cultivating seeds for decades, preserving seed lines that go back over a century. No genetic modification, natural unadulterated seeds. SeedsI picked several varieties, some of them based on their suggestion, other on my own personal tastes. For my garden I will try to grow, “Sugar Baby Watermelons”, “Alexandria Alpine Strawberries”, “Thessaloniki Tomatoes”, “Golden Bantam Sweet Corn”, and “Howden Pumpkins”.

For the garden itself I decided to go with raised beds that I built. Raised beds have several advantages, they use less space and provide me with the ability to control my soil. The top soil where I live is not the best so raised beds makes sense.Beds I went to Home Depot and bought some woods, soil, compost, and manure. I cut the wood and assembled three eight foot long by three foot wide beds. 

This size fits well in the space that I have, but it was primarily limited by the size of my grandfathers min-van, which I used to transport everything. Ten or twelve foot boards wouldn’t have fit, so I bought 2 inch by six inch by 8 foot boards. 

After I assembled the bed and positioned them I broke up the sod. I was worried that the while the dead sod would provide nutrients for my garden it might be too thick for the roots to penetrate and could hurt the plants as they grow. I transplanted a few section to where they were need and broke up and buried the rest. 

For my soil I chose “Miracle Grow Organic Choice Garden Soil”, this was not my first choose, but since June had already begun and I wanted to get my seeds in the ground as fast as possible I went with it. It is a little twiggy, but so far I have no complaints. soilTo add nutrients to the solid I mixed in “Great Gardens” compost manure blend as well as some lawn clipping from my lawn with some stand alone manure. I mixed it all with a rake and spread it even across each of the beds. 

My seeds arrived yesterday and I immediately began planting them. This was quite easy, but a little nerve racking. In each case the different seeds came with directions on how deep to bury them and far apart to space each. I did as they instructed, but in most cases the planting depth was 1 inch, I pushed in with my finger, dropped in the seed and covered it. Once inch is so shallow, I know its just worry, but I am convinced that as soon as I walked away birds and squirrels dug up and ate all of my plantings. 

That aside, I am a little concerned that my 3-4 inches of topsoil will not be deep enough for my garden. Beneath that I have the natural top soil that the lawn was growing on and beneath that is a think layer of rocky sand. All totaled it should be about 6 inches of usable soil, I am just uncertain how well my plants roots will be able to penetrate down into it.  Fingers crossed. 

All in my new vegetable garden cost me about $250. That includes the wood for the raised bed, the screws, the seeds, 11 bags of top soil, 2 bags of compost/manure, 1 bag of dry manure, and 250 European nightcrawler worms that are en route to me at this very moment. I am hoping the worms will help break up the soil to help my vegetables roots spread out, they should also provide valuable nutrients and aeration.  

According to my research the seeds should begin breaking through the soil in the next 6-8 days. If and when that happens I can rest easy knowing that my seeds did not end up in some creatures belly and can face the next round of obstacles. I am nervously excited. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Mountain Weavers Shower Curtain

Growing up my bathroom had the sliding glass door for our shower. I am partial to the glass door, but the last two places I have lived, including the house we currently own, we have a shower curtain.

This can be a bit of an annoyance. From time to time the curtain will drift over and touch me. It can get a little mildewy and that makes me all the more annoyed when it touches me. My current shower curtain is plastic so its harder to clean. I also have to wonder what chemicals are in that plastic.  

shower curtainA good alternative might be the Sturdy Cotton Duck Shower Curtain from Mountain Weavers.  Their curtain is made from 100% domestically grown cotton that is made right here in America. It comes in several colors and is machine washable. This gives you the ability to keep your shower curtain clean whenever you feel the need. In the long run this should make your curtain last longer, because you wont have to throw it away when it gathers too much mildew. 

It sells for $39.95 and comes in several lengths and sizes.  It only has a handful of reviews but they are all glowing. A quality product made right in the USA. 

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Moving Tips – Learn From My Mistakes

When I moved home from college everything I owned fit into my small SUV. boxesNow I have graduated up to a medium sized U-Haul, a large SUV, and a few cars. I have moved five times in the last fourteen years and for some reason I keep having to learn the same lessons over and over again. For those of you who might be moving soon and would like to learn from my mistakes here are some potentially valuable tips. 

  • If you don’t need it throw it away. Now that we have moved the Bride and I are realizing just how much stuff we don’t need. We have garbage bags full of stuff that we are either throwing out or donating. Nothing wrong with that except for one glaring fact. We moved it. We put all of that stuff in boxes, loaded them into a truck and carried it into our house. We could have saved ourselves a lot of effort if we got rid of that stuff before we moved. 
  • Many hands make light work. I figured I would need two other guys to move my stuff. I thought that because that’s how many guys it takes to move a couch. Looking back I wish I had ten other people. Even if they couldn’t carry the real heavy stuff they all could have taken a box, made three trips, and most of the moving would have been done. The more people you have to help you move the smaller amount each has to do, the less everyone involved will mind. 
  • Pack right. Like everything the more planning you put into the event the better off you will be when it get underway. The bride and I ran out of boxes so we carried a few things loose and put the rest into garbage bags. It added a lot of extra time to the move and slowed down our unpacking. 
  • If you have a full house get movers. Unless you have a huge group of strong friends you might want to consider professional movers. A small group can handle a two bedroom apartment, anything bigger might be best left to the pros. 
  • Consider a Pod. Pods are mobile storage containers that get dropped off at your house. You fill it with your items and it gets shipped to your new address. This is a type of half measure between moving yourself and hiring movers. 
  • Paint First. If you are going to paint your new place it is way easier to do when its empty. I realize that moving is a chaotic transition, but if you can it is advisable to paint before you move. 
  • Relax. Moving is stressful, it ranks right up their next to divorce and a death in the family. Some of your things may get damaged, you will get very tired, all you can do is take breaks, stay hydrated, and push on.

So there you are, a few ideas and reminders to help you get through the rigors of moving. I hope they help. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Dramm Hose Nozzle

When you move you realize you need a lot of new stuff. As some who appreciates the value of American made products I have taken every opportunity to buy the finest American made items whenever warranted and possible. One of my latest purchases was for a new water nozzle. I have a hose, but at the end of it is a cheap leaky nozzle that gets nearly as much water on me as on the plants I am attempting to water. 

For its replacement I bought an adjustable nozzle from Dramm.  drammBack in the 1940’s, John G. Dramm, a florist by trade, invented a special nozzle that could water delicate flowers without damaging them.  Over the next sixty plus years the Dramm family would take their company from a small basement operation to a massive company that employs over fifty workers. Based in Wisconsin and family owned to this day the Dramm corporation makes a wide range of nozzles for several different application, from shower nozzles hose nozzles. According to one of the second generation owners, they have built all of their products with one goal in mind: 

“Quality, “has been the hallmark of the Dramm Corporation throughout its over-50-year history.” – Kurt Dramm

The have been very successful in their efforts. The reviews on amazon are glowing, with over 300 people praising the quality on their nozzle. I received mine last week and I share that opinion. This nozzle is constructed from brass, it feels sturdy in the hand, and I can adjust the beam from a powerful jet to a light mister. 

When you get right down to it Dramm makes a quality old school nozzle. It cost me about $14, about twice what a plastic nozzles goes for. A year from now, maybe two that plastic nozzle breaks. Then I have to buy another. Another year or two years pass and I have to do it again.  My Dramm nozzle is made of metal. If I drop it or drag it on the group it will be okay. It’s built to last. 

Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish, buy American made, buy quality, buy a Dramm. 

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