Solar Christmas Lights

solar christmas lightsAre Solar Christmas Lights worth the money? In a word, no. In two words, it depends. Let’s start worth the no, then we’ll move on to the depends part of the equation.

Disadvantages

If you want to light-up the outside of your home like the City Courthouse, you’d better have enough money to buy the courthouse, if not a good-sized town. One string of 50 Solar LED Christmas lights typically costs $20.00. For kicks, my wife and I decided to try the Solar Lights experiment this year. For starters, we bought two strings of LED lights for $40 and were able to decorate two small bushes in the front of our home. Just think, for another $2,000 we could have purchased 100 strings for a whopping total of 5,000 lights. In case you’re wondering, that falls about 10,000 lights short of competing in your neighborhood Christmas Decoration contest. If cost is not a good enough deterrent for the LED Solar Christmas Lights experiment, we discovered a few other problems:

For one thing, you need to be able to place your solar panel where it gets enough sunshine throughout the day to charge the lights so they will stay lit most of the evening. Since our home faces north it was difficult to find places to stake the solar panels in the yard which are not covered in shade most of the day. If you wanted to put the lights on your eaves or roof, you’ll find that the charging cord is not long enough to reach the ground. You’ll have to mount them on the roof or gutter or somewhere else and here-in is the next problem with solar Christmas lights: Even if you went crazy and bought a bunch of these things, how ugly is your yard, roof or gutters going to look with this square, 4×4” solar panels littered everywhere? If that’s not bad enough, what happens if it’s cloudy all day or snow covers your panels and prevents any sun light from charging your lights? You’ll be left with a plain, undecorated house and looking like the neighborhood scrooge.

Advantages

Okay, so that covers just about all of the disadvantages of solar lights. At this point, it may be hard to believe, but they do serve a useful purpose. The real purpose for solar Christmas lights is to fill gaps in areas which otherwise might be ignored. Everyone has small bushes, wreathes, windows, roof or other areas of the home that are hard to reach with a wall outlet and require an extension cord. As long as these areas get enough sunshine, you’ll be able to decorate in areas which might otherwise be ignored. In short, Solar Christmas Lights are not well suited for replacing traditional lighting. Rather, they are a useful addition to your yearly Christmas decoration tool chest.

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Snoboss Shovel

snoboss shovelSince first seeing the Snoboss shovel at Home Depot last year, I decided to look up some actual user reviews on this large, peculiar-looking snow shovel. My large driveway requires a lot of horizontal and vertical distances to cover with a standard shovel, so I’ve often wondered if there is a better way. The Snoboss (Snowboss or Snow Boss) is a drastically looking looking different tool than the typical, snow shovels I’m used to. While my other two snow shovels are ergonomically designed, they do not have the deep, double-hand scoop of the snoboss. In theory, the snoboss makes the job of shoveling a driver quicker and easier on the back. What specifically is different about the features and physical properties of the Snoboss that supposedly make it superior for shoveling snow?

Snoboss Shovel Physical Properties and Features

The snoboss is described as an Ames True-Temper Snow pusher. A quick glance at the snoboss will tell you that it is better suited for pushing larger volumes of snow. Hopefully, this means you don’t have to cover as much distance, going back and forth to do the job. Additionally the snoboss is ergonomically designed in such a way to minimize lifting and strain on the back. The double u-shaped, handle gives users a dual grip for dispersing the weight of the snow when lifting and pushing. If that’s not enough to push through heavy snow, the snoboss also includes a ledge for

ergonomic snow shovelusing your feet. Why would I be interested in a big shovel like this? Well, because the current shovel I use (See Picture to the left) is incapable of paving across the width of my driveway without leaving behind streaks of snow on both sides of the shovel. So, even a relatively light snow storm of say 4-6″ means that for every path I pave, I have to make two trips back and forth to pickup the leftover snow. My hope is that the Snoboss is big enough and holds enough volume in snow that I can make a spotless path from one side of the driveway to the other. This looks and sounds great in theory, but before I plop down $38.00 on a snow shovel, what are people actually saying about the Snoboss shovel? Does it do a good job and can I find one review that proves the Snoboss will accomplish the task of being able to shovel a spotless paved path across the width of a large driveway?

Snoboss Ratings

snoboss ratings
Over 34 users of the Snoboss rated it 4 stars on Amazon and another 9 ranked it 4 stars from Home Depot. A 4-Star rating out of 43 users is not bad, but what could keep this product from getting 5 stars? For one, thing there seems to be a number of users disappointed in the bottom blade edge of the snoboss, citing that the metal was soft, poorly made and didn’t stay flat against the pressure of the snow. Well, okay, not a deal killer, but how about making a clean sweep across my driveway without leaving streaks of on both sides of the path? Well, apparently, the snoboss isn’t perfect in that respect either. A small number of users reported that while the snoboss does much better than a standard shovel in this regard, there is still some spillage over the sides when going across the driveway. The other small gripe is that the snoboss shovel is a little bit cumbersome for maneuvering corners. So, what about the positives? Nearly all users of the snoboss unanimously agreed that it makes the job of cleaning the driveway much easier and quicker than your standard snow shovel. Everyone also agreed that this shovel is far easier on the back and makes the job much less straining. Even those, who didn’t rate the Snoboss with a perfect 5-star rating, admitted that they preferred it to their typical snow shovel.

Pros and Cons of the Snoboss

PROS

  • Better Ergonomics for less strain on the back.
  • Multiple handles provide better leverage for lifting snow.
  • Large Volume scoop gets the job done quicker.

CONS

  • Flimsy Metal blade on bottom (May have been fixed in newer models)
  • Large size makes it rather difficult for negotiating turns
  • Despite large scoop still suffers some spillage of snow out the sides.
  • Price is about $10 to $15 higher than your typical snow shovel

 

Conclusion

The Snoboss is not the perfect snow shovel, but I have yet to find one that is. If you live in an area where you can expect more than a handful of rough, snowy days, why not arm yourself with all the help you can get? The fact that the snowboss will help minimize back pain is reason enough alone to buy one. The benefits of getting the job done quicker are merely the icing on the cake – or should we say the snow off the driveway? We’re expecting 5-8 inches of snow tomorrow morning, I wish I had already bought a snoboss shovel

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Wasp Attractant

yellow jacket traps

If you’re looking for a cheaper or better wasp attractant recipe for your Yellow Jacket Traps, you’re not alone. I got tired of paying $4.00 for a tiny bottle of wasp attractant serum for each of my yellow jacket traps. I have a fairly wide back-yard which gets swarmed with wasps in the late summer/early fall. At $16.00 a pop for four, it gets expensive and they don’t last all that long. Pictured left, are the yellow jacket traps I use at home. The other question I had: Is the Wasp Recipe I’m buying the best I can do? I quickly found out an answer to my question.

In Search of a Better Wasp Attractant

Uncontrolled observational studies at home may not be the most scientific method for discovering new and better ways to improve your backyard environment, but they can be very effective as I shall explain: The four yellow jacket traps I have cover a width of my about 50 yards of my backyard. I noticed that the wasps, particularly the ones swarming around the table on my deck were not being particularly excited about the Yellow jacket traps. After 24 hours, only about 12 wasps found the traps appealing enough to make their way inside. There were easily at least 50 wasps flying around the surrounding area. That is, until my wife put out the humming bird feeder. If you think hummingbird nectar makes a good attractant for hummingbirds, you should see what it does for wasps or yellow jackets. In a matter of 5 minutes, dozens of  yellow jacket wasps clung to the hummingbird feeder like flies on cow dung. It was a remarkable site. Even more remarkable was how quickly they began emptying the feeder of its red, hummingbird nectar contents. Hummingbirds and Wasps have the same tastes, the only difference is that the wasps are much more aggressive and persistent about going after it – and they don’t mind or care whether or not a human being gets in their way. So, it was with great skill and courage that I removed the yellow jacket traps from around the humming bird feeders and brought them into the house for a dousing of my new-found wasp formula.

Hummingbird Nectar

Better Wasp Attractant Recipe

hummingbird nectar wasp attractantThe red. liquid hummingbird nectar which is is pictured to the right, costs about $8.00 and will make about 48 ounces of nectar. This may seem expensive for keeping hummingbirds occupied, but 48 ounces is probably more than enough to last for 10 years as a wasp attractant. The only question is whether or not the hummingbird nectar will  work as well inside the yellow jacket traps as it does in the hummingbird feeder?  Here’s how to use it: I took a couple of cotton balls and condensed them in my hands as tightly as I could and placed them in the bottom pod of the yellow jacket traps then saturated them with the hummingbird nectar. I also placed a hummingbird nectar-soaked cotton pad, inside the top of the trap just for good measure.  I re-assembled the yellow jacket traps and placed them back outside close to where the hummingbird feeder formerly resided. The new wasp attractant was an instant hit. In a matter of  1 hour there was over a dozen trapped wasps in one trap. After a day, there are two many wasps to count. The hummingbird nectar not only worked instantly, but continued to attract the wasps long after one-day of use. I’m not sure how many days the odor will last, but so far, the hummingbird nectar makes a far more productive wasp formula than the commercial brand.

Final Verdict: Best Wasp Trap Recipe

A picture speaks a thousand words: The Wasp Trap pictures on the left is after 1-Day of use with the hummingbird nectar. The wasp trap on the right is your typical Wasp Serum that comes with the pictures yellow jacket traps and this is after 5 days of use.  Also, worth noting: 2 days after this picture was taken, the hummingbird nectar continued to attract more wasps and as of the time of this writing, is still getting new wasps. The one on the right, with the store bought brand of wasp trap recipe is being completely ignored after just 7 days. By the comparison photo, is there any doubt which one is the best wasp trap recipe?

Wasp Trap Recipe


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French Coffee Press Review

French Coffee Press
French Coffee Press

I used to think a French coffee press was just another one of those snobby marketing ideas. As I quite often do, I’ve changed my mind a bit on the Coffee Press method of brewing coffee as I’ll explain in this review. First, a little history about how a French Press Coffee maker ended up in my home: I bought my, 8-Cup Bodum coffee press about 15 years ago when I started drinking Starbucks Coffee. For many years, I didn’t like Starbucks Coffee. In fact, I only drank light roasted coffees. I thought the Starbucks Dark roasted coffees tasted smoky and lacked the richness of lighter roasts. It wasn’t until I actually went into a Starbucks Store and ordered a regular cup of coffee that I got a new found appreciation for their darker, cream tasting roasts. The home coffee makers just don’t do a decent job. One: home coffee brewers don’t make it hot enough. Two, home coffee brewers don’t extract the flavor of the dark coffee grinds. Because the darker grinds are well roasted, the window for unlocking their flavor is extremely critical So, one day about 15 years ago, I asked my Starbucks store representative what kind of coffee maker it would take to get the coffee to taste as good at home as it does the store. They showed me a Bodum French press and I bought it on the spot. Why?

 

What is a French Coffee Press

A French Coffee Press is a bit of a peculiar looking contraption, isn’t it? Some would have you believe it’s a beautiful relic meant to be proudly displayed in your kitchen. I wouldn’t call a French coffee press ugly, but I wouldn’t exactly call it attractive either. At any rate, a coffee press is indeed an interesting looking device. My Bodum coffee press consists of an 8-Cup glass carafe with a plastic base. The lid has an 8” metal rod going through it, with a mesh-metal filter attached to the bottom. A spring-type mechanism wraps around the circumference of the mesh filter and is designed to push the grinds down and keep them out of your coffee when you press it. So, how do you use a one?

How to Use a Coffee Press

Using a French coffee press is a far more simple process than the looks of this contraption would have you believe. I actually enjoy using mine, but it does require a couple of little extra steps to prepare. The first thing I do is grind the coffee. Because a press uses no paper filter, it is important not to grind the coffee too fine. In fact, the coffee grinds can be quite coarse and still get a good roasted flavor. I usually turn my coffee grinder on for no more than about 10 seconds. I also like to use more coffee than I would with a traditional coffee maker. It’s up to you how strong you like your coffee. Dump the coffee grinds into your French coffee press carafe and some water either on the stove or with a microwave proof container. Since my own French Press holds 8 cups, I usually boil 2-8 cups of water, depending on how much coffee I want to make. Then, while the boiling water is piping hot, pour it into the carafe over the coffee grinds. Gently put the lid on without pushing the rod down. Allow the coffee to steep for about 3-5 minutes then slowly press the rod down to the bottom of the carafe. The Coffee is now ready to pour. When prepared with my Bodum, the coffee is hotter and more flavorful than with the Cuisinart Coffee/Grinder and several of the other coffee makers I own, including the old-fashioned percolator! And I like the idea that the French coffee press is so old-fashioned that it’s simple to use and clean. Just dump the grinds into the sink and wash the carafe and parts and set them in the sink basket to dry.

Cons of the French Press

If a coffee press is so simple to use then you’re probably asking why I would ever use anything else. There are actually three reasons: One: My Bodum Press simply doesn’t make enough coffee for an entire family. Two: The coffee doesn’t stay hot very long as there is no heating element on the bottom. Three: You will have some fine coffee grinds sediments in your cup. I don’t mind this, but others might. The coffee press has its place among my other coffee makers and I use it when I want just one or two cups of the fullest bodied coffee I can get my hands on at home.

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Hose Nozzle

Hose Nozzle
Copper Hose Nozzle

It’s amazing how something as simple as a hose nozzle can cause years of grief before you finally decide to do something about it. Funny thing about the hose nozzles is that we usually need a minimum of two of them for our yard. My current back yard hose is the one that has suffered through more lousy nozzles than I care to remember. The good one always ends up in the front yard for washing cars because that is where it seems to be needed the most. The other nozzles usually end up in the trash after a year or two for the following reasons:

  • gets more water on you than the plants or car you’re watering
  • fails to deliver a fine enough or wide enough spray over time
  • is cracked and mechanically broken
  • is troublesome and awkward to use

So, why has the one in my front yard lasted so long? More on that later. But for now, let’s admit this much:
We’ve all suffered through bad hose nozzles with one or all of the above symptoms, and we invariably end up going back to the store and spending between $5 and $25.00 for new ones and keep repeating the same mistakes. There has got to be a better way.

Bon-Aire Hose Nozzle

Bon-Aire Hose Nozzle
Bon Aire Hose Nozzle

This is what got me to talking about Hose Nozzles in the first place. I was at the Denver Home and Garden show just two weekends ago when I walked past a booth where a very excited salesman was talking about the amazing Bon-Aire Hose Nozzle – made from Aircraft Aluminum; rugged, durable and unbreakable. The salesman also made a very impressive demonstration of the jet-stream power and the way the Bon-Aire adjusted from various levels of spray. He dropped the Bon-Aire on the hard floor to show how durable it was. I was impressed and decided to look into these for my next back yard nozzle. The Bon-Aire nozzle did indeed get some pretty impressive reviews. Amazon users of the Bon-Aire “ultimate” nozzle rated it an average of 4.5 stars. Only a couple of things bothered me: One, a few users said it stopped working after 1-2 years. Some even mentioned that the product was no longer made in America and appeared to be made with cheaper materials. My verdict is that the Bon-Aire is indeed a high-performing water nozzle, but the commentary from users made me very doubtful that it would live up to the expectations of my front yard hose. Now it’s time to confess what I have in the front yard:

A Better Nozzle

Grandpa’s Old Copper Nozzle is Still the Best

Believe it or not, I have been using a hose nozzle passed down from my grandfather 17 years ago. There is no telling how long he has had it since I inherited it after he passed away in 1994. This old, 4″ long copper nozzle has been abused, dropped, thrown around and performed flawlessly for at least 25 years. I’ve replaced a couple of washers in it, but that’s all it has ever needed to continue offering me drip-free, high-pressure, variable water spraying performance in the 17 years that I’ve owned it. Much of today’s sprayers, such as the Task Force Pressure Washer, use too many parts and are therefore likely to break overtime. This good old fashioned copper nozzle is made only from two pieces of copper and a washer. For performance, I might try one of the Bon-Aire nozzles, but I won’t hesitate to add another one of these life-long lasting copper Hose Nozzles that I got from my Grandpa to the backyard hose.

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