Category Archives: Reviews

The Benefits of Growing a Vertical Garden

Before using the Greenstalk Vertical Grow System, I always believed the best way to garden was either directly in the ground or in raised beds. I never considered using any kind of vertical system. My reasons were varied. However, my greatest concern was crowding. I assumed that cramming too much into one space would certainly cause disease problems. Without proper circulation, I was just asking for trouble.

I was wrong

Since using a vertical grow system, I must say I ‘m convinced this is a great addition to my traditional gardening methods. I’m not advocating abandoning your raised beds or traditional in-the-ground garden. But I do suggest you give vertical gardening a try.

vertical garden

Greenstalk Vertical grow system

Benefits of growing vertically

Air Circulation

One reason I resisted vertical gardening in a tower was air circulation. I thought putting too many plants together in one area would not allow proper air to flow around them. As it turns out, circulation is actually improved as each section is far enough away from the others so it’s not a problem. And the fact it is elevated actually helps with air flow underneath the unit.

Continue reading

Recommended Reading

It’s raining today and the forecast is for a lot more of it the next few days. I decided to pull a few books off the shelf to flip through and gain inspiration. I’ve mentioned before that I have 4 huge bookshelves full of gardening, survival and homesteading books, so the task was daunting. What do I read?
After staring for 15 minutes wondering what to pick, I decided to pull three of my favorites, ones that I thought I could share with my readers.

#1 The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips

holistic_orchard

 

Great instructional book for the small grower. In The Holistic Orchard, Michael Phillips shows you how to adapt to nature rather than try to change it.

His healthy, holistic approach to maintaining an orchard is a refreshing change from the standard teachings of modern orchardists.

#2 Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza

lasagna_gardening

 

Lasagna gardening is a no till, little work way to generated compost by layering. No turning or taking your soils’ temperature. Just stack your browns and greens alternating between each. Let it sit for a few months and then plant. Gardening can’t get any simpler that this.

 

#3 Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman

four_season

 

Four Season Harvest is all about growing year round. This book has been the standard for so many people wanting to grow food for their families all year long.

Harbor Freight 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit Review

This is my first impressions of the Harbor Freight 45 watt Solar Kit. I needed a simple, yet inexpensive kit to test the waters. This system is very basic and should be a fun project.

Here is the kit

Instapark 10 watt Portable Solar Charger

I have found another great solar charger. I’ve been using this one for about a year now and I’m thoroughly impressed with it. This charger is my go-to now when I need instant portable solar energy

Dorcy Metal Gear XL-M Extreme LED Flashlight Review

Enerplex Jumpr Slate 5K Emergency Power Bank

The more I use this device, the more I fall in love with it.
It’s very thin, lightweight and durable.

Included in the Box:
Kickr Slate 5k Power Bank
USB to Micro USB cable
Instruction manual

First out of the box, you can’t help but notice how well thought out this design is.  The holes along the side will allow you to attach it to either a binder or carabiner. Anywhere you carry this, because of its design, you probably will forget you even have it with you.

Jumpr_SlateThe biggest plus that sets this device apart from all the others, is the built in micro SD cable. No need to carry (and lose) you own cable.

Specs:
1 – USB output port 5,100 mAH/2.4 amp
1 – Micro USB input for charging the device
9.8 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
12.5 ounces


My criteria when looking for emergency power is:

1. Charging my Galaxy S3
2. Charging my Black Diamond Rechargeable Headlamp
3. Being able to have reserve power from a power bank.

#1 Charging the Jumpr Slate

Charge Time:

I plugged the Jumpr into a wall socket to charge. Surprisingly it only took about 4 1/2 hours to fully charge.

#2 Charging the Black Diamond Headlamp

I ran the headlamp down to 0%, plugged it into the Jumpr. It fully charged in about 6 hours (the Black Diamond is notorious for slow charging so disregard the time).

#3 Charging the Galaxy S3

Without recharging the Jumpr SLate, I then plugged in my S3 after running it down to 10%. It brought the S3 up to 92%.

The Jumpr Slate 5K was able to charge the Headlamp fully and the S3 to 92% all from one charge of the Jumor.

Charging my Samsung Tab 7

I decided to see how well it did with charging my tablet. I ran the tablet down to 10%. I was able to charge it up to 90%.

Final Analysis

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Enerplex Jumpr Slate 5K Power Bank. If you’re looking for a lightweight, thin and dependable power supply, then look no further.

Pro

Small, thin and lightweight.
Plenty of power (5,000 mAH, 2.4 Amp out)
Holes along the side to secure it.
Built-in micro SD cable

Con

Plastic packaging

Ascent Solar Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger Review

My continued quest to maintain independence during grid failure.

I’ve been in dozens of situations that make me uneasy. The last one being a five day outage at home due to a wind storm in Southern Oregon. From then on, I’ve been on a quest to provide my family with uninterrupted power when (not if) the grid goes down again.

For the last few years, I’ve reviewed multiple portable solar devices, however I only recommend ones that I deem worthy of our attention.

The Ascent Solar Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger is one of those devices.

Although I believe my demands are not too unreasonable, there are a few requirements that need to be met.

#1. I need a solar charger that will keep my Galaxy S3 cell phone completely juiced during the duration of the outage.
#2. I need enough power to keep my Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp fully charged.
#3. I would like to have a fully charged external power pack like the Jumpr Slate Power Bank

The Ascent Solar Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger Specs.

Kickr-IV

Product Dimensions:
Unfolded: 774mm(30.5″)/185mm(7.3″)/2mm(0.08) Folded: 225mm(8.8″)/185mm(7.3″)/2mm(0.08″)

 

Power:
6.5 Watts Unregulated/6.0 Watt, 5 Volt System Regulated

Solar Cell Type: CIGS

Output:
1.2 Amps (USB Port)

The built in USB Port will give you 1.2 amps of charging power. Although this will not be enough to charge an iPad or the Galaxy note 10, it’s certainly enough to charge most widely available portable power packs.

Charging my Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung S3

The first test was my cell phone.
I awoke at 7am, (in Alaska that’s late)
I let the phone run down to 10%, set the solar charger in full sun and plugged it in.

Total Charge Time:
Phone turned off – 2 hours 15 mins
Phone turned on – 3 hours 45 mins.

 

 

 
Charging the Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp

Revolt Headlamp

Next, I ran my headlamp down to about 10-20%. Plugged it into the solar charger in full sun.

Total Charge Time:
3 hours 20 mins

 

 

 

Charging the Jumpr Slate 5k

Jumpr Slate 5k

With about 25% juice left in the power bank, I plugged it into the solar charger under full sun.

Total Charge Time:
6 hours 10 mins

 

As you can see, I was able to charge all three devices in one full day. We do however have longer summer daylight here in Alaska. But if you’re in an area that can give you 11 hours of daylight, you should have the same results.


Pros:

Comes in recyclable packaging
Faster charging than other solar chargers I’ve tested in it’s price range and size
Foldable and lightweight, great for carry.
Grommets to secure while unattended or for hanging.
Able to charge multiple power banks

Cons:
Has trouble putting out a charge under low light conditions, like dawn, dusk and cloudy days.
USB port too close to the pad making it difficult to slide the cable in and out.

Final analysis
The fact that I’m able to charge multiple power banks, makes me glad to own this charger. For its size, it packs a wallop, folds nicely into a backpack, is lightweight and durable.

If you’re looking for a powerful portable solar charger for backpacking, camping or piece of mind when the grid goes down, you should take a serious look at the Ascent Solar Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger

GYH Rating 4.5/5 stars

4.5

 

 

 

Disclaimer:
While Ascent Solar sent me the product for review, The opinions on this charger are based on my own honest experiences and reflect my personal use of the product.

Ultrafire Cree XML T6 2000 Lumens Flashlight Review

If you’ve ever been in a power outage, I’ll bet the first thing you did was run to kitchen to grab the candles and matches. Because, I know that running to the nightstand for the flashlight is futile since it isn’t there. Who knows where it ended up. Besides, the last time I used it I had to shake it continuously just to make the contacts work enough to see little flickers of light out of it. Piece of junk. Candle will never fail you, except they burn down, smell horribly and make you stay up worrying about when the wick burns down will the house (and me) still be here in the morning.

Worry no more

The Ultrafire Cree XML T6 2000 Lumen Flashlight is perfect for emergencies.

It is powered by 3 AAA batteries or the 3.7 volt rechargeable 18650 battery.
There are 5 modes. Low, medium, high, strobe and SOS.
The casing is made of steel with a raised surface for easy grip.
Battery time on the AAA is about 1.5 hours of intermittent use.

I’ve also been told this flashlight can be mounted as a tactical light.
After field testing, my initial analysis is that I would guess the output to be somewhere around 800 lumens.
It is still the brightest mini flashlight I now own.

If you’re looking for a great flashlight for camping, hiking, survival or just general use, you will be happy with The Ultrafire Cree XML T6 2000 Lumen Flashlight.
For the money, it can’t be beat.

Lifetime 80 Gallon Compost Tumbler First Impressions

My first impressions of the Lifetime 80 Gallon Compost Tumbler.

This is a great size tumbler for anyone that generates a small amount of kitchen and yard waste. I filled this in about 4 weeks. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables so it held quite a bit of waste.

I bought mine HERE!

 

My New Toy Lifetime 80 Gallon Compost Tumbler

Well, I went and did it. I finally bought a compost tumbler. After years of fighting the racoons and bears I decided to break down. Stay tuned for videos of me filling it and explaining how I compost.
If you would like to purchase one, I recommend here:
Lifetime 80 Gallon Compost Tumbler