Monday, August 25, 2014

Ames NeverLeak™ Hose Reels: A Review

Since I discovered Ames Tools earlier this year and got to see firsthand how some of them are made and what the company's philosophies are towards their products and their customers, I've become a big fan. I have to tell you when they first contacted me about trying out some of their products, I was hesitant. But I'm very glad I decided to go ahead, because they've become some of my favorite garden tools and products ever. I visited their headquarters in Camp Hill, Penn., in April, one of the products that caught my attention was a hose reel that was actually attractive (as far as hose reels go) and had a guide on it that helped the hose wind up evenly on the reel when you wound it up. I was pretty excited when they sent one to me to try.

The basic info on the Ames Neverleak™ Hose Reel and Cabinet is this:

  • NeverLeak™ aluminum water system, which resists cross threading, stands up to cold temperatures, and is 8X stronger than typical plastic water systems
  • Features the Auto-Track® system that quickly and automatically distributes the hose along the reel during rewinding
  • Holds up to 150' of hose
  • Includes leader hose
  • 20" x 23½" x 21"
  • 2-year warranty

The cabinet is made of metal, painted black, and is heavy enough to stay put when you're reeling in the hose. We have heavy rubber hoses that we use in most locations of our yard and sometimes it feels like I'm wresting big rubber snakes when I'm trying to hang the hoses on a hanger. I just could NOT believe how easily the hose reel wound that thing up.


I also got a chance to try out the Ames NeverLeak™ Poly Wall Mount Hose Reel with Manual Hose Guide.  For comparison, here are its features:

  • Fully assembled design; just take it out of the box and mount to the wall
  • Features Ames NeverLeak® aluminum water system, which resists cross threading, stands up to cold temperatures and is 8 times stronger than typical plastic water systems
  • Includes a manual hose guide to keep hands clean, and accessory tray and easy-spin grip for added convenience
  • Capacity ranges from 50’ to 225' of 5/8" hose
  • 17½" x 23" x 17" 
  • 2-year warranty

The two major differences between the free-standing one and the wall mounted one are that the wall-mounted one isn't entirely enclosed, so it isn't as attractive, and it doesn't have the Auto-Track® system. There's a hose guide, but you have to guide it manually as you reel the hose in.  A  knob on top of the guide makes it easy to hold onto and move back and forth as needed, but the other hose reel is definitely easier. Of course, there's a difference in cost too, with the cabinet style selling for $119 at Lowe's and the wall mount version for $39.98.

Time will tell how they hold up over the years, and though I prefer the cabinet hose reel that I demo'ed in the video, each one does a nice job of reeling the hose in and each is appropriate for the place where we're using it. (Cabinet version, outside. Wall mounted one, inside the garage.) What I really like is that now we don't have to wrestle the hoses to put them away, so we actually PUT THEM AWAY.  :-)

For more information on all the hose reels that Ames has to offer, check their website.

Ames Tools provided me with both hose reels to try out for the purpose of this review. As always, the thoughts expressed here are my own.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Caterpillar

Regardless of what you've been told, the stripes on a woolly bear caterpillar do not predict the severity of an approaching winter, but it may tell you something about the previous winter.  According to Mike Peters, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, "There's evidence that the number of brown hairs has to do with the age of the caterpillar—in other words, how late it got going in the spring. The [band] does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring. The only thing is . . . it's telling you about the previous year."¹

I've seen a few woolly bear caterpillars in the last couple of weeks, and all of them were the usual black and brown - black on each end and brown in the middle. But this little guy was just strolling along at breakneck speed (for a caterpillar) in the garden yesterday, with a vertical stripe of black down his back and brown on the sides.

I believe this one is a great tiger moth a.k.a. garden tiger moth (Arctia caja) caterpillar (please correct me if my identification is incorrect!), which is a different genus and species from the woolly bear (Pyrrharctia isabella) with the stripes going the other way. The adult moth generally lays eggs in July and the caterpillars hatch in August. They will spend the winter on the ground in a protected spot and will pupate the following June and July. The adult moths eclose in July and August.

Adult Garden Tiger Moth, resting
Wikipedia/Marek Szczepanek

Adult Garden Tiger Moth

I can't recall seeing an adult, but the most likely time to see one is at night, since like most moths, it's nocturnal. They're also drawn to lights at night, so the next time I turn the light on outside the back door, I'm going to look closer.

AMAZING FACT:  Some woolly bear caterpillars can survive temperatures as cold as -90°F.  Yep, that's a minus sign.

 ¹The Old Farmer's Almanac

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do Not Disturb! And Other Marital Situations

When you've been married for 39 years like me, you know you'd never make it that long if you didn't learn to practice the art of compromise, right? Some things are worth fussing over and some just aren't.

I have been plotting the demise of some old Omaha Steaks styrofoam cooler boxes that have sat behind our pool house for a couple of years now. That entire area is a sore spot around here because it's an embarrassment to anyone who has to look at it.  Mainly me.

Oh look! The ASPCA actually advocates
using these for guess what?
Cats in winter.
These boxes were repurposed by my husband for use by the kitties in winter.  He cut an opening big enough for them to go into and then put some straw inside and voila! Makeshift kitty condo! Huh.

Granted, they probably kept a couple of kitties warm during winter, but if everyone can't have their own, what about the others? Oh...they already have a custom made wooden condo which my dad was kind to make and it's luxurious enough that everyone gets their own room, so why do we have to have those hillbilly habitats junking up the place? I say they go and hubby says they stay.

You get the picture. But good things come to those who wait...

About a week ago, I was trying to get that eyesore somewhat spiffed up because my friend Diana (of Sharing Nature's Garden) from Austin, Texas, was coming for a visit. I was working after dark by the light of the supermoon and I picked up a pallet and propped it up against the two stacked styrofoam boxes. I announced to my husband that I was going to toss them in the trash in the morning.

The next day, he apparently decided to give up the fight and dispose of them himself, narrowly avoiding a very unpleasant experience in the process. It seems that some yellowjackets (or hornets - we're not sure - they're very similar) had made a nest in one box and were beginning another nest in the other one. I'm going to guess they were asleep when I banged that pallet up against them the night before.

Wasp killer spray took care of the issue.  Yes, I know they're good insects in some respects, but with grandkids around and me already being allergic to bee stings, we just couldn't take the chance of anyone getting stung. But wow...what a beautiful and intricate abode this thing was.  Have a look...

For a great explanation of what's going on here, check this section on Wikipedia.

Look at that stinger!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ball Celebrates International Can-It-Forward Day + A Giveaway!

Last year about this time, I helped Ball and Jarden Home Brands celebrate National Can-It-Forward Day by hosting a giveaway of some of their Limited Edition canning jars. Well, this year the celebration has gone international!  There are all kinds of activities planned to make it a fun day and the giveaway here on my blog is bigger and better than last year!
In a special live event today, Saturday, August 16th, renowned chef and Bravo’s Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson will be on hand in Brooklyn Borough Hall Farmers Market, answering questions in real time as canning demos take place on a live webcast. You can participate here from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm EDT.

And you'll want to, because in addition to getting your questions about canning and preserving answered by Hugh and various demos, they're also giving away some really great prizes. I'd LOVE to win that FreshTECH Jam & Jelly Maker! Someone is going to and I hope it's ME! And if it isn't me, then I hope it's you! ;-)

In addition to the canning demos, there will also be segments on crafting, herb gardening and their new drinkware line. They will also be attempting a Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Mason Jar Mosaic! Twenty-five farmers markets across the country will also be hosting Can-It-Forward Day celebrations.

Now, on to those great Ball products that make up my giveaway. Ball sent each of these things to me to try out and I honestly can't wait. I'm already a fan of Ball and have used their canning jars for my jellies and my pickled red beets for years. They've been providing America with canning supplies for over 100 years and they're a company I trust when it comes to preserving my own produce from the garden.

One reader will win all these things:
  • The New Limited Edition Spring Green Heritage Collection Jars - These limited edition jars commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Ball brothers’ “Perfection” Jar and come in a beautiful green tint. These are being produced only in 2014 and are available in both pint and quart varieties, and you'll get a set of each! (Pint retail value: $9.99 per case / Quart retail value $12.99 per case)


  • Fresh Herb Keeper - Many new to gardening start with herbs as an easy first step. To savor the seasonings, Ball has developed a new product to keep herbs fresh for up to two weeks. (Retail value: $12.99)

  • Dry Herb Jars - A perfect-sized solution for storing your dried herbs. Great for storing seasonings, spices and rubs too! Stackable, low-profile design makes pantry or drawer storage more efficient than old, mis-matched containers. This is a set of four 4-oz. jars with lids and labels. (Retail value: $4.99)

  • Frozen Herb Starters - Preserve your fresh seasonings in ready-to-use cubes filled with butter, oil or other liquid for easy and flavorful meal starters. (Retail value: $11.99)

  • 5-Blade Herb Scissors - Stainless steel blades gently cut and evenly slice herbs like basil, parsley and cilantro. (Retail value: $9.99)

  • Ball Blue Book - Offering 125 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving, this book provides information on equipment, instructions for the preserving method and recipes! (Retail value: $6.49) 

These items have a combined total value of $69.43 and should definitely help you get started with your canning, so here's what you need to do to enter to win:

1. Leave a comment to this blog post by midnight EDT next Friday night, August 21, 2014, telling me what your favorite item from the garden to can is. If you don't already can or preserve anything, just tell me why you want to win this awesome set of canning supplies.

2. Since I need a way for me to contact you should you be the lucky winner, you need to fill that information in on the Rafflecopter form below. Blogger comments do not automatically provide me with your name or your contact information especially if you use "Anonymous" when leaving a comment.  If your comment is randomly chosen and I can't figure out how to contact you, another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you want to follow along on social media as the day's activities are underway, be sure to use the hashtag #canitforward.

You can visit Ball's social media sites here:

Ball and Jarden Home Brands provided me with the above products at no charge for me to try in my own kitchen. No other compensation was given other than these products and as always, any opinions shared here are my own. I won't promote products or services that I don't like or wouldn't use myself, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, I do use them.

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