March 30, 2014

(Dubious) Tools of the Trade

If, as T.S. Eliot wrote, April is the cruelest month, then the first half of April is, hands down, the rottenest fifteen days of the year.  It is spring, or at least the calendar says it’s spring.  The days are lengthening and we’ve turned the clocks ahead.  I’ve put away my heaviest winter coat.

What I’m not doing is gardening.  The lawn squishes if I walk on it.  There is still a three-foot-high bank of snow and ice along the driveway.  The soil temperature is about 35 degrees and there’s ice three inches down.  It may be spring somewhere, but certainly not in New England.

Scare away unwanted wildlife with
this coyote decoy!
Unable to plant anything, I am reduced to poring over the mound of gardening catalogs that arrive in a daily avalanche.  I suspect the people who write these catalogs realize that we are grasping at straws because the items for sale on these pages are unlike what you’ll find at your favorite nursery or garden center.  For example:

·         How about a lifelike, 37-inch-long coyote decoy made of resin?  According to the catalog, it unfolds and sets up in seconds, then assumes a realistic shape that changes position in the breeze.  It even has a furry tail.  It’s designed to repel Canada geese, rabbits, skunks and ducks and is only $64.99 plus shipping.

Too many apples on your lawn?
Use the pickup wizard!
·         Or, how about a pickup wizard?  You’ve seen them on tennis courts: gizmos with a wire mesh that you plunk down on tennis balls.  Well, someone has adapted the principle to nuts, fruits, pine cones and other stuff that collects on your lawn.  You roll it around outdoors and watch the cage fill up with nature’s detritus.  There’s one size for acorns and hickory nuts for $52.99 and another for apples and walnuts in their husks for $61.99.

This scarecrow sprinkler shoots a blast
of water up to 35 feet!
·         Do you have a problem with unwanted felines in your flower beds?  Well, for $59.99 you can get a motion-activated device that emits a sudden burst of ultrasonic sound that startles cats and teaches them to stay away.  It covers an area of about 280 square feet which, if I remember my geometry correctly, means an interloper has to come within 9.4 feet of the sensor.  For another ten dollars, though, you can get a motion-activated sprinkler that releases a blast of cold water at intruders, and it promises to be effective out to 35 feet.  The catalog photo shows a dog running away in fear, though most of the canines of my acquaintance would think such a device was the most wonderful thing humans had ever invented.

Never need to de-glove to use a
smartphone again with these
touch-sensitive garden gloves!
·         Are you expecting an urgent email while you garden?  Do you feel the desire to Instagram while you weed?  Are you unable to leave Angry Birds alone long enough to deadhead?  Then you need a very specific set of gloves; one that has a special texture that allows you to use a touchscreen device without taking off your gloves.  Amazingly, the gloves are just $6.99.

A potting bench, "re-purposed" from
a German biergarten!
·         Then there are the gardening implements that are useful, but at a price that seems to defy logic.  For example, how much is a fold-away potting bench worth?  The purpose of such a bench is to facilitate putting plants and dirt into pots (and vice-versa).  Betty puts together 50-plus containers each year by throwing a sheet of leftover plywood over our garden cart.  Cost:  zero.  But what if the bench has been crafted from a salvaged German biergarten table?  And what if it further uses reclaimed wood for eco-friendliness?  Including shipping, would you pay a nickel short of $760?  That’s the asking price.

Your very own electric leaf
·         In my humble opinion, the prize for the most useless garden tool may go to a portable electric leaf shredder.  It weighs 17 pounds and is powered by an electric motor.  You pour in leaves at the top and a string trimmer inside a plastic tub chops up the leaves which can then be bagged or spread as mulch.  It is not that I have anything against shredding leaves and using them as mulch; each fall we cover our perennial beds with finely-chopped leaves.  My astonishment is that someone would pay $209.99 for a device that performs exactly the same task – and without the raking – as a bagging lawnmower.

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