Miracle Worker

Miracle Worker

You must have noticed that the cooler weather and recent rain has really slowed down gardening chores—that is other than trying to keep up with the constant deluge of fallen leaves. With extra time available, LaVille and I have resumed going to estate sales. Last Friday we went to a sale where I was able to purchase 5 pruners and 2 cans of spray paint for $2.

One of the pruners was really encrusted with rust as you can see below. I couldn’t wait to work the magic of a vinegar bath. I know this is old news for those of you who read the “Fun For 3 Dollars” blog from earlier this year, but I just couldn’t resist a repeat performance.

I used the old vinegar that is now stained a dark reddish brown and submerged the pruner for a day. You can see how the rust is now gone and has been replaced by a thin black coating. This is some kind of oxide that I have not been able to identify, but it serves as a barrier against future rust formation. Even if this layer is easy to remove with fine steel wool, it is best to leave it alone.  

Metal pruning shears.

Stan, The Miracle Man


This Rake’s For You!

I don’t know if you remember, but several times I have emphasized the importance buying tools that are as light as possible—as long as it doesn’t affect the quality or effectiveness of the tool.  This would apply particularly to shovels and brooms.  This fact was brought to mind when I recently received a birthday gift from one of my sons.  This shovel arrived in a box from Lowes that was so mangled and mashed, that you wouldn’t think anything inside could have survived, but survived it did.  Now, this 48 inch Cobalt steel digging shovel is really substantial—no wonder it survived.  The handle is steel and the step flange is wide which is advertised to not hurt your foot (like I’m going to be out digging barefoot or in flipflops—come on!).  Anyway, the point is that this shovel is heavy.  Every time I heft the shovel, I am lifting the weight of the shovel as well as its load—wasted energy.  This shovel is so substantial that it comes with a lifetime warrantee.  If I didn’t know this son better, I would suspect that he has sights on this tool in the end, if you know what I mean.  In the meantime, the shovel is awaiting a significant sharpening as the shovel blade is really thick.

 Boy!  When I digress, I don’t go halfway.  I am trying the make the point that several tools are better when they are light.  This is particularly true with leaf rakes, which you use by constantly swinging them back and forth.  I am in love (not really) with a rake I found at a garage sale.  It is the Blue Hawk 24 inch leaf rake.  The Blue Hawk series of products are entry level tools from Lowes.  The handle is made of light wood.  The rake head is light plastic, and only the tines are metal.  I found by accident that you can actually improve this rake.  One day I was too lazy to pick up the rake from the lawn and thought I could pass over it without harm.  The mower ripped off 4 of the tines on one side.  (I never did find the tines.)  I used this lopsided rake for many months until I came up with the idea of removing 4 tines from the other side by sawing through the plastic head.  Now, through serendipity (stupidity) I have a long handled, narrow headed rake with long tines that is able to remove leaves from tight confines.  Since then, I was able to buy another Blue Hawk at another garage sale, so I have a full-size rake as well.  So, my suggestion to you is that, if you need a rake, go to Lowes and pick up one of these light-weight beauties for about $10.  Then, if you want to improve your raking capability, buy a second one and cut off tines from each side.  You can skip the mower part.

            Happy raking! Stan The Tool Man

Garage Sale Tips

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I did some serious garage sale-ing the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  I landed my best find ever and I am once again a dedicated treasure hunter.  I bought an unused irrigation timer for $5.  Value on Amazon–$230.  I had to buy the same timer 2 years ago when an old one quit.  Now I have a spare for the next failure.  LaVille told me not to lead club members into thinking that this is a typical experience.  But I would like at least to suggest that you give garage sale-ing a try if you never have.  Here’s how you get started:

            Step 1:  Google “craigslist Sacramento.”  You will see a huge field of categories.  In the “search craigslist” box type in your city and then “garage sales.”  Here is your list of upcoming sales.  Often there are pictures accompanying the ad.  You will likely also see a listing of estate sales.  Estate sales are also listed on line at estatesales.net.  Estate sales are often interesting in that you generally wander through a house a get a glimpse into the lives of the previous occupants.  The garage generally holds the gardening tools and the gardening chemicals like fertilizer you are seeking, but don’t forget to check out the back yard.  Occasionally overlooked items can be found out there.  Often a company is running the sale, and they have to make their profit, so prices are higher than at regular garage sales.  You can expect to buy an item between 10% and 25% of retail at a garage sale.  Estate sale prices tend to hover around 30% to 40%.  Whereas the higher price may turn you off, you may find a unique item that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.  Moving sales are generally good because people often have to get rid of a great number of items and it’s often not just junk common to a lot of sales.  Another source of garage sales is your local paper.  I check out the classified section of the Davis Enterprise and frankly give those ads more credence than craigslist ads because the sale will likely be of a more serious nature since they had to pay for the ad—either that or they are computer illiterate.

            Step 2:  Make judgments about the sales.  You want to go to most promising sales first.  Ideally you would first visit homes in the better part of the city.  You want to deal with people who are more interested in getting rid of good quality stuff instead of just making money off of junk.

            Step 3:  Plan your driving path Friday night.  Pay close attention to the sale starting times.  They can vary tremendously, but most sales start at 8:00 A.M. 

            Step 4:  On Saturday (and sometimes other days) get up early.  Be the “early bird.”  It’s really depressing to see an item that you really wanted in the hands of someone else.  Check for late listings just before you leave the house.  Some sellers put in their ad at the very last minute.  Now estate sales are generally so well attended that you will find a line of 25 people standing at the front door when you arrive.  Sometimes the organizers will have you sign up on a list when you arrive, and they will restrict how many people can enter at one time.  This can use up valuable garage sale-ing time on a Saturday, so visit estate sales on Thursdays or Fridays.  You know, sometimes people get in a squabble.  It’s entertaining if you’re not participating.

            Now a few miscellaneous things:  Carry a wad of 1 dollar bills and a few quarters.  When you approach the sales person with something in your hand to buy, if no price is on the item, your question is, “How much are you asking for this?”.  When they respond, you say, “Would you take so and so?”  Generally they will agree because most people realize that bargaining is a part of the process.  If the item you want has a price tag on it, simply ask if they would take a certain lesser amount.        Occasionally, you will find a child who is selling lemonade and cookies at a sale.  If he or she is asking 50 cents, ask if you can have one for 25 cents.  Kids need to learn early that small business is a tough go, and that 70% of new small businesses fail.  I’m kidding . . . I’m kidding!  I generally buy from kids.  Besides, your generosity might get you a better deal on an item in the garage sale.  Now this bargaining process I’ve described will vary a lot depending on how reasonable the original price is, and also with your relationship with the sales person.  Some people are just so nice, that you don’t feel like quibbling over a couple bucks.  You will often get a better deal on items if you bundle them.  If you approach the seller with several items, you’ll generally get a much lower per item price.  Here is another thing I have found:  Most of the people selling things at garage sales are really nice people, and I find it a really enjoyable experience meeting these folks that I would never otherwise encounter.  Garage sales require a lot of work to put on, the monetary rewards are meager, and afterwards you have to deal with all the unwanted stuff that remains.  I often thank sellers for holding a garage sale when I leave.

There you have it . . . my attempt to interest you in the hobby of garage sale-ing.  I hope you will give it a try.  As per any endeavor, the hardest part is getting started.  Once you make it out of bed, the rest is easy and can be very rewarding.

Stan, The Blog Man