Mother Earth Gardener

Summer 2018 Mercantile: Wheel Hoe, Water Bath Canner, Hand-Forged Tools, and More

By Staff

 Make gardening a little easier with these helpful tool suggestions from our editors

Summer 2018 
By the Heirloom Gardener Editors

When summer crops start coming in, our staff likes to put up the harvest. Editor Rebecca Martin is especially impressed with the versatile Ball® 21-quart freshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner + Multi-Cooker, in part because she can easily plug it into an outdoor electrical outlet and keep her kitchen comfortable and dry on hot days.

This unit is for water bath canning — preserving jams, jellies, pickles, and other high-acid foods. To set up, simply fill the basin with water, set it on top of the detachable base, plug in the base, and turn the dial to the “Canning” setting. The canner’s tempered glass lid lets you see when the water has come to a rolling boil. Eight pint jars or seven quart jars fit comfortably inside the pot.

When you’ve finished canning, you can use the exterior spigot to empty the hot water without having to hoist the entire canner. The spout also allows the canner to double as a beverage urn for dispensing hot beverages. Plus, the multipurpose pot can also be used to cook soups and stews, or to steam vegetables and seafood with the included steaming rack. The detachable base even nests inside the pot for easy storage.

$105.28 from


Editor Russell Mullin was first introduced to Opinel knives while volunteering on organic farms in France. “The host at every farm I went to, without fail, gave me an Opinel knife to keep in my pocket for harvesting, cutting baling twine, slicing apples, or any number of tasks. I liked the knives so much that I bought six to send back home — one for myself and the other five to give to relatives,” he says.

The knife blades are available in either carbon or stainless steel. Carbon steel blades are easy to resharpen, but must be regularly lubricated and stored in a dry place. Stainless steel blades can be cleaned with warm water and soap.

The company also offers knives with unfinished, ready-to-carve handles in olive, cherry, walnut, and boxwood.

Starting at $10.00 from Opinel (


Will Dobkins’ goal is to produce quality tools his blacksmithing great-grandfather would’ve been proud of. Dobkins offers his hand-forged Homestead Iron tools through his homegrown business.

Made in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, every tool is carefully ground by hand to ensure a super-sharp cutting edge. A local manufacturer provides the hickory handles, and Dobkins finishes the tools with beeswax and linseed oil.

Editorial Director Hank Will shares, “Not only are they functional and of the utmost quality, but they’re imbued with the maker’s passion and energy, which is transmitted through the handles every time I use them.”

$23.50 to $39.00 from the Heirloom Gardener Store (

With the goal of eliminating plastics in her family’s kitchen, Sarah Kaeck rediscovered an old tradition: infusing cotton fabric with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. The result is a handy alternative to plastic wrap. Kaeck’s company, Bee’s Wrap, produces a washable, reusable, and compostable food wrap that’s handmade in Bristol, Vermont. The warmth of your hands makes the wrap pliable so it will conform to the food you’re storing within. Used a few times per week, the wrap will last up to a year. When it’s at the end of its useful life, you can compost the organic wrap or cut it into strips to use as a firestarter. The beeswax is sourced from sustainably managed hives in the United States, and the fabric and printing are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard.

Editor Rebecca Martin has used Bee’s Wrap for several years on cheese, vegetables, bread, fruit, and baked goods. “It keeps cheeses and homemade bread fresh for days. It’s so easy to reuse — just wipe it clean or shake off the crumbs, and fold it up in a drawer until you need to use it again.” The Heirloom Gardener store offers a variety of Bee’s Wraps in assorted sizes.

Starting at $11.00 from the Heirloom Gardener Store (

If your farm or garden is too small for a tractor but too big for hand tools alone, the Valley Oak Wheel Hoe has you covered. This versatile tool accepts multiple quick-change attachments, such as a furrower, a cultivator, a hiller, and multiple weeding blade assemblies that range from 5 to 18 inches wide. The ability to switch out attachments without tools is something that editor Russell Mullin appreciates; simply pull out the pin, remove your attachment, and replace with another. “I really like that the Valley Oak wheel hoe uses quick-release pins instead of nuts and bolts for attaching the implements. I don’t have to worry about forgetting my wrench back in the garage if I decide to switch attachments out in the field. You can even adjust the handle height without the need for a wrench, which is handy if you share garden duties with folks of different heights.”

Made in the U.S. for the last 28 years, the Valley Oak wheel hoe is solid and built with longevity in mind. “In a world where planned obsolescence seems to be becoming the norm, it’s refreshing to come across a tool that’s built to last.”

Starting at $285 from Valley Oak Tool Company (

  • Published on May 21, 2018
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