These are my product, plant and animal recommendations. Things you can buy that I have found to be worth the money.

Best Garden Shoes Ever: Sloggers

I just love these new garden clogs I got! They are made in America, waterproof, deeply treaded and have a removable insert that helps them dry out faster.

My pair of Sloggers is the ‘shoe’ version. Sloggers version of a ‘clog’ is a mule with a back-less design that wouldn’t work for the muddy conditions I am usually in. This regular shoe version keeps the entire foot out of seeping water, yet doesn’t create the sweaty conditions of a rubber boot. This shoe version offers a ‘heel bumper’ that makes it easy to pry off a muddy pair hands-free. Sloggers also sell rain boots…and based on how much I enjoy their shoes I should probably buy a pair.

The removable insert is a great innovation on several fronts. First of all, being able to remove the insert at all means the shoe will dry out much faster between uses and can even get the germ-killing benefits of sunlight. In addition, Slogger offers a ‘half size’ insert that allows you to adjust your shoe size down a half-step. They also offer two different kinds of inserts for men and women to better fit the type of Slogger you’ve purchased, plus being able to purchase replacements is a huge benefit!

The deep treading got a road test after a heavy snow here in the subdivision. Despite a thick layer of ice under the snow, and the snow being deep enough to almost drop into the shoe, there was no slipping on the way to collect eggs. The clay and mud at my greenhouse is very difficult to navigate, and I can’t help wondering if I would have avoided slipping in clay (and breaking my leg) if I had been wearing these instead of an old pair of tennis shoes with worn-slick soles.

Not only are they water-proof rubber shoes, they are also translucent! In the full sun it seems my shoes sparkle like jewels. It adds a little bit of sparkle and delight to my time at the greenhouse. The pattern is under a thick overlay of clear rubber which protects the design and augments the jewel-like effect. So far the junction where this overlay merges with the thick protective sole shows no sign of separation or wear.

Lastly, these are made in the good ‘ole USA! How often do you hear that? In fact, the company began in California in 1948 with the ‘Drizzle Boot’. Remember those? Women wore these little plastic boots over their high heels on rainy days. Women sure looked posh in those days, but I much prefer the comfort of these Sloggers to the decades I spent in heels trying to side-step puddles and still get to work on time. Anyway, the company introduced Sloggers in 1997 and can make up to 4,000 pairs a day in their California plant. It’s fun to own something made here in the states.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

HUNTER Rubber Boots: An Honest Review

Let’s cut to the chase, $100 rubber boots are an incredible extravagance. As you can see, my boots are still in pristine condition because I haven’t had the guts to wear them to the farm yet.

The rubber of the Hunter Boot is soft and buttery, much more flexible than my other pairs of rubber boots. I chose the matte “Military Red” instead of “Red”, “Hunter Red” or “Red Gloss”. The closest thing I can compare it to color-wise is the plastic lid on a 2020 jar of cashews from Costco, if that serves you. I was concerned that the other three reds would be too bright, but now I wish I had kicked it up a notch! “Red” really lights my fire, “Hunter Red” is my favorite shade and “Red Gloss” would certainly turn heads, though I’m not sure how well the gloss finish would hold up to farm use.

My mistake was ordering the “Tall” version. I have large calves and boots are often a struggle because of this. HUNTER labels their mid-calf boots as “short” boots which is confusing because their truly short ankle boots are also labeled short. I obviously should have spent more time figuring this out. You can see in this photo that my right boot looks almost normal, but the left boot has an awkward bulge around the ankle. My right calf is still small from months of being in a cast, but my left calf is too large for the narrow opening and is pushing the boot down. Particularly bad because that is one of the common break points on my rubber boots from the rubber constantly flexing back and forth. I probably would have been better off with the “Original Short” in “Red Gloss”.

Those are all fit issues that you may not have. I can say that I had only seen a few women wear Hunters in America. All I knew was that HUNTER rubber boots were revered and they had been around for over 100 years.

Having my own became my 2020 Mother’s Day wish. When I unwrapped them I learned a lot about the company. HUNTER was founded in 1856, and they hold a British Royal Warrant as a supplier of Waterproof footwear to the Queen and her husband. They are obviously proud of that fact, but as Americans it’s hard to appreciate what a big deal a rubber boot is in Britain.

I had red rubber boots as a little kid and then went 20 years without even trying on a pair until I moved to England in 2008. In England, if you like the outdoors you will constantly have wet feet if you don’t own a pair of rubbers! Got your attention? In England rubber boots are called ‘rubbers’ or ‘wellies’….I had to work so hard with my pre-school children to get them to say ‘wellies’ only. I knew we were eventually moving back to the U.S. and didn’t want them embarrassing themselves or us. My absolute favorite pair is regular black with a cloth collar. I would wear them on one-mile walks through the woods. I have finally worn them to the point they leak, but they fit so well I leave them at the Greenhouse as a back-up pair. I bought them in England and don’t think I’ll ever find a pair just the same. A girl can dream though!

This grey pair also has a place on my shelf because they are attractive and affordable enough that I have had the guts to wear them. Even though it has a non-functioning zipper which is a shameful piece of dishonesty, it is a very practical color with a little style thrown in for free.

You can see that they are 2″ shorter than the HUNTER boots, so not actually a mid-calf, but not so long that they bunch up around the ankle. They also have a back seam-cover that is only 3/4″ while the HUNTER boot has a 1-3/4″ seam-cover.

It sports something practical the HUNTER doesn’t have though. The grey pair have pull off bumpers at the heels save you the trouble of finding a boot jack to pry off your clay-covered boots. In the above photo you can see the bumper to the left of the Watermark. Below you can see how the bumper makes removing your boots so much easier. However, the greys don’t have near the tread that the HUNTERs do.

All in all, a pair of HUNTERS is a chance to own a British status symbol…which makes it a great gift for a budding homesteader! Just be aware of some of the fit issues. If you choose to go with a less expensive rubber boot, consider how the pattern and finish will ‘patina’ with real use. Boots that have designs printed on the outside might wear off oddly and gloss may scuff oddly. Choosing a pair with the design under the clear rubber protects the design and creates a bit of a ‘jewel’ appearance on your feet. Like my cute garden clogs.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Recommended Reference Books for Small-Scale Farming

The following reviews are books from my own personal library that I’ve collected over the years in a quest to Prepare for Abundance. This article covers the best reference books for the small farm that I have read yet. Some perfect for gifting to a homesteader, but too overwhelming to help persuade a reluctant spouse. Books are listed in order of preference, with the first book being my favorite of the grouping and so on. This is just my opinion to serve my particular purpose, so I give enough honest feedback about the book that you might find that my last listed book is just exactly what you have been looking for.

Sample Illustration from The Permaculture Handbook.

The Permaculture Handbook
One of the foundation books you need in your library to get motivated and inspired to begin your small farm adventure. This fantastic 400-page work comes recommended by Mother Earth News and is attractive enough to give as a gift and well-edited enough to keep the most easily distracted of us engaged for page after page. The two columns that explain the value of pigeons are a perfect example of why you want to own this book. In just two columns I am inspired, informed and encouraged that their are other ways to have modern conveniences without the modern price tag.

Although filled with drawings and photographs, this is no picture book. The cover photo is the only staged and picturesque photo you will find. That is no problem if you are already excited or curious about building a small farm. I mention this to warn you away from letting a hesitant spouse thumb through the book. The ideas contained inside can quickly overwhelm the uninitiated. The photos would be very discouraging to my city-dweller spouse who doesn’t want to live in a constant construction zone. Great book that I highly recommend, but I also recommend you hide it from anyone who might discourage you from your dream.

The idea of ‘Garden Farming’ is referenced and explored again and again even though the actual book title touts ‘Permaculture’. Garden Farming is a an idea we can easily get behind because it’s accessible to most anyone with a yard or access to someone else’s yard. It’s attraction is highlighted when we read that this hobby farm idea saved the Russian people from starvation when the Soviet Union collapsed. Now those little hobby farms provide, “50% of the countries vegetables, fruits and dairy on 7% of the land.” (pg.3) Now that shows the great potential of a concept that is incredibly easy to start.

Permaculture embraces most every concept I agree with. The only permaculture concept I don’t embrace is a heavy reliance on trees and shrubs. A reliance on trees and shrubs can quickly become a discouragement for the beginner because there is such a time lag between planting and fruit that the ‘delayed gratification’ can cause beginners to give up on the entire concept. The second issue with relying heavily on trees and shrubs is related: recovering from any sort of setback can take several years. Say an ice storm destroys your entire orchard or a disease kills not only your whole stand of fruit trees, but contaminates the ground so that you can’t plant the same type of fruit back again. My childhood failures with grapes, pears, apples and peaches may be clouding my vision on this one issue though. As long as their isn’t a purist insistence on trees and shrubs as an essential element of farm design, Permaculture is a fantastic concept. It can become an obsession just like homesteading, but understanding the concepts as you design out your own little farm or backyard garden can make expanding your project so much easier down the line because you will know as you design where to leave blank space for the big innovation you have planned for 5-10 years down the line.

Sample illustration inside Encyclopedia of Country Living

Encyclopedia of Country Living
Now going on 50 years in print, this book is a classic. Much like the encyclopedias of our childhoods, it provides good insights into a wide range of concepts. With over 900 pages of entries, this can be seen as a ‘box of chocolates’ where you sit down and zip through an endless parade of ideas and concepts. It is a primer that can get your thought process going if you are still trying to decide what interests you in the realm of making your own abundance. As proof of the far-ranging concepts; inside you will find how to sharpen an axe and how to deliver a baby. How to build a barn and how to grow your own coffee.

Sample Illustration inside Country Wisdom and Know-How

Country Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Live Off the Land
The danger with these encyclopedias is that they can quickly become ‘Jack of All Trades, Master of None’. With that said, my 2004 edition is an ambitious work that embraces many of the recreational aspects of Country Living like feeding birds and making candy along with some advice that would seem at home in a preppers book. The font is small, maybe 10 or 9 and three columns are spread across 13.5″ x 10.5″ pages that feel a little bit like a small newspaper. These aspects make it a very impressive gift item though. Just the sort of thing you share with someone who has begun gardening or chicken-keeping. The kind of book you really shouldn’t read before bed because you will be unable to sleep…you will be too excited about the possibilities.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.