Long, blisteringly hot summer days have been the silver lining for those farmers who, along with more conventional crops, harvest the sun for energy. But city slickers who invest in solar-powered products can also profit from long stretches of sun-soaked days.
Outdoor solar lights have become increasingly popular over the past few years. A new entry is a cute and clever solar LED unit from Paradise Lighting.
Shaped like a conventional incandescent bulb and made out of durable plastic, it has a coated string to turn it on and off. There’s also a clip that can be easily attached, for example, to the belt loop of a little person making his or her way to a campground privy after dark.
The possibilities for these bulbs, which take AA batteries, are endless. At the cottage, we hung several on branches gathered in an old milk can — an eco-friendly way to provide soft lighting at the dock after dark. I also keep one by a sunny window to use in case of power failure.
Regular readers will recall that I was enthusiastic about these bulbs earlier in the season. At the time, however, they were only available through Camping World, a U.S. website that, as it turns out, charges Canadian consumers exorbitant shipping and handling fees. Someone at Home Depot must have a good eye for great product, because the lights are now available in packs of four for $35 through homedepot. Shipping to my north Toronto home would be about $5.
Many farmers in parts of Ontario and farther east would have been happy to see the sun dip behind the clouds and give way more often to rainy skies over the past few months. The extreme dryness has not good news for those who grow corn and grains, and it has compounded the effect of a late frost, which put a serious dent in such crops as pears, peaches and plums.
Consumers can still take advantage of the harvest by pickling, canning and preserving. Plenty of information, along with recipes, can be found at the website for Bernadin, a well-known maker of canning supplies available at food retailers. There are also good tips for buying and storing fruits and vegetables.
Williams-Sonoma also has an extensive selection of home-canning and preserving supplies. Sets of four basic, metal-topped Kilner jars start at about $29. There are also jars with such phrases as “Perfectly Pickled,” “Delicious Jam” and “Home-grown Herbs” printed on them. You’ll also find extensive canning and pickling information on the site.
Another upside to hot dry weather has been the slow growth of grass. Still, many find even infrequent mowing of grass to be a bore. For them, there’s the Husqvarna robotic Automower — an energy-efficient, electronic mower that its makers say uses less energy than any conventional mower, which makes it cost-effective to run — once you get past the price tag of $2,900, that is.
I tried one recently in my own back yard and loved how quietly it tootled around, cutting the grass in a random pattern, and watched in disbelief when, after it had run out of juice, it skittled back to its charging station, where it sat for about 45 minutes before restarting. It runs for about the same amount of time on one charge. It took about four hours to get the job done from start to finish. A pin code for the starter discourages theft.