Homesteading

The Dirt: My favorite work gloves

In this series of posts called “The Dirt”, we highlight some of our favorite homesteading products.  In our first edition, we reviewed our favorite wood splitting tool, the Chopper1 Axe®.  In this edition, we will look at another homesteading essential, the work glove. 

Even as a little kid, I quickly learned the value of a good pair of work gloves.  Be it raking the grass after Dad mowed our 1 acre yard, raking apples from our three huge crab apple trees in our back yard (which I hugely undervalued at the time…wish I had those back!), to splitting wood with my Dad and brothers, nothing was worse than the blisters that I would get in the webbing between my thumb and forefinger if I wasn’t wearing gloves.  Fast forward to some labor jobs that I took over summers during college, and work gloves were not only nice for comfort and avoiding blisters, but they were really important for safety when working around power tools and high energy sources.  Now, I wear gloves almost every time I go to work outside.  Even if it is just for some light gardening, I like the feeling of security and comfort that they provide.

The problem is, I am hard on gloves.  Really hard.  Truth is, most gloves that I have owned are lucky if they last a month or two, and if a glove was durable enough to endure the beating that I put on them, they tended to be bulky, uncomfortable, and useless for jobs that require any kind of tactile feeling in my fingers.  The most common failure point for my gloves is just at the inside tips of my right pointer finger and middle finger.   

Another blow out!!

Another blow out!!

I started going through gloves so fast that it became a habit to just pick up a new pair every time I was at the hardware store; whatever the latest/greatest happened to be.  That became an expensive habit.  You name it, I have probably tried it.  While there is some prudence to the saying “you get what you pay for”, no matter how much they cost, almost every pair of gloves I have owned has blown out at that same point; inside tip of pointer finger and middle finger.  Until now!  Read below for a quick run-down of my favorites.

Carhartt®

I used to own a pair of old school leather Carhartt gloves.  Nothing fancy, just tough, rugged leather work gloves.  These used to last me the better part of a summer working construction, but I found that for more moderate work that I did around the house, they were too bulky for routine use so I don’t get them out too often anymore except for really heavy duty jobs.  They are a also a little on the pricy end, usually in the $20 range.

Wells-Lamont®

My local hardware store carried a few nice versions of these gloves in a fitted variety.  Made with deer hide, they were soft, comfortable, and snug; allowing for a tight fit and good dexterity.  However, these were among the least durable that I have used, lasting only a month or so before the soft deer hide wore down, rending the gloves near useless. These were a little cheaper ($12-$15), but not worth replacing every month or two.

Mechanix®

I saw these at the bigger box-hardware store, and figured that because they cost more, they must be better.  Ehhhht. Really nice fit and dexterity, and perhaps very slightly more durable than the Wells-Lamont (by a few days maybe), but not worth the extra price (most around $20).

Workright®

Eventually, I decided to search online for whatever the great masses of Amazon had to say about the search for the “best work gloves”.  This search yielded a hit on Workright gloves, which ended up being my favorite for a couple of years.  Again, good fit and dexterity, reasonably priced ($15), and lasted twice as long as their other “form fitting” contemporaries of Wells-Lamont and Mechanix.  Eventually, these too yielded to the finger blowouts, but I enjoyed a few pairs of these. 

Madgrips®

Close to a year ago, I was at the hardware store and saw a pair of these Madgrips gloves, which are basically a cloth knit glove with a soft rubber coating.  I tried them on, and while they looked a little more “Terminator” than I thought was necessary for a work glove, they had a really nice fit, excellent tactile feel, and as you could imagine, an amazing no-slip grip.  On further research, it seems these gloves are popular among obstacle racers (think Tuff Mudder) due to their extreme grip and snug fit.  I found them to be extremely comfortable, and after nearly 9 months of pretty hard use, show very little sign of the normal blow outs.  At $12-$15, the only downside to that I have seen with these guys is that they don’t breathe very well (get a little stinky after a long day of hauling mulch in the summer) and are not as puncture resistant as leather gloves might be (not unheard of to get stuck by a briar when pulling out bramble bushes).  So they are not ideal for all applications, but for 95% of my jobs, these are my go to gloves these days.

 

20160412_212043

One tough glove!!!

 

Here is a quick summary of my thoughts.  In short, there is probably no glove that is perfect for all situations.  If you are doing a big, nasty, rough construction job, the old school heavy duty Carhartt style leather gloves are probably your best bet.  For almost anything else, it is hard to do better than the Madgrips, especially for more moderate work around the homestead.  That said, if you have a favorite workglove that I haven’t listed, let me know!  I’m always up for trying something new.

gloves comparison

 

April snow showers

April Snow Showers

Spring is (supposedly) in full swing now, even though it is snowing outside as I type this post (does this sound familiar?).  I had the opportunity to attend a Native American storytelling session at my son’s kindergarten class this past week and one of the stories was about the annual battle between Old Man Winter and Young Man Spring.  The moral of the story was that these two mythical creatures have a hard-fought battle at this time every year and, although we never know how long the battle will last, we do know that Young Man Spring will always eventually defeat Old Man Winter.  This year, it seemed that Young Man Spring was set to have an early win back in March.  But, right about now, it is apparent that Old Man Winter is fighting hard and holding on longer than usual.  Come on, Spring!  We are all routing for you down here under this blanket of snow!  Don’t let us down!

 

But, regardless of April snow showers, our little homestead is marching forward with our annual spring activities, as well as a new one for us – baby chicks! 

baby Barred Plymouth Rock chicks

We have had layer chickens (Rhode Island Reds from a local place called Moyers Chicks) for the past 4 years but we have always gotten them as pullets, which are like teenage chickens – typically about 18-20 weeks old at the time you get them and should start laying eggs within the next 4-6 weeks after arrival.  While that has worked out well in the past, we thought it might be fun to try something new this year.  So we went online to a website called mypetchicken.com and ordered 9 female chicks of the Barred Plymouth Rock breed to be delivered to us in the mail when they were only one day old.  This particular breed is known to be tolerant of the cold weather and fairly docile around little humans and also a productive egg layer.  Perfect for us!  Also, they are super cute!  Right now, they look like little black fluff balls and will grow up to be pretty good looking as well, with a black and white checkered look.  So we have the 9 of those little gals set up in a cardboard box in the living room for now – with access to chick starter feed and water, and a heat lamp to keep it at about 95 degrees. (And I’d just like to point out that these new additions to our flock bring the female-to-male ratio on our homestead up to 23-to-5.  Yay for the girls!  If only one of the other females around here were interested in curling up on the sofa with a glass of wine and talking through our problems together…)

 

In addition to the baby chicks, the kids are also keeping a close eye on their Easter caterpillars that have gorged themselves for the past 2 weeks and are now all tucked away in their chrysalis and awaiting the moment when they will emerge as beautiful Painted Lady butterflies. 

painted lady caterpillars in chrysalis form

 

Another fun spring activity is planting seeds that will eventually be transferred outside when (if?) it ever gets warm enough to support plant life!  This year, the kids planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers, basil, and parsley and have been monitoring the tiny plots of soil daily to check the soil for water and to thin out the sprouts as they overcrowd the egg cartons where they are growing and competing for water and sunshine.  They also helped Joe to plant a bunch of flower seeds indoors in the hopes that we can transfer them outside and attract more beneficial pollinators to our little corner of the woods. 

 April 2016 sowing flower seeds indoors

 

Lastly, we bred the rabbits on March 16 and so are expecting two kits of bunnies to arrive around April 15.  Hopefully we will have news of them soon.  I don’t know about you but I find this time of year so exciting and encouraging when I look around to hunt for signs of spring and new life and am happily rewarded with splashes of color in our otherwise drab and dreary looking forest and the sound of songbirds returning to the trees and the anticipation of new babies on the way!  Life is good!