Getting Charged Up with Homestead Tools

Beginner
Battery-powered chain saw.

My husband Bob-O and I both like tools, and I like gadgets. We consider a good tool to be a wise investment. When Bob-O found several reasons for buying a battery-powered electric chainsaw, one thing led to another—now, we have the beginnings of an arsenal of cordless tools.

Years ago, I gave up on my gasoline-powered minitiller. When I could start it, it was a great tool for tilling raised garden beds and spot-tilling amendments into the soil. But every spring, before I could use it, it would require visiting the small engine repair shop to have the spark plug changed and engine cleaned. Even though I diligently drained the gas before wintering the tiller, I never could skip its spring cleaning. It was just a fickle small engine.

Then gardener (and solar dude) Bill Battagin told me how he had traded his gas minitiller for a corded, electric model. One of the things he warned me about was that I would rapidly learn the importance of cord control. Thankfully, all three of my gardens are within reach of an extension cord. But Bill was right; cord manipulation is paramount—it must be kept away from the spinning tines. My Mantis electric minitiller has performed beautifully. I plug it in, turn it on, and it runs, wherever I need it. The tiller is mostly used in the spring for prepping the various garden beds. This tool has saved me time, frustration, and money—and reduced our use of fossil fuels.

When we bought and assembled our wood-fired Snorkel hot tub (“Home & Heart” in HP136), we vowed to never spend money on wood to heat the tub. We buy or barter for our firewood, getting our favorite—cut and split madrone. But the Snorkel likes a hot, fast fire, so smaller limbs and branches work fine. Our native juniper trees often drop a limb or just fall over and die—they are not long-lived. We clean up the deadwood, cutting the usable limbs and sticks in small lengths for the hot tub and piling the smaller brushy parts for burning. I really enjoy the smell of a juniper fire; it’s like forest incense.

After last year’s stormy winter there were quite a few downed junipers for us to harvest. Halfway through cleaning up a small fallen tree, Bob-O’s chainsaw gave it up. Now Bob-O was once a tree feller—he knows how to maintain a saw. Truth is, this saw just wore out. It could have been brought back to life, but only with a lot of parts, cussing, and time. Bob-O had discussed battery-powered chainsaws with our friend Lance Barker at the last Solar Pioneers Party. Lance had been using one for a while and he was pleased with its performance. We read online reviews, but having the recommendation of a trusted, knowledgeable friend is pure gold. Bob-O called Lance and ran through all the questions he had.

Comments (4)

Robert Dahse's picture

We started getting hooked on electric tools with the mantis tiller too, but got tired of having one person relegated to cord-wrangler. And we started with battery-operated homestead tools with the same Greenworks chainsaw. At the time it was the only one that had a high chain speed, standard pitch chain, brush-less motor, and high-capacity battery. Now several brands offer something similar. We liked it so much we bought a 16" Greenworks mower for garden paths, their biggest string trimmer for edge-weeding the beds, and their tiller-cultivator. The tiller is such a big improvement over the cord-bound Mantis. We removed the wheels and just steer it by tipping left or right. We don't use a tiller a lot, but it sure helps in final the seed-bed prep. Highly recommended!

jim weaver_2's picture

Kathleen, how times have changed. Offgrid, we used to prefer tools and appliances that were non-electric. Now our photovoltaic production often overwhelms our batteries. We love our Stihl battery powered chainsaw and string trimmer. And our Instant-pot saves a lot of propane (and time) in the kitchen.

Jim Weaver

stimpy17's picture

Yeah nothing like coal/nuke fired power plants to charge-up those nifty little tools.

Michael Welch's picture
These folks get all their electricity from solar, wind, and microhydro. Many of us do that.
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