MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and
country folklore, including freezing beets and keeping messy beet juice
off your hands using a french-fry cutter, organic methods of pest
repellent and coating the underside of your lawn mower with non-stick
spray for ease in cutting.
MOTHER's Country Farming Advice and Folklore
Weeds and Other Summer Joys
I cut down on weeding chores by buying sunflower seeds and
sprinkling them in the weedy, grassy areas of my perennial
flower beds. Squirrels and birds love this treat, and all
those paws and claws scratching through the soil discourage
weeds and grass from sprouting. The hulls left behind act
as an enriching mulch, too. This works on perennial
vegetable beds as well.
—Mrs. H. Henselin
Let It Flow
Most prescription drugs and some vitamins are packaged in
bottles that each contain a crystal-filled capsule that
absorbs moisture and keeps the pills fresh. Once a bottle's
contents are used up, the capsule can be placed in a salt
or pepper shaker to keep the seasonings dry in damp
Jackson, South Carolina
Color Me Red
How I used to hate preparing beets for freezer storage!
Before the job was over I'd be covered with beet juice and
so would my cutting board and countertops. Last year,
though, I tried two utensils meant for other uses and they
worked perfectly. Once the beets were cooked and tender, I
cut the larger ones into strips with my wire French-fry
cutter and made nice even slices of the smaller ones with
my metal egg slicer. It's an easy way to make short work of
a messy job.
Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Mosquitoes, Gnats and Ticks
An old country formula to ward off gnats and mosquitoes is
to mix a tablespoon of vanilla extract into a cup of water.
I rubbed this on my children's faces, even as babies, and
it worked so well I tried the solution on my horse. Applied
around her ears and eyes, it kept flies away.
Pin a fabric softener sheet to the back of your collar or
on your hat. It looks funny, but it sure keeps mosquitoes
For bug bites or for ticks, reach for a deodorant spray
containing aluminum chloro-hydrate. Sprayed on a bite, it
will take away the pain and swelling (not the itch,
however, but you can't have everything!). If a tick has
taken up residence in your skin, give the insect a squirt
and in a moment or two it will crawl out where you can pick
When I lived in the Ozark Mountains I was plagued by ticks.
I could hardly leave the house without two or three of them
attaching themselves to me. A local old-timer suggested I
drink a quart of buttermilk every day. He claimed it would
change the chemical composition of my perspiration so as to
repel ticks. I'm not sure if this is true, but after trying
his remedy, I never had another tick bite.
Pass the Zuckles
Like most gardeners, I always end up with too many
zucchini. So I substitute the squash for cucumbers in my
favorite recipes for relish and bread-and-butter pickles.
No one ever can tell the difference.
—Donna N. Swanson
I guess the threat of stinging hornets is the price we pay
for all the pleasures of summer. But I've learned a way to
cope—with the sting, at least. If I get stung, I
immediately wring out a towel in hot water and sprinkle a
generous portion of meat tenderizer on the towel. This I
apply directly to the sting, retreating the towel every
five minutes for about half an hour. The hot towel causes
the pores of my skin to open, and the tenderizer
neutralizes the venom. If I do this quickly enough after
the hornet's attack, there is no pain and no swelling.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Bubbles That Kill
Our farm was invaded by rats and mice, and we were at our
wits' end after trying to eradicate them with no success.
An elderly neighbor suggested setting out shallow pans of
nondiet cola. Sure enough, the rodents loved the sugary
liquid, drank it greedily and within a few days were dead.
They evidently can't burp, so the carbonation bloats their
bodies and kills them. It's an inexpensive solution, and
safe to use around pets and farm animals.
Lightly coat the underside of your power lawn mower with a
no-stick cooking spray. Less grass adhering to the mower
will make for an easier job.
Apple Creek, Ohio
Sleep Like a Baby
Some summer nights are so sultry even the sheets stick to
your body. Try sprinkling baby powder between your sheets;
you'll find you rest more comfortably. To cut costs, use a
generic brand of powder and mix it half-and-half with
My French-Canadian grandmother-in-law had a trick for
removing the bitter taste from cucumbers. She'd cut off a
one-and-a-half-inch section from one end and rub it rapidly
and firmly back and forth over the cut end of the longer
portion. The suction draws out a white substance, which you
then wash off the main piece, discarding the cut tip.
Through the years we've all probably discovered a few practical, down-home, time-tested solutions to the frustrating little problems of everyday life. Why not share your best "horse sense" with the rest of MOTHER's readers? Send your suggestions to Country Lore, THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Hendersonville, NC. A one year subscription — or a one year extension of an existing subscription — will be sent to each contributor whose tip is printed in this column. — MOTHER.