MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including using dogs to line up tilled garden rows, planting sage to ward off garden pests and using frozen juice to cool down brown bag lunches.
MOTHER's Country Farming Advice and Folklore
The sun was blazing, it was 85 degrees, and we were getting mighty tired of trudging back and forth across 50 yards of freshly tilled field. We were stretching string to make straight rows for our huge vineyard, and only the dogs were having fun. So as long as our pets wanted to play, we thought, why not use that to our advantage? Two of us stood, one on either side of the field, with rolls of string. An end was tied to a dog's collar, the person opposite called and clapped, and in no time the row marker was across the field, needing only to be stretched and tied to the stakes. Even with time out for breaks and plenty of water, we and our dogs made short work of a tedious job.
What I wanted was green lawn. What I had was a large yard covered with love grass, weeds, and thatch. I didn't want to use chemical defoliants, and the thought of tilling under all that unwanted vegetation made my back ache. So I used what was at hand: a rooster and five chickens. I built them a lightweight, portable, 4 foot by 8 foot covered cage, set it up in the yard, and let them do what comes naturally. In four or five days they ate up or scratched up all the plants, and fertilized the area too. Then I just moved the cage, raked smooth the soil they'd cleared, and sodded or sprigged it with grass. After repeating the process a number of times, I now have that green lawn, and the chickens did almost all the work (and rewarded me with fresh eggs as well).
I was once plagued with aphids and whiteflies, as many gardeners are. Three years ago I started using sage-one seed planted for every three tomato starts indoors, and sage plants around the perimeter of my garden outdoors. I haven't had an aphid or a whitefly since. I also save used coffee grounds (I dry them first and then store them in an old coffee can) and scatter them over my carrot and Cole crops each spring. None of my plants are harmed by worms or bugs, not even by the white cabbage butterflies that are usually such pests.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Each evening I fill pint jars with my family members' favorite fruit juices and place them in the freezer. The next morning, a tightly capped jar goes into each lunch box. During the day, the lunches stay cold, and I don't need to worry about food poisoning in hot weather. Best of all, there are nice, slushy, cool drinks to pep up my husband and children at work and at school.
When you have a small amount of painting to do, like a touch-up, simply clamp a piece of felt in a spring-type clothespin. It costs very little, and you can throw it away when you're done.
—William C. Thompson
I often drive with my lights on in the morning when it's still dark or foggy. When I arrive at my destination, it's daylight, and many's the time I've forgotten to turn off my headlights and have ended up with a dead battery. No more! Now I keep a facial tissue with a hole poked in it on hand. Every time I switch my lights on, I hang the tissue on the light switch lever. When the reminder has done its job, I remove it till the next time it's needed.
—May M. Richardson
Blue Mounds, Wisconsin
More Help for Loose Screws
In MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 101, one of MOTHER's readers suggested using toothpicks to reset a screw in a stripped or enlarged hole. I have a better way. Cut a few snippets of solder and put them into the hole. As you twist the screw back in, the soft metal solder will squish around the threads, making a very tight, strong repair.
—L. C. Arata
I have a quick and easy way to remove wood or metal posts from the ground. I simply shovel out a small amount of dirt from around the post and pour water into the indentation. I then rock the post back and forth, which allows the water to seep down around the base, and can usually pull it straight up and out. Sometimes I have to add more water and repeat the rocking procedure, but, even then, it sure beats digging way down and then prying out the post.
If the birds enjoy too much of your garden's fine fare, it's time for you to party, too. Invite your friends, and ask each one to bring some worn-out clothes. Provide sticks of wood and plenty of straw, and see who can come up with the best scarecrow. If you have lots of guests, divide them into groups of three or four. Everyone will have a great time, and you'll have a small militia of straw guards to protect your garden.
—Scott and Chris Ware
River Bottom Lore
Here on the Wabash River, we have a yearly mosquito barbecue. Our mosquitoes are so big that just one feeds the whole town. But we usually catch two in case we have visitors.
If you don't believe that, here are some truthful tips from the river bottom. Spread pieces of cucumber skin around your house to get rid of ants. Remove mud stains from leather shoes by rubbing them with a slice of raw potato. Bake meat loaf in muffin tins; it will cook in a jiffy, and the kids will love it.
Dandelion Blossom Jelly
The flavor of this delicious jelly is similar to that of buckwheat honey—what an incentive to weed! Pick 1 quart (packed) dandelion blossoms (the earliest ones are best), removing stems and all green parts of the flowers. Wash well. Place in 5 cups water, bring to a boil, and boil 1 minute. Strain, reserving liquid. Add 1 package pectin to liquid; stir and heat. When liquid boils, add 4 cups sugar. Simmer until jelly sheets off a spoon, then skim and pour into sterilized jars.
Henderson, North Carolina
Safe for Man and Beast
I'd like to pass along a tip, which I read in our newspaper, for getting rid of fleas. I tried it and it really works. I bought a box of laundry borax (20 Mule Team was specified) and sprinkled it on our carpet and under our couch and chair cushions. I worked it into the carpet with a broom and made sure I repeated the application every time I vacuumed. It took three or four weeks for the fleas to disappear, but they've been gone for two years now. Our dog no longer scratches (and neither do we), and we feel good about not having used poisonous chemicals.
Do I Hear Thunder?
To catch fishing worms, I jump rope! After my feet pound the ground for a few minutes, the worms come to the surface, even in dry weather.
New York, New York
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.