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
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.