MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including how to freshen the air from excess Woodstove smoke, storing birdseed in old soda bottles and Nova Scotian fishing folks keep hands warm with undyed wool mittens.
MOTHER's Country Farming Advice and Folklore
I'VE RECEIVED AS GIFTS THOSE little ceramic pots that simmer herbs and spices, and I enjoy filling the house with enticing aromas, especially during the holiday season. I found, though, that heating the water in the pot to boiling used up so much of the candle, I'd soon have to replace it to keep the brew on simmer for any length of time. Now I heat the pot and its contents in my microwave for about a minute on medium-high (the high setting makes it boil over).
After that the candle flame keeps it going for a long time.
My mobile home has skirting, but that doesn't keep the cold Michigan winds from blowing through and chilling from underneath the floor. My heating bill for the winter of 1986-87 was $1,200! I worried about it through the next summer, but didn't have the funds to insulate. In the fall, though, I found the solution in a nearby neighborhood.
All the residents bagged their leaves and left them at the curb. I simply collected the bags (after asking permission) and packed them around the bottom of my trailer. That winter my fuel bill dropped to $300—and by spring I had lots of free compost for my garden.
Three Rivers, Michigan
Linger No Longer
Sometimes it just happens. Your fireplace or woodstove "backpuffs" (or you forget to open the damper!), and the room fills with smoke. Airing the room may clear out the smoke, but the acrid odor lingers.
What to do? Set some soup bowls half-filled with cider vinegar around the room. When the liquid becomes dark, replace it with fresh, and keep this up till the odor is gone.
—Julian H. Youngman
I was completely delighted with our new "dream house," until I realized there was no pilot light anywhere—something I'd always used as a warm place to raise dough. I was wandering around the rooms, sourdough starter in hand, when I found myself staring at a little yellow light. It was the signal on our waterbed indicating that the heat was on. The temperature was set for 100°F, just perfect for my purposes.
I tucked the covered dish of starter under the covers (on my husband's side, in case the idea backfired), and checked it in an hour or so. It was the bubbliest, happiest sourdough starter you ever saw. The warm, even heat cut rising time in half, too, so I figure modern technology has redeemed itself again.
Rubber on Rubber
If your car gets stuck in the snow, and there's no shovel or sand in your trunk, place your rubber or plastic floor mats under the tires.
Because I use so much birdseed during the colder months, I buy it in the largest bags I can find. Storing these, especially the leftovers from one season to another, had been a pain. If the open bag didn't get knocked over and spilled, the weevils or mice got to the seed. Now, though, I wash out and save three-liter pop bottles and pour the birdseed into these as soon as I buy it. (I use the top half of a two-liter bottle as a funnel.)
Each large bottle holds about five pounds of seed, exactly what my feeders take every time they're filled. This job is made much easier, as the seed can be quickly poured in with no waste.
Lead Hill, Arkansas
Cold Seas, Warm Hands
The very best protection for the hands of our Nova Scotian fishing folk are hand-knit mittens made from 100% undyed wool. These are fashioned extremely large, as the salt water soon shrinks them. And the benefit of this shrinking is that the mittens become virtually waterproof. I knit these same oversized mitts for my son, then soak them a few times in plain water. They end up so watertight that they can be coated with wet slush and still his hands stay warm and dry.
Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia
A New Angle on an Old Problem
Like many car owners, I spend a bit of time on icy winter mornings defrosting the windshield. This will happen faster if you pull the visors down to a 45 degree angle to the glass, thus catching the hot air and forcing it back against the windshield.
—Anthony D. Andrews
If your fireplace or woodstove is supplied with dry, cured wood and the proper kindling, you can start a fire with a lighted twist of newspaper. But for those occasions when my wood is a bit green or wet, I've got a small stock of "sure-fire" starters. I bought some of those ready-made logs (I look for the ones with the fewest chemicals added), and cut them into random-sized chunks. For very little cost or labor, I'm assured a quick-starting fire, no matter what.
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.