Floor Waxing, Chicken Catching, and Other Country Lore

A New York woman who turned floor waxing into a party for neighborhood kids and a Connecticut man who created a hook for chicken catching are among contributors to this ongoing country lore feature.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
September/October 1979
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A Connecticut homesteader improvised this gaff for chicken catching.
ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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The following housekeeping tips and other bits of country lore were submitted by readers. 


Floor Waxing Party

If you grit your teeth when it's time to wax and buff those rustic hardwood floors, you might want to try Jan Hume's system: "The Young People's Buffing Party".

"The action starts," says the Warsaw, New Yorker, "after the furniture's all pushed aside and you've laid a milky cloud of new wax across your clean floor. All you do is gather up your young'uns (along with any neighbor children you can get to 'drop over') and have the urchins dress up in woolly socks and broken-in playclothes. Then turn the little folk loose in that waxy room to do all the runnin' and slippin' and slidin' and stompin' and dancin' and rasslin' and carryin' on that you're always telling them NOT to do! The neighboring tykes will pitch right in like Tom Sawyer's cronies, and before long you'll have a human buffer over every comer of the floor.

"The next—and most vital—step," Jan adds, "is to retreat to your kitchen and mix up a batch of cookies and some cocoa. Not only will that task preserve your sanity amid the craziness of the buffing party, but the homemade goodies will likely be the only way to get the youngsters to quit before they wear your floor out!"

Chicken Catching Hook

Roy Millsap's father was tired of trying to catch scampering chickens, so the Oakdale, Connecticut homesteader devised his very own "elusive-egglayer nabber." He simply took a sixfoot length of stiff wire and bent it into a hook shape that slips easily around a bird's scrawny leg, but is too narrow for a fowl's long toes to pull free. So nowadays, when the senior Millsap wants a "Sunday dinner special", he just grabs his nabber, traipses out to the flock, and snares his meal.

Peanut Butter Goat Pills

"After spending two fruitless hours trying to restrain my ornery, worm-ridden goats, I decided to quit giving pills to the animals and try the squirtable paste wormers instead," recalls Sharon Carpenter of Sheridan, Oregon. "Sure enough, the gluey healers were a cinch to administer—just squirt 'em in the critters' mouths and the goats smack their lips—but the medicines were too danged expensive! So now I crush one of the inexpensive tablets into a tablespoon of peanut butter and use that tasty paste instead. I get the best of both worlds: relief from goat-gnawed fingers and a one-tenth-the-cost bargain!"

Improvised Sink Stopper

Lots of folks know the trick of covering your keg of homemade sauerkraut with a large plastic bag full of water, but Everett Schisler of Rio, Illinois has miniaturized the same principle and applied it to the kitchen sink. So, the next time you lose—or your dog chews up—your drain plug, says Everett, just put a little water in a plastic sandwich bag and tie the container shut. Such an improvised sink stopper—complete with its own handle—will plug your basin or tub just fine.

Tree Cutting Tips

What? You haven't filled the woodshed yet? Well, brighten up, bunky. We've got three tree-cutting tips to help with your chore:

[1] Glenn Scalise of East Springfield, Pennsylvania had a chain saw that used to sputter and fume (and so did he!) every time he went out acuttin' in the woods. Glenn wasted a lot of his "sawing time" cleaning the machine's carburetor and spark plug until he realized that his problem was caused by dirty fuel. The Keystone Stater decided then and there to lug his "firewater" in a clear plastic jug so he could see—and throw out—any fuel that became contaminated with water or sediment.

Because Mr. Scalise always keeps the jug shaded when he's out cutting—and pours the "saw starter" back into a metal container when he's done—he's had no problems with his in-the-field fuel holder. He's also had no more problems with his tree trimmer coughing or quitting. "And the exhaust ain't so blue now, either," Glenn adds.

[2] Harold Freeman from Eureka Springs, Arkansas has found a cure for another common chainsaw malady: "post-cutting drip." The oil reservoir on Harold's tree biter had the habit of leaking lubricant hours after he'd neatly stored the machine until a friendly neighbor pointed out the solution. Most chain saws use air pressure to pump the oil onto the chain, and that built-up force keeps pushing long after the saw's been switched off. But—as Harold learned—if you open the oil filler cap enough to let the pressure escape (and then screw the lid back on) before you put your wood cutter away: Presto! No more leaks!

[3] Kurt Gross—who lives out around College, Tennessee—has volunteered to share an oId-timey woods-worker's tip: Fell your timber during the waxing cycle of the moon. Kurt says trees cut during the "light moon" have less sap in 'em than do leaf-holders felled during the "dark" fading cycle of our lunar satellite. The less-juicy trees will make quick-drying firewood as well as nonwarping lumber.

Kurt adds that you'll notice the greatest sap differences in such "high flow" woods as pine, but that the moon lore has proved itself so true in all his woodcutting experience that he sticks fast to it for any kind of tree.

Elderberry Harvesting

"Elderberries have a unique and delightful flavor, yet most people let the tangy fruits go to waste," says George E. Luther of Venice, Florida. "Why? Because—although the clusters are a cinch to pick—pulling the tiny berries off all those stems is a downright wearisome chore.

"Wall, you don't have to pass up the prolific fruit again. Just put a small piece of 1/2-inch-mesh hardware cloth over a bucket or large bowl, and rub your bunches across this screen as fast as you wish. The berries will come off cleaner (and with less bruising) than if you'd picked them all by hand.

"Best of all, you'll be able to clean an entire bushel of the delicious harvest in only 15 to 30 minutes! Try this berrypicking shortcut once, and—believe me—you'll never miss a chance to gather elderberries again!"

Wax Pull Tab

Ever since we ran a tip on using soda-can flip tops as picture hangers, we've received numerous suggestions for other ways to find some good in soft-drink tabs. Jean Obrist from Fairbanks, Alaska has come up with one of the most practical applications we've seen yet: "When you use paraffin on jelly jars," Jean says, "stick one of those little rascals in with the curly tongue embedded in the wax and the ring end sticking out. Then, when the paraffin dries, you can simply pull the fliptop and the wax comes out in one nice piece with no prying, chipping, or finding wax filings in the sweets."

Jean also suggests using two "tab handles"—on opposite sides—for your large-mouthed jam jars. "Even my small children open these containers without making a mess," she adds.

Work Clothes Management

"My friends and I," says Madison, Wisconsin's Richard Zimman, "buy all our overalls, jackets, and work clothes in the fall. The new wearin's are stiff and thick, so they help keep us warm through winter. And, when those hot summer days roll around, the same—now broken-in—garments `breathe' well and keep us cool."

Corn Starch Glass Cleaner

Such a lot of readers sent in this next idea that it just plain has to work! So please believe that Linda Krosting speaks for many when the St. Paul, Minnesotan says: "Don't waste money on expensive—and overrated—commercial window cleaners! Just mix up a small amount of ordinary cornstarch in water—about a tablespoon of powder per quart of liquid—and soak a rag in the solution. Wash your glass objects with this cloth and dry 'em with old newspaper. The windows and mirrors will sparkle like they've been polished. And (unless you've used too much cornstarch) your clean glass will show absolutely no streaking!"

Knitting Tip

"Have you ever knitted a sweater, only to have one arm turn out longer than the other?" asks Knoxville, Tennessee's Laura Hendricks. "There's an easy way to insure that both pieces of anything you make in pairs—mittens, sleeves, booties, etc.—will be of equal size. Simply use a long needle and knit the two sleeves (or whatever) at the same time."

Sunflower Seed Shucking

Roger Dunton of Scotts Valley, California has devised a method of mass-shucking sunflower seeds that lets him harvest enough snacks—in an hour or so—to last all winter!

First, remove the seeds from the flowers by rubbing your thumb across the plant heads. Then briefly grind the gleanings—a handful or two at a time—in a blender. Put this chipped concoction in a large roasting pan. Cover the pieces with water, and stir. The meat will settle to the bottom, while the lighter shells float to the top. At that point, all you have to do is skim off the hulls, pour off the liquid, spread the harvest on cookie trays, and bake the kernels—lightly salted—at low oven heat until they're dry.

The California seed cracker stores his dried bits in jars so he'll have plenty on hand for salads, soups, casseroles, vegetables ... or just plain good eatin'!


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