Learn some of the best tricks and tips of MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers.
Free Children's Clothing
School will soon be out for the summer in most places, and
now's the perfect time to pick up a free supply of
children's clothing. Pearl Zank visits her neighborhood
elementary school every spring and requests all the
unclaimed garments from the lost-and-found department. The
"orphans" usually include sweaters, jackets, caps, mittens,
boots and more (Pearl has all the items thoroughly cleaned
before using them). The Rushland, Penn.,
reader reports that she's kept her youngest child well
dressed for six years by using this method.
"No matter how many times I tried to encourage frogs to
homestead under flowerpots or boards in my garden, the
hoppers all moved away," Sylvia Lucas wrote from
Montevallo, Ala. "I finally solved that problem,
however, by raising my own frogs. I took a child's wading
pool, covered the bottom with soil, rocks, and a board
or two and adopted some tadpoles from a nearby
stream. My children were fascinated by watching the
wigglers turn into tiny frogs, and many of the critters
stayed around to keep my garden pests under control and
raise another generation of frogs."
Keeping Pests Away
To keep varmints out of the roof rafters of your barn or
chicken coop, just run a wire along the center of each
joist, two or three inches above the wood. Then the animals
won't be able to walk on the beams according to
Richard Anderson of Port Angeles, Wash.
Making Discount Baby Blankets
Having been out of the "baby needs" market for over eight
years, Jim and Donna Carmean were shocked — when
shopping in preparation for the arrival of their third
child — to discover how expensive infant items had
become. Small flannel receiving blankets, for instance,
were priced at $6.00 apiece. Well, Donna found a way around
that expense by cutting one standard-sized flannel
sheet into four equal sections. She crocheted a finished
edge around all four sides of each quarter (if you don't
crochet, try simply sewing a blanket stitch border), and
then attached a small animal appliqué in one corner.
Since the Grayling, Mich., resident paid only $8.00 for
the sheet, she got four extra-large baby blankets
at $2.00 each or one-third the price of the ready-made
Getting Inexpensive Lime For Gardening
If your garden needs lime (and most do), Steve Morse of
Columbia, Ken., knows a way to get some inexpensively.
Instead of purchasing bags of the soil nutrient, Steve
takes a trash can to a nearby quarry and shovels his own.
The going rate for such lime is about $4.00 a ton, but
Steve says the fellow at the gate lets him take his "puny"
canful for free! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Be sure to test your
soil before spreading the lime and to add the
substance gradually, being careful not to overcompensate
for a small pH imbalance. ]
Protecting Seedlings With Penny Nails
Using 16-penny nails as stakes for new seedlings
(especially tomato and eggplant) will prevent cutworms from
attacking the tender young stalks, says Wil Edwards of
Jackson, Tenn. As the plants grow taller and stronger,
wooden stakes can be used to replace the nails.
Making Vacuum Attachments
Electric brooms and sweepers can generally be purchased
secondhand at great savings, but often the used appliances
won't include the variety of attachments that
accompany brand-new models. Well, Mary Ann
Hilgren has a
tip for those of you in such a predicament. She saves the
cardboard centers from toilet tissue and paper towels and
makes a slit, an inch or two long, on one end of each roll.
Then she overlaps the edges (adapting the opening to match
the size of her cleaner's hose nozzle) and seals the tube
to the nozzle with tape. The unsealed end can then be
molded or bent to reach almost any "impossible" corner or
Saving Your Back With a Bath Cleaner
Here's a household tip that will help you do two tasks at
once. St. Johns, Mich., reader Kathy Tyler washes her
bathtub out with a household mop! By sprinkling the
still-damp tub with cleanser after bathing and then
scrubbing it with the long-handled cleaning utensil, Kathy
gets both the tub and the mop clean . . . and saves her
back from unnecessary bending.
When thinning out her strawberry patch, Brenda Hartley
partially buries paper cups, three-quarters full of soil,
near the ends of new runners. Then she pushes one of the
plant-forming "vines" into each cup, waters them all, and
allows them to rest for a week or so while they set roots.
After that, the Danville, Ill., reader simply clips the
runners and carries the cups to new locations. Once there,
the paper containers can be easily removed without
disturbing the plants and her strawberry patch stays
orderly and keeps on expanding!
Feeding Livestock For Free
"For the past few years our family has been eating,
preserving, and feeding our livestock free fruits
and vegetables!" writes Mrs. Steve Horn from Chase, Kan.
"Every time we go grocery shopping in town, you see, we ask
the retailers for their vegetable clippings and throwaways.
In our area such produce is free for the hauling. Better
yet, nearly every case of outer lettuce leaves, for
example, also contains several perfectly good
heads. Our animals enjoy the loose trimmings, and
our family relishes the free salad fixings. Furthermore,
occasionally the stores will have certain vegetables on
'special' and when the sales are over we may 'inherit'
such usually expensive foods as cauliflower, tomatoes and
peppers. Again, our livestock can feast on any of the
fruits and vegetables that are heavily damaged, and I
preserve the 'passable' fare for future dinners!"
Crafting a Gas Siphon
After spending good money — one too many times — on
plastic siphon kits that proved useless, Daniel Owczarzak
discovered a "foolproof" method of siphoning gasoline. The
Elmo, New Yorker takes a hose and a used or outdated
automotive fuel pump — easily found at flea markets for
a modest sum — and slips one end of the hose into the
gas tank. He then attaches the other end to the pump's
inlet tube. By sliding a small pipe onto the device's shaft
and pumping it once or twice, he soon has gasoline gushing
from the outlet tube. When this occurs, Dan simply removes
the hose and installs his to-be-filled container!
Restoring Broken Toys
Don't throw out those broken toys! Tina Chappell — a
Tarheeler from Tyner, North Carolina — suggests
completely disassembling the battered amusements and
packing the pieces away. Then, when rainy weather dictates
indoor activity, Tina gives her youngsters the box of
parts — along with plenty of glue — and lets them
"invent" their own playthings.
Finding Free Fish Bait
B.J. VanDerBerg passed on this tip about hustling up
crickets for his fishing expeditions. The Elkhart, Ind.,
angler spreads out a piece of plastic — about two feet
square — on the ground near the water. He sprinkles a
half-cup of sugar on the plastic and covers the lure
with doubled-up damp newspaper. In the morning the Hoosier
simply picks up the plastic and dumps all the
crickets — and there should be plenty! — into his
Replacing Old Lawn Furniture
Are you ready to replace your old lawn furniture with a new
set? If so, here's a suggestion on how to get more use out
of a time-worn chair. Donna Camp-Schuster recommends
cutting away the webbing and letting the frame serve as a
sack holder for leaves and garden rubbish! The Santa Cruz,
Californian just places a plastic trash bag through the
seat portion and folds the top over the arms and back of
Don't throw away the frayed webbing that you remove,
either! Mel Bauman of Springwater, New York protects his
young fruit trees from wildlife nibblers by wrapping the
strips around the base of each tree. The web's open weave
allows the tree to breathe and doesn't collect moisture,
and the material stands up to weather really well!
Protecting Your Orchard
You can protect your orchard from unwanted pests by
wrapping tree trunks with old-fashioned flypaper strips,
too. Kimbolton, Ohio's Rose Steward wrote to say that she
stopped an invasion of tent caterpillars by this method and Walter Garrison of Kuna, Idaho guarantees it will halt
ants and earwigs — or any other
creepy-crawlers — in their tracks, as well. Sunshine
seems to keep the strips extra sticky .and since the
substance is nontoxic, it won't harm pets.
Keeping Pests Out, Vegetables In
To keep rabbits, groundhogs, raccoons, and other
four-legged nuisances out of your garden this season, take
a tip from John Pitts of Orillia, Ontario. In the early
spring he puts several carpet scraps on the front porch for
the family pets to lie on. Then, when his garden begins
growing, the Canadian transfers those odoriferous rugs to
the borders of his vegetable plot and puts new carpet
pieces on the porch. The "doggie" scent repels unwanted
guests from the garden and, by continually swapping
scraps from porch to plot, John is able to protect his
crops all summer long!
Frances Dark of Nashville, Tenn., sent us a postcard
chock-full of good ideas. Since space doesn't
allow us to print them all (we try to let as many of our
readers as possible "speak" in this column), here are two
of her best tips: Frances reports that cheese will be
easier to grate if first placed in the freezer for 10
minutes, and she also recommends tying a string of bells
around the doorknob of your child's bedroom to alert
you when the youngster gets up during the night.
Keeping Squirrels and Birds From Looting
Nancy Crawford enjoys macramé, and she likes to make
outdoor hangings to hold plants and bird feeders in her
Mattoon, Ill., yard. But Nancy recently discovered, to
her dismay, that squirrels were shredding the "tails" off
her hangings to use as nesting material. To prevent the
destruction, Crawford tied large knots at the ends of
her macramé art and soon began to feel guilty
as she watched her furry friends laboriously (and
unsuccessfully) trying to steal more fibers. So now, Nancy
just ties all her leftover pieces outside,
and watches with pleasure as both squirrels and birds pluck
strands for their nests.