Heated Toilet Seats, Keeping Chickens Safe and More Country Lore

In this issue's Country Lore, learn about heated toilet seats, recycling an old post-hole digger, keeping chickens safe and using liquid lecithin as a cooking oil.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
January/February 1985
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One reader has found an innovative way to avoid ice-cold latrine seats during winter months.
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Heated Toilet Seats

"It's 20 degrees below nothing, and you're tucked into bed reading a good book when Mother Nature beckons. The homestead privy is 50 yards from the cabin, so you crawl out of bed, struggle into several layers of clothes, duck out into the frigid night...and are greeted by a toilet seat that is cold, cold, cold."

That chilling introduction opened a letter from Gary LeDean, of Arlee, Mont., where the mercury indeed plunges to 20 degrees below nothing — and then some. But there's a better way, he goes on to say:

"Here's my solution: On the porch, just outside the door, I keep a 5-gallon bucket (a 10-gallon one would be even better) with about 6 inches of stove ashes in the bottom. When nature calls at midnight, I open the door, grab the bucket, close the door and place the container near my wood stove. From behind the stove, I grab a comfortably warm toilet seat, place the seat atop the can, take care of business, then put the seat back in its warm spot, set the bucket back on the porch and jump back into bed.

"By adding a shallow layer of fresh ashes to the bucket each morning (or after each use), you can use this down-home chamber pot several nights before dumping its contents into your outhouse latrine.

"This 'fancy' portable toilet doesn't cost a penny if you can scrounge up a bucket or can and an old toilet seat — and it makes winter on a primitive homestead a heck of a lot easier."

Recycle a Post-hole Digger

M.L. Parsons, of West Point, Ga., has come up with a way to recycle that old, broken-handled post-hole digger that's rusting away out in the toolshed: Separate the two sides of the digger at the hinged connection, then select the side with the best blade and sturdiest handle, and grind or hacksaw off the protruding ears. For added foot power, drill a ½ -inch hole through the handle near where it meets the blade, and insert a ½ -by-4-inch or 6-inch bolt. If you’re a left-footed digger, allow the bolt to protrude from the left side, and vice versa for right-footers.

M.L. reports that this digger-to-digger conversion makes an excellent shovel-like tool for trenching, transplanting and general gardening chores.

Keep Chickens Safe

If you've ever raised chickens, you're no doubt familiar with the ill-tempered birds' habit of selecting one of their own to peck...and peck...and peck. The result is a deep, vicious wound and, quite often, death for the "scapebird." And this time of year, when the birds are spending a lot, most or all of their time cooped up in the coop to avoid nasty weather, the pecking problem can become a nightmare. We've heard of — and passed along to you — several solutions before, but probably the most colorful approach we've seen comes from optometrist Richard Etheridge of Burlington, N.C. According to Dr. Etheridge:

"The easiest and most effective way I've found to stop pecking among cooped-up chickens in wintertime is to make them see their world in a rose-colored light. Just suspend a common red light bulb from the ceiling of your coop, and the pecking should end. This trick works, no matter what colors your hens are, and doesn't interrupt their laying."

Liquid Lecithin as a Cooking Oil

Olive Lammon writes from her home in Nokomis, Fla., that she's found a healthful substitute for commercial cooking oils:

"While baking banana bread and carrot cake, I used all the cooking oil I had on hand for the recipes and needed a bit more to grease my baking pans. I had some liquid lecithin, and since it looked sort of like cooking oil, and because I was desperate, I decided to give it a try. I greased the pans thoroughly, and when I removed the baked loaves from the oven, they flopped right out of the pans without my having to loosen them with a knife.

"It was a great discovery for me to learn that I can use a 'health product' in place of cooking oil on baking day, and that it works beautifully."


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