MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including using a natural bee salve for stings, making a homemade composter and a CD scarecrow for the garden.
Bee Sting Salve
The best home remedy for bee, wasp and bumble bee stings is to cut an onion inhalf and apply it right to the sting. After a few moments of slightly sharper stinging,the pain will diminish almost immediately,and the sting will heal in a short while. I always keep an onion in my first aid kit when traveling, camping, etc.
Hot Potatoes and Plentiful Produce
We have a big lawn, and eliminating the grass clippings had always been a problem. We used to let the garbage service haul away our bags full of clippings — then we decided to use them ourselves . . . on the potatoes.
When our potatoes are about a foot tall we drag the clippings out to the garden and carefully pile their warm contents around the base of the plants, covering them until only the tips of the plants show above the grassy compost. The potatoes grow remarkably fast, getting close to five feet tall before tipping over. Heavy rains compress the grass compost into a dense mass, and at harvest time we simply remove the grass mat by rolling it back with a garden rake. Digging down into the soil we find a solid mass of uniformly shaped potatoes, which we simply pick off the ground. This eliminates hoeing and, by leaving the grass compost in place, we can spread it over the garden the following spring.
To have beautiful and delicious greens early in the year, try sowing spinach in the middle of autumn. The plants will grow to medium size before winter sets in . . . and they'll burst forth in the early spring with loads of greens, while your other veggies are just sprouting.
Don't let spare garden produce go to waste! Take it to a senior citizens' apartment complex. You'll find plenty of eager recipients.
Great Bend, KS
Everyone knows to use pastey floor wax to keep the wood handles of your tools in shape, but what about the business end? Try this recycling trick:
Fill a five-gallon bucket with sharp sand and add leftover oil collected from an oil change. After each use of a metal-ended tool, jam it in the sand to clean and preserve it.
When you break the handle of your hammer, axe or maul, the easiest way to replace it is to heat the head in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for about an hour. This shrinks the wood and expands the metal. Pull out the old wood and have the new handle ready to insert while the iron is hot. And use pot holders to handle the hot metal!
Need to get rid of an infestation of fruit flies? Mix one quart of water with 14 drops of lemongrass essential oil. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Then spray the areas where you see the flies: walls, ceiling, whatever. Eventually the critters will disappear. You can also use garlic water, but I've had greater success with the lemongrass water spray. This method is not toxic at all and smells great,too.
Los Angeles, CA
A Tropical Recipe
Just thought I'd share a recipe with you. It's called pineapple zucchini. Start with four quarts of zucchini, peeled, seeded and diced into one-inch cubes. Add 1 1/2 cups lemon juice, one 46 oz. can of pineapple juice (unsweetened) and three cups of sugar. Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool and put in jars.Yields three to four quarts or six to eight pints. It takes about three weeks for the zucchini to be fully pineapple-flavored.
Compost This Lore
I wanted one of those nifty (and expensive) compost tumblers, but the price of the product always stopped me in my tracks. So my husband and I decided to build our own compost tumbler using things we had around the house. We found a plastic trash can and drilled holes all over the can. We also drilled four holes in the rim of the lid and secured it with four nuts and bolts.
I just add my compost ingredients to the can and mix them by kicking the can over and turning it. Our tumbler was cheap to make and is easy to use. Best of all, we have finished, usable compost in several weeks.
Sticky Sap No More
Here's something that I always have in my pocket and that has come to my rescue many times. Have you ever been out camping or hiking and gotten the sticky sap of a pine or spruce on your hands? As we all know, soap and water won't get it off — but that little tube of Chap Stick® in your pocket will take it off completely. It's also great for getting off that nasty adhesive left from price stickers. I recently bought a pair of reading glasses that had the price sticker stuck onto the right lens. My Chap Stick® got the sticker gunk off in a flash without harming the lens. For years I have wanted to share this secret but didn't know how to get the word out. Thanks, MOTHER!
Egg Your Slugs and Splinters
If you have a splinter you can't get out, break open an egg and retrieve the membrane that's around the inside of the shell. Put a little bit of this membrane over the splinter, and in six or seven hours the splinter will have come out enough that you can pull it out the rest of the way.
The biggest worry I have for my garden is that slugs are going to eat my vegetables before I do. Since I do not like to use chemicals in my garden, I crunch up empty eggshells and sprinkle them around the edges of the garden. They are much too pointy and pokey for the slugs to get over!
Here are two simple uses for apple cider vinegar that have proved very helpful to me andthat I hope will be of use toothers:
1. Scale or calcium build up around your sink? Saturate paper towels with apple cider vinegarand place around faucets at bedtime. Wipe away unsightly scale the next morning. May require a second application for heavy buildup.
2. Here's a better way to peel hard-boiled eggs: using a needle or stickpin, punch hole in butt end of egg before boiling. Add a small amount of apple cider vinegar and salt to water. Start eggs in cold water, bring to boil and let boil for ten minutes.
—Ben W Ulmer
Moncks Corner, SC
My husband's chickens and guineahens just wouldn't stay out of my garden and flower beds. I found a way to keep them out, as well as the birds that wouldn't stay out of my fruit trees. At least once a week we receive a CD with some Internet offer. We used to just throw them out, but I found that the bright and shiny side reflects light and produces a prism of colors as they wave in the wind. These fluttering distractions keep the birds away, both domestic and wild. I used fence stretch bars to hang them on. The material CDs are made from is pliable and can be bent and drilled without trouble. It's not only galvanized (thus rust-resistant), but it's also free.
Pine Canyon, UT
When You're in a Jamb
Sometimes a project requires you to draw a straight line down the side of a pipe, dowel or other cylindrical piece. The rather difficult job of drawing the straight line along the length of a cylindrical surface can be quickly and easily done using any door jamb. The molding forms a natural "vee" block when a pipe or dowel is placed up against it. Using the molding as a straight edge, draw a pencil line on the surface of the cylinder by running the pencil down the length of the door jamb.
—Arthur R. Lee
Santa Cruz, GA
Don't Tread on Me
I found this idea in a 1948 book of household hints: Is the carpet on your stairs old and worn? Make it look new by moving the carpet up or down half a step. That way the unworn riser sections will now rest on the steps, and the threadbare spots will be moved to the risers, where they won't show as much.