Snow Traction, Pine Cone Bird Feeder, and Other Country Lore

A method of using roof tiles for snow traction and a pine cone as a bird feeder are among the tips submitted by readers in this ongoing feature.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
November/December 1981
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A Denver reader recommends facial yeast to tone the skin and treat acne, but warns it might drive family members away.
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The following housekeeping tips and other bits of country lore were submitted by readers. 


Snow Traction

Now's the time to place four asphalt roof shingles in your car's trunk, says Don Carroll. Then, if you get stuck in the snow someplace, you can simply put one shingle under each tire (rough side up) and drive right on out. The Tulsa, Oklahoma resident reports that the roofing material works just as well as sand but doesn't make nearly as much mess or take up as much space in the trunk, and it's reusable.

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

Pine cones make excellent bird feeders, says Winston-Salem, North Carolina reader James Salmons. Just dip a large cone in melted suet, roll it in wild bird seed, and hang it outside for your feathered winter friends to enjoy.

Wood Gunk Remover

When Les Hall's saw blade gets all gummed up from cutting green wood, he removes the gunk with oven cleaner. "It works better than turpentine," the Atlanta, Michigan resident writes.

Insulation Handling Method

One of the easiest ways to make your house more energy efficient (and to help balance your budget) this winter is to put another layer of insulation in your attic. Robert Field, Jr. of Riverdale, Maryland wrote to tell us about a method his father devised to keep the Itchy material away from tender skin during the application process: He used a ski pole to place the fiberglass fluff between the boards, eliminating the need to tuck the insulation in by hand.

Turkey Blindfold

If you're planning to dress your own turkey as part of a truly homegrown Thanksgiving feast, you may want to take a tip from Bemidji, Minnesota's Bill Thiessen. During the night before butchering day, Bill takes a flashlight and an old sock (a dark, densely woven one works best) and heads for the roost. Being careful not to shine the light in the bird's eyes or create any unnecessary disturbance, he quietly pulls the sock over the sleeping turkey's head, holding it in place with a rubber band if it fits loosely.

Next morning, Bill says, his hooded future dinner will still be snoozing peacefully in the artificial dark, and can be (gently) picked up, carried to the chopping block, and dispatched before it has time to panic.

Turkey Cooking Method

When it's time to cook her Thanksgiving Tom, Alice Garber of Medford, Oregon hunts up a brown paper grocery sack. After preparing the fowl, Alice puts it in the bag and staples the wrapper shut. Then she sets the turkey—breast side down—in a pan, preheats the oven to 325°F (no warmer, or the paper could ignite), and roasts the bird according to the timetable given in most cookbooks. There's no need to baste, and Alice claims that folks who use her method will end up with the most deliciously moist white meat ever!

Designated Cat Plant

If your cat likes to entertain itself on a dull winter day by nibbling on your houseplants, why not present the feline with his or her very own foliage? That's what Joan Hackathorn did. Joan—a MOTHER EARTH NEWS-reader from Newton, lowa—potted a catnip plant and watered it well. Then she set the gift where Puss could easily reach it and happily discovered that the animal ignored her plants in favor of its own!

Chicken Compost Furnace

"In 'Ten Commandments for Raising Chickens, Part I', Randy Kidd advises putting a shallow pit beneath the roosts to catch droppings. In our log chickenhouse we have such a pit. Not only does it collect droppings from our happy cluckers, but it becomes a heat source for their winter comfort, as well," writes Cathy Wodyga of Challis, Idaho.

"All we do is dig a ditch about four feet deep, put in a layer of twigs, and cover them with dirt, compost, and some well-rotted manure. We next apply small-mesh chicken wire a few inches beneath the roosts, which catches eggs but allows droppings to fall into the pit.

"This chicken-fueled furnace has very little odor and provides the coop with a lot of extra warmth. Then, when spring arrives, our garden gets treated to wonderfully rich compost!"

Electrical Outlet Insulation

Believe it or not, cold air can enter your house through the electrical outlets. But Colette Peckham found a simple solution to her draft problem by insulating the wall plates! You see, Colette recycles the plastic foam trays from meat packages she purchases at the supermarket. One day, she removed all the electrical outlet plates and traced each one on a freshly washed (and dried) tray. Then the resident of Jackson, Michigan cut the patterns out (a fraction of an inch smaller than the traced lines), placed the foam pieces under the wall plates, and fastened each one back in its place. Presto! No more chilly drafts.

Fire Gloves

According to Leslie Coburn, anyone who heats with wood should keep a pair of welding gloves beside the stove. Leslie and her husband—who hail from Franklinton, North Carolina—have found the gloves invaluable for handling hot coals and ashes, picking up burning logs (only if absolutely necessary), and adjusting hot draft controls.

Screen Door Food Dryer

Cookie and Drew Dillon of West Kill, New York report that an effective and thrifty food dryer can be made by simply suspending an old aluminum screen door from the ceiling (using hooks and thin chain) over your wood stove.

Drip-Proof Candles

Sharon Hornsby suggests that you dripproof your holiday candles this year by soaking them—for an hour or two—in salt water. Use two tablespoons of salt in just enough water to cover the candle. The Mobile, Alabamian also notes that chilling a candle for up to 12 hours before burning it will have a similar effect.

Personal Holiday Gift Certificates

"When I have little or no money for Christmas presents, I find that a homemade booklet of 'promise' certificates can be an ideal gift," writes Mrs. Arden DenBleyker of Hudsonville, Michigan.

"For example, I once presented a neighbor with a certificate offering free babysitting for four evenings. Other 'coupons' that I've given promised snow shoveling, lawn care, and housework. The possibilities are limited only by your skills and imagination. Such presents are especially good for youngsters to give, too."

Automotive Yeast Warmer

One way to get bread dough to rise in the winter (if you keep your house too cool to set the yeast to working) is to place it in your car, writes Dawn Zaharis of Princeton, Florida. With the windows rolled up and the sun beating down on the roof, the bread will rise in no time at all, without forcing you to waste precious energy heating an oven or a house!

Windshield Defroster Brick

When Geraldine Skinner's auto heater/defroster quit smack-dab in the middle of winter, she found that she could manage without the heat but that the windshield couldn't. So the Frewsburg, New Yorker developed a convenient method of removing the ice each morning. She simply places a brick on her wood stove and lets it get hot, then sets it—on a potholder—atop her car's dashboard and tums on the blower. In 30 seconds or so the windshield is clear, even in 10°F weather! And wrapping the brick in foil will keep it effective for up to an hour and a half.

Bathroom Wine Rack

"If you have a small bathroom and very little storage space, roll up your bath towels and keep them in a wine rack," Janice Powers of Independence, Kansas suggests. "Many such shelves are small enough to fit neatly on the back of the toilet, look very cute, and certainly cost much less than a new cabinet."

Homemade Cough Syrup

Some old-fashioned remedies are worth repeating time and time again. Gayle Kessler of Clarksburg, Maryland reminds us that an effective cough syrup can be concocted by chopping up a few onions in a bowl and covering them with sugar. Let the mixture stand for a few hours, and the resulting juice will dislodge congestion better than storebought medicine.

Facial Yeast

As another natural, inexpensive health and beauty aid, Cindy Wagner recommends her own homemade facials for toning the skin and treating acne. The Denver, Colorado reader mixes one cake of yeast with enough lemon juice to produce a paste that has the consistency of cold cream. She applies the mixture evenly over her face (being careful to avoid the eyes) and lets it dry for 20 minutes, after which she merely washes the mask off with warm water. Cindy advises that the facial is best done when no one else is around, though, as some folks do consider the odor offensive!

Arm Warmers

"I enjoy reading in bed at night, but because I turn the heat down low when I retire, my arms sometimes suffer from the cold," writes reader Polly Cooper of Barrington Hills, Illinois.

"Wearing a sweater works, of course, but it's often a struggle to get it off when I'm ready to put out the light. One day, however, I bought a pair of ballerina's leg warmers—which are little more than wool tubes—and I now slip those on my arms at night. They keep me cozy, and I don't have to wrestle to remove them, either!"


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