Tips to Make Life Easier Around the Homestead

A collection of brief tips on repairing, adapting and creating tools around the homestead, and much more.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
July/August 1976
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Make life easier on the homestead with these tips and hints from MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
ILLUSTRATION: FOTOLIA/LISA SHU


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A handy tool for clearing leaves, straw, and pieces of ice from tanks and water troughs can be made from an old pitchfork. Just weave the tines through a piece of 1/4"-mesh hardware cloth that's big enough to cover the entire business end of the tool, and fasten the sieve-like material down with hog rings or baling wire.


To remove a large tree stump safely and with little effort, lay brick in a loose, circular wall all the way around the "molar". Put down a bed of charcoal briquettes, coal, or other slow-burning fuel inside the barrier, light it, and cover the smoldering blaze with sheet metal or non-combustible wallboard. The fire will often last for several days, and one burning is usually enough to char the stump to six or eight inches below the ground. Fill the hole with sod, and plant flowers or grass!


Don't throw those broken hacksaw blades away! Next time you need to cut metal that's in a difficult or tight place, simply clamp a section of the "scrap" in a pair of vise-grip pliers and saw away!


If you're carrying a chain saw in your pickup or car—or storing one—you can protect the tool's cutting edge with a simple device made from a section of rubber hose equal to the length of the chain. Split the piece on one side, and slip it over the sharp links. Fashion large elastic bands from an old inner tube, and loop them over the whole works to keep the guard in place.


In order to quickly find the right wrench for the right job, paint each arm of every wrench a different color . . . and paint boltheads in corresponding colors on machinery where the wrenches are used. This'll not only save you time when you're looking for tools, but—more important—it'll ensure that you never deform a bolthead by applying the wrong wrench to it.


Hulled walnuts can be cleaned easily! Just put approximately half a bushel of them into a cement mixer, add a quarter bushel of stones or gravel about the same size as the fruit, and pour in plenty of water. Run the machine until the nuts appear to be ready (you may want to change the water once or twice), and dump the contents onto a screen. Rinse, and pick out the nuts. You'll find that they're free of trash, ready to be dried, and attractive enough to market!


Misjudging the last step at the bottom of your basement, house or root cellar stairway can be a rude surprise... and dangerous, too. You can easily remedy the problem, however, by just covering that final step with a piece of tell-tale carpeting.


If your pasture or field is crisscrossed by cow path gullies, prevent new ones from developing by putting large, thorny tree limbs in the middle of the paths. As the cattle encounter these "roadblocks", they'll make new paths (and allow the old ones to grow over). No more gullies will form.


You can seal a lot of envelopes fast with recycled roll-on deodorant bottles. The tops of most roll-on applicators come off easily, allowing them to be filled with water and used as makeshift letter-lickers.


When stovepipe sections refuse to go together, slip a strand of wire around the male end of one pipe length, and tighten the loop by twisting it with a nail. The slight compression of the tube will allow you to insert it easily, and when you remove the wire (you may have to use cutters) you'll have a snug, secure-fitting joint.


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