Use Weeds as Garden Mulch
Here's a tip for anyone who tends to get behind on weeding their garden: Carefully remove weeds (don't dislodge the plant's roots; you may need to firm soil around them again), shake off all the dirt from the roots, and lay weeds beside "keeper" plants in the row. Then, put bare roots on top of weed tops so they can't take root and grow again. They will act as a mulch by holding moisture and preventing future weeds. They will also protect the sensitive base of garden plants that are disturbed by pulling big weeds. I've saved many a garden crop during hectic times.
—Sue Peeler, Pollock, Missouri
Make a Birdhouse from an Ice Cream Container
From Pack Rat Press's Reuse News, Vol. 2, No. 2 comes a few creative ways to reuse empty 1/2-gallon ice cream tubs and boxes. Make: a pet food canister, a plant or potpourri holder, a colander (punch holes in the bottom and lower sides), a napkin holder, storage for bait worms (fill with coffee grounds), or best of all—a bird house. You'll need: two lids, one tub, tie-wire or heavy string, and a chunky twig.
Turn the tub upside down. Glue one lid to the new top to repel rain. Attach the twig (or a button) onto the tie-wire and punch it through the new top, creating a hanger. Cut a round hole in the side of the tub and put the other lid back onto the wide new-bottom opening. You can paint or decorate these to suit, and you can stuff grass or dryer lint inside to get the birds started.
—The MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors
Start Seedlings in Your Car
Here's a trick for starting seedlings. We live in a 100-year-old house, and we've had a lot of trouble finding a good, warm spot to start seedlings. So I came up with this solution: I take all my seed flats to work every day, park in a sunny spot, and leave them in my car all day. Within less than a week, they're all germinated.
—Maureen Engel, Methuen, Massachusetts
Start A Farmers' Market in Your Empty Lot
Here's an idea for a surefire year-round moneymaker: If you either own or can lease a couple of acres in a large city or suburban area, here's a good way to earn a good living and do a lot of good besides—little or no investment required. Start a farmers' market, where farmers come in, park their trucks, and peddle fruits and vegetables. Others can sell homemade pies, jams, etc. You should charge according to how big the seller's truck is, and how big of a load they bring in.
—Leroy E. Marchand, Puyallup, Washington
Make a Camp Stove from a Can
I have developed an alcohol camp stove that you can make out of a tuna can, a beef stew can, and a can opener in a matter of minutes. This is the simplest, lightest, and safest camp stove I have ever used, and I'd love to share it with other low-budget campers.
First, use the can opener to make holes around the bottom and top of the larger can. Make the holes about an eighth of an inch apart, as large as possible. Use a pair of pliers to curve the metal from the top holes around the top of the can, and make a long narrow slit in the side of the can for lighting the stove. Place the tuna can at the bottom of the other can, fill it with alcohol, light it with a match, and begin cooking. You will learn how much fuel to add after you have had some experience with the stove.
I tested this stove on a five-day backpacking trip in The Smokies. The stove boiled a pot of water in five minutes (above 5000 feet).
—Rob Beshoof, Manchester, Tennessee
Use Plastic Bags for Paint Trays
Instead of using paint-tray liners, I put the whole tray inside a plastic grocery bag (the kind with handles from the supermarket). It fits just right, and I just twist the handles around the "legs" of the tray a few times to keep the bag from moving as the roller picks up paint. When you're done, just turn the bag inside out and toss it.
Also, here's a natural insect repellent: herbs or spices. After making tea, allow the tea bags to dry out and then place them at insect entry-points. It's self-contained, clean, non-toxic, and pleasant-smelling. After a few months, you can recycle by adding the "worn-out" tea to your compost or till it into the soil. I've found this method works farily well with ants, and is neater than using sprays. Cinnamon sticks also make good insect repellents, and add a nice flavor to your tea.
—Dennis MacDonald, Los Angeles, California
Remove Plastic Laminate with an Infrared Heat Lamp
Here's a tip for those of you who deal with plastic laminates (i.e. Formica): If by chance you glue it down in the wrong place, don't despair. Heat it up with an infrared heat lamp, and you'll be able to peel it right off.
—William A. Grover, Nokomis, Florida
Make Homemade Fire Starters
Here's how we create fire starters, start camp fires, and light our charcoal in the grill: We slowly melt our kids' broken crayons and burned down candles, and then mix in sawdust we've saved from making wood projects. Once cooled, we cut out each egg cup from a cardboard egg carton and wrap it in foil until used. (We always keep the foil for the next batch.) To use this fire starter, simply light the cardboard shell. The starter will burn for 15 to 30 minutes depending on the amount of wax used.
—Steve Martinez, Wheaton, Illinois
Retread Footie Pajamas
There's nothing worse than when the souls of your "footie" pajamas wear out during those freezing winter nights. Fortunately, there's a way to fix them up so that you can keep your feet (and your children's feet) warm and cozy.
Collect all of your family's unuseable footie pj's, cut the feet off of them, and sew on a pair of heavy socks in their place. Be sure to use socks that are one size larger than what your child is currently wearing. It's a great way to add some extra miles on your kids' Dr. Dentons.
—Kay Zorn, Willow Springs, Missouri
Picnic for Three
My husband likes his wildlife at a distance, preferably with a windshield between him and it. Recently, we were seated on the lawn, having a picnic of chicken, fruit, and bread, when a wasp flew over and started circling him menacingly. Bob batted at it angrily. Of course I told him that it was the worst thing he could do—it just gets them angrier, making them more likely to sting.
So my husband stopped batting at it, and quickly spread a paper napkin on the lawn. Then he placed a chicken bone with some scraps of meat on hit. Sure enough, the wasp lost interest in him and settled down to enjoy the miniature picnic feast while we enjoyed our own picnic.
—Kay Haugaard, Pasadena, California
Find Tape Ends Easily with Bread BagTabs
Tired of digging up the end of your adhesive, masking, or scotch tape on the roll? Try using the little tabs that keep bread-wrapper ends closed. Put them under the end of the tape and then lift up the next time you use it. It will come off nice and easy.
Fill Holes in Plaster Walls with Toothpaste
If you're looking for a spackling compound for patching small holes and cracks in plaster walls, try toothpaste. Any kind of white toothpaste will do. It's easy to apply and smooth out, and it dries surprisingly hard. No sanding will be required if you blend the paste into the plaster by rubbing the filler with a little water. This spackle takes paint well and can be cleaned from tools and brushes easily with just a little washing. And leave your rings on—toothpaste is a great way to shine your rings and other delicate pieces of gold jewelry.
—Vern Johnson, Bettendorf, Iowa
Keep Gloves Organized
Do your children always seem to lose one glove after coming home from a winter outing? If so, build your family a rope ladder clothesline (miniature lines set up in a vertical pattern).
Pick a free corner in your house, and hammer a nail into the wall about a foot and a half to the left of the corner's seam. Hammer another nail directly across from it—about a foot and a half to the right. (Shorten or lengthen the distance according to the length of clothesline you wish to use.) Then tie a piece of rope or string from one nail to other, and hang a few clothes pins on it. Repeat the process, leaving 10 to 12 inches of space between lines so there's space to hang the gloves. Put up enough lines for each family member. If you position them right, even the smallest family member will be able to hang up his or her own gloves.
—Carole M. Wooden, Spencer, Tennessee
Cover Seeds with Sand after Rainy Weather Planting
We work up our garden in the fall to make it ready for early spring planting. When we get a week or two of rainy weather—just at the time we'd like to plant—we make rows with the hoe (even if it is wet). Then we plant the seeds in the moist soil, and cover them with damp fill sand. Even if the sun comes out and crusts over the dirt, the tiny sprouts will come right up through the sand.
—Joy Gonnerman, St. Paul, Nebraska