The following housekeeping tips and other bits of country lore were submitted by readers.
Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder Pole
I have finally found a way to baffle
the squirrels that were emptying my pole-type feeder. It
involves recycling a glass one-gallon wine bottle. Cut the
bottom out of the wine bottle. Cut a piece of black plastic
pipe about three inches shorter than the feeder mounting
pole. Place the plastic pipe over the pole, place the altered
wine bottle over the pole and onto the pipe, mount the feeder
on the pole.
I had to empty a second wine bottle and alter it. I had one
squirrel that was really an athlete. The second bottle
stymied him. To mount the second bottle, I cut a piece from
the existing plastic pipe the length of the second bottle.
I then placed the long piece of plastic pipe over the pole,
then the first bottle, then the short piece of plastic
pipe, then the second bottle, then the feeder. No squirrel
has been able to compromise this arrangement for the last
five winters. Their antics are hilarious.
— Fred L. Babbitt
South Windsor, CT
After reading "Walnut Tips" in your article "Newspaper Cat Litter, Soybean Meal Soil Conditioner, and Other Country Lore," I
realized that what I have been doing for years is not
common knowledge. Why go through the trouble of getting rid
of the stain when you can do without it?
After you enjoy collecting the walnuts, just drop them on a
hard surface, one that you don't care about staining. I use
a three foot section of a 4" x 4" as my crusher. Lift it
about a foot or so and let it fall on a walnut. The weight
is enough to crack the hull but not enough to crack the
shell. Usually the hull splits right off. For those ornery
ones that don't, wear a pair of rubber gloves and hull the
rest of the way. You can hull a bushel or so in about an
hour. It's cleaner and it gives you a little aerobic weight
After the nuts are hulled, with gloves still on, put them
in a bread rack in a single layer to dry for a couple of
days in the sun. Be sure to put them up and out of reach of
squirrels. I learned the hard way the first year. I lost
half of my nuts and now have enough walnut trees growing on
my property to start my own lumber mill in 50 years.
After they have dried, put them in mesh potato bags and
hang them in the garage to further dry and cure. Next year
you can crack them and use them. If you crack them the same
year, the meat is usually still moist and will mildew.
After cracking the nuts ( I usually pick them while I'm
watching TV), I save the big pieces for cookies and
brownies, the smaller pieces for cakes and bread, and the
fine stuff for the birds' and squirrels' winter treat.
— Jim Polk
Black Fly Protection
About 30 years ago a man wrote to the Bangor Daily
News saying, "If everyone did this the state of Maine
wouldn't have a black-fly problem." His suggestion was to
wear a hard hat smeared with oil.
Unappealing? Absolutely, but it works. And for the past 30
years it has been a blessing to me. It is the only hat that
keeps my bald head from sweating. The hats are adjustable
to size and do not fall off when bending down. They are
cool and comfortable when adjusted. In the fall there is a
new hatching of black flies for a few days, but because I
wear the hat every day there are thousands which won't be
breeding next year.
About 15 years ago I drove into Bangor to get something my
wife needed at the supermarket and forgot I was wearing my
hat with flies. I was stopped several times by shoppers
asking, "Are they flies?" "Yes, they are black flies." At
that time I was using baby oil but have found that any kind
of oil works. I find the best to be chain saw bar oil
because it contains a sticky substance that inhibits it
from flying off the chain and also protects your shirt from
drips on a hot day. Any color hat will do!
Getting Away Scot-Free
Where I frequently have to cross a barbed wire or
electric fence, I slit a piece of garden hose and slip it
over that part of the wire. It saves my pants and my temper
without reducing the effectiveness of the fence.
— Phyllis Hubbard
Don't Waste a Drop of Furnace Water
We recently installed a new high-efficiency gas furnace.
Besides the obvious savings, we've found another one. In
cold weather, such as we've had this winter, when the
furnace runs a lot, the condensation created amounts to
about four gallons of water a day. Rather than draining it
into the cesspool, we started collecting it and using it in
the washing machine and steam iron. Water from the
dehumidifier, in the summer, can be used the same day. Nice
soft water, free of charge!
— Walter Brooks
What Does Your Detector Do?
Regarding John Vivian's article, "Fireproof Your Home"
(issue #142), some smoke detectors detect only smoke,
others detect only a rapid rise in temperature. It is good
to know exactly what yours does. Check it by opening the
cover and let smoke from an incense stick drift into the
sensing unit. Check for heat sensing by holding an electric
hair dryer near the sensor. The alarm should sound if it is
heat sensitive and operating properly. Blowing a dryer
could cause the unit to function improperly; check the
manufacturer's recommended maintenance procedures to ensure
you do no damage.
— Fred Wark
A Grid Saves the Day
If you get frustrated as I do when trying to cultivate
among spreading vines, make a grid! I determined the 12
feet between hills would give me a space to maneuver my
Allis Chalmer G tractor and cultivator as I try to till
between cukes, pumpkins, and squash. I set metal electric
fence rods along one edge of the garden at 12-foot
intervals. I did the same along each perpendicular edge.
With the tractor, I drove from each rod on the east side
straight across the west, leaving wheel tracks as I went. I
did the same from the south to the north. Lo! A grid with
each intersection marking the place to plant the seeds.
You can do the same. Figure out the space your cultivator
or tiller will need to get between the vines as they
spread. Mark the distance along one edge of your garden
with flags or posts. Do the same on the perpendicular edge
and then make tracks in two directions with your tiller.
Plant at the intersections of your tracks, and you too,
will enjoy tilling among the vines.
— Bonnie Gelle
Grand Rapids, MN
Small Brushes for Under a Buck
To construct a number of small brushes, go to a thrift
market or yard sale and purchase an old car or windshield
brush. Take it home and saw it into small brushes. You can
shape the bristles with scissors. Now tell me, what can you
buy for a nickel nowadays that gives you such value?
— Russell L. Skinner
Central Point, OR