Farming Advice: An Activist Christmas Gift, Unclaimed Clothing and Spring Bulbs

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MOTHER-reader plants the bulbs in various containers and forces them to bloom . . . then sets her planters out in bright areas indoors . . . and has beautiful blossoms during the otherwise dreary winter months.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including a unique and economical idea for an activist Christmas gift, collecting coin laundry unclaimed clothing for cheap and decorating your winter yard with pots of forced spring bulbs.

Barb Elam wanted to extend holiday greetings to her friends in a manner that was both economically feasible and emotionally fulfilling. So the Pomona, Illinois reader and her husband devised some unique gifts that not only cost just 78 cents each to produce, but also helped spread the spirit of good will. The Land of Lincoln residents simply typed up the following message . . . enclosed several stamped postcards, already addressed to the recipient’s political representatives . . . and placed both in an envelope decorated with recycled ribbon.


We hope this finds you happy and healthy! In place of a traditional gift, we offer this list (and the addressed postcards) in the hope that you will let your opinions be heard. We feel the time has come to speak up. Following are some issues upon which you may be interested in expressing your views, whatever they may be:

defense spending
social program cuts
solar energy funding cuts
nuclear energy
nuclear weapons
tobacco subsidies
foreign military intervention
hazardous waste disposal
James Watt
development of wilderness areas
relaxing clean air standards
gun control
drunken driving
cancer-causing food additives

We urge you to keep abreast of these and other issues that affect all of our lives. Make your friends aware of pending legislation in such areas, and encourage them to write to their representatives. Talk to people about your opinions and–most important of all–get involved.

Peace on Earth,
Dave, Barb, and Kit

Unwilling to resort to the expense of purchasing a propane refrigerator to keep perishables cool, Randy Benson and her mate have come up with a non-electric alternative. Last fall, the couple–who reside in Nass Camp, British Columbia–dug a 4 foot by 4 foot by 4 foot hole be neath an existing shed on their property. After the ground froze, they poured water into the pit . . . waiting for one layer to freeze before adding more H2O. Slowly the pit became a solid block of ice. The Canadians next constructed a slatted floor over the top and insulated around the outside of the shed with hay or sawdust. The interior stays cool enough for most edibles (milk and cheese, Ms. Benson points out, should be nearest the floor). The ice melts gradually throughout the summer months, and by fall, it’s time to repeat the process!

“The residue left by price stickers can usually be removed by rubbing a bit of peanut butter on the mark, leaving it there for a few hours, then wiping it off”, Robert Love of Kansas City, Missouri writes. Some folks also recommend peanut butter as a means of removing bubble gum from hair, carpeting, and other places where it’s decidedly unwelcome.

By now, most of us know a passel of uses for vinegar, but did you know that the multipurpose potion can help heal a sprain? According to Mrs. Alton Lenz of Laverna, Texas, a brown paper bag soaked in heated apple cider vinegar and applied to a sprain will speed recovery. (Mrs. Lenz wraps a towel around the bag to help contain the heat as long as possible.)

Rita Levens gave us another use for brown paper bags. She makes them into mailers, a procedure that helps the Dallas, Texan avoid the high cost of manila envelopes . . . and also allows her to send items through the mail that might not fit a standard envelope size.

“In the old days, when traveling pioneers were often forced to sleep on the ground, they overcame the chill by digging a shallow bedsized ditch and spreading hot coals from the campfire in the bottom,” writes Gary Pritchett of Aquilla, Texas. “The embers were then covered with several inches of dirt, and the campers made their beds over this internally warmed mound.”

Here’s a good way to recycle the greeting cards that you receive from friends, neighbors, and relatives this holiday season. Wanda Gilliam of Southgate, Michigan folds an 8-1/2 inch by 11 inch sheet of typing paper in half . . . and in half again. Wanda then glues the picture portion of a “used” greeting card to the front quarter, thus creating her own festive note paper.

Marie Forton–of Imlay City, Michigan–makes quick, no-hassle sandwich relish by grinding up homemade bread-and-butter pickles. Nothing could be simpler, she writes.

Susan Beswick has a tip for those of you who sharpen your own gardening tools. She suggests that you safeguard yourself from your handiwork by fastening a small C-clamp securely to the file just below the handle. That way–the St. Petersburg, Floridian says–if the file slips, the gardener’s hand will be protected from the newly sharpened surface.

“Your local coin laundry operator might be happy to make an arrangement to sell you all the forgotten and unclaimed clothing items that pile up in his or her establishment,” suggests Roberta Smola of Carthage, Missouri. “I’ve picked up everything from hand-embroidered pillowcases to doll clothing . . . and all the mundane (but necessary) garments in between!”

Virginia Henry exchanges her used phone directories with friends and relatives from other locales. That way, the Gainesville, Texan has access to a large number of listings.

Need an inexpensive dolly to cart something around on? Robert Hopson made a hand truck, for hauling his shop vacuum cleaner, from a child’s circular “walker”. Bob just cut a round section out of the seat with a jigsaw and added an expanded metal bottom. The cleaner can now be pulled along behind the handyman when he vacuums his workshop in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.

Tammy Wood purchases her spring-flowering bulbs at the end of the fall planting season . . . taking advantage of the half-price clearance sales that are held at that time. The Olympia, Washington MOTHER-reader plants the bulbs in various containers and forces them to bloom by leaving the soon-to-be flowers in a dark, cool (40-50 degrees Fahrenheit) place for 14 weeks. Tammy then sets her planters out in bright areas indoors . . . and has beautiful blossoms during the otherwise dreary winter months. And the Evergreen Stater takes that opportunity to record the colors and varieties of the flowers so she can decide on the spot in her garden where she’ll give them a permanent home later.

Through the years we’ve all probably discovered a few practical, down-home, time-tested solutions to the frustrating little problems of everyday life. Why not share your best “horse sense” with the rest of MOTHER’s readers? Send your suggestions to Country Lore, THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Hendersonville, NC. A one year subscription — or a one year extension of an existing subscription — will be sent to each contributor whose tip is printed in this column. — MOTHER.