MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including maintaining a natural swimming pool, a solar heating kit and how to catch fruit flies.
Solar House Resource
I enjoyed your recent article on simple solar heating. I've been designing sun-tempered and passive-solar houses in the sun-starved Pacific Northwest for more than 20 years. It still amazes me how many people build a new house without ever thinking about the light that falls on it. Not only must they live much of the year in the dark, they are spending perhaps 20 percent to 30 percent more than they need to for heating.
Your readers planning to build solar homes might want to check out my do-it-yourself, downloadable Sunkit that will plot the sun for any building site in the mainland 48 states. This Sunkit includes the most effective and simplest solar strategies and also tells how to adjust them to fit local climate variables.
The Sunkit can be found at countryplans.com/solarkit.htm.
— John Raabe
Natural Swimming Pool Tips
Regarding your recent story about natural swimming pools (MOTHER EARTH NEWS August/September 2002), here are some do's and don'ts that we discovered after we built our natural pool four years ago.
Do — line the pool with a thick layer of gravel. An exposed, soft clay bottom is easily churned up by swimming and wading.
Do — if there's no natural spring or stream, augment the water in the pool with a runoff catchment system from nearby buildings. Connect the downspouts to underground tubing, piping the water directly to the pond. This often eliminates the need to top off the pool with house or well water.
Do — dig and fill postholes or pier holes when you dig the pool. (After the pool is filled with water, empty holes dug adjacent to it may fill with water too.)
Do — install a windmill to aerate the pool. [Go to www.koenderswindmills.ca to view the system].
Don't — keep koi and goldfish in your swimming pool. They are extremely dirty fish and will cloud the water.
Don't — berm the pool with excavated dirt. Water, wind and footsteps will erode the berm, and loose dirt will settle into the pool.
Don't — expect to have a sand beach. People, animals and Mother Nature will move the sand into the pond.
Don't — let dogs into your swimming pond. They will erode the bank and trample perimeter plants.
— Lisa Prong
Vinegar vs. Weeds . . .
When killing broadleaf weeds, regular white vinegar, at 5 percent acidity, works well. Be careful when handling and spraying not to get any of the vinegar in your eyes. Some people experience skin irritation with vinegar too.
The best time to spray is on a windless day, early in the morning — make sure that a hot, sunny day is forecast. I like to use my pressure sprayer with plain vinegar. To spray, cover the leaves of the weed thoroughly and spray the crown of the plant. In about an hour, the leaves should be drooping. By the end of the day the weed leaves will be all shriveled up.
Vinegar doesn't necessarily kill the root of the weed, so reapplication may be necessary. The younger the weed, the easier it will be to kill. For me, vinegar has knocked out Canada thistle, dandelion, plantain and burdock.
— Judy Depeal
. . . and Catching Fruit Flies
Please reprint this "recipe" for catching fruit flies. I first read this in an early issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS and have told dozens of people, but every year I have to tell more people:
Put about an inch of cider vinegar into a small container, add two or three drops of liquid dishwashing detergent, stir it up and set it near the source of the fruit flies.
— Mrs. Quintin Hadley
Cassadaga, New York
Homemade Peach Picker
As our little backyard peach tree grew larger, it became more and more difficult to reach the ripe fruit on the higher limbs. At first, a stepladder sufficed to get us high enough, but soon an aluminum extension ladder was required for the higher fruit picking.
This year, rather than risk a fall from a ladder, I asked my wife to give me one of her stiff plastic drink cups. From my window-washing supplies, I selected one of the 6-foot telescoping poles. With a few turns of tape, I fastened the plastic cup to the end of the pole.
Safely standing on the ground, I can extend the pole a considerable distance. By placing the lip of the cup under the stem of the fruit, a simple push upward breaks the fruit free. It drops gently into the cup without bruising. There is enough room in the cup for two peaches.
— Arthur Lee
Santa Cruz, California
I have a very inexpensive way to ward off deer from eating my flower garden: I've set a few 2- to 3-foot-long rubber snakes
around the flower garden. It has worked great for me so far! Seems worth a try for anyone trying to keep their flowers from being devoured. Guess the creatures are a bit intimidated by the presence of snakes (even if they aren't real)!
Make sure you tell your family and friends that the rubber snakes are there. Otherwise they may be in for a startle themselves!
— Kim Simchak
Madison Township, Pennsylvania
Share Your Wisdom and Earn Some Cash!
Please share your wise-living tips with our readers. We'll pay $25 to $50 for each letter we publish. Send info, with photos if possible, to Country Lore at MOTHER EARTH NEWS; Topeka, KS or email to letters @ motherearthnews.com. — MOTHER