Farming advice and folklore from MOTHER and her readers, including avoiding beet juice using a french-fry cutter to freeze beets, organic pest repellent ideas, and keeping grass accumulating from the underside of your lawn mower.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including freezing beets and keeping messy beet juice off your hands using a french-fry cutter, organic methods of pest repellent and coating the underside of your lawn mower with non-stick spray for ease in cutting.
I cut down on weeding chores by buying sunflower seeds and sprinkling them in the weedy, grassy areas of my perennial flower beds. Squirrels and birds love this treat, and all those paws and claws scratching through the soil discourage weeds and grass from sprouting. The hulls left behind act as an enriching mulch, too. This works on perennial vegetable beds as well.
—Mrs. H. Henselin
Most prescription drugs and some vitamins are packaged in bottles that each contain a crystal-filled capsule that absorbs moisture and keeps the pills fresh. Once a bottle's contents are used up, the capsule can be placed in a salt or pepper shaker to keep the seasonings dry in damp weather.
Jackson, South Carolina
How I used to hate preparing beets for freezer storage! Before the job was over I'd be covered with beet juice and so would my cutting board and countertops. Last year, though, I tried two utensils meant for other uses and they worked perfectly. Once the beets were cooked and tender, I cut the larger ones into strips with my wire French-fry cutter and made nice even slices of the smaller ones with my metal egg slicer. It's an easy way to make short work of a messy job.
Grand Rapids, Minnesota
An old country formula to ward off gnats and mosquitoes is to mix a tablespoon of vanilla extract into a cup of water. I rubbed this on my children's faces, even as babies, and it worked so well I tried the solution on my horse. Applied around her ears and eyes, it kept flies away.
Pin a fabric softener sheet to the back of your collar or on your hat. It looks funny, but it sure keeps mosquitoes away.
For bug bites or for ticks, reach for a deodorant spray containing aluminum chloro-hydrate. Sprayed on a bite, it will take away the pain and swelling (not the itch, however, but you can't have everything!). If a tick has taken up residence in your skin, give the insect a squirt and in a moment or two it will crawl out where you can pick it off.
When I lived in the Ozark Mountains I was plagued by ticks. I could hardly leave the house without two or three of them attaching themselves to me. A local old-timer suggested I drink a quart of buttermilk every day. He claimed it would change the chemical composition of my perspiration so as to repel ticks. I'm not sure if this is true, but after trying his remedy, I never had another tick bite.
Like most gardeners, I always end up with too many zucchini. So I substitute the squash for cucumbers in my favorite recipes for relish and bread-and-butter pickles. No one ever can tell the difference.
—Donna N. Swanson
I guess the threat of stinging hornets is the price we pay for all the pleasures of summer. But I've learned a way to cope—with the sting, at least. If I get stung, I immediately wring out a towel in hot water and sprinkle a generous portion of meat tenderizer on the towel. This I apply directly to the sting, retreating the towel every five minutes for about half an hour. The hot towel causes the pores of my skin to open, and the tenderizer neutralizes the venom. If I do this quickly enough after the hornet's attack, there is no pain and no swelling.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Our farm was invaded by rats and mice, and we were at our wits' end after trying to eradicate them with no success. An elderly neighbor suggested setting out shallow pans of nondiet cola. Sure enough, the rodents loved the sugary liquid, drank it greedily and within a few days were dead. They evidently can't burp, so the carbonation bloats their bodies and kills them. It's an inexpensive solution, and safe to use around pets and farm animals.
Lightly coat the underside of your power lawn mower with a no-stick cooking spray. Less grass adhering to the mower will make for an easier job.
Apple Creek, Ohio
Some summer nights are so sultry even the sheets stick to your body. Try sprinkling baby powder between your sheets; you'll find you rest more comfortably. To cut costs, use a generic brand of powder and mix it half-and-half with cornstarch.
My French-Canadian grandmother-in-law had a trick for removing the bitter taste from cucumbers. She'd cut off a one-and-a-half-inch section from one end and rub it rapidly and firmly back and forth over the cut end of the longer portion. The suction draws out a white substance, which you then wash off the main piece, discarding the cut tip.
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.
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