Farming Advice and Folklore: Reviving Tomatoes, Christmas Tree Tonic and Rooster Caplets

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Knowing that garlic repels cats, we placed a few pieces of a fresh, peeled clove under the tree skirt.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including help in cold winter months, including reviving tomatoes from the supermarket, a Christmas tree tonic and rooster caplets for cold weather.

Farming Advice and Folklore: Reviving Tomatoes, Christmas Tree Tonic and Rooster Caplets

Winter Wisdom

Ice storms are fairly common here in the Northeast. After a
particularly fierce one, I awoke the next morning to a
beautiful frosty world. Crystals glistened on the limbs of
trees, atop power lines and fences . . . and in the locks
of my car doors. For two hours I laboriously followed the
advice of sympathetic neighbors: Heat the key, squirt
graphite into the lock, spray in rubbing alcohol, melt the
ice with a hair dryer. Finally, one of these methods (or
perhaps a combination of them) worked. But I got an idea
from one neighbor who bemoaned the fact that cars no longer
come equipped with little metal tabs protecting the locks.
I now carry a roll of masking tape in my car, and whenever
the weather threatens, I stick a small piece of tape over
each lock and haven’t had a problem since.

–Jean Schuler
Whitestone, New York

Salad Surprise

At summer’s end I can the last of our wonderful
vine-ripened tomatoes; after that our fresh salads have to
make do with pale, tasteless tomatoes from the supermarket.
That is, they did till I made an accidental discovery. One
evening, as I was using my canned tomatoes in a casserole,
I decided to see what would happen if I poured the juice
over those bland wedges awaiting the salad greens. It was
amazing. After about 15 minutes the cold-storage tomatoes
tasted like they were fresh from a sunny garden.

–Bettye Kelly
Kingsville, Texas

Score One for the Birds

My mother figured how to keep squirrels off the bird
feeder. She took a length of heavy wire, strung it with
empty thread spools and stretched it between two trees. The
feeder hangs in the middle, and no animal can walk across
those spinning spools.

–Nancy Carey
Glens Falls, New York

A Tonic for Your Christmas Tree

I decorate my Christmas tree in early December, and though
I don’t take it down till mid-January, it doesn’t shed its
needles but stays fresh and green. Lots of people mix sugar
or aspirin into the water in the tree stand, but my formula
works better. To a gallon of water I add two cups of white
Karo syrup, one cup of Listerine and four ground-up
multivitamin-with-iron tablets. I make up about two gallons
of this solution, stirring it well. Then, after sawing a
half-inch off the stub of the trunk to help it absorb
nutrients, I place the tree in the stand. After filling the
bowl of the stand with the tonic, I check the amount every
other day or so, and add more as necessary. I’ve used this
method for years, and I never worry about my trees drying

–Joseph Zsiga
Rock Hill, South Carolina

Foiling a Frolic

Our kitten loved to jump up into the Christmas tree,
batting at balls and getting tangled in the tinsel. This
was cute to watch, but our decorations were taking a
beating. Knowing that garlic repels cats, we placed a few
pieces of a fresh, peeled clove under the tree skirt. Our
human noses couldn’t detect the slightest odor, but Kitty
decided to play elsewhere.

–Roger T. Finley
Lomira, Wisconsin

Boomer’s Rooster Bonnet

Though a shed protected our poultry from bitter winds, one
harsh, blustery, Illinois winter was particularly hard on
our roosters. Their combs were frostbitten and started
turning black around the edges. Pitiful! I cut an old,
blue-flowered shower cap with a terrycloth lining into
eight circles, then stitched elastic around the rims. These
caplets were slipped over the combs of eight struggling,
squawking roosters, but after a bit of head shaking and
scratching, they accepted them gratefully. (I could almost
hear the hens snicker.) Boomer liked his so much he wore it
well into spring. We had a mad chase through the crocuses
and daffodils when I finally took it of!

–Polly Cooper
Savannah, Georgia

Is Your Chihuahua Chilly?

Many small dogs really do need sweaters to go out in winter
weather. Those from pet stores tend to be expensive, but
very satisfactory substitutes can be found in the infant
and toddler sections of department stores. Zippered
sweaters are best (just turn the garment around and zip it
up the back of the dog). It’s easy to find the correct size
for your pooch, and you can take advantage of sales to
further reduce the cost.

–Dorothea Warner
Groton, Connecticut

Firewood Bonanza

I heat with wood but don’t have my own lot to cut from. As
the cost from suppliers in this city is very high, I looked
for an alternative. A local tree service employee told me
where they dumped their “refuse.” And when I went there, I
found that at least 10 other such enterprises used the same
landfill. Right at hand were some 10 cords of oak, red oak
and maple, all cut to two-foot lengths. Paying just $1 per
visit gate fee, I loaded my van with several winters’ worth
of virtually free heat.

–Stephen Brown
Birmingham, Alabama

Traction Trick

Many of us don’t enjoy hauling a 50-pound sack of sand
around in our car’s trunk to help us get moving on ice and
snow. For years I’ve carried a couple of boxes of table
salt for the same purpose. They don’t add significant
weight in the rear, of course, but they can provide
traction when the tires start to spin. I simply pour a
boxful directly in front of and behind each rear tire (do
the front tires for front-wheel drive). By the time I get
back into the car, I’m able to drive away. It’s worked
every time.

–Dolores Anderson
Levittown, Pennsylvania

Traction Trick II

After rinsing out and thoroughly drying one of those large
plastic jugs that contain liquid or granular laundry
detergent, I fill it with dry sand. I carry it in the trunk
of my car to sprinkle on ice and snow in case I get stuck.

–Ernie Soliday
St. James, Minnesota

Money to Burn

Here’s an inexpensive gift to make for friends with
fireplaces, woodstoves or charcoal grills. Collect a supply
of paper play money and some sawdust or cedar chips, then
melt a cup or so of paraffin or candle stubs. Roll each
paper bill into a tube, using tape to hold its shape. Pour
enough wax onto the sawdust or chips to make a sticky mass,
and stuff the mixture into the cylinders. A small basket
filled with neat rolls of  “10s and 20s,” and perhaps tied
with a bow or sprig of holly, is both attractive and
functional. Since they’re waterproof, these fire starters
are also an easy-to-carry source of emergency heat for
camping, hiking, ice fishing and such.

–Mikki Smith
Lexington, Michigan