Herbal Bath, Skunk Odor Removal, and Other Country Lore

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To make a closet bug trap, turn off all the lights in your home at night except for one in a closet. When the bugs fly in, close the door.
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Maybe they can't be house broken, but cows can be barn trained.

The following housekeeping tips and other bits of country lore were submitted by readers.


Herbal Bath

After a long, dusty day of working in the garden, about all
that most of us can think of is a good hot bath. “But
wait!” says Pat Mestern of Fergus, Ontario, Canada. “Raid
your herb border first–that is, if you want the most
refreshing and sensuous ablutions you’ve ever enjoyed.
Gather a goodly bunch of mint, or lemon balm, or fruit
sage, or chamomile. Tie the sprigs together (picking ’em at
least five inches long makes it easier) and toss the
aromatic bundle into your tub under the running water. A
marvelous aura of herbs will permeate the steam while you
soak and soap, especially if you use your bouquet
garni
as a gentle sponge.” It sounds downright habit
forming, Pat!

Skunk Odor Removal

Last spring, when Paul Lish’s pussycat had a “brief
encounter” with a skunk under the Lish trailer out in
Inkom, Idaho, Paul and his wife were literally “gassed” out
of house and home. Airing the place did precious little but
make it cold, and when they closed the doors and
windows again the overpowering fragrance returned. Paul’s
native American co-worker, however, had the remedy: Burn
cedar or juniper wood in the stove with the damper
almost closed so the smoke would fill the house.

Mrs. Lish was skeptical about applying this piece of Indian
lore (she fretted over the likelihood of sooty ceilings and
drapes), but as Paul pointed out, they had to
do something: They couldn’t afford to trade in their home
on a new one, and they couldn’t live in the place as long
as it smelled the way it did. So Paul and his wife
cedar-smoked that trailer–inside and
underside–and behold, the malodorous “eau de polecat”
was gone, leaving their dwelling only pleasantly redolent
of cedar … and with no blackened interior after all!

Alternative Toothpaste Uses

Would you believe that Vern Johnson of Bettendorf, Iowa has
discovered that his living room wall has 100% fewer
cavities after regular brushing with Crest! Vern says that
just about any kind of white toothpaste makes an excellent
spackling compound for patching small holes and cracks in
plaster walls. “It works very well,” says Vern, “and it
dries surprisingly hard.” Johnson adds that toothpaste
cures slower than commercial wall spackle, but this only
makes it easier to apply and smooth out. And sanding will
not be required at all if you blend the paste into the
plaster by rubbing the filler with a little water. This
“bathroom spackle” takes paint very well and can be cleaned
from tools and brushes quite easily with just a little
washing. Vern also reminds us about the old trick of using
toothpaste to shine rings and other delicate pieces of gold
jewelry.

Furthermore, as long as you’ve got that tube of
denture-dazzler in hand, you might as well search around
and find that perfectly good watch with the badly scratched
crystal … or the favorite pair of sunglasses that you
just can’t see through anymore. John Corbin of Sumter,
South Carolina recommends buffing the murky glass with a
high-abrasive toothpaste–or one of the newer tooth
polishes–to erase those troublesome scarifications.
One caution in working with watches, though: Be sure to
wipe off any excess completely if the timepiece ain’t
waterproof!

And here’s another unusual way to use commercial
dentifrice: Raylene Van Ness of Trout Creek, Montana puts
it on mosquito bites! “I dab some on … and the itching
ceases immediately,” she says. “The bumps will be gone by
the next day.” (Now if we could just get the little
critters to brush before every meal, maybe they’d produce
itchless bites in the first place!)

Closet Bug Trap

Naturally, we’d all like to find a way to avoid those
biting-bug “blues in the night” in the first place. “You
don’t have to drape a mosquito net over your bed or inhale
insect spray till the wee hours to get your beauty sleep,”
says Miami, Florida’s Robert E. Moffett (and who should
know better than a Floridian?). “When you’re fixin’ to
retire for the night, simply turn off all the lights in the
house except for one in an open closet. All the
winged beasts in the vicinity will answer that hospitable
summons, and in 20 minutes or so you’ll be able to
turn off the beacon, shut the door on the pesky critters,
and hit the sack in peace.”

Crack Dough

What can you do if the yeast doesn’t work in a batch of
bread? (It sure is discouraging when the dough just sits
there and won’t rise.) Well, don’t feed that sullen lump to
the pigs just yet. Do what Pat McGinnity of Midland,
Michigan does: make crackers! Here’s how: Roil the
dough out as thin as you can and cut it into squares or
rectangles. Or use cookie cutters, plain or fancy (how
about animal shapes, just for fun?). Then spread the
cutouts apart on cookie pans, poke ’em several places
with a fork, sprinkle salt with a light hand, and
bake the crackers in a 300°F oven till they just begin
to brown. Pat promises these snacks will be “the best-tasting
mistakes you ever made!”

Frozen Onions

It’s harvest time! Got a bumper crop of onions? Here’s the
system Mrs. Richard Bosart uses down in Leander, Texas to
keep the vegetables in season–without tears and
without spoilage loss–all year round. She minces the
savory bulbs in her blender and fills ice cube trays with
the juicy bits. Then, when they’ve frozen solid, she pops
the cubes out and stores ’em in her freezer in plastic bags–ready any time in any amount for soup,
meat loaf, or any other dish that calls for chopped onions.
And, she gets the blender-deodorizing and the eye-wiping all
out of the way at one time.

Wringer Washer Bean Sheller

Puttin’ up a good bean harvest may not bring tears to the
eyes, but it can present a different hazard all its own:
sore fingers from stripping out those pods. And that’s why
Laurence Brewer uses a wringer washer up in Candor, New
York to make bean shelling almost a pleasure instead of
surely a pain. According to Larry, once you have a
cardboard or plywood “backstop” set up in the tub opposite
the wringer, you can just feed those long legumes into the
rollers (keep fingers out, o’course, or your pinkies’ll
hurt even worse than they did when you shelled by hand!),
and your beans will rattle into the tub like hail. Bet the
kids’ll like watchin’ these carryin’-ons better’n
television! Maybe your small fry will even crank the
contraption for you, if you can only find a hand-operated
wringer.

Dental Floss Uses

Rumor has it that more dental floss is used per capita in
Alaska than in any other state in the Union. Lolly Medley
is not surprised by that statistic. Because–away up
there in Wasilla, Alaska–she’s discovered at least
some of the material’s convenience and versatility. First
and foremost, she points out, waxed dental floss is both
the stoutest and most waterproof thread you can use for
hand sewing and mending (just don’t forget that WAXED is
the operative word here). “I first used the treated floss
for sewing up mukluks and dog collars,” says Lolly, “then
for all my mending–even for stitching up wounds on
people and dogs when we couldn’t get to a doctor.”

Now most of us don’t need to be our own moccasin makers or
malamute medics, but how about anchorin’ buttons on
jeans? Or closin’ garment gaps of all kinds? What’s more,
Lolly sticks a needle or two inside a packet of the
mechanical tooth cleaner, slips the packet in her pocket, and there’s her portable repair kit for field or
stream! And speakin’ of streams, the bicuspids’ best
friend will even double as fishin’ line in a pinch!

Barn Trained Cows

Potty train your dairy critters? Maybe not. But you can
barn-break ’em. Edna Ryneveld reports that the dairy
farmers out around Humansville, Missouri start bringing
their heifers into the barn at milking time about two
months before they’re due to freshen. The animals are put in unlocked stanchions and given some grain to munch, a
treat both old and young cattle dearly love. (Wouldn’t you, if you’d been eating grass all day?) But at the first
telltale, tailraisin’ sign that the dairy debutantes are
about to mess up, the bamhands berate the beasts loudly and
shoo ’em out of the barn without letting’ em finish their
business.

This bovine psychology works so well that manure shovelin’
is cut down to what seems to be the irreducible minimum.
And the heifers get a head start on bein’ used to the
milking parlor noise and routine, which makes the new
bossies more contented and easier to manage when their turn
to be milked does come later on.

Recycled Plastic Jugs

Lots of folks have started converting those ubiquitous
plastic gallon jugs into scoops and feeders and water
carriers and whatnot. Here’s a fine addition to
the list from Judy Ireton of New Carlisle, Ohio: Judy does
her laundry with a liquid, no-phosphate detergent that
comes packaged in orangy-pink plastic bottles (a color that
glows better’n a raccoon’s eyes when a car’s headlights hit
it). So Ms. Ireton has filled several of the jugs with
sand–and a couple with water–and chucked ’em
into the trunk of the family car just so’s she’ll be ready
for several kinds of road emergencies. She now has sand to
help ease her vehicle’s tires off of icy spots, water
to soothe a parched radiator, and reflecting warning
markers–weighted, so they’ll stay in place–to
protect her if she has to stop her jalopy along the highway
after dark. Judy says, “You can see these signals a long
way off, they show up better than those triangle reflectors
you have to buy, and they sure last longer than a 10-minute
flare!”

Wood Handle Removal

You don’t really have to drill, pound, punch, or even swear
much to get a broken-off handle out of your maul or
sledgehammer or axehead. Bill Gildon of Tonasket,
Washington just heats the tool on his wood
stove till It’s a little hotter than he can hold
barehanded. The heat expands the metal so much that the
stubborn wooden plug will then almost always fall out after
only a light tap or two.

Handle Wrap

And then–once you’ve reequipped your axe with a good,
sturdy handle–you can prevent the replacement from
breaking again so easily the way Bill Morgan of Sewanee,
Tennessee does: by wrapping the four inches of wood
nearest the blade with any kind of fine wire (a smooth
electric fence strand works fine) that you have handy. To
keep the wrap in place, first drill a hole–big enough
for two strands of whatever wire you’re using–clear
through the handle and about four inches back from the
head. Then pass one end of the wire through the hole and
leave an eight- or nine-inch “tall” on its end. The other
(long) end of the wire is next run up alongside the handle
to the head … and then wound–close and
tight–back down to the hole. At that point, run the
second end of wire through the hole in the opposite
direction to the first, twist the two ends tightly
together, and clip off any excess tails. Bill says his
handles last 10 times longer this way.

Poison Ivy Cure

Steve Morgan of Branson, Missouri–who says he’s “gone
through years of playing the hermit” because of poison ivy,
even though he’s tried all the medications on the market–has
finally found a sure-fire remedy for the pesky plague:
SALT. One good way to apply it, he says, is to work up a
good sweat (the briny perspiration will both soothe the
itch and start to dry the rash). And if your pores aren’t
pumpin’ hard enough on these cooler autumn days to do the
job? Then just wet the affected areas and sprinkle on a
little bit of good ol’ table salt! Steve warns that this
treatment does bum and smart a bit, but it will make those
itching, weeping bumps go away–and a salt shaker is
cheaper’n drugstore potions.

Athlete’s Food Cure

For another persistent misery–athlete’s
foot–you might want to try working in the garden barefoot. Steve shucked off his shoes while weeding one
hot day, and found that his infested feet healed up fast.
He thinks the bacteria in the soil must’ve destroyed the
fungus!

Brick Dust Scrubber

Here’s an old-timer’s way to clean steel cutlery, from Teri
and Mike Anderson of Swan Lake, Montana. Crush a piece of
common brick with a hammer to make a pile of fine dust.
Then cut a potato In half, dip the cut surface in the
abrasive red powder, and simply scour away the rust and
stains.