Ask Our Experts: Low-Cal Butter, Corn Earworms and Washing Mountain Parkas

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Handpick larvae by pulling back the corn tips and removing the worms. Do this only after the silks begin to brown, indicating pollination has occurred.

MOTHER’s column gives MOTHER EARTH NEWs readers a chance to ask our experts about a variety of homesteading problems that are in need of a good answer.

Ask Our Experts: Low-Cal Butter, Corn Earworms and Washing Mountain Parkas

I suppose I should cut back on my intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, but I love the taste of butter and am simply unwilling to give it up. Do you have any good suggestions for a low-cal butter spread?

Well, a modest one. Soften a stick of butter to room temperature, and add ¼ cup of an oil that’s high in polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated ones–safflower, sunflower, corn, vegetable. Whip the oil and butter together with an electric mixer until you’ve got a light, fluffy low-cal butter spread, and chill it until it’s firm enough to use.

Obviously, this isn’t a perfect solution, but it does reduce the saturated fats on your morning muffin. I find the buttery flavor virtually unchanged, except that it’s less salty than the “lightly salted” product that dominates the supermarket shelves. This spread is also good for sautéing: The added oil raises the temperature at which butter smokes and burns.

One word of caution: Don’t melt the butter over heat and then mix it with the oil for a low-cal butter spread. Neither the texture nor taste of the resultant spread will be right.

–Carol Taylor

Carol Taylor is MOTHER’S food editor.

Corn-fed Worms

I’m weary of planting corn every year only to have corn earworms spoil much of the crop. Any nonchemical ideas?

Nasty little blighters, aren’t they? Ear-worm larvae chew the foliage of several crops– tomatoes, beans, peppers, squash–but corn is their favorite target. A female moth lays an average of 1,000 eggs in her lifetime; in warm areas, earworms go through as many as seven generations. The newly hatched caterpillar eats fresh silk tassels; then, when the silk withers, it burrows in to eat the kernels. It manages to spoil the ear’s end, inhibit full pollination, and invite mold and other diseases. Not bad for a day’s work. You might try any or all of the following:

• Handpick larvae by pulling back the corn tips and removing the worms. Do this only after the silks begin to brown, indicating pollination has occurred.

Bacillus thuringiensis kills the larvae. It works best before they have burrowed into the ears.

• Apply mineral oil to the ears to suffocate the worms–again, after silks have withered and begun to brown. Squirt it just inside the ears, applying one-half dropperful for small ears and three-fourths for large ones. Make two follow-up applications two weeks apart.

• Electronic bug zappers can reduce the number of moths.

• If worst comes to worst and you do end up with worms in your newly harvested corn, just pluck them off the ears, cut off the damaged ends, and think of it as sharing.

–Susan Sides

Susan Sides is MOTHER’S head gardener.


The time has come to wash my Gore-Tex mountain parka. The combination of mud, woodsmoke and trout viscera is too much for my companions to bear any longer. But how do I wash Gore-Tex without destroying its waterproofing forever?

You’re right to be apprehensive about the long-term water repellency of your Gore-Tex coat, but it’s not just washing that can cause it to deteriorate. The factory-applied coatings on most waterproof breathable fabrics eventually give up, and the material saturates with water. This doesn’t mean that the garment will actually leak, but you may still get wet. Because of the lower surface temperature caused by the moisture, perspiration may be reluctant to pass through the cloth as a vapor. Liquid sweat penetrates Gore-Tex no better than liquid rain, and therefore won’t evaporate.

Go ahead and wash the coat by hand in nondetergent soap and warm water. Rinse it thoroughly; soap reduces surface tension and therefore water repellency. Then allow the coat to dry. (If the manufacturer’s instructions don’t prohibit it, a tumble in the dryer on the warm setting may even be helpful.) Once it’s completely dry, recoat the outside with a product such as Scotchguard. This won’t restore waterproofing to quite what it was when the coat was new, but it will be a great improvement over a washed and untreated garment.

–David Schoonmaker

David Schoonmaker is a senior technical editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

If you’d like our panel of consultants to answer a question concerning some aspect of self-reliant living that has you stumped, send it to Ask Our Experts, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Hendersonville, NC .