Get rid of aphids with a homemade potassium-based insectidal soap, cover seeds with damp fill sand after rainy weather planting, remove a coffee stain with beer, control yellow jackets and ants with borax syrup, make a crawl space comfortable with scrap plywood, keep cool with an old hat dipped in water, reuse jars to freeze leftover vegetables, use a banana peel for shoe polish, get eggshell fragments out with eggshell halves, control fleas with petroleum jelly, bait mouse traps with peanut butter, keep mice away with a pet hamster, and other handy tips from MOTHER’s readers.
I would like to share a gardening practice with MOTHER readers.
We work up our garden in the fall to make it ready for early spring planting. We sometimes get a week or two of rainy weather just when we would like to plant. So we make our rows with the hoe even if it is wet, plant the seeds in the moist soil, and cover them with damp fill sand. Even if the sun comes out and makes the dirt crusty, the tiny sprouts come right up through the sand.
—Joy Gonnerman, St. Paul, Nebraska
I hate to pop Chad Miebach's bubble, but unless the ants are different in Arizona, the Department of Agriculture's Home and Garden Bulletin, No. 67, says that ants are a sign of aphid infestation and are pests themselves. Aphids produce a sweetish, sticky substance called "honeydew" which ants love. Research shows that ants actually "farm" aphids for this reason and will "milk" the aphids when production is low. Whenever you see an unusually large ant population around gardens or fruit trees, check for aphids.
Though I have heard about the wonders of garlic oil (I haven't tried it), according to Rodale Organic Gardening, you can get rid of aphids with the use of a potassium-based insecticidal soap which you can make at home by combining:
1 teaspoon brown soap
1 teaspoon window-cleaning spirits
5 quarts water
When you spray the plants, just be careful not to spray the roots.
—Janet Sue Hicks, Fountain, Florida
Trying to remove a coffee stain from a rug may seem impossible, but here's a simple solution that I discovered accidentally. Put some beer right on the stain. Just rub the beer suds lightly into the carpet, and the spot should come out clean. (You may have to repeat the process two or three times.)
—Dierdre McAuliffe, Alberta, Canada
Here's a couple of homestead tips.
For one thing, I used to tap a small hole into one end of an egg and blow out the yolk. Then I'd fill the eggs with table salt, tape up the hole, and place them in nest boxes to remind the hens where to lay. Also, if snakes are a problem for you, these eggs are a mighty weapon. Snakes swallow eggs whole, and when they eat these "salt eggs' they die from a salt overdose.
Here's a syrup recipe that will control yellow jackets and ants: mix one cup of boiling water with two cups of sugar, and let 1/2 teaspoon of borax dissolve in it. Fill up some milk jug caps and leave them in the pantry. You can also cut the bottom out of a soup can, place the poison in it, and leave the can on its side in a strawberry patch.
—Day Brown, Tilly, Arkansas
Working in the crawl space under our house can get messy. The land here has a layer of bedrock running just under the surface so that rain and snowmelt always creates dampness in the soil under the house. Consequently, the dirt "floor" of our four-feet-high crawl space can be rather wet at times.
We had some odd-shaped scrap plywood that we couldn't bring ourselves to throw away but hadn't found any other use for. (You can't burn plywood in a woodstove because of the horrible fumes the glue in it gives off.) So my husband laid the pieces out all over the crawl space, making trails of plywood scraps from the entry point in the spare bedroom closet floor out to important sites: the waste-water piping, the main water shut-off valve, the outdoor faucets, etc. When we work in the crawl space now, the plywood keeps us clean and dry. Best of all, it can be rearranged to accommodate working in any area—we just move the pieces wherever we need them. Now we can go in and out of the crawl space without leaving muddy footprints on the carpeting each time a tool is needed.
Oh, one more idea: Our mountain home has an all-cedar exterior, which we find very attractive. Unfortunately, so do the woodpeckers. We have hung up large plastic owls (woodpeckers supposedly hate them) but a few fearless ones continue to peck holes in the house from time to time. At first we had a lot of trouble keeping the holes repaired—the birds would continue pecking the same holes open, time and time again. Then my husband discovered that by spraying wasp and bee killer into the hole (make sure you check for baby birds before you spray) and then covering the opening with wire screen, the birds were repelled by the smell of the spray. In a day or two, my husband removed the screen, stuffed in some insulation to replace what the birds had removed or compacted, and patched the hole with "Liquid Nails" construction adhesive. The birds hardly bother us at all now.
—Karin Leigh Jones, Ridgway, Colorado
Whenever you find yourself outdoors gathering crops on a particularly hot day, here's an interesting way to keep yourself cool: Wear an old straw hat dipped in cold water while you work outside. The slowly evaporating water will cool your head, and the headgear can be dunked again as soon as it starts to dry. It's a good way to ward off headaches and heatstroke as well.
—Ruth Oleweiler, Birdsboro, Pennsylvania
Here's a couple of food tips for readers: I freeze tomato juice in ice cube trays, then store them in a plastic bag. Add as many as you like for a taste of tomato in soup, sauce, and whatever else you would use tomato juice flavor for.
Also, I freeze leftover vegetables in a clean mayonnaise jar. When I have two quarts filled up, I thaw them and add some meat to make a stew. Or sometimes I go without meat for a great vegetable soup. (Don't put beets in, though; they will overpower the other vegetables.)
—Pat Jett, Hillsboro, Missouri
If you've ever put a rake, a bushel basket, a brooder lamp, or other piece of farm equipment away for safekeeping, then you've also probably spent an entire day trying to find it a few months later. Well, here's a couple of ideas to make your life a bit easier:
1) The next time you're "redding out" the barn loft, toolshed, attic, etc., make a map of the storage area showing where you put each item. Then tack the reminder on the wall or clip it onto your calendar.
2) Attach labels describing the above-stored items to the bridging between the rafters of your loft or attic.
—Betty Parsons, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
By simply experimenting, I have discovered a remarkable natural shoe polish for leather or plastic. All you have to do is rub the inside of a banana peel on any color shoes. It will produce a bright, long-lasting shine. Then, vigorously buff with a paper towel or discarded washcloth. The shine can easily be restored by buffing your shoes again before another application is required.
—Hugo "Doc" Wiener, Cabazon, California
This is a tip for those who aren't exactly experts in the kitchen: When you are cracking eggs and accidentally get some shells in the bowl, use a half of shell to retrieve the pieces—they scoop right out. A utensil or finger just slips around. (As they say, it takes a thief to catch a thief])
—Dorothy Bell, Trumbull, Connecticut
I have a helpful summer tip for those of you who have dogs with fleas. When you first notice one of those pesky fleas on your pet, dab some petroleum jelly on these key areas: around the ears, armpits, and belly. It will prevent more fleas from attacking, and it will suffocate those that do hop on.
—Marge Fulton, Hazard, Kentucky
I've found that peanut butter actually works much better than cheese for luring mice to a trap. To make it harder for the little pest to steal the bait, I also wrap about five inches of thread around and through a lump of creamy peanut butter before placing it in the mousetrap. My wife and I moved into a country house that had been vacant for a few years and was overrun with mice. After two weeks of trapping them with peanut butter, we no longer had a problem.
—David Armbruster, Wheeling, West Virginia
The best way to keep mice (or rats) out of your house is to keep a pet hamster in a cage. It seems that the two are natural enemies, so the wild rodents run for their lives when they get a whiff of your furry little pet. Our hamster, Spot, kept our house pest-free for four years, while our next-door neighbors were overrun with mice!
—Laura Dutcher, Montague, California
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