Goldfish as a method of natural mosquito control and newspaper mulch in the garden are two of more than a dozen tips submitted by readers in this installment of a regular feature.
The following housekeeping tips and other bits of country lore were submitted by readers.
"If you have a puddle, a pond, or a stock tank on your property where mosquitoes breed each year, invest a few dollars in some goldfish," suggests Jo Ann Sisson of Caston, Oregon. "In some stores you can purchase them for only a dime a piece. The little swimmers will thrive on mosquitoes and their larvae and keep water virtually free of algae as well.
"Furthermore, since our stock tank freezes solid in the winter, we dip up the little fellows when bug season Is over, and keep them Indoors in a fishbowl. They're a cheerful addition to our home during the cold months."
A reader from Westville, New Jersey has yet another mulch idea. Fred Marz discourages garden weeds and keeps the soil moist for long periods of time by placing plain newsprint between his planted rows and piling grass clippings over that. Fred says he can buy end rolls of the biodegradable, ink-free soil cover, from his local newspaper, for about 50¢ a 150-foot roll. One application lasts all through the growing season.
"Cold frames can be put to good summertime use as solar grass dryers," writes Robert Lovell of Martinsville, Virginia. "I place a layer of fresh clippings 8 to 10 inches deep in my 3' X 5' cold frame and close the top. On the following afternoon I open the little hothouse and turn the partially dried clippings over with a spade. By the second afternoon the clippings are completely dried and ready to be used as mulch for the garden."
Rynda Christensen has discovered that gunnysacks (cut open to lie flat) can be real handy around the lawn and garden both at seeding time. The resident of Farmington, New Mexico spreads the bags over grass seed in the yard and over carrot seed in the garden. By keeping the corners weighted and the sacks wet, she is able to get the plants to come up faster than ever before!
"Our three small children love to help plant and care for the garden," write John and Trish Dangerfield of Norway, South Carolina. "But it was almost impossible to keep them from running across the beds and disturbing the seedlings. So this year when we staked out our garden, my husband and I ran strings, about a foot high, along the border of each row.
"Now our wee helpers can walk in the garden and help all they want to ... so we have happy children and untrampled plants."
Once the gardening is done for the day, take your little helpers indoors and let them assist in your housecleaning with their own pint-sized brooms. Simply find an old, badly worn straw sweeper—suggests Pamela Wright of Neihart, Montana—and cut half the handle off. Sand the rough edge smooth, then trim the ragged bristle ends straight with a pair of heavy scissors. If you want to, you can even dress the implement up a bit with paint or ribbons. Your children will do a good sweeping job ... and have fun to boot!
Anyone who raises livestock knows how quickly rain or snow can cause salt blocks to "melt" and leach into the ground. Well, Paul Jefferson discovered he could lengthen the life of his "cow pleasers" by placing them on an old stump in his pasture. When wet weather comes—the Escanaba, Michigan resident reports—he sodium chloride leaks into the wood ... and, before long, his critters start licking the stump to get their salt.
While we're on the subject of salt, you might be interested in knowing that Karen Affrica of Leechburg, Pennsylvania uses the household crystals to rid her home of fleas. Karen salts her carpet liberally overnight. Then, the following day, she sprinkles baking soda over that (the salt collects moisture which the soda will absorb) and vacuums thoroughly. No more fleas!
If you have a dog that suffers from mange, you might want to try using a homemade salve such as the one that Nancy Haynes of Bloomington, Indiana wrote us about. She mixes a handful of powdered sulfur (it's available at any drugstore) with a bit of petroleum jelly to make a paste. Nan then applies the mixture several times a day to her pet's affected areas, and keeps on doing so until the skin looks healthy and hair begins to grow.
Next time you want to sample some homemade dandelion wine but can't find a corkscrew, try Michael Domanski's trick. The Barberton, Ohioan turns his bottle upside down and holds it firmly against his body. He then repeatedly strikes the up-ended bottom with the heel of his free hand. The cork, says Mike, will slowly begin to emerge from the bottle. Once it's partway out, just grab it with your fingers and pull it the rest of the way.
Eyeglasses wearers can convert a pair of "specs" into a handy magnifying glass by simply placing a drop of water on the outside of one of the lenses. Then (according to Mario Gonzalez of San Antonio, Texas), as the object to be viewed is brought closer to the eye, the droplet will produce the desired magnifying effect.
Anne Renck of Williamsburg, West Virginia has her own method of assembling an instant "makeshift magnifier". She takes a clean pintsized clear glass jar, fills it with cold water, and sets it on a table or other flat surface. Anne then achieves the enlarging effect by peering through the water at objects placed behind the container.
Here's a good way for owners of lawn mowers and chain saws to keep partially full cans of oil dirt-free and spillproof between uses: James Muth of Lexington, Kentucky discovered that the plastic lids found on canisters of Minute Maid lemonade crystals (and, we're sure, other products) fit perfectly on oil containers. What's more, the covers actually stay on better and have a lower profile (for easier storage) than do store-bought funnel caps.