Organizing Shoes, Disposable Brushes, and Other Country Lore

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Illustration by Jack Vaughn
Organizing shoes is no longer a problem at the Porter home in Margaretville, New York.

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

Organizing Shoes

Becky Porter of Margaretville, New York, has a helpful hint for families with lots of little feet pitter-pattering around the house. “If your children are like mine were,” Becky writes, “they scatter their shoes all over the house and never seem to leave a matching pair anywhere. Here’s the solution: With your kids helping you, cut ‘footprints,’ for every piece of footwear in the house, from colorful adhesive-backed paper. Arrange the cutouts neatly on the closet floor, and your children will actually en joy putting each shoe in its place.”

Disposable Brushes for Touch-Up

“Who likes to clean a paintbrush? Especially after one of those small and frequent touch-up jobs where you spend two minutes painting and ten minutes cleaning your brush afterward.” writes, sculptor Hermann Gurfinkel of Valparaiso, Indiana. Hermann goes on to say that it’s hard these days to find a small brush that’s inexpensive enough to toss out, rather than clean, after a minor job. Here’s how he solved the problem:

“I use pieces of old rope for ‘one-shot’ paintbrushes by unraveling the ends and wrapping string around the point where I want the ‘brush fibers’ to stop. Different diameters of rope, unraveled to different lengths, can provide the correct size brush for just about any small job. No expense, no cleanup!”

Cabinetmaking Tip

“Blunting the points of nails is an old trick used by cabinetmakers to keep from splitting fine woods. But it’s slow. After building for 15 years, I’ve found a faster way to achieve the same results.” That intriguing opener was sent in by Doug Murphy of Pleasant View, Colorado. Doug informs us that “nail points are sharpened at the factory by pressure cutting. This leaves the points with four angled edges—two are smooth, while the other two are sharp and jagged.

“To keep from splitting any fine woods you’re working with, simply rotate the nail between your thumb and forefinger during the normal motion of placement so that the two jagged, sharp edges are facing across the grain. This way, the nail will cut through the wood, rather than prying the grain apart. Since there are no unnecessary motions or lost time, it’s become a totally subconscious operation for me.”

Natural Furniture Scratch-Remover

Lester Westlund of St. James, Minnesota, wants to share his discovery for covering scratches on dark furniture. Lester advises, “Using a partially green walnut husk, simply rub the scratch until you’re satisfied with the darkening effect. Now apply furniture polish to the entire piece, and the scratch will be gone.” (Lester also suggests wearing rubber gloves to avoid staining your fingers with the walnut dye.)

Disrupting the Pecking Order

Lynne Thomas of Penn Valley, California, sent in a tip concerning a problem commonly encountered poultry raisers:  birds that choose one of their number to peck at until an open wound appears and then keep at this bright red target until the unfortunate victim is dead. Lynne found that mixing comfrey powder (a coagulant) and pulverized goldenseal (an antiseptic) and applying it to the wound speeded healing. And if this homebrewed curative is covered with white flour when applied to white chickens, the red target disappears, decreasing the likelihood that the pecking will continue.

Berry Picking Oops!

We goofed. We ran a tip sent in by reader Ronald Peyton of Ellensburg, Washington, telling how he uses paper hotdrink cups with fold-out handles as handy berry pickers. In part, Ronald said, “When you’re ready to pick, just fold out the handles on a couple of the cups, and slip the middle finger of each hand through the paper loops …”

Well, we got that part twisted around so that you’d have to be double-jointed to make it work. We now have a drawing that shows the right way, if you haven’t tried it and figured it out already.

By way of apology to both Ronald and those of you who may have been confused by our boo-boo, we’ve assigned the perpetrator to do penance by picking 13 gallons of blackberries using the arrangement shown in the original, erroneous drawing.