Move appliances more easily with cooking oil, sprout seeds to determine which are fertile, car-starter fluid in lawn mowers poses an explosion hazard, keep animals out of the garden with dog hair, make a catalytic wood stove more efficient, reduce fat in cooked beef by rinsing, clean paint from trim with furniture polish, and more tips from MOTHER's readers.
I am currently the caretaker of my grandfather's land and household. Among the other joys of being in the country, I had the opportunity to learn about my grandfather's passion—beekeeping—and the many health benefits that honey offers. I discovered one of the most surprising uses for honey when my young children were having problems with bedwetting.
Honey, being hydroscopic, is able to absorb and condense moisture. It acts in two ways: first, as a sedative to the nervous system (and nervousness is nearly always present in children who wet the bed at night), and second, to attract and hold fluid during the sleeping hours. The regular dosage should be approximately one tablespoon, but very young children will do fine with a teaspoon.
— Bonnie Roycewicz, Fort Anne, New York
When spring cleaning involves getting behind and under such large appliances as the washer, dryer, or refrigerator, rub some cooking oil in front of the casters and give a little pull.
— N.M. McGee, Daly City, California
To ensure that fertile seed is planted in your garden, soak them overnight in water, then wrap them in damp newspaper (making sure to spread the seeds out), place them in a plastic bag, and put them in a warm, dark spot in the house. After about seven to 10 days, unwrap the seeds, and the ones that are sprouted can be planted in the garden. It's important, though, to plant them as quickly as possible after sprouting.
—David E. Hottle, Mansfield, Ohio
This summer, nearly half of my garden's Fava bean crop would have been destroyed had it not been for the above normal population of ants in and around my garden. They completely exterminated an aphid attack before any irreversible damage was done. Just a reminder of nature's help to all pesticide users; especially non-selective pesticide users. If you still need some additional assistance, try a garlic-oil spray. Some researchers say it can inhibit protein synthesis in larvae, others say it suppresses the respiratory metabolism.
Here's one formula: Soak three ounces of chopped garlic in two teaspoons of mineral oil for 24 hours. Slowly add a pint of water dissolved in 1/4 ounce of oil-based soap (such as Palmolive), and stir well. Store in glass to prevent reaction with metals. Use one part to 20 parts of water to begin with, then 1 to 100 thereafter. Apply as a spray to foliage. Also, try evenly dispersing garlic plants throughout your whole garden.
—Chad E. Miebach, Chinle, Arizona
Without exception, Country Lore is my husband's and my favorite portion of the magazine and we have put many of the ideas to daily use. However, one of the letters in the Country Lore section of the October/November issue almost gave my husband a heart attack.
Phil, who has been in the lawn-mower and chainsaw business for 24 years, read the letter advising other readers to "give a few squirts of car-starter fluid" into the air filter of their lawn mowers. He was appalled and described the disastrous results that this action could have.
Car-starter fluid is usually ether, which ignites very rapidly and produces a severe explosion. It also has no lubricating qualities, which two-cycle engines receive from their fuel mixture, and could therefore produce engine seizure.
WD-40 can be used as an acceptable substitute for starter fluid, without posing explosion hazards. Phil has used it for years in this capacity with no harmful side effects.
—Suzanne M. Blood, Pittsburgh, Texas
Every spring, after we groom our two large collies, we end up with bags of dog hair. Believe it or not, we have actually found a use for the stuff. We empty the bags in our garden, scattering the hair throughout the plot. Since we started doing this, all the ground hogs, raccoons, and other animals that used to vandalize the crops have gone elsewhere.
—Chris A. Martin, Morgantown, West Virginia
About a year ago, I purchased a new catalytic wood stove for our home, and have been discovering small ways to make it run more efficiently ever since. New owners of stoves will find that a small investment in some temperature-measuring equipment would be money very well spent. Chief among these should be a draft, and temperature gauge. In order to feel confident with the damper, knowledge of the draft volume is important, and a draft gauge is the best way to keep a running measurement.
Keeping a handle on the temperature of your stove is another way of giving it a little help. For instance, in order for the catalyst to work, one needs to know what the temperature is around it, making the purchase of the latter gauge a good idea. The reason for this is that the catalytic converter bypass needs to be open until the temperature around it reaches 500°F. At that point, the converter will "light" and the temperature will jump to 1100°F. Getting in the habit of doing this will make the burn more efficient and prolong the life of the catalyst. [Editor's note: for more information about making your wood stove more efficient, see "The MOTHER EARTH NEWS Guide to Wood Stoves".]
—Bob Schuetz, Phoenix, Arizona
Even though we raise our own beef cattle and hogs, and instruct the local butcher to reduce the hamburger/sausages fat content, we have an additional home method: We brown the crumbled meat for casseroles or spaghetti-type dishes, and then rinse the meat under very hot tap water in a colander. This eliminates more grease then simple draining could ever do. We then return it to the pan, and add onions and seasoning to create a lower-fat, healthier ground-meat dish.
—Leslie Newberry, Grand Ronde, Oregon
Over the years, I've learned a lot about cleaning up paint overruns or goofs on walls, woodwork, and outside trim: spray furniture polish or wax.
For instance, to clean up an overrun on outside house trim, I carry a can of polish and a little pouch containing cloths (soaking them in the polish makes it easy to apply and carry on a ladder). Since the furniture polish or wax contains petroleum distillates—the main ingredient in paint thinner or brush cleaner—it works fast to dissolve any goofs. I then quickly use a clean cloth to remove the wax and paint. This convenient method makes easy work out of a tough job.
—Matthew Thomas, Jr., Lynchburg, Virginia
After reading your December/January issue, I realized that I had one more use for wood ash, and thought that your readers might be interested. I garden with my mother on my parent's "farmette." The garden is a rich collection of 40 years of mulching with hay, leaves, ash, and various by-products from horses, cows, pigs, chickens, and household pets. The garden is located next to a small creek which helps keep the ground moist. There is one nasty side effect—slugs. These slimy critters can eliminate an entire row of lettuce in one night. They damage our strawberries, carrots, onions, and more. We have found the perfect solution—wood-stove ash. First we sift the ash through a coffee can with several nail holes in it. We pour the ash right on the lettuce when we see slugs. Within seconds, you will hear dead slugs falling off the lettuce. The ash looks a little messy, but simply brush it off. As for the strawberries, clinging ash would cause them to ripen unevenly. To solve this problem, take sifted ash and place it in a coffee can or box with a thumb-size hole in the bottom. Draw a 1" × 1" ash trail around the entire patch of berries (don't forget to redraw it after it rains). Slugs will crawl to the berries, and the ashes from the trail will cling and absorb into their bodies. The result is a dissolved slug! For onions and carrots, just sprinkle some along the base of the plant as soon as veggies begin to mature.
—Roberta A. Jezeski, Black Creek, Wisconsin