Reader Tips: DIY Oven Cleaner; Chicken Roosting Poles; Woodchuck Repellent; Mushroom Bullets; Christmas Tree Pea Pole

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Photo by Melanie Files and Rick Lowman
Readers Melanie Files and Rick Lowman made good use of this old Christmas tree pole to support peas in the garden.

Thanks to our readers for sharing these creative tips! To submit your own tip to our Country Lore department, email

DIY Oven Cleaner

I’m a really messy cook. I have a tendency to slop grease, oil, water, and seasonings all over the inside of my oven. The worst part is that the next time I use my oven, my entire kitchen fills with smoke. It’s a mad dash to open the windows and doors so we can breathe again! Because I don’t want to clean my oven with harsh chemical cleaners, I came up with a method of my own that also works on my glass-top stove.

1. Mix 2 tablespoons baking soda, 10 drops citrus essential oil, and water in a glass spray bottle. Shake vigorously.

2. Spray mixture on burnt food and grease stains. Let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Scrub until you loosen the baked-on material, and wipe away with a damp rag.

Use this mixture to clean your entire home — I love the scent of the essential oils!

Rebecca Moore
Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania

High-Hanging Chicken Roosting Poles

We use joist hangers to support our 2-by-4 roosting poles in our chicken coop. When it’s time to clean the coop, I simply lift out the 2-by-4s and am then able to scoop below the roosts without banging my head. The chickens seem happy that every roost bar is at the same level — no one is “low chick” on the totem pole.

Elizabeth Gabrielsen
New Harmony, Utah

Effective Woodchuck Repellent for Your Garden

About 25 years ago, I was plagued with woodchucks tunneling under my garden fence and setting up housekeeping among my beans. My solution: I cut some old carpet into 3-foot-wide strips and placed the strips around the fence. I haven’t had a woodchuck in the garden since. If your town has an annual bulky waste pickup day, you can drive around and find all the free curbside carpet you need.

Chuck Morgan
Willimantic, Connecticut

Mushroom Bullets

Last spring, we began using mushroom-infused hay as a soil cover in our garden. We got these mushroom “bullets” free from a farmer friend who also runs a gourmet mushroom factory. Turns out, they’re a byproduct of the growing process. Check out mushroom farms in your area, as they’ll likely have a surplus of bullets, too.

The stuff was amazing at keeping weeds down, and we suspect it was also good for the soil. The hay decomposed over winter and spring, and now our raised beds are full of dark, friable dirt. This year, we doubled up on our use of mushroom bullets, and the plants seem to love it. Simply take a mushroom bullet, break it up into layers by hand, and place the cylindrical layers on top of soil, around plants, and between rows.

Thomas Wrona
Springvale, Maine

Christmas Tree Pea Support Pole

After we retired our old artificial Christmas tree, we kept the center pole to use in the garden for climbing black-eyed peas. Zip ties on the top tier serve as guides for the repurposed twine that we salvaged from our composted horse-manure pile. Tent stakes and metal U-hooks make the continuous looping of the twine faster, and allow us to easily tighten the lines.

Melanie Files and Rick Lowman
Martinsburg, West Virginia

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