Reusing Charcoal, Milk Carton Bird Feeder, and Other Country Lore

This installment of a regular feature describes how to make a milk carton bird feeder and considers several reader suggestions for saving and reusing charcoal.

| September/October 1981

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

Reusing Charcoal

Many readers wrote us in response to Donald and Cindy McBride's item about recycling charcoal. Apparently there are a number of ways to get the most out of your briquettes. For instance, Lafayette, Indiana's John Jordan (among others) suggested using tongs to transfer the hot coals to a metal bucket with a tight-fitting metal lid. The embers will suffocate in a short time, saving you the hassle of dousing and drying the coals.

Lima, Ohioan H.W. Oats added another twist: He uses two metal pails, fills one of them with dry sand, and then pours a two-inch layer of the gritty substance into the empty pail before putting in the hot coals. Next, H.W. dumps the remaining sand into the first bucket, suffocating the smoldering briquettes. When he's ready to barbecue again, Chef Oats simply pours the contents of the first pail through a piece of 1/4 "mesh screen into the second ...and ends up with nice dry coals and clean sand!

Milk Carton Bird Feeder

Connie Toops turns half-gallon milk cartons into handy bird feeders around her home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. First, she makes 2" slits parallel to (but 1 inch up from) the bottom at all four comers. Next, she folds the carton's edges inward above each cut, creating four little access ports, and runs two 8" lengths of 1/4" dowel—to serve as perches—through holes punched below the ration stations. Then the bird lover suspends the feeder by a cord and fills it, through the pouring spout, with seed.

Much to Ms. Toops's delight, her feathered friends now frequent her "milk bars" all year long. (She reminds us, however, that birds will come to depend upon their free food, and may starve if the handouts stop during the winter.)

Simple Solar Water Heater

Two of our readers in Mexico came up with a simple but effective solar water heater. Harrold and Nancy Andresen spread out a 300-foot coil of 3/4" black plastic water hose on their flat roof, hooked its inlet into their domestic water system, and connected the outlet to the waterline leading to the laundry room.

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