Remove nails from wood-stove ashes for icy driveways with a cattle magnet, warm the greenhouse in the winter with hot dryer exhaust, keep family pets warm with an infrared lamp, support houseplants with extendable curtain rods, and other tips from MOTHER’s readers.
My wife, Lois, is a great example of what you can do if you just put your mind to it. She made a beautiful braided rug out of 92 pairs of old blue jeans! She used just the legs, cut into three-inch-wide strips. As she ironed these, she folded each one twice to become one inch wide. She took three strips for each braid, and whipstitched all the braids into an oval design. The rug will last for many, many years, and it will be perfect for the new dome home we plan to retire to in the mountains of Tennessee.
—Doug Sloan, Swartz Creek, Michigan
When I'm making repairs underneath my car, I use a piece of foam insulation either right on the ground or to pad my mechanic's creeper. It gives me more balance, cushions my back, and keeps me warmer in the wintertime.—Pat Juenemann, Clements, Minnesota
Ashes from the wood-stove take the slip and slide out of icy driveways, but there's one problem. If, like most countryfolk, you burn scrap lumber for kindling, you're likely to end up with nails and tacks in the ashes. My solution to this was to purchase a cattle magnet, a powerful little magnet that a cow ingests to prevent harmful metal items it has swallowed from passing out of the first stomach. As I remove each bucketful of ashes from the woodstove, I swirl the magnet through them. No punctured tires on our drive!
—Kit Hewes, Canaan, New Hampshire
My husband and I had been concerned whether our attached greenhouse would stay warm enough to protect our plants through a hard winter. After giving serious thought to possible solutions, we saw that the layout of the house would lend itself to installing our clothes dryer next to the greenhouse. Upon accomplishing this, we hooked up a divertor that directed the hot exhaust air into the greenhouse, but that redirected it outdoors whenever the desired temperature for good plant growth was reached. It worked so well we now schedule the laundry for cold, cloudy days.
—Barbara Prather, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
For stains on my enamel stove top, I dip a toothbrush in hot water, squirt on a little toothpaste, and scrub away. Not only has this method removed tough stains that expensive cleansers couldn't, but it doesn't pose the environmental threat that the caustic products do.
—Diane Thorne, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma
Thanks, MOTHER, for the yogurt recipes. I've been making my own yogurt cheese for years now, and I have a tip for those cooks who don't have a yogurt strainer to drain off the whey. Just use a plastic coffee filter; line it with filter paper, set it over a widemouthed jar or a bowl, spoon in the yogurt, cover it, and set it in the refrigerator till all the whey is drained. The disposable filter paper makes for very easy cleanup.
—Janelle Finley-Moore, Ramona, California
I've found the best use for credit cards is to cut them up to use as picks for my guitar and mandolin. This can be a major money saver.
—Mick Shimonek, Lemoyne, Nebraska
On my planning desk I keep a file-card box full of helpful tips from MOTHER EARTH NEWS. As I read through a new issue, I jot down each idea on a separate 3 " X 5" card, write an appropriate heading, note the issue and page number, and file the card alphabetically. That way, since MOTHER often wanders from my cottage to my daughter's farmhouse, my tips don't go along. When I have a job to do, say, washing windows, I just look in my file box under "Windows, cleaning," and I'm all set, even though it may be months since I wrote the idea down and I've forgotten all about it.
—Pat O'Connor, Jackson, New Jersey
As my wife and I both work, we turn down the thermostat to 52° when we leave the house in the morning. The resulting chill, though, made life miserable for our 15-year-old dachshund, Lorelei, who suffers from arthritis. So, in the kitchen, hanging from a plant hanger, I installed a 250-watt infrared heat lamp in a chicken-brooder lamp holder. It's suspended about two feet over Lorelei's bed, where she dozes in warm comfort. We feel better now that she is spending her golden years as a "hot dog."—C.H. Breedlove, Rockville, Maryland
Looking for a fire-resistant place to store important papers you want to keep at home? Place them in an airtight plastic container and store them in your refrigerator or freezer.
—June A. Gehrer, Milton, Pennsylvania
For tall houseplants that need something to keep them growing upright, try small, extendable curtain rods. They're inexpensive, attractive, and easy to shove into the soil. Best of all, as the plant grows taller, you can just extend the rod to match.
—Edna Manning, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
When we moved into our log cabin built over a crawl space, one of our major concerns was how to keep track of the temperature in that inconvenient-to-access area under the house. We could heat it to keep the pipes from freezing, but didn't want to waste fuel (and the time and effort required to maintain the heater) when heat wasn't needed. An indoor-outdoor thermometer solved the problem. We installed it under the kitchen sink, with the outdoor bulb hanging in the crawl space. Now it's easy to check whether the temperature down below is dropping into the danger zone.
—Tom and Jeannie Groth, Grinnell, Iowa