Seat Belt Gate Latch and Other Country Lore

This installment of an ongoing country lore feature includes submissions from a New Jersey reader who reused a car seat belt as a gate latch and Kentucky man who made his own inexpensive brass cleaner.

| May/June 1983

  • seat belt gate latch
    An unexpected complication of using a seat belt as a gate latch.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • seat belt gate latch

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

Seat Belt Gate Latch

If you visit a salvage yard, be sure to pick up a few seat belts from junked cars. According to Morrow Olcott of Bloomsbury, New Jersey, the straps make great gate latches. Just nail one to your wooden gate post, and the other to your fence "door." (If your gate is metal, attach both cloth strips to the post, then pass one buckle end around the upright member on the gate and back to the other.) Morrow says they're weatherproof, easily installed, don't cost much, and never get out of alignment the way most conventional latches eventually do. Best of all, the Garden Stater claims, although it takes only one hand to push the button to open a belt, no animal of his has ever figured out how to free itself!

Homemade Brass Cleaner

While polishing up an old brass fire extinguisher, Ron Bradshaw noted the chemical properties of the very expensive metal cleaning solution he was using. The Louisville, Kentucky resident decided that the liquid looked and reacted much like dilute sulfuric acid, more commonly known as "battery acid." Well, Ron just happened to have some of that corrosive chemical on hand, having used the solution previously for tanning hides. He applied the dilute acid to the brass and discovered that it worked quite well, and cost about one-sixteenth as much as the original cleaner. (Naturally, Ron warns users to exercise caution when handling this solution.)

Repurposed Vegetable Bins

The next time you visit a dump or junkyard, you might want to "harvest" the vegetable bins from any old, discarded refrigerators that you find, advises Sherry Miranda of West Lafayette, Indiana. Sherry says they make ideal storage units inside barns or sheds, because they won't rust (unless the enamel coating is chipped or cracked), they're easily cleaned, and many already have holes bored, which make it easy to nail the bins to the wall.

Porch Light Party Beacon

When Charlotte Pierce hosts a gathering in her Greensburg, Kentucky home, she places a colored light bulb in the outside socket on her porch. That way, Charlotte writes, she can tell any guests who are uncertain about where she lives what color porch light to watch for.

Metal Rabbit Hutch

In The Do-It-Yourself Bicycle Cart,  we told you how to convert a discarded shopping cart into a bicycle-wheeled carryall for suburban and urban shoppers. Well, reader John Onuska of Beaver, Pennsylvania has another use for old or damaged grocery carts. He converts the metal baskets into rabbit hutches!

Spoon Jar

When Virginia McQuitty was a child, her grandmother's table was often loaded with mountains of food and lots of special goodies (like homemade pickles!). Virginia recalls that her grandma always kept a "spoon jar" on the table to be sure to have enough utensils to handle the feasts. Today, the Delbarton, West Virginia reader keeps a wide-mouth pint jar filled with "odds and ends" of spoons and forks on her kitchen table. The practice eliminates the need to jump up for extra silverware for coffee, jellies, pickles, desserts, cereals ... or spoon-dropping kids!

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