Country Lore: December 2017/January 2018

Readers’ tips about how to build an emergency greenhouse, repurposed seedling trays, keeping moose and deer out of your garden, and more.

| December 2017/January 2018

  • With some salvaged materials and a bit of ingenuity, David was able to create this emergency greenhouse to save his plants from an early chill.
    Photo by David Curran
  • Maynard Perkins cuts out the ends of cans, folds the ends over his electric-fence wires (while the fence is switched off), and then covers them with peanut butter to create a shocking surprise that helps teach moose to steer clear of his garden.
    Photo by Maynard Perkins
  • Paper clips make great seedling supports.
    Photo by Jack Ripley
  • Repurposed salad-green containers make great seedling trays.
    Photo by Colleen T. Bell
  • Kari shreds and freezes her zucchini to preserve the harvest, and then uses it in everything from meatloaf to brownies.
    Photo by Kari Elmer
  • Janice uses a a black marker to label which 'Ruby Crest' broad bean pods she'd like to keep for seed so that her helpers don't accidentally pick them before the beans are mature.
    Photo by Janice Becker

Building an Emergency Greenhouse

Living in a log cabin in Montana at an elevation of 5,825 feet means we usually have a short outdoor growing season. We’ll start some of our plants in indoor pots as early as March, and then move them outdoors when the weather warms up. But Montana weather can be unpredictable. When the temperature plummeted in early September last year, we needed a greenhouse fast. I cut four 18-foot poles from trees on our property to create the roof supports for our emergency plant shelter. Then, I nailed a board to the outside wall of our cabin for the ends of the poles to rest on. After positioning the poles, I nailed them to the board and to the cabin. We covered the supports with salvaged welded-wire fencing. Then, we placed some clear, corrugated polycarbonate panels on top of the fencing. We covered everything with 4-millimeter clear plastic sheets. A few days later, while running monthly errands in town, we bought a 10-by-25-foot sheet of 6-millimeter clear plastic and put it over the 4-millimeter plastic. The plants did great. The only thing we regret is not having much headroom inside our emergency greenhouse. Overall, we’re amazed that our simple structure protected our plants so well. The solar advantage is significant on sunny days, when the interior temperature can climb to more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

David Curran
Missoula, Montana

Turn T-Shirts into Rags

I don’t want the same rag that was used to wipe up unpleasant messes to also be used on my kitchen counters. And I don’t want to always be asked, “Which rag should I use?” So, I have a rag system. I cut all of my rags from worn-out T-shirts. For the kitchen, I cut either a white or navy T-shirt into squares, place one square on top of the other, and sew a zigzag stitch around the edges. I use these for dishcloths and for wiping counters. The double thickness makes them a nice weight and easy to identify. Next in my system are the cleaning rags in assorted other colors. I use these to scrub sinks, wipe up spills on the floor, clean windows, etc. I keep them on the shelf below the navy and white rags and wash them with the general laundry. After a rag has become very stained, I move it to a bin in the garage that holds rags destined for dirty jobs involving grease, shoe polish, wood stain, etc. I either rinse these rags outside with the hose or throw them away after I use them. This way, we use a minimum of paper products but also maintain the level of cleanliness I desire in our home. As a bonus use for old T-shirts, I cut the body portion of the shirt into a continuous strip and stretch it out to make what I call “T-shirt yarn.” I use this yarn to tie up plants in the garden. No buying twine for me!

Karen Dawson
Kingsburg, California

How to Keep Moose (and Deer) out of Your Garden

I live in Palmer, Alaska, and have an acceptable garden, but this hasn’t always been the case. When we first started, after having gardened in urban Nome, I wasn’t concerned about garden predators. I quickly learned that a moose could wipe out our garden in one night. This was especially true if I was ready to harvest the next day. I tried several chemicals over the course of a few years, but nothing worked well at keeping moose out of the garden. I then tried a battery-powered electric fence. The moose just charged right through it. I varied wire spacing and tied ribbons to the wires, to no avail. I got to talking to one of the old-timers in the area, and he offered a solution to my problem. He told me to cut the ends out of some cans, and then attach those ends to my electric fence by bending them over the wires. Then — this is the important part — spread peanut butter on them. Apparently, what happens is that the moose either licks or smells the lids and gets a shock. I’ve not had a moose in our garden for the past 15 years. I put the peanut butter on the lids in early spring and once again in mid-summer.

Maynard Perkins
Palmer, Alaska

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