Country Lore: Keeping Birds Away With Tulle

Readers' tips on how to make goat's milk soap, deter birds from blueberry bushes with tulle, spot broody hens, and more.

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by Jennifer Dehoff

Tulle as a Tool for Blueberry Bushes

We’ve tried conventional netting to keep birds from eating our blueberries, but the birds can still get to the fruit unless we build cages to keep the netting off the brambles.

My mom gave me a roll of tulle (fabric for bridal veils) to cover cabbage and broccoli plants, thereby preventing cabbage months from laying eggs that later hatched as cabbage worms. I cut the tulle into 8-foot lengths to make it more manageable. Then I realized the tulle could help with blueberries as well.

I wrapped each blueberry bush with a piece of tulle and secured the fabric to the branches with clothespins, bunching and overlapping it where necessary, and tucking and pinning the edges against the trunk. It worked great! The tulle allowed sun, rain, and air to pass through but kept out the birds. It also blocked Japanese beetles. Berry harvest was easy: I undid the clothespins where I needed to reach in and then clipped them back in place when finished. Later, I used the same tulle to protect our raspberries.

I’m amazed at how many growing seasons this fine mesh fabric has withstood. When not in use, I store it in a tote in the shed.

Jennifer Dehoff
Harrisonburg, Virginia

Lord of the Rings

My wife and I have enjoyed canning our garden’s bountiful fruits and vegetables for the past 15 years. We love the whole process: deciding which varieties of vegetables to grow, harvesting, and then canning them for later enjoyment. But as we’ve gotten older, we’ve sometimes found it almost impossible to remove the canning jar rings. About five years ago, we realized that our strong, young emergency jar-opener was soon leaving for college, and we needed to figure out an alternative.

After studying the problem, I found the perfect solution. I realized that the jar rings are only necessary during the canning process. So now, we wait 24 hours after canning, until the jars have completely cooled, and then remove the rings and store the food-filled jars in the usual way. Now, the only thing we need to open our tightly sealed jars is a can opener. No more struggling!

Joseph Guischard
Atkinson, New Hampshire

Kindness in Bloom

If you grow lots of flowers for cutting, you can donate them to your local nursing home to cheer up the residents. For great unbreakable vases, I cut the tops off quart-sized plastic bottles. I fill these disposable vases with daffodils, irises, zinnias, surprise lilies, or black-eyed Susans, because these flowers will stay pretty for 5 to 6 days. I haul the flower-filled vases to the nursing home in coolers. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, I call ahead to let them know I’m dropping by. I wash off the bottoms of the vases with disinfectant and leave them outside the home to avoid contact with residents.

Dallas H. Arnold
Brownstown, Illinois

Minty Fresh

To get rid of bad smells on my hands, I rub a little toothpaste on them, then wash as usual with soap and water. This method works great after a day spent fishing or cleaning up after farm animals.

Shaun Melarvie
Winter, Wisconsin

Snakes in the Grass

We mow 5 acres on our place in Michigan. My wife Mary has a snake phobia, so I’ve planted daylilies around all the trees so we don’t have to use a weed trimmer. Instead, all our trimming on the back of our property is done with a John Deere tractor. If I happen to drive a little too close and cut a daylily, I know it’ll grow back. Our daylilies come up early in spring before the grass needs to be cut, and they last the entire growing season. Plus, when the daylilies bloom, they add color to our backyard.

John Batek
Hickory Corners, Michigan

Perfect Produce Picking

For hands-free fruit picking, I’ve come up with this idea: Cut the top out of one side of a plastic gallon-sized milk jug, making sure to leave the handle intact. Then, run a belt through the jug handle, and buckle the belt around your waist. This easy-to-make picking bucket will leave both of your hands free, thereby speeding up picking. And it’s much easier on your back, because there’s no bending over to drop berries into a container on the ground.

Keith Scott
Florence, Alabama

A Better House for House Wrens

Several years ago, I decided to use a birdhouse gourd as a nesting box for house wrens. The first gourd birdhouse I made had a typical design: I made a hole in the side of the gourd, and hung the gourd vertically. But I quickly found this allowed rainwater into the gourd, and didn’t exclude other birds from entering. So, I decided to hang the gourd sideways.

I cut off the top of the gourd, and cleaned out the seeds and fiber inside. Next, I made two small holes on one side of the gourd body so I could hook wire through them, and attached the wire to a line above our garden; in this way, the side of the gourd became the new top of the birdhouse. I tied twine around the gourd’s neck to stabilize the birdhouse, and I also added several holes to the underside of the gourd body for ventilation.

The entrance of our new sideways birdhouse is wide enough for wrens to land, and the 1-inch neck is narrow enough to keep other birds out. The wrens build their nest and raise their young in the gourd body. Even though we have several other regular birdhouses in the garden, the wrens prefer this design. And, since these birds are insectivores, our garden has fewer pest problems than before.

Marshall Katler
Sharon, Massachusetts

Clean Gardening

Shop vacuums are essential pieces of equipment on the homefront. But the motors will give out long before the canisters do. These canisters are perfect for holding large potted plants because they’re on wheels and have a capped drain near the bottom. The wheels make them easy to move, and the capped drain makes it easy to control the moisture level of the soil you add to the canister.

Tena Brown
Dobbins, California

No-Waste Epoxy

Tubes of fast-setting two-part epoxy can cost $25 or more. If you only need enough for a few small applications, the mixing system quickly sets up solid and wastes a lot of expensive epoxy.

I’ve developed a solution to this problem. Instead of connecting the mixer tip, I squeeze the amount of epoxy needed onto a piece of cardboard, mix it by hand with a nail, and apply the mixture to my project. Then, I close the ends of the epoxy and hardener tubes with a small binder clip, as shown. I’ve used this system to successfully save a tube of epoxy for several weeks while I’ve been assembling items that needed only a small amount of adhesive each time.

Harry Flynn
Edmond, Oklahoma

Green Cleaning

We’ve found a way to avoid using excess paper products in our kitchen. Rhubarb’s large, soft leaves, with their heavy dose of oxalic acid, make it a cinch to wipe down the sink, stove, and countertops — no soap needed. Maple leaves are highly absorbent, and will clean greasy dinner plates. We store apple mint’s fuzzy, fragrant leaves in a small container near the sink and use them to scrub plates after meals.

Wherever you live, the right type of leaf can make cleaning up more pleasurable and environmentally conscious. Simply throw used leaves into the compost when you’re finished.

Suzanne and Paul Ramoundos
Oakland, Maryland

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