Broad Insight: From Orioles to Axes

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Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS
Grapefruits can be converted into jelly feeders to attract birds such as orioles.

Feed Jelly to Your Orioles

In northwest Ohio, spring means the arrival of the orioles. We have orchard orioles and Baltimore orioles, and both love to eat grapefruit, oranges and, especially, grape jelly. At first, we spooned the jelly into the cut-off bottoms of plastic water bottles that we tacked to a post. The problem with this was these makeshift jelly feeders attracted flies, ants and dirt. We found a better way to feed the jelly that was not only cleaner and easier, but also involved a little recycling. After the birds picked the orange or grapefruit halves clean, we would just spoon the jelly into the empty fruit skin. This could then be stuck on a small nail or simply wedged into one of the links in a chain-link fence. After a day or two, we’d pitch the older ones into a compost pile and use another “empty.”

 — Gena Husman and Robin M. Arnold, Port Clinton, Ohio

Grateful for a Generator

During the closing on our summer home in Maine, our sellers, an older Maine couple, elaborately espoused the benefits of the generator, with the Briggs & Stratton motor, they were leaving behind. My husband and I listened politely, but we had no clue about the significance of their advice.

The generator sat like a beached whale in the oversized garage that had once been a barn. Because there was little likelihood we would overwinter anytime soon, we seldom gave as much as a glance at the operating directions for the next four years. “No need to know that” registered in our subconscious. Little did we imagine that the moment of reckoning would come so unexpectedly and with such urgency.

A nor’easter off of Flanders Bay and the great Northern Atlantic whipped the sea into a frenzy, sent the loons into hiding and scattered the chickadees. The winds whipped up at 75 mph, and the rain pelted the house, barn and earth in torrents. I knew the basement would fill up, as the property was “wet.” What I hadn’t counted on was an electrical blowout on the entire Maine coast, knocking out precious sump pumps, all manner of sanitary facilities, microwaves and (oh, my goodness) all food appliances. All this happened without a hint as to how long the blackout would continue. And my husband was out of town; I was home alone.

The basement kept filling and then it hit me — the generator. “I must get it going, and I can do it,” I told myself, really believing it — that is, until I started to read the instructions. Wow, what folly it had been to ignore this. I started following the directions, struggling to walk from the barn to the now partially flooded basement where the major electrical box with the 220-volt power lines hung on the wall.

Gas still remained in the generator so I tried the switch, only to hear “click, click, click” and then nothing.

It was at that moment that my guardian angel arrived. Our propane man, Wayne, pulled up to the back steps in his huge, hulking truck. Leaping from the barn, I ran to him with only one thought, grabbed him by the shirt with both hands (lest I fly away) and screamed, “You must help me!”

Miraculously, I remembered my dad’s old toolbox, which had come to the rescue many times before. But, of course, it was in the rapidly flooding basement. No problem, Wayne would get it; he only needed a wrench to make the generator start, he hoped.

It worked. With only a minor adjustment, the old Briggs & Stratton started to whir, and none too soon because the blackout lasted well into the night. The moral, of course, is that for those who live in remote areas, a backup generator is a necessity. It is equally important to understand how to use it and always to keep the equipment in a ready state.

 — Marion S. Mogielnicki, Westfield, New Jersey

Safe, Functional Pallet Platform

I’ve been building an earthbag, cobwood (cob/earth used as mortar for cordwood) hybrid shed and have used wood pallets as a platform to work from (see photo below). The cobwood walls, top plate and reciprocal roof all were built by standing on the pallets, which put me at the perfect height for working and gave me room for tools and material storage close at hand. Pallets are easy to find, usually free and locally produced, recyclable and easy to move around as needed. Why not give them a try?

 — Pack McKibben, Toccoa, Georgia

Measure Your Gallons Per Shower

Start with a bucket. Measure a gallon of water into it, then mark the bucket at the gallon level and empty the bucket. Turn on your shower at the force you use when showering. Hold the bucket under the showerhead, timing how many seconds it takes to fill the bucket to the mark. Time your next shower and divide the total seconds by the seconds it took to fill to 1 gallon and you’ll know the gallons used. You can use the same method to measure other water usages.

— Mary Ann Gove, Cottonwood, Arizona

Herbal Insect Repellent

Here is a formula for people who don’t want to use insect repellents containing DEET or other questionable ingredients.

Mix together:

2 tablespoons citronella essential oil
2 tablespoons rosemary essential oil
2 tablespoons geranium essential oil
2 tablespoons eucalyptus essential oil
1/2 cup olive oil

Store in a labeled, opaque bottle.ab the oil on a bandanna, clothing, hat or skin. Keep away from eyes and mouth.

— Teresa Sole, Portland, Oregon

The Mothering Instinct

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I purchased 62 acres. I didn’t waste any time buying four Rhode Island Red bantam hens and one rooster.

One of the descendants of my original bantam hens is getting along in age and has stopped laying. This doesn’t seem to stop her from wanting babies so badly that she steals baby chicks from other hens. Once I found a mother hen frantic, looking for her babies. The missing babies were tucked under a very contented little, old hen. After a few unsettling days, they worked it out and the old hen kept just one of the chicks.

Our guineas have started and abandoned several nests, but have not been successful in hatching any keets.uring their last attempt, my husband decided to incubate a dozen of their abandoned eggs. Three keets hatched. The next day, we moved them from the incubator into an enclosed area with a heat lamp. On the third day, we decided to put one of our bantam hens in with the keets. We left them alone, and a short time later, she had the babies under her wings.

When the keets were about two weeks old, the hen gingerly went outside with the keets close behind. A few days later, a Cooper’s hawk stole one of the keets. The hen was very upset and didn’t quiet down for some time. As I watched her with the two remaining babies, I heard a strange sound coming from her that I had not heard before. Her sound was answered by the baby guineas. It dawned on me that she was talking to them; she was mimicking the sound guineas make that is different from that of a chicken. This little hen was trying to be their mother in every way, even learning their language.

— Hope Pettit, Corvallis, Oregon

Save Your Invoices

When ordering nut, fruit or other trees from a catalog, keep the invoice until the trees leaf out and you can confirm they’re the type you ordered. I ordered almond trees; the label said they were almond trees, but when the trees leafed out, they were peach.

 — Margaret Metcalf, Canadian, Oklahoma

Tools on Wheels

I use a large, wheeled garbage can to store my long-handled gardening tools. I can roll the garbage can to any location in my garden. It sure has been a handy device.

— Charlotte Bryant, Greensburg, Kentucky

… And Broadaxes for All

In the February/March 2005 issue, Bill Coperthwaite wrote about a “Democratic Axe” design. Coperthwaite named it the democratic axe because his simple design allows anyone with metal-working skills to make it. A hewing axe or broadaxe such as Coperthwaite’s is used to square timbers or flatten the sides of round logs for house and barn construction. The cutting edge of this short-handled axe is only beveled on one side, like a chisel. The axe handle can be attached to the head in such a way that it works for a right- or left-handed person.

We invited readers to send in their contact information if they would be willing to make the axe to sell to other readers. Following is a list of the folks who responded. 

Make a Stronger Broadaxe

The article about making a “Democratic Axe” said to use “annealed (temperable) steel” — this description covers many different types of steel; some, such as air-hardening tool steels, would be ruined by quenching in water. Of the steel types suitable for quenching in water, probably the cheapest (and most readily available) would be SAE 1060 or 1080 (carbon steel with 0.6-percent or 0.8-percent carbon).

Also, the tempering temperature given (475 degrees) is somewhat on the low side, and will result in a tool that is harder but more brittle than is desirable for an axe or hatchet. Tempering at 500 degrees is a better choice for a tool of this nature. If the metal is polished after hardening, but before tempering, the oxide layer will be a brownish yellow (after passing through pale yellow and straw yellow during heating, but not yet showing traces of purple) when the metal is the proper temperature.

— Robert Wolff, Toronto, Ontario