MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including shortcuts to spring chores, a flowerbed protector and cooking trout in the dishwasher.
MOTHER’s Country Farming Advice and Folklore
Shortcuts to Spring Chores
It was with a great deal of interest that I read the piece
submitted by Ms. Carol S. Larson of Harvard, IL dealing
with the utilization of discarded carpet as a permanent
mulch in the garden [“Country Lore,” MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 152]. During the
early and mid 1960s, I assisted my grandmother in her
garden, where carpet was utilized for just the purpose Ms.
Larson speaks of.
As a resident of the Blue Ridge foothills here in Northwest
Georgia, I would add one enjoinder to Ms. Larson’s
suggestion. Any one who would utilize carpet remnants for
mulch in an area inhabited by venomous members of the
crotalid family would do well to forego any carpet of a
pattern or coloration resembling that of the indigenous
reptiles. My Cisco, Georgia, garden is located next to a
hollow that harbors a spring and a creek. The extremely dry
summer we recently experienced witnessed many a copperhead
and an occasional rattlesnake utilizing the garden for
provender. I have been more successful in avoiding contact
with these fellows since using the polypropylene type
synthetic backing–a material that allows passage of water
and fairly good weed suppression. This material has also
allowed me to rapidly identify those members of the
crotalid family touring my garden and humanely remove them
back to the hollow from whence they came (As a silver
medalist in the Southeast Asia War Games of 1960 through
1975, I am reluctant to dispatch any creature for merely
Thank you for an extremely informative publication.
—Joseph R. Dombroski
Setting a Lean-proof Post
The usual technique for planting fence posts is fairly
standard, whether for 4 by 4s or 6 by 6s or round posts. Dig a
hole and throw a little gravel or concrete in the bottom.
Then insert the post, plumbing it while adding more gravel
or concrete to the hole. Easy enough.
Sometimes, however, a post needs to be especially rigid and
well-anchored, able to resist a lot of lateral stress.
These might include lone gate posts, corners and some sign
posts having horizontal, load-bearing arms. Here’s a
sure-fire method of installation that adds a new wrinkle to
the usual procedure, and will prevent a post from
eventually loosening or leaning.
To begin, drive a stake at least 6 inches deep at the
center of the post hole location. Then, digging all around
the stake, excavate a circular “form” hole, 24-28 inches in
diameter and approximately 5 inches deep. At the center of
this shallow, dish shape hole (the spot still marked by the
stake), dig the post hole in the usual manner. Obviously,
the deeper the hole, the more rigid the post, so dig as
deep as practicality will allow.
Pour a couple of inches of concrete into the hole first, to
act as a support pad for the post. Then set the post,
positioning and plumbing it as you add enough concrete to
steady it in the hole. Be sure to tamp the concrete mix as
you pour, in order to prevent voids or weak spots. Continue
pouring the concrete mix until it fills the narrow post
hole and spreads out into the shallow form hole to a depth
roughly 1 or 2 inches below ground level.
The mix in the form hole should look like a big donut
around the base of the post. For added strength, you may
wish to float a few short pieces of steel reinforcing rod
(rebar) down into the mix. More importantly, trowel a small
amount of slope, or “fall,” into the surface of the donut,
so that it will shed water away from the post. After
curing, the concrete may be covered with sod/pebbles, etc.,
for a cleaner appearance.
This donut pad, gripping in the soil at 90 degree angles to
the post, will hold the ground much more effectively than
the usual “sleeve” of concrete, and the post will be
extraordinarily rigid. I used this technique to anchor a
single 6×6 post on which I mounted a 16-foot tubular metal
gate, and no loosening or leaning has occurred in years.
Flower Bed Protector
A way to protect any flower patch from garden hose or
electric cord is to use parts of discarded lawn chair
tubing. Cut with a hacksaw or a pipe cutter about 6 inches
from the 90 degree bend and 12 inches the other way. Push
the longest end into the ground at the edge of the flower
patch to about 4 inches above the surface where you want to
protect your flowers. When not in use , it can be left
there for next time, but turned into the flowers so it is
out of the way of the lawn mower or feet.
—D. E. Andrews
Riding Mountain, Manitoba
Maggie’s Dishwasher Trout
My sister Maggie has never been one to do things the usual
way. I admit 1 was skeptical when she told me about her
unique method for cooking trout, but I had to try it. It
worked so well I told all my neighbors. Now my neighbor
Marydel Portner won’t have her trout any other way.
The first thing you do is catch some trout. Then clean them
and prepare them to be eaten. Put a little butter and lemon
on them, wrap them in foil and place them on the top rack
of your dishwasher. Turn it on for a full cycle. (No soap
in there though.) The heat from the water cooks them
perfectly. They’ll emerge from the dishwasher tender and
ready to be served.
To check and see
if an egg is old,
Place in water
That’s very cold.
If on its side
It comes to rest,
Then you can bet
It’s very fresh.
When three or four days
Have gone bye
You’ll see a tilt,
A rake, a rise.
An upright egg
is ten days old,
For baking it
Is solid gold.
A floating egg–
Handle With Care!
You don’t want it
Exposed to air!
—Knight C. Duerig
King Hill, ID
We’ll Bet You Never Thought Glue Can…
Remove a splinter. Coat the splinter with a drop
of glue, wait for it to dry, then peel off the dried glue.
The splinter should be stuck to it.
Seal plants. Gardeners can use glue to seal the
ends of pruned stems and branches against insects and
excessive moisture loss.
Prevent broken shoelaces from fraying. Dip the
Fix small hole in walls. Small nail holes can be
filled by squirting in a drop before painting.
Make moldable dough that dries without baking. Mix
equal parts glue, flour and cornstarch. Mix and knead well
until blended. If too dry, add more glue. If too moist, add
more flour and cornstarch. Food coloring may be added if
desired. Dough can be molded into any desired shape to
create animals, figurines, ornaments, and jewelry. Dough
keeps for weeks in a zipped storage bag.
Tighten a screw hole. When a screw hole is too
worn out to hold a screw, soak a cotton ball in glue, stuff
it into the hole, and let dry for 24 hours. You can now put
a new screw into the spot.
Make a starch fabric stiffener. Mix water and glue
in a bowl to desired consistency. Fabric dipped in the
mixture can be shaped and dried in decorative forms and
Teach kids how to write their name. Use crayon to
write the child’s name on a piece of paper, then trace over
the letters using glue. When the glue dries, children can
use their fingers to trace along the tactile letters of
their names, making it easier to understand the shapes of
Soften a new pair of jeans. Add one-half
cup to detergent in the washing machine.
Repel fleas. Since salt repels fleas, wash
doghouses with salt water to prevent fleas.
Remove rust from household tools. Make a paste
using two tablespoons salt and one tablespoon lemon juice.
Apply the paste to rust with a dry cloth and rub.
Dissolve the soap suds in the sink. Sprinkle on
soap bubbles to make them pop.
Clean coffee and tea stains from china cups. Mix
equal amounts salt and white vinegar.
Stop pipes from freezing or thaw frozen pipes.
Sprinkle salt down waste pipes in cold weather.
Clean dust off silk flowers. Put the flowers in a
large paper bag, pour in two cups, close the bag, and
shake. Salt knocks the dust off the flowers. Remove the
flowers from the bag and shake off the excess salt.
Remove dandruff. Shake one tablespoon into dry
hair. Massage gently and shampoo.
Prevent grass from growing in crevices. Sprinkle
in the cracks. Salt is a corrosive that kills plants.
Absorb spilled cooking grease or a broken egg.
Pour immediately on the spill, let sit for 20 minutes, then
Prevent colors from fading in the wash. Add one
cup coarse salt to detergent in the washing machine.
Keep slugs away. Sprinkle on the sidewalk close to
the grass. When slugs try to approach your house, the salt
will kill them by reverse osmosis. This works well in
keeping slugs away from pet food, too.
Revive an ailing houseplant. Give the plant two
tablespoons Geritol twice a week for three months. New
leaves should begin to grow within the first month.
Polish shoes. In a pinch, you can shine your brown
leather shoes with a few drops on a soft cloth.
Remove stains, rings, and minor scratches from wood
furniture. Apply to the wood with a cotton ball, wipe
away excess, and polish as usual.
Cat Litter Can…
Create emergency traction for automobiles. Keep a
bag in your car trunk in case you get stuck in the ice or
snow. When poured under the tire, it provides excellent
Soak up car oil and transmission fluid. Litter
works as an absorbent to pick up transmission leaks from
garage floors. Pour a thick layer of unused litter over the
puddle, wait 24 hours, and sweep up with a broom. Scrub
clean with a solution of detergent and hot water.
Deodorize a garbage can. Cover bottom of garbage
can with I inch of litter to absorb grease and moisture.
Prevent mildew in bathtub. Pour litter in a flat
box and place in your bathtub to prevent mildew when you
leave your house for a long time. (Keep the bathroom door
closed if you have cats so they don’t use it.)
Deodorize a stale refrigerator. Pour litter in a
flat box, place it on the middle shelf, and shut the door
for four or five days.
Provide traction on snow-covered driveways and
sidewalks. Sprinkle on the snow-covered walk.
Prevent musty, damp odors in a closed summer
house. Fill shallow boxes with litter. To soak up
musty, lingering odors, place one in each room before
closing up the house.
Deodorize sneakers. Fill the feet of a pair of
knee-high hose with litter, tie the ends and place inside
Prevent grease fires in barbecue grills. Cover
bottom of grill with a 3/4-inch layer of litter to reduce