Free Mulch, Bird Deterrent, and Other Country Lore

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Country lore for fruit tree growers: a toy snake propped in the branches works very well as a bird deterrent.
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Scented fly strips also do well as wasp catchers.
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You can easily turn bandanas into homemade baby clothes.

The following housekeeping tips and other bits of country lore were suggested by readers.

Free Mulch

“Want some excellent–and free–garden mulch?” asks Jackson,
Ohio’s George W. Clark. “Then keep your eye on the weather
during haying season. A good rainstorm will probably ruin
any bales that unfortunate farmers leave in their fields.
And chances are that the weather-cursed folks will give the
drenched hay to you just for the effort of hauling it

Bird Deterrent

Birds won’t snatch all the goodies out of your fruit tree
if you try this arboreal “scarecrow” idea from Steve Phipps
of DeSoto, Missouri.

Just drape a toy rubber snake from a likely limb of your
apple, cherry, or whatever, and those flying fruitpickers
will stay far, far away. “It really works!” Steve says.

Wash Water Recycling

Jan and Gary Worthington have that all-too-common summer
problem: a reservoir that occasionally runs dry. To help
conserve the scarce liquid, the Fayetteville, West
Virginians run their clothes washer on half its normal
supply of water!

The Worthingtons set a large washtub on a high platform
next to the mechanical cleaner. Then–right at the end of
each rinse cycle–they stop the washer, unhook the far clamp
on the machine’s drain hose, and place the tube’s end in
their elevated container. When the machine is turned back
on, the washer promptly pumps the used rinse water into
their tin tub.

Then Jan and Gary remove the clean garments, put in the
next set of grubby apparel, and siphon the leftover rinse
water from the tub back into the washer to start
another cycle. This way, each batch of clothes is rinsed in
clean liquid, yet only one machineful of “new” water is
required for each washload!

Food Storage Ideas

OK folks, we know that your gardens are probably yielding
so much produce that the broccoli needs dinner reservations and your green beans have to wait in line just to get
into the kitchen! So we’re going to go out of our way and
share nine–that’s right, nine–pieces of
food-storing lore. The first three ideas come from readers
whose shortcuts really help them stock up in bulk:

[1] Sheri Bickel of Fayetteville, Arkansas blanches
bushel-basket quantities of greens, corn, or string beans
at one time. She simply throws the food loads in her
dishwasher, sets the machine on scald (don’t add detergent,
please!), and lets the hot water cycle of that washer get
her veggies ready for preserving. “They turn out great!”
Sheri says.

[2] Think that’s something? Well, Sharon Griggs can
cold-pack process three or four canner loads of tomatoes in one pot! This Dowagiac, Michigan native takes one of
those old-fashioned elliptical wash boilers (not a tin
washtub), lines the bottom of the large clothes cleaner
with old towels, sets it over two burners on her stove,
puts in lots of water and filled jars, and starts
a’ cookin’!

Sharon also freezes huge quantities of edibles–using only a
few store-bought containers–by taking the solidly iced food
blocks out of her soft plastic freezer boxes and
storing all the “cubes” of one kind together in big plastic
bags. She can then reuse the expensive containers over and
over again.

[3] It looks like Valerie Hannay of Van Buren, Arkansas has
discovered the perfect storage container for half-quart
food jars: liquor boxes! The cardboard packages that fifths
of booze are shipped in (free for the asking at any alcohol
outlet) have built-in, pint-sized dividers. And if you
place small cardboard squares on top of the “preserves”
stored in the bottom of these handy containers, you can
stack your jars two layers deep! The result: food bottles
that don’t get broken, sun-bleached, or dust-covered packed in sturdy boxes you can store anywhere!

The next three suggestions should help you “stockpile” your
corn harvest:

[1] If you find that cutting all those plump kernels off
the cob is a slippery task, take a tip from Alyne Lawson
(of Ore City, Texas) and simply stand each shucked ear in
the hole of a stem cakepan while you work. The opening will
hold the cob securely, the pan will catch all the kernels, and in no time–with no mess or waste–your corn-cutting
chore will be done.

[2] But what if, try as you may, you can’t keep pace with
your rapidly ripening maize and some of your sweet
ears get tough and starchy? Freeze the kernels anyway, says
Sharon Griggs (a lady who’s loaded with practical lore).
The old gleanings may not have much flavor “straight,” but
they’ll taste just fine and dandy in soups. Ms. Griggs also
combines a cup of the thawed kernels with an equal amount
of water, one tablespoon of cornstarch, a dash of salt, and
sweetener (to taste), then whizzes the ingredients
together in her blender. The Michigander cooks the mix till
it bubbles, and eats good-tasting cream-style corn!

[3] Peter Burkard gets even more goodies out of his
Sarasota, Florida corn patch: He harvests the tiny leftover
ears that always seem to spring up–too late to be
pollinated–on the bottom of cornstalks. Pete then pickles
the rejected “cornlings” just like cucumbers or okra (or
simply refrigerates a few in vinegar for several weeks) and
ends up with tasty little pickled cobs–the exact same
treats that sell for outrageous prices in stores.

Our last trio of food-storing ideas make up the “don’t fit
into a group” group:

[1] When you’ve finally eaten, canned, and frozen more
green beans than you think you’ll ever be able to use,
don’t rototill the rest of your crop back into the soil.
Instead, take some advice from Coggon, Iowa’s Catherine
Klug: Ignore the durn plants! Leave the last rows alone
until the first frost. Then pick, shell, and dry the seeds
inside those overgrown pods! The “shell beans” can be used
in hearty winter soups to take the place of
store-bought navy beans.

[2] After Mary Scarola harvested and washed her oregano and
basil, she stuffed her herb bunches into paper bags to wait
until she’d have a chance to hang them up. Well, one thing
led to another (as will happen, you know), and when Mary
finally did open the sacks, the herbs were already dried!
The Warwick, New Yorker just stripped the leaves from the
stems and her crispy seasonings were ready to be
jarred. No fuss, no muss, and no worry about the drying
plants being blown away on a windy day.

[3] Lastly, Suzanne Mullins of Charlottesville, Virginia
has contributed the absolute, can’t-be-beat, easiest way to
home-can grape juice. Simply measure two cups of whole
stemmed grapes into a sterilized quart jar, add one cup of
sugar (more or less to taste), fill the container with
boiling water, and process it for 10 minutes in a
water-bath canner. Six weeks later, you can strain out the
liquid, dilute this concentrate (by half) with water,
and-presto!-have nearly two quarts of ready-to-drink grape

Moving By Mail

“Last year, my wife and I were faced with a 1,700-mile move
from Colorado to our new homestead in Etlan, Virginia,”
says Robert Legge. “We didn’t want to pull a $200 rented
trailer with our old car, and we sure couldn’t afford the
$500 price tag for leasing a truck! So we packed up over 20
parcels (some weighing as much as 60 pounds) and moved by
mail … for less than $150!

“How’d we do it? By wrapping plenty of duct tape around the
strongest boxes we could find, mailing the heaviest
parcels possible (five 10-pound boxes cost twice as much to
ship as does one 50-pounder), and sending all our
reading matter at that economical ‘book rate’. We even took
apart two beautiful tables and mailed them, too!

“Anything the two of us couldn’t trust to the post office
traveled in our now-spacious car, and we moved with a
minimum of problems and expense. So if you want to save
money when you relocate, ask your local postmaster for a
price list and let the mail do your movin’!”

Plumbing Math

Have you ever faced the prospect of digging up 500 feet of
buried water pipe to find a leak that could be anywhere
along the line’s length? We hope not, but if you
do someday have a similar problem, remember this tip from
Jack Tavish Brinton of Leesville, South Carolina and
use geometry (not your shovel) to find the solution! Jack
closed all his taps and shut off his water source for one
night, so that all the water that was uphill of the leak
could drain out of the pipe. He then drew off the liquid
that remained in his line into a cylindrical can, and used
the old high school math formula, V= 3.14r2 (volume equals
3.14 times the squared radius times the cylinder’s height)
to figure out just how much water he had. Finally, Jack
turned the same equation around (to H =V / 3.14 r2) and
applied it to his long, skinny “cylinder”: the pipe. The
hole-hunter had already learned the water’s volume, so he
plugged in the line’s radius, did some multiplying and
dividing, and found out the missing “height” of his water

In Jack’s case, the “H” worked out to be 65 feet. Since the
Carolina calculator trusted his figurework, he walked 65
feet up the hill and started digging. Voila! There was the

Wasp Catcher

In times past, folks have lit torches, swung brooms,
sprayed poisons–and more–to get rid of household wasps, but
Don Whiteside of London, Ontario has come up with the
simplest insect remedy of them all. Don noticed wasps
climbing on a soda can, thought about how much the critters
like sweets, and bought a supply of those
old-fashioned, scented flypaper strips you can still find
in some country stores.

The clever Canadian then hung three “ribbons” along the
roof just a bit upwind of his eaves-dwellers. The next
morning, every single wasp in the vicinity was stuck fast
to the gluey strips. Don dropped the bug-covered papers
into the garbage can and hasn’t seen a single wasp

Hog Lore

And now here’s some hog lore. We’re not talking about how
to deal with mastitis, tail-biting, or “poor keepers”.
Nope, we figure MOTHER EARTH NEWS homesteaders already know their
swine basics, so we’re going to offer you five useful–but

[1] Emily Bunn of Winchester, Ohio knows an easy way to
load uncooperative porkers into that market-bound farm
truck. She simply sets her vehicle and ramp in place real
early (before the sun rises), turns on the light in the
truck’s cab, and stands back! The pigs climb all over
each other to get to the bright area!

[2] Lucinda Dittmar of New Carlisle, Indiana has no trouble
moving a stubborn hog. “Get in front of the animal and
cover its head with a bushel basket,” Lucinda says. “Then
simply steer the critter backward!”

[3] Lucille Williams’ farm neighbors–who market hundreds of
the meaty mammals yearly–avoid a lot of cleaning labor
because they teach their piglets (right from the start) to
leave their manure bits on the paved portion of the adult
swine’s barnyard. The Dimondale, Michigan folks simply
quarter the young’uns in stalls with their already obedient
mothers and–at the same times every day–let the sows and
babies exercise in that concrete section of the “big pig”
grounds. The mimicking young’uns soon learn to do their
business out there just like Mom does. Most
important, when the critters are finally weaned and moved
into the communal pigpen, they know to head to that pavement
any time they need to “pay their respects”!

[4] Tom McGreevy of Richland, Washington makes
land-clearing farmhands out of his porkers by applying the
formula: hogs + corn = stump removal. Tom simply drives
stake holes around unwanted tree bases, plugs the openings
with kernel-laden cobs, and his hungry swine burrow
those tenacious stumps right out of the ground!

[5] Even if you’ve always known how to train, load,
steer, and clear ground with pigs, we’ll bet you never
thought of using the “bacon bearers” to seal a new pond
that won’t hold water. Eina Myrle has. This Jeffersonville,
Indianan simply fences her snout-faced livestock in the
leaky area so that their active tromping will press down
all the loose mud. Eventually, the swim hole’s center
begins to harden, the water level rises, and the animals
are forced farther and farther out . . . packing the pond’s
ever-widening edge all the while. Before long the fish
home’s bottom is pressed solid and all ready for rain
to do the rest.

Natural Cosmetics

Here are some inexpensive natural cosmetics suggested
by Amy and Tom Walinski of Berlin, Maryland: Castile soap
serves as shampoo, body soap, and dentifrice. (Baking soda
is also a good–but more abrasive–tooth cleaner.) Olive oil
makes an excellent skin and hair conditioner, and can
be scented as you like. Rubbing alcohol and baking soda
both make effective body deodorants, while whole cloves can
be used as pleasant and long-lasting breath fresheners.
(Just crumble the “ball” ends off and hold the “spice
sticks” in your mouth.)

You can make a mighty fine-looking, inexpensive infant’s
shirt or dress using ordinary bandanas! Carla Butterton
of Tenino, Washington says these simple sewing projects are
as easy as finding seeds in a watermelon.

Homemade Baby Clothes

To make a young’un’s shirt, take one large, farm-sized
hanky and fold it in half with the material’s
patterned side inside. Cut a curving, “baby-sized”
waist-to-undersleeve line on each side (through both
thicknesses of cloth) and snip a semicircular neck opening
through the middle fold (add a vertical slit in front,
too). Then sew up those sides-and-underarm seams, trim the
material outside this stitchwork, and cover your rough
edges (here and around the neck) with bias tape. Turn the
garment right side out, add some buttons, snaps, or ties
to close the front of the shirt, and you’re done!

The dress pattern requires two bandanas, one for the
front side and the other for the back.

Begin by making a casing along the top of each cloth piece
by folding the fabric down twice (toward the undecorated
side): The first crease should turn under 1/4 inch and the
second 1/2 inch. Stitch close to the edge of this cloth
“tunnel” of material and use a safety pin leader to help
you run a ribbon through each casing.

After that, place the two bandanas together (right sides
in) and stitch a little more than halfway up the sides
(stopping where the armholes will be). Trim and bias-tape
these seams, then turn the finished dress right side out.
Put this pretty garment on your child, pull your top
ribbons-to gather material at the neck-and tie a big bow on
each shoulder!

“Why heck,” adds Carla, “you’ll probably like the
children’s finery so much that you’ll round up some larger
fabric, do a bit of extra hemming, and make clothes for Ma
and Pa, too!”

Chicken Hors D’oeuvres

It’s bug-picking season, so a lot of conscientious
gardeners will be pouring kerosene into old tomato cans and
dropping in all the Japanese beetles, bean weevils, potato
bugs, cucumber beetles, and other assorted nasties
that they can get their mitts on. But at least one backyard
grower–Charles Rice of Highland, New York–will carry a bit
of salad oil in his bug can instead of the traditional

And “why fer”? Well, partly because the cooking liquid will
immobilize hungry veggivores as well as lamplighting fluid
does. Better yet though, when Chuck’s task is
finished he’ll have super-protein-rich hors d’oeuvres to
feed to his chickens!

Homemade Auto Grease Cleaner

Frank H. Ford likes to work on cars, so he collects a lot
of the real “true grit”: gummy auto grease. But this
San Jose, Costa Rican scrubs the grime off easily with his
own homemade mechanic’s soap. Frank whips up this wonder
worker by mixing 1 part powdered household cleaner with 2
parts sawdust.