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Simple living: 28 all-time best tips: you can save money and be more self-sufficient with these reader tips, taken from Mother's ever-popular Country Lore department.

More Strawberries

To renew or expand my strawberry patch, I partially bury paper cups, three-quarters full of soil, near the ends of new runners. Then I push one of the plantlets into each cup, water them all, and allow them to rest for a couple of weeks while they set roots. Then I simply clip the runners, slip the plants out of the cups and plant them wherever I have room.


Brenda Hartley

Danville, Illinois

Fresh Carrots from Cold Frames

About the first of August every year, I plant carrot seeds in my cold frame, leaving the glazed cover open. When the weather turns cold and snowy, I dose the cover and am able to pull fresh carrots out of my mini-greenhouse all winter long.

Mrs. Robert Spencer

New Carlisle, Ohio

Goldfish Munch Mosquitoes

If you have a puddle, pond or stock tank where mosquitoes breed each year, invest a few dollars in some goldfish. The little swimmers will thrive on mosquitoes and their larvae, and keep the water virtually free of algae as well.

Because our stock tank freezes in the winter, we dip up the little fellows when bug season is over and keep them indoors in a fishbowl, where they're a cheerful addition to our home during the cold months.

Jo Ann Sisson

Caston, Oregon

Frisbee Feeders for Chickens

Frisbees make excellent impromptu chicken feeders and waterers. When a neighbor presented me with a banty hen and nine fuzzy chicks, I had quite a time coming up with a temporary waterer that was stable enough not to tip over, yet shallow enough to prevent any accidental drownings. My children's flying disks did the trick until a permanent setup could be arranged.

Margaret Traudt

Roca, Nebraska

Add a chicken-wire cover, marbles or rocks to keep the chicks from going wading and getting wet.--MOTHER

Let the Cows Seed Your Pasture

Here's an ingenious--and effortless--way to improve your pastures: Simply mix 1 tablespoon of untreated, unhulled grass seed into each cow's daily rations during the spring and summer months. Most of the seed will pass through the cow and be planted at random in the animal's droppings, complete with "natural fertilizer" to start it off right.

You'll soon have the best pasture around.

Doug Bliss

Shawnee, Oklahoma

Rig a Digger

I have come up with a way to recycle the old, broken-handled posthole digger that's rusting away out in the tool shed. This conversion makes an excellent shovel-like tool for trenching, transplanting and general gardening chores. Separate the two sides of the digger at the hinged connection, then select the side with the best blade and sturdiest handle, and grind or hacksaw off the protruding ears. For added foot power, drill a half-inch hole through the handle near where it meets the blade and insert a half-inch by 4-inch or 6-inch bolt. If you're a left-footed digger, allow the bolt to protrude from the left side, and vice versa for right-footers.

M.L. Parsons

West Point, Georgia

Simple Barbed Wire Carrier

Stringing a barbed wire fence is hard work. But the only part of the job that really bothered David (the other half of the Ivey fencing team) and me was unrolling the spools of prickly wire.

The fastest and easiest way we've found to unroll barbed wire is with the aid of a home-built "fence reel." Such a reel can be made from the handle of just about any type of discarded lawn mower. Simply cut a piece of metal pipe a little longer than the width between the forks of the handle, then slip the pipe through the forks and spool of wire. To keep the pipe in place, you can either thread the ends for nuts, or drill small holes for cotter pins.

With this rig, the spool of wire serves as a wheel (albeit a somewhat wobbly one), allowing you either to push or pull your fence reel along the ground between posts.

Jackie Ivey

Bebe, Texas

A Dash of Seeds for the Garden

I use an old saltshaker to spread tiny seeds that are difficult to distribute by hand.

Dennis R. Willie

Folsom, Louisiana

Easy Furniture Scratch Removal

There's no need to buy a special product to touch up minor scratches on wood furniture and paneling. A teaspoon of instant coffee dissolved in a teaspoon of water serves the same purpose.

Nellie Chestnut

Glade, Kansas

Goat Horn Buttons

The next time you butcher a goat, saw the horns into cross-sectional slices, drill holes into each small disc, and you'll have--goat buttons!

Just one more small household necessity that you'll no longer have to buy.

Kitty Bunin

North Sidney, Nova Scotia

Grills Discourage Dog Digging

We had a problem with dogs digging under the fence that surrounds our chicken yard. I started collecting discarded grillwork shelves--the racks made for stoves and refrigerators. (Junkyards are a good place to look for them.) When I had a good supply, I laid them on the bare ground around the fence, wiring them together and to the fence.

Grass soon covered the grills and I could mow right over them, but dogs (and other predators) could no longer dig there.

Charles Anderson

Doyline, Louisiana

Low-cost Root Cellars

I had long wanted a root cellar for storing bulk grains and homegrown produce. Because money was too scarce for my family to afford one, I decided to improvise.

I took an old garbage can (a 55-gallon drum would work equally well), cleaned it out and buried the container in the ground--leaving about a 6-inch rim showing. Then I filled the can with the perishables, secured the lid and covered it all with straw. Finally, I built a little wall of loose bricks around the straw and covered the "insulation" with a piece of plywood weighted down by rocks.

We now have several of the cans buried. I keep dried beans and grains in one, and fruits and vegetables in the others!

Cathy Amanti

Chino Valley, Arizona


Repel Critters with Dog Hair

Every spring, after we groom our two large collies, we end up with bags of dog hair. We empty the bags in our garden, scattering the hair throughout the plot. Since we started doing this, all the groundhogs, raccoons and other animals that used to vandalize the crops have gone elsewhere.

Chris A. Martin

Morgantown, West Virginia


Lost Glove Solution

Stuck with two right-handed (or left-handed) work gloves? You can convert them into a usable pair. Just turn one of the gloves inside out, using a pair of needle-nose pliers to reverse the fingers.

Bob Maginnis

Beaverton, Oregon

How to Make Great Grape Juice

I have the absolute, can't-be-beat, easiest way to home-can grape juice: Simply measure 2 cups of whole stemmed grapes into a quart jar, add 1 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, strain out the liquid, dilute this concentrate by half with water, and--presto!--you have nearly 2 quarts of ready-to-drink grape juice.

Suzanne Muffins

Charlottesville, Virginia

Super Seed-head Scrubber

Need a stout scrub brush for a really messy cleanup job? Use a de-seeded sunflower head! Once all the seeds have been rubbed off, the dried flower makes a surprisingly effective scouring pad, and a biodegradable one, too.

When you're done scrubbing, you can just toss the used pad into the fireplace, or add it to the compost pile.

Matt Wagner

Amherst, Ohio

You Can Can Potatoes

A neighbor introduced us to what has become one of our family's favorite foods: canned potatoes. Just wash those tiny spuds you have no other use for, fill your jars, add salt and boiling water, and pressure-can them. Since we don't have a good root cellar, we've tried the method with larger tubers that have been peeled and cubed, and found that it also works well with them.

When you're ready to use them, drain the potatoes and add them to soups or stews, or just brown them lightly in butter. They're delicious.

Bob and Sandy Aguilar

Palmyra, Nebraska

Simple Squash Storage

I find I can extend the storage life of my winter squash by dipping their stems in melted beeswax or paraffin. Squash that have lost their stems are especially prone to early rot, but a coat of wax applied to the scar will render the damaged vegetable less prone to spoilage.

Laurie Ogletree

Tyrone, Oklahoma


Flying Chicken Feed

When I saw all the insects that were attracted to the ceiling light in my chicken coop, I lowered it down to hen-height and added a protective cage around it.

The result? All the "protein pellets" that dive bomb the bulb get converted into eggs by the ever-hungry chickens!

Francis Kosheleff

Santa Cruz, California

Woven Web Tree Protectors I protect my young fruit trees from wildlife nibblers by wrapping strips of old lawn furniture webbing around the trunk of each tree. The web's open weave allows the tree to breathe and doesn't collect moisture, and the material stands up to weather really well!

Mel Bauman

Springwater, New York

Free Trees

My husband and I have found one way to cut landscaping costs. We watch for new construction sites, and have found that if we stop and ask permission, the owners or workers are often happy to let us dig up and remove the trees and vegetation that they were planning to bulldoze over.

The variety of plants we find (including fruit trees, rhubarb and asparagus roots, berry bushes, and more) is often amazing. This organic recycling is a good way to preserve a bit of nature that would otherwise be destroyed.

Kathleen Northcutt

Orangeburg, South Carolina

Easy-to-Make Herbal Seasoning

Why buy high-priced herbal seasoning salts when you can make them yourself? I simply blend 5 tablespoons of salt with 2 teaspoons each of the following ingredients: onion powder, garlic powder, celery seed and parsley flakes. I then add 1 teaspoon each of dried basil, marjoram, thyme and oregano (first rub the dried herbs through a screen to make small flakes). Then I mix everything together before placing the seasoning in a shaker bottle with large holes.

This homemade mixture makes a great gift for friends and family; too.

Sara McGinnis

Anchorage, Alaska

Slick Firewood Solution

I use an aluminum slide from a child's discarded swing set to slide firewood down the steps to our basement furnace.

Scott Hoffman

Hanover, Pennsylvania

Using Waste Paint

Whenever I have a little enamel paint left over in the bottom of a bucket, I use it to coat the inside of my wheelbarrow to keep it from rusting.

Joe Plaugh

Columbia, South Carolina

Plunk, Plunk, No More Gunk

Do you have vases, bottles or thermos liners that remain cloudy or dirty, even after being scrubbed with a brush? Try filling the container with warm water and adding two to four denture-cleansing tablets. When the fizzing stops, the glass will be clean and shiny.

Michelle Kaptur

Bend, Oregon

Onion Hang-up

A native of Georgia, I'm especially partial to that state's famous Vidalia onions. When I stored them the usual way in a mesh bag, they often spoiled quickly because of high humidity. I found the solution to this was to store them in old, clean hose or pantyhose. You drop the first onion into the toe, and tie a knot right above it. Keep putting in the onions, one at a time and with a knot between each one, till the stocking leg is full.

Hang the onions in a cool, dry place, and simply cut one off right below the knot anytime you want one. Onions will keep for a year this way, and they hardly ever sprout.

Thomas Champion

Radcliff, Ohio

Saved by the Bell

When our fence washed away, my husband and I spent the next four days searching for the stray calves. Then I remembered Pavlov and his study of conditioned reflexes.

After that experience, I rang a cow bell every evening right before I fed the young heifers. It only took three days to teach those hungry calves to come a-scurryin' at the sound of the dinner clanger. Now everything answers the call--calves, horses, ducks, geese and pigs, and it should be a big help if anyone escapes again.

Marjorie Watt

Old Monroe, Missouri

Swine Stump Remover

I have found that hogs make great land-clearing farmhands by applying the formula "hogs + corn = stump removal." I simply dig holes around unwanted tree bases, fill the holes with kernel-laden cobs, and the hungry swine burrow those tenacious stumps right out of the ground.

Tom McGreevy

Richland, Washington

You can also drill holes into half-rotted stumps and fill the holes with kernels of corn. The hogs will tear up the stump to get to the corn.--MOTHER


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Author:Hunt, Heidi
Publication:Mother Earth News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2009
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