Sometimes the old country lore, full of household and health tips, can be the best advice a person can follow. This is especially true of homesteaders, who are learning to live off the land and off-grid to the greatest extent possible. Learning which of these little gems works best for you now can only be helpful if the time comes when you really must be truly self-sufficient.
Let’s start with pest control, whether those pests have four legs or six legs. Our six-legged friends, such as fleas and cockroaches, can be controlled without the use of poisons or other toxins. Did you know that cockroaches like beer? And here you thought you didn’t have anything in common with a roach! You can use that fondness for beer to get rid of these nasty insects in your home. Get a jar, coat the inside top inch with vegetable or olive oil, and pour in about three to four ounces of beer. Place the jar anyplace where you have seen cockroaches (or their droppings) and leave for a few days. The roaches will be attracted to the beer, fall into the jar, and be unable to get out because of the oily barrier. Now you can put a lid on the jar and dispose of it. While we are on the subject of pesky bugs, there are homesteaders who swear by rock salt as a way to control fleas. Just put a couple of tablespoons of rock salt in a jar lid and place the lid under a piece of furniture, like the couch or a bed. One or two jar lids in a room are all that are needed. The rock salt should keep your home flea-free.
Staying on the topic of pests, let’s look that those furry four-legged intruders, the rodents. If these disease-carrying fluffballs are already in your house, you can use their keen sense of smell to your advantage. Mice happen to hate the smell of peppermint. Use cotton balls with some peppermint essential oil or some fresh sprigs of peppermint in places haunted by mice. They’ll be disgusted and take off for more mouse-friendly habitats. As for rats, they dislike the smell of mothballs. If you have rats in your walls (one of their favorite haunts), just remove a few outlet covers and drop in some mothballs. Close the holes back up and wait a day or two. The rats should be long gone. Once the rodents have left your home, you’ll want to keep them out for good. To do this, pack all the cracks and crevices (especially the holes around gas and water pipes) with steel wool. Steel wool is a material mice and rats won’t even try to chew through.
Moving on from the subject of toxin-free pest control, how about windows and windshields? If you live in northern climates, you know that it can be difficult to remove that morning glaze of ice from the windshield on your car or truck. Try cutting a large onion in half, and rub the cut side over the glass the night before a freeze. The next morning, that ice is going to slide right off with little to no effort on your part. Keep the onion in a plastic bag, and you can use it again and again. Keeping with the theme of windshields, if you compare the cost of household window cleaner with the cost of those big jugs of windshield-washer fluid, you’ll see that the stuff you buy for your vehicle windshield costs about a tenth as much per ounce as the household glass cleaner. Just pour some of the fluid into an empty spray bottle and use it for the mirrors and windows in your home.
Just a few final bits of lore: cat litter works well on icy sidewalks. It is as highly absorbent as salt and much better for the environment. Cat litter is also an inexpensive way to clean up oil spots on your garage floor. Just sprinkle some litter on the spot, leave for a couple of days, and then sweep it all up. The absorbency of the litter will take care of the oil. How about if you get a small puncture or tear in your window, door, or patio screen? For a temporary fix to keep out mosquitoes and flies, apply a small amount of clear five-minute epoxy glue to the tear.
There is much more country lore being passed around out there that can be helpful to you in your homestead. The best thing about much of this advice is that it is inexpensive, environmentally-safe, and something you can do on your own. I promise to share more of this intriguing lore with you in the future!