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The 2015 Farmers Almanac
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30 Brilliant Ways To Upcycle Common Household Items

30 Brilliant Ways To Upcycle Common Household Items

According to the Solid Waste Generation study done by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American produces about 4.5 pounds of solid waste everyday. This includes food waste, sustainable goods (like furniture), and non-sustainable goods (like paper and packaging). Even with a large portion of this waste being recycled, the majority ends up in landfills.

If you really want to do your share towards creating a greener planet, try reusing and repurposing household items that are broken or no longer serve a purpose. The best part is that it doesn’t involve you lugging your dirty garbage bags out to the curb!

  1. Use bent or broken silverware for drawer pulls or hooks.
  2. Turn old silverware into a wind chime.
  3. Make soap dispensers out of glass bottles. Just stick a pump into the top of any sized glass bottle and you have a reusable soap dispenser.
  4. Use an old cheese grater to hang earrings on (try painting it a fun color).
  5. Old tea cups also make beautiful jewelry storage.
  6. Glass jars are make great vases, food storage containers, craft supply containers, or even fish tanks.
  7. Reuse an old cupcake pan or ice cube tray as a drawer organizer.
  8. An old colander can serve as a hanging planter. Holes already built in and everything.
  9. Save empty toilet paper tubes! Use them as seed starters, a compost ingredient, or even turn one into a smartphone speaker instead. For free amplified music, simply cut a hole the size of your phone into the long side of the tube and slide your phone it.
  10. Turn empty wine bottles into flower vases, or even tiki torches for your garden. If you have more wine bottles than you know what to do with, stick them upside down into the ground and create an edge for your garden.
  11. Attach some legs and turn an old door door into a table.
  12. Use old drawers for under the bed storage. You can even add wheels onto the bottom for easy access.
  13. Paint an old drawer fun colors and mount it on the wall as a shelf.
  14. Use old door knobs as wall hooks.
  15. Refinishing or repainting furniture is actually not as tough as it looks. Revamp that old side table or night stand rather than toss it to the curb.
  16. Old t-shirts can be turned into reusable cleaning wipes and work great for cleaning windows.
  17. Turn an old shutter into a wall display. Hang it inside near the entryway and tuck pictures and mail into the slots.
  18. Turn an old window frame into a picture frame.
  19. Remove the handle and hang an old garden rake on the wall and use the “hooks” to hang wine glasses, kitchen utensils or garden tools.
  20. Turn your unused outdoor fire pit into a small garden.
  21. Tires take up a lot of space in landfills and take ages to break down. They however are a great household item to up-cycle. Beyond your traditional tire swing, tires can be turned into hanging planters (drill some holes into the bottom and hang on an outside wall), a rope covered chair or ottoman, a potato grow box, or climbing gym for the kids.
  22. Wood from around the house can be reclaimed and turned into many things. Try building a book shelf or if your feeling very crafty, create a headboard for your bed.
  23. That old screen door or baby crib can serve as a charming trellis in your garden.
  24. Take an old chair and paint it a vibrant color. Add it to your garden or front porch for lovely decor. Add a plant to the seat area if it’s no longer usable.
  25. An old mirror, bicycle, shutters, benches, ladders, and doors also add character to any garden, especially if they are painted a fun color.
  26. A old or vintage mailbox makes a great place to organize your garden tools while you work in the garden.
  27. Paint an old wood pallet and use it to hide garbage cans or air conditioner units.
  28. Use old wood pallets as raised garden beds for lettuce and other vegetables. Keeps them in even rows! Or hang them and make shelves for herbs, flowers and garden accessories.
  29. Use an old tall lamp base and a hanging planter basket to create a garden pedestal.
  30. Make a sprinkler out of an old garden hose. Simply take a nail and poke holes in the hose. An instant sprinkler the kids (and your lawn) will love.

Do you have any ideas for upcycling or repurposing items around your home or garden? Tell us in the comments below!

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Get Rid Of Stubborn Underarm Odors From Clothes!

Get Rid Of Stubborn Underarm Odors From Clothes!

Has this ever happened: You’ve laundered your husband’s shirts or your favorite T-shirt, and everything looks and smells clean, until the iron hits the armpits, or you wear the garment again, and… phew! There’s that stinky odor! How do you get rid of it? Regular washing doesn’t work. Here are a few tricks of the trade to power away those embedded underarm smells from fabrics!

Each of these remedies works best if you turn the garment inside out and expose the underarm fabric before treating.

Aspirin and Cream of Tartar
Mix three white, non-coated aspirin tablets with a cup of warm water and a tablespoon of cream of tarter (you probably have a can in your kitchen cupboard!). Scrub the solution into the underarm area with a nail brush or old toothbrush, then allow the mixture to remain on the garment for at least 20 minutes. Launder as usual. Repeat, if necessary.

Baking Soda
Baking soda is great for neutralizing strong perspiration odors that are embedded into fabrics. Make a paste with baking soda and warm water, then rub the paste into the problem areas. Leave the paste on the garment for 15 minutes, or allow it to remain overnight. Launder as usual.

Dissolve ½ cup of table salt in a bucket or large bowl half-full of warm water. Soak the affected areas of the garment, then launder.

White vinegar is a powerful odor neutralizer and works wonders on underarm areas of fabrics. Fill your washing machine with water, then add 1/3 cup of white vinegar. Turn off the machine and let the garment soak for 20 minutes, then launder as usual.

Washing Soda
Sprinkle ¼ cup of washing soda (sodium carbonate, not sodium bi-carbonate) onto the affected area. Be sure to wear rubber gloves. Add water to make paste and work it in with gloved hands. Leave the paste on the affected area for 30 minutes. Launder as usual.

Listerine® or Scope® work well on underarm fabric odors. Simply pour several capfuls on the armpit areas, wait 30 minutes, then launder as usual.

Murphy’s® Oil Soap
Pour the oil soap directly on the armpit which has been dampened with water, and use a nail brush or old toothbrush to scrub it in. Leave on for 20 minutes then rinse in cool water, then launder.

Meat Tenderizer
This remedy might sound a little strange but meat tenderizer works by “digesting” or breaking down the chemicals that are embedded in the fabric. Simply dampen the armpit area with water and sprinkle generously with meat tenderizer. Work it in with your fingers and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Then launder.

Be sure the stains and odors are gone before tossing any garment in the dryer, which will further set the unwanted stains and smells. Line drying clothing may also help eliminate odors.

All-natural fabrics are more breathable than synthetic fabrics, so be sure to choose fabrics made from cotton, wool, bamboo or silk, and avoid polyester and rayon. Allow perspiration to evaporate before tossing any garment in the dirty laundry basket or rehanging. And be sure to wash all of your clothing regularly.

Note: These remedies are based on shirts that can handle a little “tough love.” Obviously if you have similar problem areas on delicate fabrics, you might want to research the care for the specific fabric.

What are your tricks for removing tough underarm stains and odors from fabrics?

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8 Brilliant Ways To Use Beer (Besides Drink It)

8 Brilliant Ways To Use Beer (Besides Drink It)

Who says beer is just for drinking? A frosty brew tastes great on a hot summer evening, but it also has several other surprising uses. There are several ways to use a can of beer as part of your health and beauty routine, and around the home and garden, too!

1. Take a Beer Bubble Bath

If you’re looking for a soothing bubble bath, look no further than the refrigerator. Beer is chock full of B vitamins and protein that will nourish skin, hair and nails. Empty a can or two of your favorite brand into a steaming bath and relax among the bubbles as the beer helps soften and smooth your skin.

Beer also makes a great soak for tired, sore feet. Pour two cans of cold beer into a large bowl and let the cool, fizzy brew sooth your aching feet. As a bonus, beer is an antifungal and the carbonated bubbles act as an exfoliant, which means that a beer foot soak will leave your feet smooth and clean.

2. Make Beer Shampoo

A shampoo with beer is one of the best ways to add shine to your hair. To make it, simply boil a cup of beer until it reduces to about a 1/4 cup. This removes the alcohol, which will dry your hair, and it makes a stronger, more concentrated shampoo. Once the beer is cooled, mix it with a cup of your favorite shampoo and use it to wash your hair.

3. Give Yourself a Massage

A can of beer works better than any handheld massage tool you can buy. For one thing, it’s cold, which will help open blood vessels and increase blood flow to the areas you’re massaging. It’s also easy to use! For a foot massage, lay an unopened can of beer on the floor and then roll it around to soothe and relax the balls of your feet, your arches and your toes. To loosen up other areas of your body, use the flat of your palm to roll the frosty can around. Note: If you plan on opening this can, wait until it settles before cracking it open!

4. Hops May Help You Sleep

A beer or two before bed might make you sleepy, but who needs the extra calories? If you need a good sleep aid, try hops (a key ingredient in beer). Many people find the scent of hops soothing, so if you have trouble drifting off, make a sachet containing a handful of dried hops and place it inside your pillowcase. You can purchase hops online, they’re very inexpensive.

5. Fight Kidney Stones

This beverage is also helpful against kidney stones. Recent studies have shown that those who drink one beer per day have a 41% lower risk for developing kidney stones. And, because it dilates the tubes connecting the kidneys and bladder, it may help you pass kidney stones more easily. Just make sure that you don’t use beer in conjunction with antibiotics or pain medications. Not only will it neutralize the drugs, but there’s also a chance you’ll do yourself more harm than good.

6. Beer as a Fertilizer

Plants – potted plants, vegetables, and even grass – love the fermented sugars and nutrients in beer. If you have brown spots in your lawn or you’re looking for a quick way to perk up other plants, choose a chemical free brand and apply it with a spray bottle.

7. Make A Beer Trap!

You’ve probably heard about beer as a remedy for slugs in the garden, but it works on other pests, too. To make a fruit fly trap, pour about a cup of beer in a drinking glass or empty jar, and cover with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Poke small holes in the plastic wrap and set it out on your counter (make the holes big enough so they can fly in but small enough that they can’t get back out, a small nail works well). They’ll fly in and meet their demise.

8. Polishing Metal

Because it’s acidic, beer makes an excellent metal polish. Use it on copper pots, stainless steel fixtures and more to remove tarnish, line and grime. Once you’re done, rinse the metal with clean water.

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The Debate Over Pluto: Is It A Planet Or Not?

The Debate Over Pluto: Is It A Planet Or Not?

NASA’s exciting New Horizons mission last week has sparked some debate about Pluto – whether or not it’s considered a “planet.” If it’s not a planet, why? And will it be “reinstated” any time soon?

On August 24th, 2006, the International Astronomical Union created a resolution which provided an official definition for the term “planet.” According to this resolution, there are three main conditions for an object to be considered a “planet:”
1. The object must be in orbit around the Sun.
2. The object must be massive enough to be rounded into a sphere by its own gravity.
3. It must have “cleared the neighborhood” around its orbit.

Pluto fails to meet the third condition, because its mass is only 0.07 times that of the mass of the other objects in its orbit (Earth’s mass, by contrast, is 1.7 million times the remaining mass in its own orbit).

Since that resolution, Pluto has been known as a “Dwarf Planet” and not as a planet in the “classical” sense. So there are eight planets in our solar system, not nine.

Many members of the general public as well as a few astronomers are not happy with this decision and have tried to reverse it. Others, believe that the decision makes sense.

Astronomer Mike Brown, for example, said “through this whole crazy circus-like procedure, somehow the right answer was stumbled on. It’s been a long time coming. Science is self-correcting eventually, even when strong emotions are involved.”

Another reason for Pluto being downgraded is that Brown found an object, which he named “Eris,” which is actually slightly larger than Pluto.  The assumption now is, that there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of ice balls out there at or beyond the known limits of our solar system that would qualify for the categorization of dwarf planet.

The fact that Pluto was discovered in 1930 — and that original estimates had it as being as large (or larger) than Earth — was what led to it being categorized as a planet.

Our modern technology tell us that Pluto is much smaller.  And with the idea that there are many other objects “out there” of similar size and mass, the IAU felt they had good reason to demote Pluto in 2006.

Some, like the renowned Canadian comet observer David Levy (who was friends with the late Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto) want Pluto to be “grandfathered back in” as a classical planet simply because it had been on that list since 1930.  But sentiments aside, compared to the other eight planets, Pluto simply is not big enough nor massive enough to be on the list.


Image, Pluto by Moonlight, courtesy of

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Death By Lightning

Death By Lightning

I’ve written many times about the dangers of lightning. Last Sunday evening, I flew from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Portland, Maine, and landed during an active thunder and lightning storm. It was quite an interesting arrival, but fortunately we landed safely.

Twenty years ago, the average annual number of lightning fatalities was about 75. In recent years it has dropped to the mid or upper twenties. Unfortunately, 2015 is trending in the wrong direction. As of today, there have been 22 deaths in the U.S. from lightning strikes (see graph) under many different circumstances.

We have many good articles on our web site about lightning safety (see links below), which provide very useful information on staying safe. If you see or hear a storm approaching take special care.

Lightning Kills, Play It Safe!
Test Your Lightning Knowledge Quiz
Outdoor Safety For Summer
Dangers of Lightning Strikes

Check out this video of a lightning strike caught on camera from the sky!

M-F Lightning Deaths 2006-2015

Courtesy of

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10 Natural Ways To Keep Spiders Out Of Your House!

10 Natural Ways To Keep Spiders Out Of Your House!

Spiders are a part of life, and can even be a beneficial form of pest control in your garden. However, they are most often an unwelcome guest in your home.

Getting rid of spiders entirely may not be realistic (or ideal), but you can greatly minimize their populations in your home by making it a little less inviting for them.

Instead of using chemicals, try any of these natural and safe — yet effective — methods of keeping these critters outside where they belong!

  1. White Vinegar: If you don’t already have a stash of vinegar on hand (for cleaning and many other uses), you should. Vinegar spray can serve as an organic pest control, specifically for spiders. While it is harmless to humans, it contains acetic acid which gives it a sour taste and odor which spiders are highly sensitive to. To use, mix equal portions of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray around your home, concentrating on your kitchen and entrances where bugs may be coming in. Using vinegar as a cleaning agent in your bathroom and kitchen is a great way to get two jobs done at once!
  2. Citrus: Spiders dislike citrus as much as vinegar. Having citrus fruits in a bowl on the counter in your kitchen is a great way to keep spiders out (and to encourage healthy eating for your family). You can also rub leftover citrus peels along windowsills and doorways. To make the smell of vinegar less pungent, you can try soaking several orange peels in a cup of vinegar over night. Add the infused vinegar to a spray bottle mixed with water. It can be used as a cleaning agent or sprayed on high bug traffic areas.
  3. Mint: Mint is a great natural pest repellent. Most bugs, including spiders, hate mint. Add peppermint essential oil to water in a spray bottle and spray all over your home. An added bonus is that your house will smell minty fresh. You can also crush some dried mint leaves and put them in little sachets in your kitchen cupboard. If you don’t have fresh mint, you can also use mint tea bags. Another great way to prevent bugs from even entering your home is to plant mint leaves near your entryways.
  4. Diatomaceous Earth: Many people don’t know much about diatomaceous earth (DE). Diatomaceous earth is made of fossilized remains of a particular kind of algae called diatoms, whose outer shell is made of silica. The skeletons of diatoms are found and collected in the sediment at the bottom of rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. This white powder is not only inexpensive and effective, it is non-toxic, which makes it an excellent choice to repel spiders when you have pets or children. The silica in the DE basically absorbs all of the moisture out of the pests, causing them to dehydrate. You can simply sprinkle DE around areas where you notice bugs. You can also mix 1 tablespoon of DE in a spray bottle of water. Shake it up well and spray around the outside of your home where you see spiders. You can also use it to keep other pests out of you garden. Either circle the plants with a ring of the powder or spray them with the water mixture. When using DE be careful not to inhale the dust. Mixing the water when applying will help you avoid dust inhalation. And be sure you are purchasing food-grade diatomaceous earth.
  5. Cedar: Cedar blocks and chips sprinkled around your home and inside your house will get rid of spiders and other bugs. An added bonus is a nice woody scent around your home.
  6. Chestnuts: Horse chestnuts have been known to drive spiders away. Placing a few on your windowsills or along baseboards will keep spiders from hanging out there. Chestnuts last a long time before going bad, making them a good choice.
  7. Remove Dust: Spiders frequent dusty areas with lots of cobwebs. Keeping your home clean and tidy will make your home less inviting. Regular dusting and vacuuming will keep any insects from making themselves at home.
  8. Organize Your Home: Spiders are attracted to dark, cluttered spaces. Try stacking, organizing, and sealing your storage areas, dusting and vacuuming as you go. Also, be sure to take out your recycling regularly, and removing those stacks of empty boxes you have saved up. Spiders love to make a home in piles of cardboard, boxes, plywood and firewood.
  9. Watch Your Landscaping: Make sure the exterior of your home is free of leaves, grass clippings, wood piles and any other notorious insect hideouts. Keep bushes pruned back and weeds trimmed. Spiders and other insects are less likely to enter your home if you keep them away in the first place.
  10. Don’t Let Them In: The best way of getting rid of spiders is by keeping them out. Making sure your home is sealed properly will prevent pests from making themselves at home. Check all door openings and windowsills to make sure there isn’t enough room for them to fit through. Applying caulk and weather stripping to any cracks and openings may do the trick.

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Make Sun Tea This Summer!

Make Sun Tea This Summer!

The best things in life take time. That’s why, if you want the most refreshing glass of iced tea, you might want to try Sun tea. What makes Sun tea so much better than the stovetop version? Sun tea drinkers say that it has a much fresher flavor than boiled tea, and it’s not as bitter or strong.

Sun tea easy to make, it doesn’t require lots of supplies or cleanup, and you can make it with nothing more than sunlight – no stove required!

However, there are a few methods to follow to ensure you are making the freshest and safest brew!

How Solar-Powered Brewing Works
The beauty of Sun tea is the way that it’s brewed. To make any tea, you need at least a little warmth. You could brew tea in the refrigerator, but the process takes a long time and it results in a rather weak beverage. With Sun tea, instead of heating water in a kettle, you can rely on a natural radiant heat source – the Sun – to do the cooking for you. The water won’t get as hot as boiled water, but that’s actually a bonus. Boiling water causes tea leaves to release more of their tannins, which makes for a much stronger, more bitter beverage.

The key is to use the right container. Clear glass will absorb and trap heat from the Sun. As the brew grows darker, the mixture will absorb even more heat until the tea is fully brewed.

What You’ll Need:

  • A large, clear glass container: You can use anything from recycled juice bottle or a canning jar to a large jar with a spigot. The container should have a tight-fitting lid, and the opening should be large enough for you to insert tea leaves or tea bags. Some say that glass containers with dark colored lids or metal lids work best because they capture even more heat from the sun.
  • Water: Many people make Sun tea with cold tap water, but some have concerns about bacteria or other contaminants. If you’re worried about contamination, use distilled water and fresh tea leaves. You can also reduce the chances of contamination by only brewing enough tea to last you a day or two.
  • Tea: You can use whatever kind of tea you like, from loose leaves to bagged cold-brew tea. Cold-brew tea is finely ground and tends to be the lowest quality tea, but if you’re not picky about your tea varieties, it still makes a very refreshing drink. Many people simply use regular tea bags while connoisseurs prefer loose-leaf teas.
  • The Extras: You can flavor your tea with orange zest, cinnamon sticks, mint, sassafras, raspberry or a variety of other extras to enhance the tea’s flavor.

Ready, Set, Brew!
Start by making sure your clear container is completely clean. Fill it with half a gallon of cold water and add four to six tea bags – four, if you like mild tea and six for strong tea.

Alternatively, if you’re using loose tea, add three tablespoons of tea leaves. You can also add the orange zest, lemon, cinnamon or other flavorings, but wait until the tea is finished brewing before adding sugar, since sugar promotes bacterial growth.

Seal the container tightly and put it in a sunny window or out on the front porch. Make sure to check in on the tea every hour or so to make sure that the Sun hasn’t shifted enough to put your tea in the shade.

On a hot, sunny day, your tea should be ready in two to three hours. If the day is somewhat cloudy or cool, it may take as much as six hours to brew a batch of sun tea. Once the tea is sufficiently steeped, remove the bags/leaves, add sweetener, and place the container in the refrigerator.

When you’re ready for a refreshing drink, pour some in a glass over the ice, and enjoy!

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A Visit To Avena Botanicals Flower Farm

A Visit To Avena Botanicals Flower Farm
Deb Soule with Greek Mullein

Deb Soule with Greek Mullein

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Avena Botanicals flower farm in Rockport, Maine, for their annual Mother’s Day herb walk & plant sale. Maine-native, herbalist, gardener, teacher and author Deb Soule, started Avena Botanicals in 1985, based on a strong commitment to making “organic herbs easily accessible to women and families living in rural areas.” 

The farm itself is the first Demeter-certified biodynamic farm in Maine. For those who are unfamiliar, the practice of biodynamic agriculture was brought to the public’s attention through a series of lectures by Dr. Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s, and has been described as a farm-forward approach to healing the planet through … integrated, holistic management of a farm’s ecosystem.” It sounds like how many of you naturally choose to garden/farm your land!

The aforementioned Mother’s Day herb walk was led, quite enthusiastically, by Deb (pictured), and was an enjoyable mix of fascinating hints and tips from the Avena staff, and friendly discussion among the many other participants.

Below are a few useful plants* that were highly recommended to plant for their many health properties:

Bee Balm photo by Michael G. Brown

Bee Balm photo by Michael G. Brown

Bee Balm
Bee balm belongs to the mint family, so the most common household medicinal use is for digestive issues. However, bee balm is also handy for treating infections, as it has strong antibacterial qualities. And from an aesthetic standpoint, bee balm adds vibrant color to your garden while attracting bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

Echinacea/Purple Coneflower
Echinacea is fairly well known as an immune booster, but is best taken in an ongoing-fashion as a supplement, or at the first onset of cold/sinus symptoms, to be most effective. It’s also a beautiful garden flower by itself, whether or not you choose to harvest it.

Elderberry is also excellent for the immune system, not to mention, makes delicious jam and wine!

Stinging Nettles
Nettles have a reputation more for being harmful rather than helpful — anyone who’s unwittingly brushed against a nettle patch will attest to that! But, did you know that you can actually rub a crushed nettle leaf on your skin to relieve the pain of stinging nettles? Most commonly used to treat allergy symptoms, particularly hay fever, due to its anti-inflammatory compounds.

And that’s only a sample of what I learned during my visit to the flower farm. Avena’s gardens are open to the public May – September, but I highly recommend visiting for an upcoming workshop or walk.

*Please note: Most medicinal herbs have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult a doctor before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you are pregnant or already on other medications.

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Deer Me!

Deer Me!

Recently, we celebrated the full Buck Moon, which took place on July 1st. This Moon is so named in July because it is the time when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It is a process that enlarges antlers as the deer grows. I would equate it to a teenage growth spurt. And just like a growing teen, deer crave food during this time.

So over the July 4th holiday weekend, I saw that two of my hosta plants had been destroyed by a single deer one night. Deer are creatures of habit and once they find something tasty, they usually return for more. Many animals don’t like hostas but they are a feast for bucks. So what to do?

These tried-and-true remedies are great for deterring deer without chemicals:

  • Hot red pepper or Cayenne – sprinkle over surviving plants.
  • Dried Blood or Blood Meal (found at home garden centers) – put on stems and that will send a message.
  • Dial soap is reported to be a deterrent – original. Has to be Dial. Drill a hole and hang from trees or shave pieces and put in a stocking and hang.
  • Aluminum foil – the refection scares them.
  • Tin cans tied to a post – the sound startles them.

The antler season last about 2 months, so if you have a similar problem, it’s best to nip it early. And, if you can determine the direction from which the deer are coming, you might spread the dried blood meal along the path to send a “stay out” message even before they set foot in your yard.


What a hosta looks like before ….


A hosta plant – after the deer had a nibble

If you have a another solution to deter deer, I’d love to hear it!

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.