Tips that (usually) stand the test of time

In the early 1900s, Successful farming published brochures full of tips for farmers and housewives. While some may seem strange or even funny now, more often than not they have stood the test of time.

Successful farming guide with useful devices for the busy farmer was printed in 1907 and featured all sorts of homemade gadgets to make life on the farm easier. This was probably the forerunner of the popular All over the farm feature. Here are a few examples of those handy devices:

Walk-through gate: Where it becomes necessary to pass daily through a field occupied by cattle, we have found the following description of a gate to be the most excellent. Such a gate is always open to pedestrians and closed to animals. It is more useful in the eastern states than in the west. This is an ordinary small gate that swings between two posts spaced far enough apart to allow the passage of a person. These two spots are at the two ends of a V-shaped end in the gate. The cut shows the construction of the end of the gate with the two posts between which the gate swings. The fence should be hung so that it rests against one of the two posts at the end of the V in the fence. (See image above.)

Homemade washing machine: Take a 3 pound tomato can and poke holes in the bottom and sides with spikes, then place a stake in the end about 1½ inches and nail down firmly. Dress the pole on a suitable handle and you have a washing machine. Put clothes in a bucket or can and use the pestle on it. The air and water flowing out of the holes washes the clothes.

Fruit collection bag: The cut shows how to attach a bag to the laps of a ladder so you can pick from the trees inside the bag, with a small risk of damaging the fruit. The curved hooks can be bent from an iron strap, with holes at one end, so they can be sewn to the bag. One instead of two can be found to answer for the top. A bag can be emptied into a barrel with less bruising of the fruit than a basket because the bag can even be lowered to the bottom of the barrel and the fruit can be gently rolled out.

520 timeless tips

520 proven ways to save time, save money, make a profit in farming and household was printed by Successful farming and Meredith Publishing in 1931. It contains ideas submitted by readers for our All over the farm section, which continues to be one of the most popular pages in the magazine. It’s amazing how many of the ideas still work on modern farms.

  • To repair a water tank, find a bolt that is about the size of the hole to be repaired. Cut a good size leather ring. Mount it on the bolt and place it in the hole. Place another leather washer and screw the nut well and tight. This usually lasts for years. —Okay, Oklahoma

  • I save spring rains for summer flowers this way: Cans are sunk into the flower beds so that the tops are 8 or 9 inches below the level of the soil. They are covered with straw to prevent them from filling up with dirt. Spring rains fill the cans with water that the plants will use during the heat of summer. -Mrs. AH, Missouri

  • To prevent the windows from streaking during washing, add a little bit of kerosene to the warm water. —LN, Minnesota

  • To keep salt blocks clean for livestock, screw them to the top of a post. Use a short post that is placed about five feet above the ground and with a bolt or small pipe in it. Drill a hole in the salt block the size of the bolt and place the salt block on top. —TNJ, Iowa

  • When painting window frames, we rubbed a little Vaseline on the glass. Paint was then easily removed where it had smeared the glass. -Mrs. RS, Iowa

  • If you are bothered by hens scratching their nests and breaking eggs, insert a piece of 1-inch wire mesh into the nest. Then put a little chaff or straw over the gauze. They will stop. “SEP, Michigan.”

  • A slack clothesline will test any housewife’s patience. The sketch shows how we solved this problem for good. Every farm has waste material for such a job. —JCG, Kansas

  • In cold weather, frost does not form on our car windows because we rub them lightly with onion juice. —HDH, Kansas

  • A piece of charcoal placed in the refrigerator is very useful for soaking up any odors and keeping it sweet. -Mrs. GA, Michigan

  • One can prevent quarrelsome roosters from injuring each other by tying a loop at each end of a strong cord. One loop is put over the rooster’s head and the other is allowed to hang. When he tries to fight, he gets his feet in the second loop and soon gives up in horror. —FH, Michigan

  • A board 3 feet long and a rope or chain attached to the spoke of the car will usually get a car out of the mud quickly. Place the plank far enough under the wheel so that it has a good grip. —WHS, Nebraska

  • While baking bread, we put a bowl of water in the oven. This will keep the crust from getting too hard. —WW, Wisconsin

  • Horses that eat too quickly or throw their feed out of the trough can be easily controlled by placing a large smooth stone in the center of their trough. —JK, Mo.

  • Early in the spring I cover the flower beds with old woven or chicken wire fencing. This is not visible after the plants are established and it prevents the chickens from scratching the flower beds. —MP, Wisconsin

  • Hinging the top of the bottom step of our back porch has given us an excellent place for the children’s toys. We hold it with a regular screen hook that doesn’t stand out. It is easily accessible and makes a very handy place to keep their croquet set, baseball bats and similar equipment. -Mrs. AMH, Ohio

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