Last winter’s heavy December snow meant that my in-laws held off sending over Christmas presents at the usual time, so it was a nice summer treat to pick them up when we were across the water for a visit a couple of months back. As well as the wee man being spoilt rotten as usual, I got a couple of house and home books dedicated to longevity and making the most of traditional methods and techniques, the highlights of which I’ll share with you today.
First up is Make It Last: 1000 Ingenious Ways to Extend the Life of Everything You Own. Written by Earl Proulx and the editors of Yankee Magazine, it is a comprehensive reference guide to ensuring that what you buy, salvage or make is long lasting and less likely to be heading to land fill before its time. Conveniently separated into 11 sections, covering Kitchen & Household, Fabrics & Clothing, Land & Garden and Cars and Motor Vehicles to name but a few, the book is well written ‘how to’ guide, complete with plenty of instructional illustrations so that even someone with a very basic knowledge of DIY can try the vast majority of the practices detailed. Proulx, a handyman with 65 years of experience shares a wealth of knowledge and insight, and the book comes with a selection of first-hand accounts and recollections, giving the whole thing a personal touch. Some elements, such as how to repair and secure roofing, are perhaps for the more adventurous, and the book has a distinct New England feel to it, meaning that not everything in it will apply to everyone everywhere (not to mention requiring a little bit of conversion knowledge for us metric folk). It was also written in 1996, meaning that some elements, such as advice on VCRs are dated. That said though, it is well worth keeping the book to hand and has the potential to be one of those publications that are passed down from generation to generation, as you never know what your childrens’ children might be in need of.
- When repairing furniture with glue, mix a little sawdust with the glue to make it stronger.
- Add uncooked rice to a salt cellar to prevent the salt from forming lumps.
- Human hair (either your own if you’re a home cutter, or from a salon if you’re bold enough to ask for it) is a great addition to a compost heap, pre-mulched ground and in planting holes for fruit trees, as it builds up nitrogen levels in the soil.
Next, Illustrated Wise Words and Country Ways by Ruth Binney. If Make It Last is the more rustic of the two, then Wise Words is the more gentile. Think Jane Austin meets Mrs Beeton over tea and scones on a chintz chaise longue nestled in a candy floss cloud in the sky and you’re about half way to comprehending just how twee this book is. That’s not to say it isn’t very good, on the contrary, it’s a lovely read, but it is perhaps more concerned with history and culture behind the practices as much as the practices themselves and is a lot lighter in terms of practical usefulness than the other book. Of the tips included, there were more than few that I’d consider to be common knowledge, but in most cases you also get a snippet of information as to origins and history (much of which I’m sure will come in handy in a pub quiz situation one day), so instead of a ‘how to’ guide, Wise Words is really more of a record of traditional folk law and method. The best feature is definitely the intricate teal coloured drawings that decorate near enough every page and coupled with the easy reading style it makes this book the perfect coffee table companion.
- Diluted cat urine makes a great slug repellent. Yes, I don’t know how they discovered that ether, or how one goes about getting cat piss into a receptacle to dilute in the first place, but I challenge you to find out.
- Bagging and freezing expensive items of clothing for 10 days will help make them moth proof. Unfortunately nothing accept maybe Godzilla will make them Mothra proof.