I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to clean oil and grease off of shop/garage floors as the harvest season winds down and most machinery is cleaned and put away for the next season. At any rate, here are some reader suggestions… 


If you use an oil catch pan under the vehicles and machinery when you change the oil it can sometimes slop or run over and leave a mess on the floor. A reader suggested that folks take one of those big ½ sheet cookie tins (preferably an old one with rusty spots), fill it with clay cat litter and set your catch pan on the litter. If the pan runs over, the litter will soak up the oil and keep it off of the floor.

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To take oil/grease spots off of my shop floor, I just buy a 5 pound bag of cornmeal. It’s cheap and really absorbs well. I pour it all over the grease or oil spots and leave it for several days so it has time to soak up as much as possible; then, just sweep up the meal. You would be surprised at how well this works.

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Another reader suggested buying a big bag of baking soda which is now available in 12 pound plastic bags at most hardware/box stores. The soda works to absorb the oil/grease and also eliminates odors.

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Other readers have suggested the concentrated dish soap. Just use it straight from the bottle and let it sit on the spots overnight. The next morning, you have to get down on your ‘prayer bones’ (a.k.a. your knees) and scrub the living daylights out of the area with a scrub brush followed by a good washing with very hot water.

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One gentleman wrote that he’d had a sack of cement that had gotten a wet spot on it and it had hardened up. He put his two boys to work with hammers to break the cement back up into powder, and then put the resulting powder on the oil patch in his garage. He said it worked as well as the fine sand he’d purchased a couple of years earlier to do the same job. 

(PS: When I looked in the hardware store for fine sand, it was the stuff recommended for the kids sandboxes.)

Back To School, Again…

October is the perfect time to go school shopping. Most of the kids have been in school for a month or so and the fashionistas have made their statements about what is hot and what is not. Some kids pay close attention to these things, and some don’t. My kids were the ‘don’t’ variety. They usually wore blue jeans and shirts; t-shirts in warmer weather and long-sleeved in colder weather. Most of their clothing was purchased at yard sales. A good pair of jeans can be bought for $5 (compared to $50 to over $100 for a single pair in the malls). I’ve heard a lot of folks say that they wont let their kids wear yard sale clothes because of germs! Well, did you ever think about how many bodies have been in that pair of jeans you tried on in the mall? (Major germs!) I walked down the dressing room hallway years ago in a big store and got the shock of my life: Someone was trying on a pair of jeans and had left the door wide open–and was minus any form of underwear! Not something I was comfortable with at all!

Boots were the only kind of shoes to wear when you lived in the country. The expensive sneakers don’t last long in the mud and yutz of the barnyard, and they didn’t last nearly as long as a pair of boots. They had sweatshirts and coats to wear and kept them handy in the vehicle so they could go on quickly if they had to get out for some reason. Sometimes, to run a neighbors cow back through the gate.

I’ve started making car quilts from old blue jeans; denim on the front and back and an old blanket in between the pieces of denim. These are to be in the front or back seat at all times. No putting them in the trunk–you cant get to it in a blizzard or if you run off the road and can’t open a door! They wear well and at calving time, could be used to wrap a cold calf for a trip to the barn! And, they wash well.

Harvest Time Is Here Again

October is about the final month for the farmers markets in my part of the world. It’s starting to get really cold most nights, and the garden has been put to bed for the winter. You can still buy a huge variety of garden produce though, and its a good time to stock the freezer, fill the canning jars and make the jams and jellies (some for those Christmas baskets). If you have no access to farmers markets, perhaps you have a friend who gardens who will gladly share excess produce with you. Can it, freeze it or dry it for the upcoming winter months. Some folks will use this time of year with all the specials on canned goods to build a stash of extra cans of green beans, peas, carrots, etc. to be used in the many casserole recipes available almost everywhere. Years ago, one of my neighbors, who was very short on storage space in her kitchen, put the flats of green beans, peas, etc. under her bed. The canned goods stayed cool and dry, but were handy for her to get to as she needed them.

Ghostly Lanterns

These can easily be made by kids 5 or 6 years old.  You need some gallon milk jugs, well washed and with the labels taken off. Just smear some peanut butter on the labels and let sit overnight; the oil in it will take the label off in a jiffy the next day. Let the kids make a ghost face (eyes, nose and mouth on the side opposite the handle) with black markers. Then, take a paring knife and cut a small slit under the handle and give the kids a pair of school scissors that will cut the lightweight plastic.  They need to cut a hole big enough to get their hand inside (but don’t cut down too far under the handle). Next, put some sand or colored rocks (landscape type) in the bottom of the jug and then set one of those little battery operated tea lights in it. Turn the lights on in the evening and set the jug(s) along the sidewalk or on the edge of the porch leading to your front door. It’s an easy craft for the small fry and they are so very proud of what they can do “all by myself”.

Cheese, Please

To keep that expensive cheese from drying out and getting moldy, wrap it in a cloth that has been soaked in vinegar and then wrung out. Store the wrapped cheese in a plastic bag and it will keep quite a while.

Steak/Burger Toppers

I am making some of this as I write this column. I found some fresh mushrooms in the grocery store the other day (raised in USA) and wanted to keep them for later on when we have some steak or some good big burgers for an evening with friends. 

I put 1 teaspoon of butter in a cast iron skillet and added the package of fresh mushrooms, turned the heat on low and let them cook. I then turned them out onto a cookie sheet to cool, and then in the same skillet with a little more butter added, I cooked down two very large thinly sliced onions. I’ll mix the two together on the cookie sheet, cool the whole works completely and then place the mixture into several freezer bags.

It sure is easier to dress up a plain meal when the fixings are handy in the freezer!

Fall Canning Ideas

My tomatoes are slowly ripening, but I’m guessing the majority will have to ripen indoors if we have an early fall. So, I’m in the process of clearing out a big space in the freezer for ripe tomatoes. I’ve done this for years and it works. I freeze whole tomatoes in big bags and place in the freezer. Then, when I have time, I take out the amount I need and run hot water over the frozen tomatoes to loosen the skins. I then cut them into pieces to put into jars for canned tomatoes, tomatoes with diced green chilies, or even tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce. When I do the sauces, I do not peel the tomatoes; I just cut them into chunks and run the whole works through my blender. There are a lot of nutrients in the skins so I save them whenever possible.

Stinky Feet, Be Gone!

For those of you who have kids in sports this year, here’s a helpful hint I’ve used many times over, and it really works!
My boy’s feet would sweat terribly when they were in school and an evening of football/basketball practice seemed to fill the shoes with stinky sweat. While there are commercial products available to put in the shoes and boots, they are expensive and if you have more than one kid in sports, it can be a budget killer.

The answer for this is cat litter. Yup, cat litter! I would put about a cup full of the clay cat litter in an old sock–one for each shoe or boot and stuff it down inside whatever footwear they were wearing. Leave the sock in overnight and the stuff absorbs the sweat and the smell. You can buy a 5 pound bag of cat litter for under $3 and it lasts a long time.

Fall Fix Up Hints

Ready to get up on the big tall ladder and paint the eaves of the house and don’t want to slip? Before you start the project, put a good coat of varnish on the steps and then sprinkle on a few handfuls of that clean sand you got the for the kids’ sandbox. The sand gives your shoes something to grip onto.

Cheap Shelving for College Students

A reader sent in this idea a few years back and with the economy the way it is these days, this is a lot cheaper than many other methods.

He says, “All you need are some boards and something to stack between them to hold the shelves apart. We’ve used old bricks, cement blocks, chunks of stove wood and even some old books we found in a dumpster. We drilled a hole in the middle of the books and put a thick dowel down through them to keep the books from slipping apart. They worked for all four of my kids when they were in college, and were passed on to a neighbor boy who is still using them."

READERS: If you have tips or ideas to share, send them to Pennywise, Box 518, Kadoka, SD 57543 or email them to [email protected]

P.S.: Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond!