Four Frugal Tips Picked Up from the Farm

by Jamie Simmerman · 7 comments

I grew up in the city, so living on a family farm was a big shock to me when I got married. Since everything was brand new to me, I took plenty of mental notes about the things I saw going on from day to day. Many things I noticed were quite practical, and always frugal. Farmers know how to stretch a penny and make something useful from a handful of seemingly useless items. Here are a few of the frugal tips I’ve picked up over the years.

4 Frugal Tips from the Farm

  1. Curing a cat’s hairballs. If you have cats, you know they tend to disgorge disgusting hairballs in the most inconvenient places (like your favorite slippers), but hairballs also interfere with your cat’s digestive health. To keep your cats from accumulating hairballs, feed them a can of tuna in oil (not water) once a month. It helps the hair pass safely through their digestive system and they LOVE the tuna treat. (Additionally, if you have bunnies, a few chunks of Papaya every week will keep them from developing hairballs. Hairballs can be a serious medical problem for rabbits, and the papaya saves you from a pricey vet bill.)
  2. Emergency wound care. Accidents happen on the farm. Animals slip and fall, get caught in fences, and eat things they shouldn’t. We got called out late one night to help out an Amish neighbor whose sheep had gotten caught in some old barbwire fence on an abandoned farm nearby. I watched in wonder as the Amish man cleaned the sheep’s cuts with diesel fuel in the field. We carried her to the barn to keep warm and recover, and that sheep’s wounds healed beautifully without a trace of infection. Now, I don’t know if diesel fuel is safe for everyday use (probably not), but in an emergency when nothing else is available, it worked like a charm. And I’ve seen several old farmers quickly rinse a cut with diesel fuel, then fresh water, before bandaging it.
  3. WD-40, the wonder spray. I did a little research once about WD-40, and it was originally intended to stop corrosion on missile fuselages. We’ve used it to clean hard water buildup off canning jars, shower doors, and feed troughs, as well as getting bubble gum out of a cow’s tail and the living room carpet. It gets rusted bolts unstuck, lubricates tractor parts, and cleans grease like nobody’s business. In fact, the WD-40 company has a list of over 2,000 uses for the product.
  4. Every summer, we get out the canning equipment and prepare for the endless parade of veggies, jars, and boiling water that fills the pantry with yummy goodness. To clean brass and copper pots, we fill the basins with ice, sprinkle with salt and a dash of lemon juice and shake till clean. The metal shines like new and this process is healthier (and cheaper) than using chemical polishes.

Bonus Tip!: We also use old newspapers and a spray bottle filled with water or vinegar to clean the grimiest windows without smudges, which is so much cheaper than practically every other solution available.

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  • Jules says:

    TUNA IS A TERRIBLE WAY to prevent hairballs. Tuna contains much too much salt for a cat’s kidneys to handle. If you want to kill your kitty, tuna is the best way to do it. Exception would be tuna that’s formulated specifically for cats, or unsalted tuna, but the blogger didn’t mention that.

    A MUCH BETTER WAY to prevent hairballs is to leave out a little tub of vaseline somewhere where the cats can eat it. A little gross, perhaps, but cats love it and it doesn’t hurt them.

    THE BEST WAY to prevent hairballs is to feed a high-quality diet, and let kitty take care of the rest. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time we had hair balls–and we’ve had 3 cats for 3 years. We brush them a few times a year when they’re especially shed-dy and that’s it.

  • Jean says:

    Wow, it is amazing that diesel fuel healed the goat’s wounds. Wonder how people discover such things. Also, thanks for the good tip about curing the hairballs. Had a cat when I was a kid and that was quite a problem.


    • Erik says:

      A friend of mine is an automotive mechanic, and he regularly gets cuts and scrapes on his hands and arms in the course of his work. He once mentioned to me that these minor injuries never seem to get infected, and heal very fast — something he attributes to the grease and motor oil that his hands are always in contact with. It’s purely anecdotal evidence, of course, but it seems plausible — the bacteria that have evolved to gain entry to humans through their wounds are probably not well adapted to the presence of oil, which is also water-repellent and will tend to coat a cut or scrape, thereby presenting a physical barrier to invasive organisms. Diesel fuel is chemically similar to motor oil, so I assume it would work for similar reasons.

  • Marbella says:

    I am a city person, so thanks for all the advice, maybe one day I get my dogs and cats and moving to the countryside, but I do not think so much of me to do

  • Jim Scully says:

    Really? Everything is linked to cancer. The trick is to not sit around breathing diesel fumes (or doing any other foolish thing). I’m sure the Amish farmer didn’t grab the first thing available and rub it on the would. Diesel fule, used sparingly that way, is probably as safe as purifying with alcohol.

  • Icarus says:

    we give our cats tuna juice as a treat, i’m gonna try giving them the entire tuna once if the vet agrees — one cat has allergies. I’m going to skip the diesel fuel tip though. 🙂

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