My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


While both fleas and flies are around year round they seem to get particularly bad this time of year.  On one homesteading list I’m on these pests have been the subject of much discussion for a few days now.

Many good home remedies have been listed and I thought I’d compile them all here for your convenience, along with some remedies I know myself.

First for flies, wasps, mosquitoes and similar pests make the traps I wrote about in All the Buzz about Insects.

For biting flies one of the best controls I have found is Muscovy Ducks.  I’ve seen day old ducklings leap into the air and grab a fly for a quick snack, then look around for more. However, not everyone can have Muscovies so let’s move on to the other remedies out there.

I have not tried all these remedies myself.  They were all recommended by the ladies and gentlemen of the list.

.  An important notice, unless I specifically list it as safe for cats or ferrets in any of these remedies do NOT use them on the cats or ferrets because they have an entirely different nervous system and what works well for dogs could be deadly for cats or ferrets.  When in doubt, do without it until you have spoken to your vet.

Many vets recommend shampooing your dogs and puppies (about 3 weeks old and up) with the original Dawn Dishwashing liquid (the blue one).  It will kill the fleas better than any flea shampoo without putting harsh chemicals on your dogs.   It is in fact the shampoo many vets use when they take your animals in for flea treatment.  

One person recommended that after shampooing you rinse the dog with apple cider vinegar and water.

Another suggested that once the dog was completely dry to rub them down with food grade Diatomaceous Earth. 

DE is also good for repetitive dosing on the fur to control fleas in the future.  

You can also use Neem shampoo for dogs and cats.

NOTE: Many of the following remedies use essential oils.  Essential oils can NOT be used on cats or ferrets and should be used with caution on dogs.  I personally do not normally use essential oils on my dogs to be on the safe side.  I am simply posting all the suggestions made on the homesteading list and other sources.

The rule of thumb for using essential oils is: Tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and lavender oil diluted can be helpful in home remedies for fleas and biting flies. These are essential oils and need to be diluted to approximately 10-15 drops each in a 24oz bottle of water.

One person posted the following remedies for another list she is on:

For Fleas:

The glycerin in this recipe suffocates the fleas and MAY help with hot spots (more on these in a bit)  Shampoo the dogs with this combo which involves a bit more than the Dawn Original dishsoap.

32oz Palmolive Dishwashing soap

1/4 cup  Glycerin

1/2 cup white vinegar. 


It was posted that on one site suggested to put 1/4 of a lemon in some boiling water and simmer for about 20 min. After that let it cool completely, strain, bathe your animal, then pour this on him/her. Leave it on. Do not wash off. This is a natural flea dip.

For a spray to keep fleas, flies, mosquitoes and ticks away make your own Homemade Bug Off

2 C White Distilled Vinegar

1 C Water

1 C Avon Skin-So-Soft bath oil

1 T Eucalyptus Oil--Available at Pharmacies & health food stores

Combine Vinegar, water, bath oil, and Eucalyptus oils, mix well.  Turn into spray bottles to repel Flies, Ticks, and Mosquitos. 

Spray Horses 3 times a day

          Dogs 1 or 2 times a day

          People 2 times a day.   

Michelle from the list posted this repellant spray she uses:

Catnip oil (a bit more cost than the other oils ` you can get it at but it has been scientifically proven to be as effective as DEET or SSS. To save money, you can soak fresh grown catnip in 100 proof alcohol for about 2-3 weeks and then strain it. It will not be as strong, but can be used with yarrow (blooming all over right now) and if you add some lemongrass oil or a touch of orange oil - it smells yummy! and it is a great bug repellant! I soak them all in witch hazel instead of alcohol and use it undiluted after straining.

HOUSING TREATMENT: Of course any true treatment of fleas includes cleaning up the area they live in.  In your home vacuuming often is essential to get not only the adult fleas, but their eggs and those fleas that hatch from the eggs you miss. Considering a single flea can lay 50 eggs a day or 500 in a life span it is essential you do all you can to get all the fleas and eggs out of your carpet and furniture.

One remedy suggests sprinkling regular table salt on your carpet to dry up fleas and eggs.  Something to consider about this though is salt grains may be tough on carpet fibers.  So don’t just put it on there and leave it indefinitely.

If you want a little more than just salt it was suggested you can mix up

Flea Away Powder

1 C salt

1 C Borax detergent not Boraxo hand powder (think 20 Mule Team Borax)

1 C Baking Soda

1 C Diatomaceous earth (garden grade)

Blend oil into salt (one drop at a time)

Add other ingredients and mix well.

Store airtight.  Use a jar with holes in the lid to apply to pets & carpets.

JP NOTE;  The original recipe for this used 2 T Pennyroyal Oil mixed in the salt one drop at a time.  I have left it out because Pennyroyal is toxic to dogs, cats and humans when ingested.  Many people use it in a diluted form, but I prefer to not because I don’t want to take the chance that my pet might get poisoned by simply grooming themselves.

For a furniture spray in a water bottle and put a few drops of these essential oils: tea tree, lavender, peppermint, and some rosemary. Then, fill the rest with water from the sink. Spray this on the carpet, in the beds, behind furniture, everywhere, including the dog—not the cat, ferret or any other sensitive animal.  You can even spray this on humans if you are getting flea bites from fleas in your carpet.

Flies on Horses:

Horse flies on livestock are hard to deal with. Best is provide dark place for stock to hide during the worst part of the day. Stable and house flies require manure and wet ground elimination. Horn flies can be helped with feed thru fly control. Hanging one or more baited fly traps in the area will help as well.

My friend Anthea, and others from the list have done a lot of research on the matter and suggest the following websites for further reading and ideas.


1.     It’s a great insect repellent for your pet. (as recommended in “Outdoor Life” and “Field and Stream”)

2.     Mix 5 parts water, 1 part SSS and mist on animals. Brushing it in makes their coats gleam and keeps insects off (Great for Show animals).

3.     Rub on your hands before and after working with your pets and farm animals. It will remove the strong smells.

4.     Black Fly Spray For Dogs: Use as a spray or a dip. 1 cup SSS, 1/2 cup liquid detergent and 3 gallons of water.

5.     For dog’s dry skin mix 1 tablespoon of SSS per gallon of water and use as an after bath rinse. Or spritz your pet’s coat once per week.

6.     If your dog should get tar or asphalt on the pads of their feet rub on SSS and then wipe off.

7.     Flea Bath: Use a flea and tick shampoo. Rinse so no soap residue is left. Follow with final rinse of 2 gallons of water mixed with flea dip and 1 capful of SSS. The SSS helps replace the oils lost in bathing and has the added benefit of repelling insects.

8.     Flea Repellent: Avon’s Skin So Soft Bath Oil. 1-1/2 ounces per gallon of water; used as a sponge-on dip (or as a spritz) has been tested and proven to have significant, but not complete, flea-repellent activity for a 6-day period. It should help those dry coats, too.

9.     Barns. Use of an inexpensive fly control spray or a diluted mix of Avon Skin- So-Soft in water can be sprayed on barn walls and floor to discourage insects from hanging around or to eliminate them before putting in the new bedding. As time permits, and if you can keep your goats out of the barn for a few hours – let the barn stand and air out before re-filling with bedding.

10.                        A natural way to help cats with flea problems and flea allergies is to rub Skin So Soft into the skin. Fleas don’t like it!  The SSS plus is safe as long as it is the one without sunscreen.

11.                        SSS can be used as a hoof polish. Put’s a nice shine to the hoof without drying it. The farrier’s wife will appreciate this one!

12.                        SSS can be used on pet accessories such as collars to shine them up.

1.     Mechanism

o    Sulfur interferes with insect eggs, preventing hatching in many cases, according to Better Grow Hydro. Sulfur also repels fleas. Treating the yard with sulfur will kill off the next generation by preventing the hatching of flea and tick eggs while driving away the adult population of fleas with a two-pronged approach to eradication.

Applying the Sulfur

o    Sulfur is available in a powder and a liquid. Use the powder for the lawn and the liquid for covering cracks and crevices. You can use the liquid directly on your plants, too, for removing other garden pests like black mold or scab. Use a sifter for applying the powder. Make sure you can see the color of the ground through the powder to avoid killing grass or other plants.


Treating Pets

o    Eradicating fleas and ticks is an indoor and outdoor project. If you have an infestation in your yard, chances are good you have them inside, too. A flea and tick comb is a completely non-toxic, manual method for removing adults, eggs and larvae from your pet. Follow up with a sulfur shampoo treatment to kill any remaining organisms, but be sure to thoroughly rinse your pet to prevent any skin irritation from the sulfur.


o    You should not use sulfur if the temperature exceeds 90 degrees, according to the Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program at the University of California, Davis. Some plants may be particularly sensitive to sulfur, especially plants that require a high pH soil. Always cover your nose and mouth with a protective mask when applying sulfur to your yard, since it is an eye and skin irritant.

On a personal note.  I use water soluble sulphur around my bird pens to deter snakes from getting my eggs and baby birds.   This is a trick I learned from my grandmother and it generally works well as long as Iong as I remember to refresh it on a periodic basis.  A little goes a long way.

Then there is the problem of Hot Spots or Flea Allergies on your pet.  I know our own Jolie suffers horribly from Flea Allergies.  If we don’t keep her fleas under control she will pull all of her fur out from the mid body down every summer. 

They vet recommended Benydryl to help with controlling her discomfort. Again this is for dogs only.  The rule of thumb dose for dogs for fleas and SNAKE BITES is one cc of the liquid children’s Benydryl per 10 pounds of dog.  A needless syringe works well for giving this dosage.  Since Jolie is around 45 pounds in weight the vet has me give her 1 adult caplet of the generic version per 12 hours when she is suffering from the hot spots or when either she or Georgia get snake bit—a normal summertime event around here.

The main thing is to dry up the weeping skin.  You can use something as simple as cornstarch to do this to some extent.  You need to try and keep the skin clean and dry.

Once again Anthea came to the rescue with another link. This one is for the hot spot treatments.

Hot Spots and Skin Irritations

Hot spots are moist, oozing areas that are often hidden by the coat in the early stages. Usually the symptoms start with a dog scratching the affected area or rubbing it against furniture or on a rug. A closer look generally reveals a wet, infected, oval or round area under the hair coat. The hair is generally matted and falls out in the area and the affected area can spread without treatment. While hot spots may be a onetime occurrence, more frequently they continue to return. This can be seasonal in some situations, or more repeatedly, depending on the cause.  They are most often found on the head, neck, hip or rear legs.

What Causes Hot Spots?

There are a variety of reasons Hot Spots occur.  Some Hot Spots can be caused from flea or insect bites, allergies, yeast infections, untreated hypothyroidism, infrequent bathing, clipper burns, not rinsing well enough after bathing or other skin abrasions that become infected. More seriously, the underlying cause can be because their immune system is not working properly. An immune system that is working well generally won't allow allergic reactions, can ward off exposure to normal levels of bacteria and yeast, and allows the body to repair surface skin lesions easily. We will discuss nutritional and supplement help later in this article.


Treatment depends on the severity of the hot spot. Keeping the area clean is the first order of the day. Washing the area with antibacterial soap and keeping it clean is important. Washing the skin and surrounding hair coat several times daily is helpful.  If the area is seriously infected, and/or inflamed, veterinarian attention may be needed, along with antibiotics. I have used a solution of ¾ witch hazel and ¼ Aloe Vera gel, which can be gotten in a very effective and handy premixed solution, called Thayer's Super Hazel with Aloe. The witch hazel helps kill bacteria and temporarily relieves the itching. The Aloe Vera, calendula, and other herbal oils help to heal and cool the area. Apply this solution as often as needed. I have also used Gold Bond Powder with some success in more stubborn cases. Gold Bond contains zinc oxide, menthol (for itching), along with peppermint and eucalyptus. Wash the affected areas as needed, dry the affected area, and then apply the witch hazel.


Prevention includes cleanliness, good grooming, good nutrition and supporting the immune system. Cleanliness means keeping the coat and skin clean, free from dirt, salt, dandruff and foreign items such as grass, burrs, oil and other things that might catch on your dogs coat or skin. I like to use an oatmeal based shampoo, which is gentle, heals the skin, and helps prevent itching. Rinse with a solution of ¾ water and ¼ white vinegar. Be sure to rinse all the shampoo thoroughly. Cleanliness also means checking your dog's ears and also keeping them clean. 

Good grooming includes brushing your dog's coat, and making sure to remove any matted hair. Always keep your dog's nails short and check between the toes and pads for any irritation or foreign objects.

Good nutrition means feeding a good diet that contains good variety. Getting 'stuck' feeding the same protein sources over and over can set a dog up for allergies.  For raw and home cooked diet feeders, that means feeding 4-5 protein sources in the diet.  For those feeding commercial dog, it means switching brands and protein sources often and also adding fresh food protein sources to the menu. This can include meat, eggs, plain yogurt, cottage cheese and canned mackerel, salmon or sardines. Fresh foods offers the best in nutrients and also helps to keep an immune system strong.

Good Supplements for maintaining a strong Immune System and Healthy Coat and Skin:

EPA Fish Oil Capsules – These contain omega 3 fatty acids, which are helpful for good coat and skin,  helps fight inflammation, are renal, heart and liver protective and offer support for the immune system. Give one per 10-20 pounds of body weight daily.

Bertes Immune Blend – This powdered blend contains vitamins and nutrients that help support the immune system. It contains high amounts of Vitamin C (which act as a natural antihistamine) and Vitamin E, which are antioxidants, B vitamins, which help the nerves and brain function, and L-glutamine, which is an important amino acid that helps with healing and is helpful for 'sensitive' stomachs. Also included in the Berte's Immune Blend are probiotics, which are the good flora and fauna bacteria that help with digestion and animal based digestive enzymes, which help absorb nutrients in food more efficiently and help prevent allergies.

Tasha's Immune System Formula – This herbal liquid tincture contains Astralagus, Ganoderma, Echinacea Root, Red Root, Red Clover, Yarrow, Dandelion Root, Boneset and Flower Essences, all which are helpful in supporting the immune system.

Tasha's Skin and Hair Support – This herbal liquid tincture contains ingredients to help keep the skin and coat healthy, along with nettles, which is an herb that helps to control itchiness. Use twice daily for best results.

Purepet Shampoo – This shampoo is a oatmeal based, which will help keep moist areas dry and help stop itching. It has a wonderful scent, is gentle on a dog's skin and is available in both a 16 oz and a convenient one gallon size.

Thayer's Witch Hazel and Aloe -  This blend contains witch hazel, which helps kill bacteria and temporarily stops itching.  The Aloe Vera and other herbal ingredients helps cool the affected area and heal skin irritations. It comes in a handy squirt bottle for easy application. It can also be used in the ears for regular cleanings and can be applied directly onto minor skin irritations and abrasions.

So there you have it.  All the suggestions from this very knowledgable list.  I would welcome others if you have them.

Jan who works hard to keep her animals pest free in OK

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Okay, so it’s a play on the phrase, but to be among the haves and not the have nots you first need to consider being among the halves and half nots.  Confused yet?

As I loaded my dishwasher after breakfast this morning I realized how routine it has became for me to use half of the recommended amount of dishwasher powder.  I don’t even think about filling the cups now.  I automatically fill them a little less than half full and KNOW my dishes are going to come out shining and clean.

I totally ignore the rinse agent dispenser.  It seldom sees anything but white vinegar these days and it only sees the white vinegar on the once a month visit to clean the water scale build up out of the pipes of the dishwasher. 

I started doing this many, many years ago when I read in “The Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyzn the concept of using half or less of all cleaning products and still getting excellent results.

It was suggested checking to see how much of anything like detergent, shampoo, dish soap you truly need by a little experimentation.  Start out with the “recommended” amount per the package.  Then cut the amount back each time you use it until you are to the point that any less would not meet your desired results. 

I have found the rule of thumb is roughly one half.  So if one half will work, then why in the world do the manufacturers recommend twice that amount?  Surely more of the detergent will get the clothing cleaner right?  WRONG!  Too much detergent will not rinse out well. 

Clothing with leftover detergent in it well get a build up that can cause spotting, discoloration, block the breathability of fabrics, increase the chances of an allergic reaction, cause a faster break down of the fabric fibers and numerous other things.  So to extend the life of your clothing use less detergent instead of doing extra rinsing and wasting water.

Back to the why they do it?  Well… SALES!  The almighty dollar.  The more you use, the more you buy.  Then as a result of the extra build up in clothing, hair, on your dishes, whatever, they can then sell you a product you can use to remove that build up. 

They of course tell you to use too much of that product to the point you strip your items down too much of natural oils, or natural softness in clothing,  and you then have to purchase another product to fix that.  The cycle goes on from there.

I for one have not used fabric softener in over 30 years, I haven’t needed it.  I limit the amount of detergent I use, wash in cold water and only dry the items as long as they actually need to be dried.

These three things eliminate the need for fabric softener.  So by saving money on detergent, the heating of water, and the shorter drying cycle when using the clothes dryer I ended the expense of the fabric softener.

The fabric softener itself can cause clothing to lose its flame resistance, ruin the thermostat on your drier, cause discoloration and spotting on your clothing, increase allergic reactions and many other things.   If you feel that you truly need fabric softener, use white vinegar in your rinse cycle.  You don’t need much ¼ cup or so is all.  Not only will it soften your clothing it will clean the plumbing of the washing machine and be good for your septic tank.

Static cling, quit drying your clothing so long.  Static cling is a result of over drying.

Cutting back on shampoo and the frequency of my shampooing eliminated the need for conditioner.  The list goes on and on.

Think about how much money you could save if you only purchased detergent, shampoo, dish soap, floor cleaner, dishwasher detergent, all cleaning products half as many times per year.  No better yet, set down and actually calculate it, don’t forget to add in sales tax where applicable. The total will astound you.  Now what bill could you either pay off or do a major payment on with that money.  Or if you prefer how far would that go toward that vacation you have been wanting/needing?

Even when you get the products for “free” with combining sales and coupons still do it and the next time you are invited to a wedding shower, need a graduation or first home gift.  Give a “Starter Kit” that contains all the needed items for cleaning a first home.  Put it in a bucket or trash can, tie it up in dish towels, make a bow out of the dish rags and you have a unique gift they can truly use.  Thus saving even more money in your budget while helping them with theirs!

You can do similar things for baby shower gifts supplying baby wipes, disinfectant wipes, baby shampoo etc.  Put them in a baby bathtub and wrap with receiving blankets with pacifiers for a bow.

Don’t give gifts of this sort any more?  Garage sale your extras or better yet, donate them to a shelter.

So the moral to this story (stories always have a moral you know) if you become one of the persons who halves and only use half you will be that much closer to being the person who is a have rather than a have not.

Jan who has been working on this system so long it is second nature to her family in OK