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Oily rag Friends of the Home

Oily rag Friends of the Home

By Frank and Muriel Newman

Jacqui from Block House Bay was rummaging recently and came across a bunch of old newsletters from ‘Friends of the Home’. They dated back to 1976, but since good oily rag ideas never age, this week we though we would reproduce some of the tips from those newsletters. We will also be progressively posting them up on the oily rag website.

Here are some tips to keep bugs away.

• Beetles. Grow geranium plants near the source of entry. Sprinkle cupboards etc with tansy and geranium leaves.

• Flies and mosquitoes. A pot of Basil in the room will keep it free from flies.

• Fleas. Dry fennel leaves and place them under rugs, furniture, mattresses, etc. Grow fennel near pet enclosures.

• In the garden, plant chives, garlic or parsley near plants to deter aphids. Plant dill beside tomatoes to keep worms from invading the fruit.

• In the orchard bug deterrent plants include: garlic, chives, tansy, horseradish, and nasturtiums. To encourage bee pollination grow sweet basil, mint or leman balm.

Banana skills are high in potash. Scatter chopped skins around tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants and cover with soil or compost.

All parts of the sunflower plant make excellent compost (and birds love the seeds), so they are not only a fun plant to have but useful for soil health.

Seaweed deters slugs and snails, and is excellent compost too.

Here's a night cream recipe. Beat together well 3 tablespoons wheat-germ oil, 3 tablespoons sesame oil, and one teaspoon apple cider vinegar.

‘Friends of the Home’ have some tips for naturally good looking hair.

• The juice of lemon brings out blonde lights.

• Rosemary is a wonderful hair tonic. Rub a strong infusion into the scalp, or rub oil of rosemary into the scalp for dry hair. Rosemary in the final rinse-water makes the hair easy to manage.

• Sage stimulates hair growth and tones up colour. It also darkens the hair - but while it is OK to be used on white or greying hair, it may tarnish blonde hair! Sage also helps to remove dandruff.

• Fennell helps to make the hair healthy and soothes the scalp.

• An infusion of camomile flowers makes a good hair lotion. It is a good lightener for fair hair, and should be used in the final rinse. Camomile flowers are available from health food stores. For a camomile hair rub place a good handful of flowers, with a handful of rosemary, into a pint of water. Bring to the boil slowly and let simmer for three minutes. Keep covered all of the time. Remove from heat and steep for three hours. Do not strain but pour off the required quantity and massage into the scalp every night. Use on light brown or blonde hair.

Here’s a thirst quenching lemonade drink. For every four lemons you will need half a cup of sugar and six cups of boiling water. Peel the rind from the fruit and place into a jug with the sugar and enough of the boiling water to cover. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then top up with the rest of the water, and add the juice from the fruit. Strain. Delicious hot or cold.

How to dry apples or pears. Peel the fruit, cut into quarters and core. Thread onto a cotton string. Hang outside in the sun or over the stove to dry. Alternatively, dry on oven racks in a tepid oven (with the oven door open). The pieces are ready when they are spongy.

Here's a quick and easy guide for using herbs with food.

• Basil works well with tomatoes, fish, salads, pizza and drinks.

• Use chervil in soups, salads, egg and cheese recipes.

• Chives are best used in savoury dishes, especially potato salad, but they are delicious chopped and sprinkled on plain buttered bread.

• Mint is especially good with lamb and any other vegetable, as well as egg and cheese dishes, casseroles, stews, pineapple, chocolate sauce, chocolate cakes and fruit drinks!

• Thyme works with all meat dishes, potatoes, stuffing, onions and carrots.

Don’t forget to send us your tips and queries so we can share them with the oily rag community – you can do that by visiting the oily rag website ( or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

*Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Read our wealth of tips at


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