Try lemon infusion, pennyroyal as natural ways to fight fleas

Published: Sunday, Aug. 24 1997 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Father Knows Best" first broadcast, NBC, 1949.

AUGUST 26, TUESDAY - Albert Sabin born, 1906. 19th Amendment (Women's Suffrage) in effect, 1920. John Wilkes Booth born, 1838.AUGUST 27, WEDNESDAY - Moon rides high. Mother Teresa born, 1910. Birthday of Confucius, 551 B.C., and LBJ, 1908.

AUGUST 28, THURSDAY - March on Washington, 1963. St. Augustine of Hippo.

AUGUST 29, FRIDAY - Oliver Wendell Holmes born, 1809. John the Baptist beheaded.

AUGUST 30, SATURDAY - First felt tip pens marketed, 1960. Civil rights leader Roy Wilkins born, 1910.

AUGUST 31, SUNDAY - Ted Williams born, 1918. First giant squid captured alive, near Bergen, Norway, 1982.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: I don't trust the strong chemicals in the commercial flea collars for dogs and cats. Can you suggest an alternative?

- B.H., St. Cloud, Minn.

Answer: Fleas dislike many smells that we find pleasant, such as lemon, cedar and pine needles, so you can use any of these to your advantage by adding them to the pet's bedding, or sprinkling them under rugs or furniture. Brewer's yeast can also be sprinkled on carpets or in pet dens.

A strong infusion of lemon, steeping a couple of cut-up lemons (peels and all) in a quart of boiling water, makes an excellent repellent. Sponge, spray or brush the lemon infusion into your pet's coat as often as once a day when fleas are at their worst. Pennyroyal is another strong flea repellent, and the oil can be used to soak a leather or woven pet collar. (It should not be used if you or your pet are pregnant.) An infusion of pennyroyal tea, less strong than the essential oil, can also be used as a spray or sponging solution to apply to the pet's fur. This tea is reputed to kill the flea eggs, as well.

Frequent vacuuming helps quite a bit in the control of fleas indoors.

Consider sprinkling those more toxic flea powders into your vacuum cleaner bag, to kill any flea eggs you vacuum up. Dietary aids can also make a big difference in flea control. Some pet owners add brewer's yeast or minced garlic to moist pet food, for either dogs or cats. The B1 in the brewer's yeast is thought to produce a smell that repels fleas, as does the smell of the garlic. In addition, garlic helps rid your pet of worms and worm eggs.

Ask your vet, too, for advice about flea control. There are some new supplements made for this purpose that you might want to check out.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: I'm told there are exercises for improving one's memory. Is this bunk?

- V.R., Toledo, Ohio

Answer: Use it or lose it! Memory is a difficult thing to quantify or trace, but the current thinking is that mental exercises can help preserve or even increase memory. With some long-term observations, you can prove or disprove these techniques yourself. A simple way to test yourself is through your ability to recall as many words as possible from a common but random list. Some people use crossword puzzles, jumbles or jigsaws to stretch their abilities. Some watch game shows like "Jeopardy!" join spelling bees or memorize verses. Learning anything new, such as a new language, musical instrument or virtually any class, will stretch your mental powers.

The biggest drawbacks to a good memory are alcohol or drug use, or any kind of depression. Even prescription medications can interfere with memory, as can any overload of stress or anxiety. Worrying and memory don't mix well.

Aging can be a factor, but probably less so than most people worry! The more active you remain, both mentally and physically, the better you're apt to retain your memory. Some people take garlic, either raw or in capsule form, for memory. Others swear by ginkgo, from the ginkgo biloba tree. Centuries ago, it was believed that rosemary and sage teas would help students who were preparing for exams.

Ask the Old Farmer's Almanac: My kids love strawberry shortcake, but after the recent hepatitis A outbreak from strawberries, I'm afraid to serve them. Any solutions?

- S.C., Indianapolis, Ind.

Answer: The strawberries that caused the outbreak were imported from Mexico and, unfortunately, many of them were destined for school lunch programs across America. Over 200 people, mostly children, contracted the illness and, of course, that put countless others at risk of catching it. The Food and Drug Administration can recall such contaminated foods, but their success rate in screening them out ahead of time has been dismal. Your best bet for serving up a safe batch of strawberry shortcake is to cultivate a relationship with a trustworthy organic farmer or health food store owner in your area. A good organic market can help also safeguard you against pesticide contamination.

Strawberries have been earmarked as the worst offenders in the war against pesticides, with U.S. cherries coming in second, and apples, Mexican cantelopes, apricots, Chilean grapes, blackberries, pears and raspberries following suit. On the much safer side of the charts are blueberries, U.S. grapes, bananas and avocados. So, consider a blueberry shortcake, or a banana split for those children's favorite desserts. Bananas, oranges and other peelable fruits have a much lower contamination rate, thanks to the protective peel. Fruits that can't be peeled, such as strawberries or blackberries, can be rinsed in a mild solution of water and a small amount of mild dishwashing detergent, then rinsed well with clear water. Good luck!

*****

Additional Information

This Week with The Old Farmer's Alamanc

August 25-31, 1997

Bye, George!

On August 29, 1782, the British vessel Royal George unexpectedly sank at her mooring in Portsmouth Harbor, England. the ship was being careened for repairs, a common system of heeling a ship wholly or partly on its side in order to clean, paint, or repair the portions of the hull below the waterline, near the keel. In fact, the word careen comes from the Latin carina, for keel, although it is often confused and used colloquially for career, as in "the car careened off down the street." In any case, we'd guess the careening of the Royal George, and subsequent sorry sinking, was not a good career move for anyone involved.

The fleet careen'd, the wind propitious filled the swelling sales.

- William Shenstone

Tip of the Week

Float Cabbage or broccoli worms out by soaking heads in a gallon of water with a teaspoon of salt.

Blueberry Pie

dough for a 2-crust pie

1 quart blueberries, rinsed and drained

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons tapioca

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

dash salt

1 tablespoon butter

Roll out pastry and fit bottom crust into pie plate. Mix next seven ingredients, fill crust, dot with butter, and cover with top crust. Press edges of crust together and cut slits in top. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees F, then 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.

- Makes 8 servings.

The Old Farmer's Weather Proverbs

If woolly fleeces deck the heavenly way, no rain will mar a summer's day.

The last Friday of the month foretells the weather for the next month.

When the cattle lie down as soon as they are released to pasture in the morning, look for rain.

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