You’ve probably seen numerous blog articles that list the latest “life hacks.” According to the Urban Dictionary, the phrase “life hack” describes any “tips and tricks that get things done quickly by automating, increase productivity and organizing… Formerly known as “good ideas.”
Long before the internet and social media, people were passing down life hacks. Some have become obsolete, but others still have relevance today. As you work to be more self-sufficient as a homesteader, it may be time to revisit these 35 century-old life hacks that used to be common knowledge.
1. How To Chop Down A Tree – Determine which way you want to the tree to fall. Then cut the trunk alternating with downward and inward cuts. After going about halfway through the trunk, switch to the other side a few inches higher. Then pull the tree down with ropes.
2. How To Kill A Tree Stump – A tree stump can continue to produce strong undergrowth. To prevent this problem, bore holes in the top of the stump. Then place a mixture of salt and solignum into these holes to kill the stump.
3. How To Remove A Splinter – Fill a jar with hot water and press the injured part of the hand (or foot) tightly against the mouth of the jar. The suction will pull the flesh, and the steam will draw out the splinter.
4. How To Light A Match In Windy Conditions – Cut thin shavings towards the striking end of the match. When you light the match, these curled strips will catch fire at once, creating a strong flame.
5. How To Determine The Weather – If you are setting off early in the morning, observe a small distant cloud. If it grows larger, unsettled rainy weather is likely on the way. If it decreases in size, the weather should be good.
6. How To Stay Safe In A Thunderstorm – Do not shelter under a tree as tall objects attract lighting. Instead, look for a ditch on low ground that is covered by low growing bushes of similar height.
7. How To Use Your Watch As A Compass – You can use your watch to determine the points of a compass. First, point your hand at the sun and then place a piece of wire or even a blade of grass between the hour hand and the number 12. The end of the wire or blade that is between the 12 and the hour hand will point due South.
8. How To Detect A Gas Leak – Put a strong soap solution on the area of the pipe where there is a suspected leak. Gas will cause bubbles at the escaping point.
9. How To Use Less Gas On A Gas Stove – Place a piece of sheet-iron that is large enough to cover the top of the stove. Heat will be dispersed throughout the sheet-iron. The pot or pan needing the most heat should be placed directly over the burner where the sheet-iron is the hottest.
10. How To Pick Up Broken Glass – Use a damp old rag to pick up small splinters. Then throw it away with the glass.
11. How To Prevent Glasses From Steaming – A thin invisible film of soap helps prevent the condensation of moisture on the lenses.
12. How To Purify Water In A Cistern – Simply stir in one tablespoon of powdered alum to purify 16 to 20 gallons of water.
13. How To Clean The Inside Of Bottles – Shake a mixture of sand and water inside the bottle. Then wash and dry the bottle.
14. How To Make A Polishing Compound – You can create a polish for pictures, mirrors, pianos, and floors by mixing together equal parts of vinegar and paraffin in a bottle. Add a few drops of lavender oil for a pleasing smell and to keep away flies. Cork the bottle for later use.
15. How To Clean Boots – Rub the boots with half of a lemon and allow them to dry. Next, apply polish.
16. How To Keep Colors From Running – To prevent colors from running and staining other linens that are washed together, first soak colored things in a two-to-one solution of salt water for about 24 hours.
17. How To Get Rid Of Flies – Sprinkle borax daily on the trash can or on other surfaces where flies tend to congregate.
18. How To Keep Plants Watered – Fill a large bucket with water and place it a little above the level of the plants. Loosely braid several strands of wool together and immerse them in water. Now place one end in the bucket, weighing it down so that it touches the bottom. Place the other end on the soil. Use a separate braid for each pot.
19. How To Preserve Eggs – Bury newly laid eggs in a box of dry salt and keep the box in a cool dry place.
20. How To Boil Cracked Eggs – If you add a little vinegar to the water, none of the contents will boil out of a cracked egg.
21. How To Test Butter For Purity – Rub a little butter on a piece of paper and set the paper on fire. If it is pure butter, the odor will be pleasant. If it is margarine, it will have an unpleasant tallow smell.
22. How To Stop A Mad Dog – Hold a staff, a walking-stick, a handkerchief or a hat between you and the dog. The dog will try to paw down this defense before biting, giving you the opportunity to kick him.
23. How To Remove Particles From The Eye – Place a drop of castor oil into the corner of the eye. If that is unsuccessful, bathe the eye with a weak vinegar and water solution.
24. How To Remove A Tight Ring – Lather the hand with soap. Unless the joints of the finger are very swollen, the ring should come off easily.
25. How To Bandage An Injured Foot – Rest the injured foot on the bandager’s knee. Bandage over and around the back of foot in a spiral motion. Eventually, fasten the bandage with a safety pin just beneath the angle.
26. How To Treat Sprains – Elevate the injured joint and wrap it in cloths that have been wrung in cold water. The cold water will help compress the bandages. Rub the area with oil or liniment and rewrap as needed.
27. How To Treat A Leg Fracture – Apply a splint to the outside of the leg and another splint to the inside. Tie the splints together firmly.
28. How To Rescue Someone From Drowning – Calm the person so that he or she does not struggle. Then turn the victim onto his back, placing your hand on either side of his face. Turn onto your back, holding the victim in front of you. Then use a backstroke to swim to the shore or to the side of the pool. Take care to keep the person’s face above the surface of the water the entire time.
29. How To Make A Fire Extinguisher – Dissolve one pound of salt and a half-pound of sal-ammoniac into two quarts of water. Pour solution into quart-size glass bottles. If a fire breaks out, throw one or more of the bottles into the flames.
30. How To Measure With Coins – You can do some rudimentary measuring with pennies. Sixteen pennies stacked on top of each other equal one inch and 16 pennies placed in a line equal one foot.
31. How To Make A Scout’s Tent – You can build a simple tent with six poles — two at the top lashed together and two at each end for support. Make a covering by joining together four squares of canvas – two on each side. You may spread other squares of canvas on the ground as a sheet.
32. How To Repurpose Coal Dust – You can turn coal dust into bricks of fuel by mixing the dust with salt (about a handful of salt for each shovelful of dust), adding water and stirring the mixture into a stiff paste. Use a box to mold the bricks and place on a board or shelf to dry.
33. How To Fix A Loose Hammer Or Axe Head – First, wedge the handle of the hammer as tightly as possible. Then, drill two holes into the end of the wood and drive in two large screws. Bore a hole through the shaft just below the head and place a wire through the hole and over the top. Twist the wire and drive in a staple to hold it in position.
34. How To Pull Out Long Nails – To gain more leverage when removing a long nail, place a small block of wood under the pincer.
35. How To Make A Water Filter – Drill a hole in the center of the bottom of a clean metal water pail and fit a small pipe through the hole. Fill the bucket from the bottom with a layer of large stones, smaller stones, coarse sand, and then fine sand. As water travels through the layers, it will filter through to the bottom and come out through the pipe in a clear state.