Is there anything you can plant or post near your yard to discourage snakes?

There are some sprays, but we don’t believe they are effective, and other critters might get harmed by their use. So, here are a few suggestions: Move bird feeders away from a garden. Feeders attract mice and chipmunks, which are food for snakes. Don’t store firewood next to a house or a garden; snakes love to curl up in the wood.

Keep retaining walls or rock structures away from a garden; they are homes to rodents, which snakes eat. Eliminate junk piles.

Keep ponds or standing water away from a garden; frogs like ponds, snakes like frogs. Landscape so you won’t provide wildlife any shelter in the form of dense marshes or deep mulch next to your garden.

Garter snakes are harmless. They are homebodies and tend to return to the same locations. Experts advise removing potential food sources.

If there are lots of garter snakes in your neighborhood, you’ll see them in spring when they emerge from hibernation, or in fall when looking for a winter home.

What’s the best way to make iced tea?

Iced tea is a very popular drink; especially when the weather starts to heat up. While there are some easy-to-use instant mixes out there, the best tea is made fresh from tea leaves or tea bags.

Freshly made tea makes the best iced tea, so don’t keep it in the refrigerator for days and days.

Make it and drink it. Adjust sugar or sweetener to personal taste, if used. Thoroughly chill the tea before serving

A favorite recipe of ours is to use six heaping teaspoons of loose-leaf tea for each quart you want to prepare.

Instead of using boiling water, use bottled spring water (or fresh spring water) that is at room temperature. Set in your refrigerator and allow the tea to steep for an hour or so. Strain into your serving pitcher. Save the tea leaves, they can be used again. Keep them in the refrigerator and use up to two more times.

Remember, you can make iced tea with all your favorite teas and use any additional flavorings, such as lemons, orange slices, or mint.

I heard that the Farmers’ Almanac was calling for an active tornado season in the nation’s Midwest. What does the Almanac base this prediction on?

The Farmers’ Almanac’s outlook for an unusually active storm track from southwest to northeast across the nation’s heartland is the main reason we anticipate a greater-than-usual number of severe storms, with more funnel clouds and tornadoes.

Basically, the projected storm track is where the mixing of two different air masses occurs (warm, moist air from the south clashing with cold, dry air from the north).

What is the best way to prevent fruit flies from invading my kitchen?

The best way to avoid problems with fruit flies is to eliminate the sources of attraction. Produce that has ripened should be eaten, discarded or refrigerated. Cracked or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables should be cut away and discarded, in the event that eggs or larvae are present in the wounded areas. A single rotting potato or an onion lying forgotten at the back of a closet; fruit juice spilled under a refrigerator; or a basement recycling bin that’s never emptied or cleaned, can breed thousands of fruit flies.

Is it best to add oil to water when cooking pasta, to keep it from sticking together?

The key to preventing pasta from sticking is to use plenty of water. For every pound of pasta, use at least 4 quarts of water. Bring the water to a full boil before adding the pasta, and stir occasionally during cooking to prevent sticking.

Don’t use oil in the pot unless you are preparing lasagna. Cooking oil in the water is only desirable when you want to separate the noodles for a layered casserole. Oil will prevent sauces from coating cooked pasta.

Does the Farmers’ Almanac have advice for the best time to wean a child off of a bottle?

Over the years, peoples and traditions have established what they believe to be the most opportune times to perform specific tasks. Some of these times are based on moon phases, and other are based on the sign of the Zodiac that the moon is in. The “rule” for weaning is to do it when the moon is in the signs of Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. These signs rule the thighs, knees, ankles and feet. The dates listed in the Farmers’ Almanac are based on this rule. Many people have consulted the dates for weaning a variety of animals and have had great success.

Weaning a human baby is a more complicated process, and every child is different. Though we do list best days to wean and encourage parents to try the dates listed, we recommend that you do what’s best for your child when weaning him or her from a bottle.

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