Tuesday, July 10, 2012

N is for Newspapers

Ah, newspapers!  They're useful for so many things.

Not the least of which is, reading the news.  Or finding out where the good yard sales will be.  Or providing Sudoku/Crossword entertainment.

But of course there is so much more that newspapers are good for.  Rolled up, they make great fly swatters.  Or, at least according to my sons, brother swatters.  Name your favorite pest, and swat away!

Newspapers are highly absorbent, and this leads to a couple of helpful desiccating uses, such as
  • Drying out shoes.  Crumple up some newspapers and stuff them in your wet shoes.  Every few hours, you can remove the damp newspapers and stick in some dry ones.  This will dry out your shoes much faster than just leaving them outside; it seems to help a lot with odor, too.
  • Storing fruits and veggies.  After Dogs or Dollars tried an experiment in storing her apples in newspapers (mixed success:  the rot from one apple didn't spread to other apples, but the apples didn't stay super crisp), I decided to try the potato version of this experiment.   Similar results, with the added advantage that slightly mushy potatoes are perfect for cooking into soups, at least as far as I'm concerned.  This will be my favored storage technique in the future.
  • Drying pressed flowers.  Stick a flower from the garden in a pile of newspaper (maybe add a piece of tissue if you're worried about ink transfer, although I haven't had problems with that), and heap a large stack of books on top.  After a few weeks, you'll have a dried, pressed flower you can use to make your own greeting cards, framed pictures, etc.  
Newspapers can open up and spread out to take a large amount of space, and this makes them great as liners.  You might think of spill pads for art projects and bird cage liners, but you could go more exotic than that:  my college uses newspapers as liners in their monkey cages.  And I've read of people who use shredded newspaper as the basis of litter for their cats.

Mulch over a thick layer of newspapers.
For similar reasons, I've tossed piles of newspapers in the garden to use as liners under mulch.  The more paper between the dirt and the mulch, the better, as far as I'm concerned.  

Because newspapers have a natural grain (they tear easily from top to bottom, but not so easily from side to side), you can make strips of newspapers do lots of good work for you.   My favorite cheap trick is to use newspapers instead of painter's tape on windows or door edges -- just dip the edge of the newspaper in a bowl of water, and it will stick to the window or woodwork while still wet.  It's easy to remove, and costs nothing.

But giant construction projects are possible, too.  When I was in Girl Scouts, we made all sorts of things out of a newspaper version of papier mache.  Tear the newspaper into strips; make a bucket of white glue (such as Elmer's glue) diluted with water, and then use some kind of frame to start constructing.  If you start with a simple balloon and a couple of toilet paper rolls, you can make an excellent piñata.  My Girl Scout troop started with a chicken mesh wire frame and made a giant version of a sneaker, large and sturdy enough for us to climb on.

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