Temperatures are on the way down and our daylight hours are about to be one hour shorter. This has created an unusual problem for Paul from Northland, who says: "The colder weather is bringing uninvited guests into the house -- rats, mice and ants! I do not want to use expensive poisons. How I can keep these pesky critters out of the house?"

Margaret from Invercargill has a tip on a different topic.

"A remedy for aches and pains (that also removes toxins from the body) is to sprinkle one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of Epsom salts into a warm bath. A good soak really works."

She also asks, "Does anyone have a recipe for making soap?"

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That question reminds us of a great soapy yarn (and warning) as told by a young onlooker. It is one we have written about before but it's worth repeating.

Dad had one of his bright ideas. It wasn't original, but it was for Dad -- he didn't have bright ideas very often. Off to the library he went. Back he came with an Aunt Daisy soap-making recipe. As proud as a peacock at a garden party, he said he would show us all how to make soap and, in the process, show us how clever he was.

It was strange enough in itself to see Dad clanging pots and pans. We peeped through the window. Dad pretended not to notice.

Into one of Mum's biggest pots he put rendered animal fat he'd collected from home kills. Soon the fat was at a boil. Things appeared to be going well and, judging by the smirk on Dad's face, we could tell he thought he had it sussed, that is until he added caustic soda and Lux flakes. The boiling solution immediately expanded, frothing up, up and over the pot's rim.

"Blooming heck!" said Dad (what he actually said was much worse, but this is a family column). We crept lower behind the windowsill. Unfortunately for Dad, the frothing solution kept growing; on to the stove it erupted, the molten solution flowing along the bench, into drawers and on to the floor.

Right about this moment Dad panicked. He grabbed the overflowing pot and took the shortest route to the nearest exit, crashing over and through furniture in the process. As he burst through an open door, he heaved the still foaming pot on to the front lawn.

It is fair to say we were keeping a low profile.

Back into the house Dad stormed.

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"That blooming Aunt Daisy!" he said as he disappeared back into the kitchen. We beat a hasty retreat to a neighbour's place. It was some hours before we dared go near the house again. By then things had returned to their normal state -- at least as normal as things could be.

No one ever said anything about Dad's soapmaking idea, and Dad never tried to make soap again.

For the record, here is Aunt Daisy's soapmaking recipe: 2.2kg of clean fat; 1 tin of caustic soda; 450g of resin; 1 small packet of soapflakes; and 30 cups of water. Put all the ingredients in a kerosene tin and begin to heat. Watch closely and when the mixture just reaches the boil, take it off the heat and put it outside. Stir often while cooling.

Ray from Tauranga has this suggestion for soap. "When your soap is too small to use don't throw it out. Save it in a dish and, when you have what you think is enough, finely chop up the pieces, place in an old saucepan, add water and bring to a boil.

"Stir and simmer, then pour into blocks and let it cool. There you have it -- more soap!"

Thank you for your questions and tips. Please keep them coming. You can send in your ideas and join the Oily Rag mailing list, by logging into oilyrag.co.nz. Or you can write to us at 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 oilyrag.co.nz