Draft-dodging tips for beating the wind

NEEDS TLC: Farm cottages like this one on Rivendale Farm near George require some maintenance as time goes by.
NEEDS TLC: Farm cottages like this one on Rivendale Farm near George require some maintenance as time goes by.

WE HAVE recently moved into a flat and a cold wind comes in under the front door. I want to make a door draft excluder. What do you recommend for the material and stuffing I should use? – BD, Port Elizabeth.

I have two draft excluders, and very useful they are, too, when the Cape winter arrives and the northwesters blow.

One essential is that the “sausage” should be quite heavy, so that it stays in place, and the other is that the material is strong and durable.

Both of ours are filled with sand, and are about a metre long. One is made from a cut-off piece of an old Persian carpet and the other from a dark upholstery fabric.

The sand filling must be secured in a robust plastic sleeve, tightly sealed. For the outside covering, there is a wide range of upholstery and curtain fabrics at decor shops these days, and faux leather would be worth considering.

Otherwise this would be a job for a carpet shop. Indeed, draft excluders could be quite a good seller throughout the Eastern Cape as the cold weather closes in.

I have not lived in SA for very long, and am intrigued by the cooking ingredient waterblommetjies, which one encounters occasionally in traditional restaurants as a “bredie” (stew). I would like to know more about the plant and its cooking potential. – DG, Port Elizabeth.

South African traditional cooking has recently become more fashionable, and waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos), which grow in the shallow dams and vleis of the southern Cape, have become available in supermarkets at certain times of the year.

Waterblommetjie bredie is basically a lamb stew of which the waterblommetjies are an ingredient. The late, great Sannie Smit says in The Complete South African Book of Food and Cooking that they must be thoroughly washed and soaked in salt water for 30 minutes. Rinse in fresh water and remove the stems.

As waterblommetjies are rather bland, sorrel or chopped-up apple or lemon juice can be added for tartness.

Our family has the occasional use of an old farm cottage, and on a recent holiday I noticed that the bricks around the fireplace had become rather unsightly. I would like to clean these bricks on our next visit and would be grateful if you could recommend a product for the job. – KR, Jeffreys Bay.

A method from one of my old books is to make a strong solution of hot water and caustic soda. Paint the solution onto the dirty bricks and leave for an hour. Then scrub with a stiff-bristled brush and soap. Rinse well and leave to dry.

Remember that caustic soda, which is sold in flake form, is poisonous. Always use gloves when handling it, and add the flakes to the water, and not the other way round. Avoid inhaling.

This does sound rather a chore in these days of commercial cleaners for just about everything. However, the assistant at the hardware store I spoke to assured me that caustic soda is a very effective and inexpensive cleaner. Somehow it seems the appropriate way to go in a country cottage.

After cleaning, you can brighten up the bricks with a light application of liquid floor polish – another old-fashioned tip.

I have a TV trolley and the chrome has rusted in parts. Is there anything I can use to remove the rust? – HR, Port Elizabeth.

You can make your own chrome polish with two parts paraffin and one part methylated spirits. The rusty areas could be treated first with paraffin. Saturate a cloth or paper towel, and leave this on overnight before rubbing off with a rough cloth. Also check out the automotive shops for commercial chrome cleaners. – At Your Service, with Gwen Bisseker

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