Giving advice over the years, some good, some not so good

My job for more than 31 years as a Cornell Cooperative Extension Agent was to advise farmers, homeowners, gardeners and pretty much anyone else who had a question that Cornell might have an answer for. Now, I continue to offer advice to anyone who reads these weekly columns. I always prided myself on providing “research based” answers, as determined by Cornell. Cornell frowned mightily on making up the advice or not using an “approved” source, such as some other university or USDA. They had to be, since they were legally responsible for what I told people. If my bad advice resulted in financial loss, Cornell could be sued.

When I retired, I began my retirement speech by apologizing for all the bad advice I had given out over the previous 31 years. I can honestly say that I never deliberately gave out bad advice, but sometimes my sense of humor got me into trouble. The first time I almost got fired was when I wrote, in my bi-weekly newsletter, that you could tie a rope to a chicken’s feet and use it to clean out your chimney, by putting the chicken in the flue and yanking it up and down. The flapping wings and feet were a sure way to remove the crusty creosote. I neglected to mention that I was kidding and I soon found out that some PETA people were not at all amused. I survived that blunder to commit several others over the years, including advising people to smear axle grease around their tree trunks to prevent gypsy moth caterpillars from climbing up and down the trunk. The axle grease really did work, but it also killed more than a few thin, barked trees. On another occasion, I jokingly told a homeowner, who was complaining about his neighbor’s dog using his lawn as a bathroom, to get a BB gun and shoot it in the butt! I had a tough time explaining that gaffe to my boss!

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