Two years ago while attending my first Ms. Fix-It Fair, I sat in on the "Granny's Home Remedies" session led by Cheryl Steenerson. She taught the class so many common-sense, down-to-Earth, cheap and environmentally friendly health and cleaning fixes, I thought my brain would shut down.
I perked up, however, when Steenerson mentioned an inexpensive way to keep flying insects out of the house during warmer months. She said if we fill a baggie with water and hang it outside near the doorway, most flies and mosquitoes will be turned away.
When I heard that, I thought the woman was nuts, and I told her so recently when I called about her presentation at this year's fair, the sixth annual one sponsored by the Bluegrass Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction.
But when I filled the bags with water and hung them, it worked, much to my surprise. I had maybe 10 flies all summer that dared to cross the threshold. Neither Steenerson nor I can figure out why.
"I know it works," she said. "I just don't know exactly why."
Steenerson will be one of several presenters this year whose goal is to make us less fearful of handiwork and help keep more money in our pockets. Steenerson will give several uses for apple cider vinegar including a conditioner for our hair, whitener for our teeth, and as a bug spray to keep crawling insects out of the house.
Also, white vinegar, she said, kills 99.9 percent of all bacteria and germs as a household disinfectant.
"It is better than bleach for our environment and a whole lot cheaper than the store products," she said.
A librarian at the Anderson County Library, Steenerson calls herself an old hippie who earned a degree in natural resources before heading off to Arizona to become a park ranger for 18 years.
She now has an organic farm in Mount Eden, where she grows vegetables and popcorn.
"It is a lifestyle that I didn't see any downside to," she said. "I live close to the Earth, and I raise my own food."
She will lead a session on "Organic Gardening Solutions," too, in which she gives time-saving tips "for people who don't think they have time for gardening," she said. That would be me, as well.
The fair will feature several 45-minute classes at Spencerian College, 1575 Winchester Road, which is a new site.
Melanie Anderkin, chairwoman of the event, said the early March date is more than a month earlier than usual to capture our attention before spring arrives and we get started on gardening, decorating or repairs.
Sessions include basic plumbing and electrical repairs, how to work with tile, drywall and automobile repairs, home weatherization, gardening, and fire pit construction. For a complete list of classes, visit Bgnawic.org. You can come for one session or stay all day.
Established in 1955, NAWIC is a professional association of women working in construction and related industries. The local chapter was chartered in December 2001.
For some women and men, home repairs and tasks can be intimidating, Anderkin said. The purpose of the fair is to take away that fear and empower us.
"Do you ever get tired of waiting for someone to do something for you or trying to fix something yourself and doing all the wrong things?" Anderkin said. "This is to empower women and let them know they are just as handy and there is no reason we can't do this ourselves."
Joan Markwell, who was the first female journeyman and master plumber in Kentucky, will be conducting two sessions on plumbing. She said women need to know there are repairs they can do on their own.
"A lot of women, nowadays especially, are living on their own," she said, "and times are tough. They can't take time off from work to wait on a repairman.
"I'm just trying to give women and men the confidence in themselves to try something," said Markwell, who once owned Allied Plumbing. "That means a lot to me."
In her Plumbing 101 class, Markwell will ask participants to take apart faucets and put them back together.
"If you mess up, that's fine," she said. "You can't learn by watching."
"I'll show you how to get a handle off," she said, "and once we get it off we can figure out what kind of innards we've got."
In Plumbing 102, she will demonstrate simple toilet repairs like how to stop one that is running continuously and how to replace a handle. If time allows, she will show us how to take off a trap and clear a clog under a kitchen sink and maybe how to replace a disposal. OK, I'll be the first to admit that terrifies me.
Markwell has assured me that I shouldn't worry. And neither should you.
"I love it when someone comes back to me and says, 'I did it.' They are so excited," she said.