My job for over 31 years as a Cornell Cooperative Extension Officer was to advise farmers, homeowners, gardeners, and just about anyone who had a question Cornell might have an answer to. Now, I continue to offer advice to anyone who reads these weekly columns. I’ve always prided myself on providing “research-based” answers, as Cornell has determined. Cornell frowned heavily at the thought of making up the advice or not using an “approved” source, such as another university or the USDA. They had to be, since they were legally responsible for what I was telling people. If my bad advice results 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 over the previous 31 years. I can honestly say that I never deliberately gave bad advice, but sometimes my sense of humor got me in trouble. The first time I nearly got fired was when I wrote in my bi-weekly newsletter that you could tie a rope to a chicken’s legs and use it to clean its chimney, putting the chicken into the flue and pulling it up and down. Flapping wings and feet were a surefire way to remove crusty creosote. I forgot to mention I was joking and soon found out that some people at PETA were not amused at all. I’ve survived this blunder to commit several more 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 worked, but it also killed more than a few thin, barked trees. On another occasion, I jokingly told a landlord, who was complaining about his neighbor’s dog using his lawn as a bathroom, to grab a BB gun and shoot him in the ass! I had a hard time explaining this gaffe to my boss!