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 A buddy of mine, I’ve learned, dips pizza in ranch dressing.

She also pours it on her hamburgers and her steaks. I assume she occasionally drenches lettuce with it as well.

I bring this observation up — not simply to tease her about never actually having tasted meat — because it’s not the first odd way of doing things I’ve happened across.

I was web-surfing one evening and found a photo of some wiring an allegedly handyperson had done, substituting a repurposed coffee can for a junction box. While I admire the frugality of such an installation … well … don’t try this at home.

It was right up there with some plumbing repairs (possibly by the same creative genius) that involved a salvaged auto radiator hose bent into a trap under a kitchen sink.

Really, gang, how much does a PVC trap cost? Or a junction box, now that I think of it? A couple of bucks for both?

In my own various homes I’ve come across:

1. Wadded newspaper, fiberglass insulation and steel wool stuffed into walls as backing for plaster repairs.

2. A wooden spool substituting for the knob on a kitchen cabinet.

3. An 18-inch buzz saw blade used as the floor in a backyard incinerator. (I sold it to a knife-maker for $20, and he was head-over-heels to get it. Saw blades are made from really good steel.)

4. The glass of a combination storm window painted white to disguise the fact that the window sash had been removed and the opening drywalled over on the inside of the house. Actually, that was done to five windows.

5. All manner of things used as shims: paint sticks, folded cardboard, playing cards and, in one strange arrangement, 16d nails.

In defense of my handy brethren, I’ll admit I’ve done a few, um, inventive things myself with odd substitutes when the real thing was inconvenient, more expensive or simply unavailable.

Twice, for example, I’ve built walls out of the broken chunks of old concrete sidewalks. It looks a little bit like stone — if you squint (and stand far enough away) — and works just fine for a dry-laid retaining wall as long as you don’t go too high.

It’s also a great way to get rid of broken concrete.

I’ve also turned old soup cans into clips that held Christmas lights to the front porch (Hey, I did paint them!), and I once used stacked milk crates for scaffolding.

But only that once.

Way too shakey.

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I’ve been known to drive nails with the handle of a pipe wrench when a hammer was too many steps away and have repurposed nickels as washers.

I have never, however, dipped my pizza in ranch dressing. I think pepperoni tastes just fine as it is.

A reader’s question.

We live in an area that has deer frequenting our backyards and eating the flowers and shrubs. I like having birds in the backyard but am afraid to put out birdseed in feeders for fear of attracting more deer. What is your suggestion?

— Pam

I’ve never had a deer problem myself, but I think the best defense is a dog … or a tall fence (like maybe 8 feet — they jump).

My best suggestions is a disgusting product called Liquid Fence. It’s a terrible concoction involving garlic and rotten eggs, and when you spray it (I use it to ward off the bunnies), it’s best to breathe through your mouth.

Happily, the stench (to human noses at least) lasts only a few hours, but it clings to plants for weeks. Perhaps long enough for deer to find another salad bar.

(Send your questions to: HouseWorks, P.O. Box 81609, Lincoln, NE 68501, or email:

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