Farming Advice and Folklore: Free Mulch, Ants, and Mint Vinegar Recipe

Farming advice and folklore from MOTHER and her readers from past issues, including information about free mulch, invading ants, and a mint vinegar recipe.

Mint for mint vinegar

Gourmet mint vinegar is easy to make at home. Simply wash one good handful of fresh mint leaves, shake well, and bruise them with a mortar and pestle or wooden potato masher.


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Reprinted from MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 58. 

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including free mulch, ants, a recipe for gourmet mint vinegar, covering cauliflowers, sharpening vegetable peelers and more. 

MOTHER's Country Farming Advice and Folklore

Chickens & Pickin's

It's bug-picking season, so a lot of conscientious gardeners will be pouring kerosene into old tomato cans and dropping in all the Japanese beetles, bean weevils, potato bugs, cucumber beetles . . . and other assorted nasties that they can get their mitts on. But at least one backyard grower — Charles Rice of Highland, New York — will carry a bit of salad oil in his bug can instead of the traditional kerosene.

Charles says that the cooking liquid will immobilize hungry veggivores as well as the lamplighting fluid does. Better yet, though — when his task is finished — he'll have super-protein-rich hors d'oeuvres to feed to his chickens!


If ants invade your kitchen, attach flypaper — sticky side out — along the bottom of your cabinets (or around table legs) to form an impenetrable barrier. By the time you have to change your adhesive sheets, the social little insects will probably realize they're not wanted . . . and move on to happier hunting grounds.

From MOTHER EARTH NEWS 'S Almanac, 1982.

Free Mulch

"Want some excellent — and free — garden mulch?" asks Jackson, Ohio's George W. Clark. "Then keep your eye on the weather during haying season. A good rainstorm will probably ruin any bales that farmers leave in their fields. And chances are, the weather cursed folks will give the drenched hay to you . . . just for the effort of hauling it away."

From MOTHER EARTH NEWS 'S Almanac, 1982.

Make a Mint

Gourmet mint vinegar is easy to make at home. Simply wash one good handful of fresh mint leaves, shake well, and bruise them with a mortar and pestle or wooden potato masher. Pack the leaves in a glass jar and add one quart of distilled white or pure apple cider vinegar. Cover the container tightly, and let the mixture stand a good two weeks. Strain and bottle the elixir (you may want to add a few drops of green vegetable coloring).

If fresh mint is not available, use three tablespoons of the herb's dried leaves and bring the vinegar to a boil before pouring it over them.

This vinegar is excellent with lamb, good in fruit salad dressings, and — believe it or not — delicious frozen into cubes and added to iced drinks.

From MOTHER EARTH NEWS 'S Almanac, 1982.

Pickin's Cream Ice

Debi Carr has come up with a nifty way for home-style ice cream makers to save a bit of trouble and expense. Most folks, you see, search for a safe place to dump their usedand salt-laden — ice solution every time they finish churning . . . but this Spring Valley, California, lass simply puts her used slush in plastic containers and refreezes it. The brine solution won't turn completely solid — and will need some stirring before you can use it again — but it sure will freeze that next batch of homemade dessert!


Covering Cauliflowers

You can keep your cauliflower's heads white this summer by stretching old panty hose legs over them, writes Vicki Eastwood of Centerville, Kansas. First, neatly overlap the foliage to cover the developing head . . . then slip on the stocking and secure it to the stem.

What's more, Ruth Baird of Lancaster, Massachusetts, suggests using the same trick to shield ripening sunflowers so that the seeds aren't attacked by hungry birds.


Egg Test

Now that it's summer, some of you will be letting your chickens out to roam now and again. That's what Minden, Nebraska's Mary Anne Carlson did . . . but she soon realized that her hens weren't particular about where they stopped to lay eggs! Now whenever Mary Anne runs across a nest somewhere, she tests the eggs for freshness by placing them in a bucket of water. Any that float to the top are bad and should be destroyed. Those that stand on one end, or don't lie flat and "relaxed," are over three days old and — although still all right for cooking or baking — probably shouldn't be sold. The rest, she says, are "farm-fresh"!


A Sharp Trick

"Don't give up on that old, dull vegetable peeler," writes Dixie McCullough of Mariposa, California. "Try trading it with a left-handed (or right-handed if you're a southpaw) friend whose own peeler has lost its verve. After all, opposite-handed people use opposite sides of the implement!"

From MOTHER EARTH NEWS 'S Almanac, 1982.

Putting Up the Produce

OK folks, we know that your gardens are probably yielding so much produce that the broccoli needs dinner reservations . . . and your green beans have to wait in line just to get into the kitchen! So we're going to share some helpful food-storing lore from our readers.

[1] Sheri Bickel of Fayetteville, Arkansas, blanches bushel-basket quantities of greens, corn, or string beans at one time. She simply throws the food loads in her dishwasher, sets the control on scald (don't add detergent, please!), and lets the hot water cycle get her veggies ready for preserving. "They turn out great!" Sheri says.

[2] Think that's something? Well, Sharon Griggs can cold-pack process three or four canner loads of tomatoes . . . in one pot! This Dowagiac, Michigan, native takes one of those old-fashioned elliptical wash boilers (not a tin washtub), lines the bottom with old towels, sets it over two burners on her stove, puts in lots of water and filled jars . . . and starts cooking!

Sharon also freezes huge quantities of edibles — using only a few store-bought containers — by taking the solidly iced food blocks out of their soft plastic freezer boxes and storing all the "cubes" of one kind together in big plastic bags. She can then reuse the expensive containers over and over again.

[3] It looks like Valerie Hannay of Van Buren, Arkansas, has discovered the perfect storage container for half-quart food jars: liquor boxes! The cardboard packages that fifths of booze are shipped in (free for the asking at any alcohol outlet) have built-in, pint-sized dividers.

Through the years we've all probably discovered a few practical, down-home, time-tested solutions to the frustrating little problems of everyday life. Why not share your best "horse sense" with the rest of MOTHER EARTH NEWS 's readers? Send your suggestions to Country Lore, THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS EARTH NEWS, Hendersonville, NC. A one year subscription — or a one year extension of an existing subscription — will be sent to each contributor whose tip is printed in this column.  — MOTHER EARTH NEWS .