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

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/DIONISVERA
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.

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!

Anti-Ants

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!

From MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 64.

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.

From MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 71.

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”!

From MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 76.

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 .