Years ago we had a neighbor (he was rather old and crotchety) who was a master farrier. He took a shine to Maid Elizabeth and offered to trim and shoe her horse’s hooves in exchange for her doing odd jobs around his homestead.
One day, as Elizabeth was filling feed bunks with hay I watched as the farrier filled buckets with grain. Into the feeder he dumped a scoop of steamed oats, followed by a half a scoop sweet feed. On top of that he poured a ladle full of amber colored liquid. Never having seen anyone feed their horses quite like that before, I asked what he had poured over the feed. He looked up at me, one eyebrow raised and said “its apple cider vinegar”. He might as well have added “you dummy”, but he just shook his head instead.
I didn’t want to seem foolish, but I just couldn’t let it go. I had to know why he fed his horses vinegar. And I was REALLY interested to see if they ate it! Well, I didn’t have to wait long to find out if vinegar was offensive to the horse palate – they ate it right up, just like it was a bucket full of molasses grain. I hesitated a moment and then blurted “why did you feed them vinegar?” Master Farrier rolled his eyes, sighed and said “it’s a dewormer, of course”.
I wasn’t about to ask him any more questions, but I did tuck that nugget of information away for further research. Although I have never come across any “scientific” evidence that ACV (apple cider vinegar) works for deworming, the web is full of anecdotal evidence which goes far beyond treating animals for worms and includes fly control, skin/coat problems and anti-bacterial solutions.
I became even more intrigued with the amazing properties of ACV when I read about spraying it on weeds to eradicate them. We have a problem with thistles and hawk weed and although commercial weed killer will kill them, the hawk weed especially, always seems to come back the next year. Eager to put the vinegar to the test, I poured some (full strength) into a spray bottle and sprayed both hawk weed and thistle plants and waited to see what would happen. It took about 4 hours to notice any difference. At first, the plants just looked a little poorly. After 4 hours they looked positively droopy. The next day….both the thistle and the hawk weed were shriveled up masses. Some of the larger plants required another spraying the next day before they succumbed to the ACV, however, everything I sprayed the vinegar on gave up the ghost – eventually. I didn’t do a mass spraying of all of the invasive plants in my 30 acre yard simply because I didn’t have enough vinegar, however, it really does keep the weeds down in my little garden areas. And I would prefer to use ACV over commercially produced weed killer any day.
As if I wasn’t sold on ACV already, I came across a little book called “Folk Medicine”. It was written by an old country Doc in Vermont back in the ’50’s by the name of D.C. Jarvis, M.D. Dr. Jarvis spent a lifetime treating rural Vermonters and, being equipped with an inquisitive mind, began to notice a connection between the use of ACV in his patients and their overall health. His book is chock full of both anecdotal and scientific evidence as to the efficacy of ACV in not only promoting good health but also treating sickness and disease.
Just for the record, I do not believe that Apple Cider Vinegar (or anything else, for that matter) is a cure-all or a miracle drug. I think it works great for some things and not for others. I think it works differently with different physiological make-ups. That being said, I think ACV is an absolute requirement for any homesteader/prepper/survivalist. I think the list of its benefits it too long for one small blog post and its potential uses are beyond measure. The fact that you can make it in your kitchen, in sufficient quantities to keep your animals healthy, your family healthy and your weeds unhealthy is merit enough to make it worth your while.
Here is the best part of all. Apple Cider Vinegar is a snap to make. There are numerous methods of making vinegar – simply Google it and find the method that is most convenient for you. I made ACV last fall, after partaking in a friends apple cider pressing. My method of ACV is possibly the most simple and the most effective. I started with 6 gallons of fresh apple cider. Although we originally put all of the cider into a 6 gallon carboy, to make ACV we poured it into 7 (1) gallon jars (leaving room to stir). We did strain the cider as we poured it into the gallon jars to get most of the big apple chunks out, so that the ACV would be a little clearer.
After putting the cider in the jars, we put a bit of “mother” into each jar of cider. The “mother” is the icky looking stuff that floats at the bottom of the apple cider vinegar that you buy at the health food store (Bragg’s). It almost looks like a human organ, a big flat matt of a thing – but, this is the good stuff! My “mother” came from a friend who had made her own vinegar the year before. She just separated a big clump from her “mother”, put it into a pint jar and sent it home to become my “mother”. There is no measurement required for your “mother”. I just divided the “mother” that I had (it turned out to be about 2 T per jar) between the 7 jars of cider and called it good.
Apple cider vinegar needs all of the good stuff floating around in the air (yeast) to get good and frothy and strong. Rather than putting lids on my cider I cut pieces of cheesecloth, placed them on the jars and secured them with big rubber bands. I set the jars on the shelf in my kitchen and let the “mother” and the yeast do their thing. Every so often, I would take the cloth off the tops of my jars and give them a stir. I should have done this every week, however, I got to it about every three weeks. It didn’t really seem to effect the vinegar. The jars sat on my shelf for about 3 months when I noticed that the liquid was starting to evaporate. At this point I taste tested it (wow! – it was super strong vinegar). I strained the vinegar out of the 1 gallon jars (making sure to save the “mother) and bottled it in more manageable bottles. The “mother” I put in a liter jar and covered with apple cider vinegar and put in a cool place. It will wait there until next fall when I make another batch or until someone needs a bit of “mother” for themselves.
At this point we have no large animals to feed ACV to, however, we do have children. Every morning, the kids and I line up for our glass of apple cider vinegar (just a bit of vinegar in the bottom of a glass filled with water). It is an invigorating way to start the day! Although not a miracle cure, ACV comes pretty close!