The whippoorwills are gone now, flown away to warmer climates. The summer sun is gone too, although it stayed here longer than usual. The frogs and crickets still sound their lonely cries, intermingled with the last of the katydid’s dirge. Summer is over.

There is more than a whisper of rain in the air this morning, just as there has been for quite a few days now. The clouds are blotting out the sun that is trying to shine, and a restless breeze ruffles the treetops. A few yellow leaves are scattered on the ground, while most of our trees remain green. The frost will come.

It’s time to gather the wild peppermint. The last time that the lawn was mowed, the aromatic, minty fragrance of wild peppermint drifted up behind the mower, along with the clean, herbal odor of ground ivy. Ground ivy can be a nuisance, as it practically wiped out our last bed of strawberries. It does make a tea that can be used for a variety of things, including a common cold. I like peppermint tea better.

A person can gather masses of peppermint, spread it out on newspapers to dry, and then store it in plastic zip-lock bags. A teaspoonful of this dried mint can be brewed like any “bought” tea, and it can be brewed fresh. It takes about a cupful of the crushed fresh mint to a pint of boiling water. Steep no longer than three minutes, as prolonged brewing destroys the essence of the oil.

By accident, I found the best method for making peppermint tea. I gathered a pint or more of fresh peppermint, and crushed it thoroughly. Then I placed it in a quart jar, covered it with cold water, and put it in the refrigerator. I forgot all about it for two or three days, and when I heated a cup and tried it out, it had a strong, robust flavor that was superior to any mint tea I have ever drunk.

A cup of this brew at bedtime will relax you and induce a good night of rest. It is very good for a nervous, upset stomach, as it is one of the ingredients used in most stomach medicines. I drink it because it is just plain delicious, just as I favor sassafras tea. No commercial preparations can equal the wonderful flavor, fragrance and goodness of fresh peppermint. In referring to ground ivy, it is almost one of the first tiny flowers that we find blooming in the spring. (Except for the tiny, yellow flowers of the coltsfoot, which is earlier.)

Peeping up through the grass in the lawn, wee purple flowers are found blooming on the tips of a low, growing vine with small, rounded eaves. This plant has many names. I have heard it called “ground ivory” but I like best “gill-over-the-ground.” It is a relative of catnip (which we always used for a baby’s colic) and highly regarded as a medicinal herb. It is high in ascorbic acid, but not nearly as high as wild strawberry leaves or violet leaves, and must be used fresh.

This should be no problem as the vine grows prolifically around most every lawn, and in most damp, shady places from early spring until up in the winter. My mother-in-law used it for cough medicine, along with honey, black oak bark, and other herbs. I have made cough drops from coltsfoot, which was quite effective. Yellow root, or goldenseal, is still used by country folks, and is one of the best sore throat remedies available.

Growing up in an area where doctors were scarce, we learned to rely early on home remedies and treatments. One of the injuries that we contended with all summer was stone bruises. You never hear of such a thing nowadays, as children wear shoes, when we always went barefoot all summer.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer