The demise of Herbert: an animated tale

Last week something awful happened. What you are about to see is as disturbing as it is true. Many small creatures were killed or injured in the unfolding drama you are about to see….

Mimi came into the kitchen one morning last week. She was in a particularly good mood as she walked across the linoleum to the kitchen counter. She was going to check in on her sourdough starter Herbert to see how he was doing and feed him some breakfast. As she walked, her mind was preoccupied with ideas of how Herbert would assist her in the creation of some sort of yummy bread or treat. Should she make baguettes or maybe something decadent like coffee cake?

As she approached the kitchen counter where she had left Herbert for the night, she sensed a strange movement on the counter. Ants! Milling around directionless. Ants! Crawling around in every space. Ants! Teeth bared, tongues licking, investigating everything in sight. Some of them…crawling on Herbert’s jar!

Mimi was furious! She acted quickly. She grabbed a sponge: splat! Splat, splat, splat! She dispatched the ants quickly and mercilessly.

Once the ants were gone, she knew what she needed to do. Nervously, she held her breath and reached for Herbert’s jar. She lifted the lid and looked inside….

…there it was. A lone ant. Dead as a doornail. Floating. Toes pointed to the sky. Who knows how long it had been there contaminating the very medium that led to it’s untimely death.

She loved Herbert and wanted to revive him, but he was contaminated and beyond help. Herbert was buried at sea a few days later. He will be sorely missed.


Mimi thought the ant problem was resolved and tried to create a new starter a few days later. Her name was Nadine. She was a sexy wild yeast starter and she was thriving. Today, Mimi found an ant with an IQ of 10 floating, toes pointed to the sky in Nadine. Nadine was buried at sea later that day.

There will be no more sourdough baking on Delectable Tidbits until all ants have been eradicated from the ugly, drafty little house where Mimi resides. Mimi will be bringing out the big guns soon in her battle against these fiendish interlopers. Please leave a comment with your suggestions and war stories from the front of the ant battlefield. She thinks she knows what to do, but she will gladly take all of the help she can get. Do it for her. Do it for the memory of Herbert.




  1. Kevin said,

    July 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Poor Herbert…
    Sorry for your loss there Mimi.

    I don’t like ants. Never have, never will. That’s why I have decided to live in a bubble.

    • Mimi said,

      July 14, 2010 at 3:45 pm

      Thank you for the sympathy.

      I didn’t know you lived in a bubble. The rent must be atrocious! 😀

  2. drfugawe said,

    July 14, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I bet you could guess what I’m going to say! I’m going to suggest that ants are just another part of nature’s world, and who knows what they might bring to the party? Yup – could be bad – or it could be good. In any case, it’s not likely they would have made anybody sick – after all, millions, maybe billions of people in our world eat them everyday.

    I don’t have ants, but I do have a lot of fruit flies all summer long – and they love sourdough! I used to worry about that – especially when I read about some sourdoughers who were throwing their starters out because they feared contamination from the fruit flies. But then I made some real vinegar that required my juice to ferment – and while I was researching, I discovered that when they made vinegar in early America, they intentionally invited the fruit flies to “contaminate” their vinegar, because the flies made it better! They even named them “Vinegar Flies” too. Disbelievers check here,

    And so I thought, Damn, my sourdough is fermenting too – maybe the fruit flies will actually make the starter better – so I no longer worry about fruit flies ruining my summer sourdough starter – and frankly, my starter is always out on my kitchen counter and only loosely covered. And I actually think my starter is stronger during the summer than at any other time of year.

    There – I bet you knew I’d say something like that, didn’t you?

    • Mimi said,

      July 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm

      Yes. I knew I was inviting this discussion. 😀

      To tell you the truth I heard your little voice when I was deciding what to do. I took a teaspoon of Herbert and fed it, reasoning that such a small amount could hardly cause us to get sick. Since I feel that corporations should tell me what is in my food, I felt like a hypocrite not letting my boyfriend know that he woud be eating bread with ant extract in it. He was not on board with that due to concerns about bacteria. After I thought about what I have seen ants stepping in, my neuroses ran more towards viruses. (Read a book called the Hot Zone if you want to feel icky). That small amount of Herbert could crowd out anything bad or it could become a culture of something bad. How would I know? Sure a hot oven would kill off most things, but what would happen if I got a bad bug out of my culture all over my hands while kneading and then rubbed my eyes? I thought it would be better to start over than take a chance. And… I would rather have a bug that is sitting in rotten fruit all day fall into my starter than a bug that walks all over road kill.

      Wimpy I know, but to me it is better to spend a week building up a new starter than get sick.

  3. drfugawe said,

    July 14, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Well Mimi, you are entitled to treat Herbert any way you wished – especially since you gave him such an A++ treatment with your fine art! Who knew! Why don’t you start an online comic strip and see what happens? You do of course that many others have done that and sold their ideas for boo-coodles!

    Do it girl.

    • Mimi said,

      July 14, 2010 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks for liking my cartoons. I’m a lot better with a pencil and paper than I am with a mouse. Did I tell you that I drew the bunny for my avatar for a computer graphics class years ago?

  4. Jeanne said,

    July 15, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Oh, Mimi! I feel your pain! I know that sick feeling of walking into the kitchen only to find the counters (and the floors, ceilings, walls) crawling with the little buggers. Now, I’m all for nature and bugs and the different roles they play in the world, but if these are the invasive Argentine ants then they certainly must go! I’ve had my share of battles with them since moving to socal, and here’s what works for me:

    The quickest and most effective eradication method by far has been Borax. You can buy Terro ant baits (these work really well), or make a solution yourself. Use 1 T borax, 3 T granulated sugar, and enough water to make a syrup. Then soak some cotton balls in the solution and place them in a jar with holes poked in the lid (so pets can’t get to the borax – it’s dangerous!).

    If you just want the visible ants to be gone, I highly recommend a diluted Simple Green solution. It’s like kryptonite to them. Spray it on the counter and they’ll be deterred for a short while.

    Your cartoons are excellent, especially the leopard print ant! Good luck with the ant battle.

    • Mimi said,

      July 15, 2010 at 9:41 am

      Hi Jeanne,
      Glad to see your still around! I miss you! Hopefully you’ll be back to blogging soon so that I can see your yummy recipes!

      Thanks for the advice. I’ve used a similar formula in the past. It has straight boric acid intead of borax. I had an ant attack in the winter before it rained and they didn’t eat the poison. I wonder if they are like yellow jackets and have a need for protien instead of sugar at some times of the year. I think it should work now. They definately want sugar. A couple of dozen of them committed suicide by squeezing their little bodies under a tightly closed honey jar lid where they suffocated. Amazingly a couple of them succeeded in getting into the jar. They also bit their way through a zip lock baggie that contained a bag of powdered sugar. They died happy on that one as they dried up eating powdered sugar. Yuck!

      What we really need to do is call our landlady. We have a couple of leaky faucets and I know that’s what’s attracting them. They attacked a clean wet sponge last night.

  5. Andreas said,

    July 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Sorry to hear that Herbert has gone.

    I would have suggested using some gauze and rubber bands for sealing the sourdough jar, but then I reloaded the post and read your comment about the honey jar and zip-lock bag. So no help here.

    Btw. the third cartoon totally reminds me of the “foot of God” at the end of the Monty Python intro. 😉

    • Mimi said,

      July 15, 2010 at 12:43 pm

      I love Terry Gilliam.

  6. r said,

    July 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    oh man! RIP herbert!
    he was a good sourdough…
    those friggin’ ants, always the ants don’t i know. my brother said he had a conversation with his ants and according to him they agreed to leave. guess which brother?
    i could bring a bit of george with me if you want once you’re done with the boric bonanza…

    • Mimi said,

      July 15, 2010 at 11:39 pm

      Instead of bringing George, you can bring Steve to talk to my ants. I’ll be creating a new starter using the Nadine method. I’ll tell you about it later.

  7. r said,

    July 15, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    oh by the way- great storyboarding!
    my favorite is when when you discover the ants attacking herbert! and the sponge and granite textures in ‘Splat!!’ are fabu!

    • Mimi said,

      July 15, 2010 at 11:39 pm

      Thanks! It means a lot that you like it!

  8. July 16, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Empathy but so laughing at the pain! Great cartoons!
    I think this has to be the best I’ve seen for a starter dying!
    We got rid of ants with a termite treatment – a side effect but it was great while it lasted. Now, I just do the borax thingie.

  9. Joanne said,

    July 17, 2010 at 6:39 am

    I occasionally see ants crawling on my wall. And I kung fu them. With a karate style kick. Still extremely frustrating.

    Poor Herbert. May he rest in peace.

  10. Anna said,

    July 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I have 2 sourdoughs – rye and wheat. I have always kept them in plastic enclosed container – when I made them, when I produce a starter for the next bread and of course when I keep some in refrigerator. I never leave these containers open when I can`t see them. Losing my boys would a tragedy.(
    I have always had ants in our house and around (we live in NY) in summertime. Thanks God, they like much more my bathroom, especially shower bath, than my kitchen. I really don`t know how to get rid of them. I gave up. My only fun is hunting and killing ants when I sit on the toilet seat.
    You should try built new sourdough and keep it closed. 🙂

    • Mimi said,

      July 18, 2010 at 3:57 pm

      I thought the starter needs air. So you haven’t had any problems with the starter when the container is closed tight? Interesting… I’ll have to try that. I’ve kept mine in a crock with the rubber gasket removed so that it is still closed but not air tight – which is how the ants entered.

      We have them in the bathroom too. It makes us very careful to look before we sit!! It gives new meaning to the expression “he has ants in his pants!!”, lol!!

      I did the boric acid trap last night. It seems to be working this time. Most of the ants are gone. There are just a few now so I hope the stragglers will be gone soon. Wish me luck!

  11. ohiofarmgirl said,

    July 18, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    auauauhghghghhghhhhh!!!! hee hee hee hee ants in his pants… hee hee hee hee

    try those little plastic ant traps – easy-peasy and no problems!

  12. Leah said,

    July 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    oh wow! I can relate! I found a fruitfly flying in my starter, steve, last week!
    Good luck getting rid of the ants!!


    ps- loved the pics…. so funny!

  13. stacy said,

    July 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    *moment of silence for Herbert and Nadine*

    Such laughter out of tragedy. I look forward to the next generation of sourdough Chez Mimi.

  14. Chai Chai said,

    July 25, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Mimi, I loved the comic strip – you may have a future other than cooking. From the sound of things you probably will never be able to get rid of the enemy army (without poisoning your whole house), so making the kitchen inhospitable seems to be your best option. OFG hit on my suggestion, traps where you don’t want ants along with your Simple Green or other potions. Did you know ants HATE salt? A bit of salt along the ants main walking path is like a minefield – they won’t cross it.

    • Mimi said,

      July 25, 2010 at 11:08 am

      Love it! I’m stocking up on a Costco size bag of salt. Anything to abuse them and upset them!!

      I’ve been doing the boric acid solution all week in the bathroom and the kitchen. The population is definately decreasing but, there are still quite a few of them milling around. I still need to go to the hardware store and get some caulk. I found a couple of their entry ways into the house and I’m going to seal them out.

  15. July 26, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Oh no! Oh no! That is so depressing, I feel for you :[

    Despite the sadness, I enjoyed your story and cute illustrations. I only had one sad encounter with ants, but they didn’t bother me. I was at a friend’s house when we saw a gazillion in her basement, so we swept them up and tossed them out the door.

  16. Elizabeth said,

    July 26, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I’m really really sorry. I know it’s wrong wrong wrong to laugh at the misfortunes of others (especially when they lose their pets!) but but but… I couldn’t help myself.

    I’d go the borax route too. Maybe mixed with a tiny bit of sugar in a lure line AWAY from where Herbert/Nadine2 is incubating. And some “Ants Unwelcome Here” signs prominently posted.

    Can’t you put some sort of sticky tanglefoot barrier in a circle around where Herbert/Nadine2 lives? (Ants can’t fly, can they?) Or maybe the salt barrier that Chai Chai mentioned.

  17. July 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    […] 85: The recipe is Mimi’s enchiladas. Does this look familiar? I’m sporting a funny little sombrero, but I still look pretty much the same, don’t […]

  18. August 4, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    […] The ants are winning so I still don’t have sourdough. I did however pick this up: […]

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