LCH Ramblings Pandanamous Fatigue

While we enjoy our solitude, our business and plenty of projects, the feeling of pandemic fatigue is increasing. Whenever I have a medical appointment, on-line or in person for blood tests, I have noticed a pattern. The night before my appointment I have dreams, not really nightmares of terror, but unsettling dreams. The locations and people involved are different each time, but the one present situation is being in a room with lots of people and no one but me is wearing a mask.

Fortunately those trips away are few and far between, but even with my bi-weekly early morning, no-contact grocery pickup at Wallyworld, the night before is an unsettling mix of mask-less people. I suspect I’m not alone in that response, others may experience their worries in other ways.

This week Carroll County Electric came to visit. They’re in the area cutting under and beside the high lines, more severely than normal. If they are expecting ice storms, they seem ready.

Their truck couldn’t fit through our gate and got stuck for awhile trying to back away. The truck was almost the size of our house, and when they finally extracted it from beside the deck, came in from the other direction and had nearly as much trouble there. The result was cutting back our 20 year old redbud and much older oak.





Redbud in foreground, oak, both trimmed







My trip to town Monday, after a night of mask-less characters roaming my sleep, was for a regular blood test to see how my anti-rejection meds are doing. Since I can’t eat before the tests, I did a drive-through from MickeyD’s for bacon-egg McMuffin. Curious about how safe the Kum-n-Go convenience store next door is, I sat in the parking lot and watched  how many customers were wearing masks. The ratio turned out to be 10 people without to every 2 people who were masked. So that answers that question of would I go inside to use the bathroom or buy coffee. Certainly not.

We have some tiny amount of leaf color on the distant hill, and some nice red in one of the maples in the front yard but for the most part it appears this isn’t going to be a leaf color year to brag about.

It was steak grilling weather so I picked up a couple of ribeyes for dinner.

I don't know if you're familiar with Sous-vide (pronounced Sue-Vee) but it's a small miracle as far as I'm concerned. Our good friend, Steve, had sent me one several months back. While we're not big beef eaters, we both enjoy a good steak from time to time. By putting 2 steaks in plastic bags and submerging them in the sous-vous for 3 hours at 135 degrees F, they are then ready for a sizzle on the grill. What's the point? Steak, or chicken or pork, come out greatly tenderized and marinated. This amazing gadget has improved my steak grilling 100%.

We miss having  friends come for dinner, or going to their house, the socializing over a meal is something bonds us together. I love the planning and preparation for meals, the process of looking at new recipes and sometimes mostly following them. We miss, also, a trip out on occasion to one of our favorite restaurants. Sadly, however, that's just not an option now.

I have a firepit on order, hopefully a way of socializing outdoors this winter on nice evenings. That purchase was inspired by friends, Dan and Susan Krotz, whose firepit is always warmed up and ready to add to vivid conversations.

On livestock news this week, Josh sold a dozen old hens mixed with some pullets plus the old French Marais rooster originally from our friend Steven Campbell in North Carolina. And he also sold 3 goats, whittling down the herd to 5 for the winter.

So that's pretty much the news from here, hanging on, holding our breath for the upcoming election. That sometimes gives me nightmares, as well.

Stay safe and keep in touch.

Jim & Josh


Fresh Mint Tea

When most people think of mint they likely think of mint-chocolate ice cream. Or dried mint leaves for tea. But hey, mint is way more useful than that. Consider Cold-Pressed Mint Tea. You'll find the recipe in several of my books on my website.

If you sort of, kind of like mint tea made from dried mint leaves or those disgusting mint teabags (which are leaves with mint flavoring added), you'll love this upscale, fresh version.

First, start off with a handful of fresh mint. Any kind of mint, peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, whatever you have. And don't obsess over what a handful is, just harvest a bunch. Double it over, then give it a slight twist like you were wringing out a dish cloth.

The goal is to crush it a bit to release the essential oils in the leaves and stems. And yes, use leaves, stems and flowers if the mint is in bloom. The whole plant has flavor.

Next, put the handful of mint in the bottom of a pitcher, this one probably holds 3 or 4 quarts, I just grabbed the first pitcher I saw in the pantry.

With the mint in the bottom of the pitcher, next, fill the pitcher all the way up to the top with ice. Don't skimp, the pitcher needs to be full of ice all the way to the top, with the mint on the bottom.

Now, with mint and ice in place, add water all the way to the top of the pitcher. Give it 5 minutes to steep and it is ready to drink. It's almost like instant tea - only way better. Pour yourself a glass of the freshest, best tasting mint tea you have ever had.

1 - Add several fresh or frozen strawberries.
2 - Add several slices of cucumber in the bottom with the mint.
3 - How about slightly crushed watermelon...
4 - Fresh raspberries added is another great flavor.

Bottom line, this is a no-calorie, refreshing summer beverage.

And if you are really adventurous, the next time you are hot and sweaty from working outdoors, pour some of this refreshing tea into a wash cloth and soothe your hot face and skin. You will be amazed at how much better this makes your skin feel.



A Trip to Rush

Any travel is a challenge at the moment for everyone. For those of us in the high-risk category there are extra worries, precautions, preparations, anxiety to deal with. Josh and I do very little away from the farm. He makes a trip each week to check on employees at the Sheltered Workshop who do product our packaging. I go off-farm about once every 10 days to do the early morning grocery drive-up and pickup outside WallyWorld.

Yesterday was a fun change of pace and we made a trip to the ghost town of Rush, Arkansas. Or more precisely, to visit friends who live near there, close to the Buffalo National River. The trip was part business, part pleasure. There were no stops along the way, we took our own picnic food and our friends made their own lunch and we sat in the shaded patio outside and visited. This is David and Donna, long time friends and self-sufficient homesteaders.
David and Donna, adventurous homesteaders. They aren't your ordinary Ma and Pa Kettle.
They escaped New Orleans the day before hurricane Katrina hit, moving first to Fayetteville while working on establishing their homestead.

Their goal: live on the land in a beautiful location away from the city and produce all, or at least most, of everything they consume. To do that, they have extensive gardens, chickens, goats, bees, a production kitchen, greenhouses, orchards, berries and more. Canning, drying, freezing keep the larders filled.

Donna is working this year with dye plants, particularly woad, indigo and other textile dye plants, which they are growing in the garden. Donna is an incredible designer and artist so I expect to see some amazing weaving as a result of her experiments in the future.

Both David and Donna are musical and it isn't unusual for acquaintances to come visit, musicians, puppeteers, artists from across the country. The farm is like an arts oasis in the deep woods. (Interesting example, the NPR commentator, author, blogger, Andreu Cordrescu, is a neighbor when he's not in New York).

View of the house from a section of garden. On the left is a field of buckwheat, a green fodder cover crop that will be plowed under to help with soil fertility. In the meantime, nearby hives of bees are collecting nectar for some amazing buckwheat honey.

Grape arbor. There aren't many things edible, they don't grow.

Rows of basil and peanuts. Not shown in the photos are the greenhouses where they grow tomatoes, peppers and salad crops during winter months. Drip irrigation provides irrigation throughout.

Flowers for bees and butterflies provide pollinators for the vegetable crops.

Probably the best, most tasteful chicken house in Arkansas! Barely visible is the double electric fencing that surrounds the entire 2+ acres of garden.

Produce shed for drying onions, beans, peanuts, potatoes, squash with a tasteful gate in the distance.

The goat barn, heaven for the goat herd, fun for the eyes, Josh admiring.

Just a gorgeous zinnia. They are about to add more large growing areas for cut flowers.

The smaller of two intern cabins. The other is more dorm-like, with several rooms, a central area with a kitchen, and a great room including a grand piano. Lucky interns who get to work in this wonderful place!

Josh and David, admiring the truck patch. The truck harbors an arbor for squash. Just think, most people would haul away an old junk vehicle, but why, when you can grow a crop there?

And that is our trip to David & Donna's farmstead, a fine roadtrip and a fun visit with friends.


Long Creek Herbs Persimmon Pudding

This  has been about a perfect season for persimmons. The trees are full of sweet, ripe persimmons. I gather them as the fall from the tree to make pudding and freeze some pulp for later.

 The first thing is to separate the seeds from the pulp. We have a couple of trees that have fewer seeds than some of the other trees and I gather those.
Soft, ripe persimmons picked from under the tree.

A potato ricer is the easiest way I've found to extract the pulp.

A potato ricer works very well for extracting the pulp. Just fill it only about half full, it’s easier to squeeze that way and actually faster than if you forced larger amounts through.

Once you have the pulp extracted you can freeze it, or turn it into persimmon pudding. I’ve tried many recipes of the years and this one I found on a cooking show is one of my favorites. I made a couple of changes so I think I can claim it as mine, but I credit it to the guy who originated it years ago.
You'll need 2 cups of pulp for the pudding.


Persimmon Pudding
Originally from Bill Neel, Cooks Corner
2 cups pureed persimmon pulp
2 cups buttermilk
1 stick butter, room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 C.
Butter a 9 x 9 pan
Cream the butter and sugar
Add eggs, then persimmon pulp, mixing
Mix together dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, spices) then add to persimmon mixture
Pour into greased baking dish. Set that inside a larger pan with water.
Bake at 350 for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours. Because of the amount of buttermilk it takes that long.

It’s not a pretty pudding but my oh my does it taste wonderful!

 Serve with whipped cream.

The pudding is moist, sweet and delicious!


Bountiful ZucchiniZucchini is one of those vegetables we have difficulty growing. Between squash bugs, cucumber beetles and squash vine borers, we seldom get a crop, and often don't even try. We've used every trick in the book for organic control of those pests, none of which work. But, last fall, and again this one, I took a chance and planted zucchini seed late in the season. These zucchini were planted in late August and began producing fruit  Sep. 18.
Zucchini plants started producing on Sep 18.
Even though most gardeners, and all their neighbors, are probably tired of even seeing a zucchini, we're just tickled to have some. Josh planted the seed for these, 7 plants, and we're getting 2-3 baby zucchini per plant every other day, plus a few large ones we've overlooked. I've been making these for our supper, based on a recipe I used last year called Faux Crabcakes. It's pretty good and the recipe follows.

Zucchini Fritters

I shred the *zucchini first, then the onion, pepper and garlic in the food processor, which just takes seconds.
(About) 4 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 yellow onion, shredded or diced
2 tablespoons diced, any favorite pepper - I use half of a Jalapeno, but you can use bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced or shredded
1 cup breadcrumbs
2-3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, optional
3 eggs
1 teaspoon Old Bay seafood seasoning

*Shred the zucchini, sprinkle with salt, mix and set aside. for 10 minutes while you assemble everything else. Rinse with cool water, drain and squeeze dry.
Combine remaining ingredients with zucchini, mixing well. If the mixture is too dry to stick together, add another egg.

Form into patties about 3-4 inches across and drop into medium-hot vegetable oil. Cook until golden brown, turn over the brown the other side. Keep hot while you cook the remaining patties. This makes 4-5 patties.

Zucchini patties cooking.

Fritters, tomatoes and creamed kale, the garden is good!


Elephant Garlic Pie

Back in the 1980s, on a cold day in January I was preparing for the arrival of a newspaper reporter. She was coming to interview me to ask what was in the garden in that cold that month. When she had called a week earlier, she said she was looking for a garden story idea but assumed there was nothing still in the ground and maybe we could do a story on soil preparation. I explained that with our mild Ozarks winters, that yes, I did still have food growing in my garden. Carrots and leeks were still in the ground, lettuce, peas and spinach were growing in a cold frame. As is my custom when reporters come, I invited her for lunch, to taste a bit of the garden.

Elephant Pie

That day we dug carrots and picked lettuce and spinach for her photos. Those went into a salad, which I served with Elephant Pie. Elephant Garlic Pie, that is. I like elephant garlic as a vegetable, it has a mild, sweet flavor that works well in all sorts of dishes. Even steamed and buttered, it's delicious.

Elephant garlic, you may not know, was first introduced to the gardening world by our friends at Nichols Garden Nursery in 1941. (Someone later gave Luther Burbank credit, but the documentation is clear, the first elephant garlic, along with the name, started with Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon.

Areas of the famous Willamette Valley, known for its mild climate and amazingly fertile soil, was settled partly by immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Northern Yugoslavia. Mr. Nichols discovered that some of these folks were growing a gigantic variety of garlic, mild in flavor and vastly different from any garlic he had ever seen. The immigrants had brought this unusual garlic with them from the Old Country. He purchased 12 pounds as seed stock in 1941 and began cultivating it. When he finally had enough to sell, he began advertising in newspapers and magazines. In 1953 he gave it the name, elephant garlic. Back then, he was the only one selling it and when you ordered elephant garlic from Nichols, in your order you received a little pamphlet with growing and storing instructions. He sold elephant garlic across the U.S., Canada and to many places overseas.
The original pamphlet that accompanied orders, in 1953
I just planted my elephant garlic this past week from some I ordered from Nichols. I prefer to plant it in September, but things were too busy this year. I've actually planted it as late as the first of December and it has done well, thanks to our fairly mild winters here. Next summer, probably about mid to late June, my elephant garlic will be ready to dig. You can still order some for planting from Nichols. I've seen it in the produce department of several grocery stores if you want to get some to cook, but to get a start to grow, of the original, authentic elephant garlic, order from Nichols. (Every other nursery or seed company that sells elephant garlic, can trace their original sources back to Nichols). Here's my Elephant Garlic Pie recipe. It's like a quiche and you can add a regular pie crust if you wish, but I usually make mine crust-less because it cuts down a bit on the carbohydrates and fat.

Elephant Garlic Pie
5-6 cloves elephant garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
4 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 cup diced, thinly-sliced ham (leave it out if you don't eat meat)
1 tablespoon cooking sherry
1/4 teaspoon any brand hot sauce
2 green onions, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Saute the sliced elephant garlic in olive oil or butter until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Beat the eggs and milk together; add the cooking sherry, hot sauce, green onions and salt and pepper. 
  4. In a oiled pie plate, layer the garlic, cheese, spinach and ham, then pour the egg mixture over. Dust with a bit of paprika if desired.
  5. Bake until a knife inserted comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.
Nichols Garden Nursery also is the source of my favorite sour dough starter. Mr. Nichols got the start in the late 1940s from a friend who'd been a logger in Alaska. They sell it in powdered form and you mix it with your own bread flour and get it started. We make 2 loaves of sourdough bread a week here at the farm. Sourdough bread is considerably easier for diabetics to eat and Nichols' starter is the best tasting I've ever had. (I don't care for the San Francisco sourdough breads, they're too, well, sour, for me, but Nichols' Oregon Pioneer starter tastes lots better). Here are a couple of recent loaves of sourdough bread we've made.

Freshly-baked sourdough bread is simply delicious!


Jim's Chicken Tortilla Soup

I've tried tortilla soup in many restaurants over the years, some are ok, some have left me wishing I'd ordered something else. This week I was inspired to make a batch myself. I began by looking at recipes online, some sounded good, some were downright goofy.

My habit is to avoid recipes that call for a can of this and a can of that, but rather than make this complicated, I resorted to 3 canned ingredients: tomatoes, black beans and hominy. If you have any of those on hand, made from scratch, certainly use them.

I found a recipe that sounded pretty good but as always happens when I try to follow someone else's recipe, I thought of ways I'd rather do it. So what follows is my recipe and you're welcome to share it. When I served it last night, Josh declared, "This is the best soup you've ever made!" I think I'm a pretty good soup maker so I was pleased at the compliment. I have to agree that it is the best tortilla soup I've ever eaten. Don't be put off by the ingredient list, it's worth the effort.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
6 tablespoons cooking oil
8 6-inch corn tortillas, folded in half and sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
*1 tablespoon paprika
*2 teaspoons ground cumin
*1 teaspoon coriander
*1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 12 quarts chicken broth
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes (or whole tomatoes if that's all you have on hand)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves plus 3 tablespoons chopped for topping
2 large, cooked chicken breasts, diced
1 11-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 11-ounce can golden hominy, drained
1 avocado diced
1/4 pound grated cheddar cheese
1 fresh lime

Heat the oil in a large cooking pot. Add the tortilla strips in batches, turning once, frying until crispy - about 2 minutes per batch. Repeat with rest of the strips, draining all and keeping warm.

Reduce heat, add onion and garlic.
While the onions are simmering, heat a small dry skillet (don't add oil) to hot and add the cumin and coriander, stirring, until they release their fragrance - about 1 to 2 minutes. Add paprika and cayenne and remove skillet from heat. Immediately scrape the spices into the onions and garlic and stir.

Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaves and salt to the cooking pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of the cooked tortilla strips. Cook, uncovered for 30 minutes.
Remove bay leaves and let soup cool for about 10 minutes until you can safely blend in a blender.

In small batches, pour the soup mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree back to the soup pot and bring to a slow simmer.
Add the diced chicken breasts and the 1/4 cup fresh cilantro.
Add an 11 ounce can of drained and rinsed black beans and one 11 ounce can of drained golden hominy.
Squeeze juice of 1/2 fresh lime. Let the soup return to a simmer and it’s ready to serve.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with grated cheddar, chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado and tortilla strips. Serve with a slice of lime on the side.