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.