Coffee…and Changing Times

Coffee Makin’s

So a friend wrote in passing about making cold-press coffee (all the rage these days), which reminded me that I’d learned how to make the stuff years ago…and caused me to wonder if you couldn’t make it very simply in a French press. I mean, think about it: rather than having to filter it through a Melitta or other type of filter, all you’d have to do is push the French press’s filter down…et voilà.

The idea is to measure out your ground coffee into a pot or carafe. Pour in the amount of water you’d usually dispense into the pot. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. Then, in the morning, run this slurry through a coffee filter (a Melitta filter would work well) and zap a cupful in the microwave. Or serve it as iced coffee.

But why not use a French press?

So I tried it. And by golly! It REALLY works!

The French press plunger did a fine job of filtering the brew. The result is a strong but also mellow cuppa. Very successful. Very easy. And exactly zero coffee-puttering chores in the morning.

There’ll Be Some Changes Made…

And in other precincts, other kinds of changes are majorly under way.

The covid-19 flap has inspired some serious revisions in the way business is to be done here at the Funny Farm.

Number one entails “Mormonizing” the approach to buying and storing food. I do not intend ever to find myself without necessary food and household supplies as a result of panic buying, whether the public panic is justified or not. After this I intend to have a bare minimum of three months’ worth of food and supplies in the house; preferably more like six. Or better: a year’s worth.

Costco now has paper goods back. This week I contrived to score a package of paper towels and a package of toilet paper, ô hallelujah! A package of Costco paper towels has 12 generous rolls (that are NOT loosely wound so as to make it look like there’s more on the roll than there really is… (Never buy Safeway PT’s!!). I figure that barring a major mess to clean up, one roll of paper towels lasts at least a week or ten days. To be on the conservative side, then, one package of Costco paper towels should last 12 weeks, or three months. In reality: probably longer.

So, in the stockpiling department, I figure if you can get two Costco  paper-towel packages on hand, you have enough to last six months. So the plan is to send the Instacart crew off  to Costco again to grab (among other things) one more package of PT’s, guaranteeing a six-month supply. Then, as the first 12-roll bag begins to dwindle toward two remaining, buy another bag. This would mean (in theory, barring another national catastrophe) at any given time I would have no less than a three-month supply. And if the things didn’t show up on the shelf over a period of three to six months…well…paper towels would be the least of our problems.

A Costco bag of toilet paper contains 30 rolls, which for me is effectively a lifetime supply. Same idea, though: start with two bags full, and as the first 30 dwindle down to around 15, get another package. In that case, you’d never have less than a bagful and a half: 45 rolls.

Grocery store shelves here are still half-bare, and many necessaries are unavailable. At Amazon, though, I managed to find a 2-pound bag of King Arthur brand yeast (King Arthur is about the best in the baking-products industry), which should arrive here in another couple of days. That will go straight into the freezer. Also contrived to buy some more flour.

And therein lies another covid-inspired Big Change: discovered that the bread I can make in my own kitchen, even the simplest version, is far better than even the very best, fancy, European-style bread from AJs. So that will improve the lifestyle, and at the same time save a bit of cash: those fresh-baked French- and Italian-style loaves ain’t cheap.

In the bread-making department, the other thing I wanna do is get a smaller, brand-new, un-greasy propane grill that I can use exclusively as a baking oven. The countertop oven DOES work to bake a loaf of bread. However, its capacity is limited. And, in keeping with a friend’s suspicion of the things as a potential fire hazard, every time I use it for anything other than toasting a piece of bread, I unplug it and drag it out of the garage and into the kitchen, where I can keep an eye on it all the time it’s baking the bread. The proposed propane “oven” could also be used to bake casseroles — again, the countertop oven will do that, but I ain’t lettin’ the thing mumble away to itself out in the garage while that’s going on. If this second propane grill were used only for baking bread and casseroles, it would never get greasy and so would go quite a long time without having to call the BBQs Galore guy out here to work on it. And it would save on hassle factor.

And also, in the prepping for catastrophe department, my present propane grill doesn’t have a stovetop-type burner on it. A couple of the small ones of the sort I propose to use as a bread oven do have them. If the power goes out for any length of time, the gas stovetop won’t work — to protect us from our idiot selves, gas stove burners now no longer will come on unless the sparker inside the unit is functioning…and of course, the sparker runs on electric. In that case, you couldn’t even heat a pot of water in this house, unless you have portable propane camp stove. Or a grill with a side burner.

Le Shopping

Another change in the strategies for daily living that I think will become permanent is what we might call the Shopping Mode. I’ve learned a lot about shopping with Instacart and through Amazon. My guess is that about 90% to 95% of the things you can buy that are not fresh meat or fresh produce can be had remotely. Some of this 90% would be a bit of a PITA to acquire online or through runners. But that would still leave maybe 85% to 90% of groceries and sundries shopping that need not be done in person.

So first, I’m going to sit down and think through, in a systematic way, about what items are best purchased in person — and where, and about what items can be ordered up online. Then make lists of what to get, where to get it, when to get it, and how to get it.

Of course, you have to pay extra for stuff you have delivered…BUT…my guess is you’d save that much in gasoline alone. I have yet to purchase a full tank of gasoline since the covid scare started! Back in March. Right now the Annoying Venza still has half-a-tank of gasoline, and I’ve only been to the pump once in all this time.

This will change the vendors that I use routinely. Alas, I fear, the beloved AJ’s is going away. Fry’s may, too: it’s a long drive from here to get to an upscale outlet. Meat and household goods will come from Costco; fill in with household stuff from Target, Fry’s, or Amazon. Fresh vegetables and fruits from Sprouts.

And in the fresh produce department, I’m going to get a whole lot more serious about growing vegetables. I think I’ll buy a couple of raised vegetable beds or large that are deep enough to accommodate root vegetables. Chard grows magnificently here, and I love the stuff. So that will be Crop #1. The tomato plants in back already have ten or twelve tomatoes ripening. The ones in front, not so much: they’re kinda stunted. I think that may be the soil, which is hard as a rock. That can be remedied with some compost and a man with a strong back. I’ll ask Gerardo to set the cousins to digging a few bags of Lowe’s best compost into that dirt out there, and while they’re at it, put them up to improving the drip system in that flowerbed.

Then I could have chard, possibly spinach (or not: it tends to struggle here), several varieties of leaf lettuce, carrots, beets, chives, little green onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, possibly some new potatoes, possibly yellow onions. Most of these (except the peppers, tomatoes, & eggplant) grow only in the winter here, but it’s mighty easy to blanche and freeze any of them. Interestingly, even tomatoes can be frozen…who knew?

One of my friends has gotten artichokes to grow here (though they do a lot better in a coastal climate like Salinas’s or Hollister’s) — that might be worth a try. She also gets blackberries to grow in gay profusion…exactly how escapes me, but I intend to ask her. Apparently blueberries will grow here, too.  Looks like more trouble than it’s worth, though. Apples and pears used to grow at the ranch (which was up on  the Rim), but I believe the Valley is too hot for those.

And finally in the produce department: I may start buying most or all of my produce at farmer’s markets. A thriving farmer’s market does business in the parking lot of a church just east of the ’Hood. I could almost walk over there, though hauling stuff back here would be a chore. That’s assuming the market revives after the covid scare dies down.

Then there’s the wine cellar scheme: Get two crates of wine: one of reds and one of whites. Total Wine will sell you a nice boxful of wine with cardboard separators (i.e., a crate) and let you choose which ones you’d like for the contents. I think they give you a discount if you buy 12 bottles. These get stored in the closet of the spare bedroom/storage room, which is nice and cool even in the dead of summer. Then, when I use up a bottle of wine, I replace it with a new single purchase, so that at no time will this stash be down more than two or at most three bottles.

Come the Apocalypse, at least I’ll be able to stay drunk through it.

My son’s strategy, in the wine department, is boxed wine. And I hafta admit, he has found a brand whose deliciousness rivals the fine $9/bottle vintages I favor. That would be a simpler strategy — a box of red and a box of white, at any given time. I’ll have to think through the logistics of that: how to keep from (horrors!!) running out.

Kilt-Lifter, my current preferred beer, can be had at a ridiculous discount by the case from Costco. This stuff, too, could be stored in the “wine cellar.”

So that would make some significant changes in day-to-day and long-term ways of doing business here at the Funny Farm.

Even though setting up a garden is expensive at the outset, if you grew that much produce and froze it, over time you’d save a fair amount on grocery bills. And on gas: because most of my grocery junkets are occasioned by the need for fresh produce (I eat a lot of it), over the long term I’d make a whole lot fewer trips to grocery stores. Same is true if I walked to the farmer’s market every Saturday.

Meat would have to be purchased in person…but if you’re buying lifetime supplies at Costco and freezing it, you’d only need to go up there about once every two or three months. Same would be true of household supplies: you could probably cut the Costco junkets by 30% to 50% by not buying produce there.

Wine? Beer? Same thing: If you had a stash in-house, there would be no reason to buy booze at Costco more often than about once every two or three months. And that is stuff you can send Instacart to get. So really, you’d never make a trip to Costco or Total Wine to buy wine or beer: you could have the Instacart runners replenishing your supply every few weeks, as you go through a bottle or three.

And of course household products such as paper towels, TP, laundry and dish detergent, and the like, could also be picked up from Costco by Instacart runners.

So you’d do a whole lot less driving, on a permanent basis. If you actually walked to a farmer’s market or to a reasonably close-by supermarket, you’d get extra exercise during the cooler months (couldn’t do it at this time of year, hereabouts!). That would cut not only your gas bill but your car insurance: mine was already reduced by 15% this year. If I could show a lot lower mileage overall, they’d probably make that a permanent cut.

You’d get more exercise with the gardening, too. So overall, these kinds of activities would probably help improve your health, as well as your bank balance.

Interesting outcome, isn’t it?

Learned from the Covid Plague…

So…what have you learned from your experience with the Covid Confinement and Overall Hysteria? Hereabouts, I have learned a lot these past couple of months, locked up in my house as though I were in Leavenworth’s solitary confinement row. Other than to walk the dog, I’ve been out of my house…what? twice? maybe three times since the first of April.

You wouldn’t think an inmate would gain much insight from just sitting around for day after day after day. But…to the contrary: a number of revelations have dawned, some small but a few large enough to make significant lifestyle changes.

For example…

  • Very possibly we gad around a lot more than we need to. I’ve bought a third of a tank of gas since the first of March. We’re eight days into June — more than three months later! — and my car does not need a refill.

Normally I buy gas about once every 10 days to two weeks.

  • The prepper strategy of storing up to a year’s worth of food and household supplies is not so crazy, after all.

As things get back to normal (if they ever do), I intend to store up at least three months’ worth and preferably more like six months’ to a year’s worth of nonperishable and frozen food, wine, and cleaning supplies.

Also, buy a case of your favorite wine, beer, soda pop, bottled water, or whatever. Keep it full: as you use one bottle, buy another to replace it.

  • Delivery services such as Instacart are awesomely wonderful, despite occasional lapses. If you plan your shopping carefully, these folks could help you to avoid boring trudges to grocery stores and Costco altogether once life returns to normal.

Their main drawback, for people who like to cook and to eat healthy foods, is that their runners apparently eat like most Americans do — out of boxes, cans, bags, and jars, or largely at restaurants — and so they have no clue how to select fresh produce.

A secondary drawback is that Instacart charges you more than in-store prices. Thus the privilege of having someone trudge through a store and then drive your purchases to your front door costs you a whole lot more than just the cost of Instacart’s chintzy tip to employees. There are times when this cost is richly worth it: if entering a grocery store entails risking your life, obviously a few extra bucks is not a barrier. And when you reach your dotage and are in no condition to traipse around a store that covers more than an acre — such as Costco — you would be well served by spending a bit more to get someone else to do the chore. It’s still a lot cheaper than selling everything you own to buy into a life-care community… But do be prepared to slip the runner an extra tip: they are not paid enough!

  • Use caution with Amazon.

Many of the vendors on Amazon gouge during a panicky period, even when the products they’re selling are plentiful and easy enough to buy in brick-and-mortar stores.

  • In a prolonged shopping panic, your pet’s favorite food is likely to be in short supply.

Especially if you have a picky cat, always have a substantial store of your pet’s food on hand.

  • So are basic products needed for at-home cooking, such as flour, yeast, salt, coffee, tea, chicken or beef broth, and the like.

Always have an ample supply of these on hand. Keep flour and yeast in the freezer. If you usually have one box, bag, or package of these, you should have two on hand.

  • Keep twice as much of any given staple as you would ordinarily buy.

For example, your pantry should have two boxes of salt, not one; two bags of flour, not one; two packages of pasta, not one…and so on to infinity. As soon as you run out of the first box and open the second box of, say, salt, buy a new second box next time you run to the store…so that you always have an extra supply of any staple product.

  • Same is true for household maintenance supplies.

Keep an ample supply of paper towels, toilet paper, dish detergent, laundry detergent, dishwasher tabs, window cleaner, toilet cleaner, and hand soap on hand at all times. Do not wait for these things to run out before restocking.

  • Keep your car’s gas tank topped up at all times, emergency or no emergency.

Never let it get below about 1/3 full.

  • If you cook on a propane grill, always have on hand at least three bottles of propane, and keep them full. Remember that if power fails, a backyard grill or hibachi may be the only way to cook food.

Don’t leave a bottle sitting around empty waiting to be refilled whenever you get around to it. Schlep it to the propane place as soon as it’s empty.

  • Keep fit with regular exercise, whether it’s walking, running, in-home workouts, or yoga.

If you’re allowed out of the house, bicycling and roller-skating are good strategies, too.

  • Be sure to keep adequate supplies of OTC meds on hand, as well as bandages, antiseptics, and antibiotic ointments. Same with medicaments for your pet.

You don’t want to run out of aspirin, Band-Aids, antacids, or allergy pills during a time of shortage.

  • You really should have a vegetable garden, no matter how minimal.

This does not have to be a big production. A few medium-sized pots on an apartment balcony will allow you to grow tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and chard. If you have room, a two- or three-foot deep box will accommodate carrots, beets, turnips, even potatoes.

  • Have a hair style that doesn’t have to be trimmed frequently.

How can I count the ways that that I’m glad I let my hair grow long? When shoulder-length hair grows halfway down your back, what happens is…nothing. You just have long, spectacular hair.

There are going to be some serious changes in the way day-to-day business is done here at the Funny Farm. None of them, on its own, will be earth-changing. But taken together, they should add security and make life a lot simpler the next time a crisis lands on us.

What changes are you making, long-term, based on your covid-19 adventures?

The Great Freezer Renovation Project…

Welp, yesterday I spent the afternoon shoveling out and cleaning the Funny Farm’s two freezers and inventorying the existing store of frozen foods. The stocking-up project has worked pretty well, so far. Got both the refrigerator freezer cabinet and the big chest freezer in the back of the house emptied out, cleaned through and through, and then repacked and organized sanely.

There was a lot more stuff in there than I realized. My son had bought a pork shoulder from Costco when I asked him to retrieve dog food makings. Lordie! HUGE!!! Once this was cut up and a chunk of it converted into dog food, I still was left with at least seven pounds of pork. Alas, though, only one package of boned chicken thighs remains, so somehow I’ll have to extract three more double-packets of those from Costco…or find a way to fake it. In addition, there’s one roll remaining of Freshpet dog food — figure I’d better get two more of those, which I can raid from Fry’s or AJ’s.

The dog food also contains a Costco “Normandy style” veggie mix and a cup of oatmeal — only about 1/3 package each of those remains. These, though, are easy to retrieve from Costco. Apparently the rationing applies mostly to paper goods and meats.

The situation with the human protein sources looks much better:

  • 7 pieces of steak
  • 2 1/2-racks of barbecued spare-ribs
  • 1 piece frozen cod
  • 12 pieces frozen salmon
  • 5 servings frozen shrimp
  • 3 servings frozen scallops
  • and a package of frozen mussels that, when steamed, will probably make at least two and possibly even four servings.

So that stash represents the backbone of 31 or 32 main meals. If I follow through with my plan to alternate vegetarian days with meat/fish days, said stash could in theory last about two months.

Then we have…

  • 3 pounds of butter, frozen
  • 12 pounds(!!!!!) of white and whole-wheat flour, plus about 1/3 pound imported Italian flour
  • much, much, MUCH more frozen veggies than I thought could possibly be in those freezers

Turns out there’s a small bonanza of frozen spinach, scattered among several packages. Dumped it all into one large Ziplock bag, and it just about filled the thing chuckablock full. There’s also about 8 to 10 servings, all told, of corn and peas, plus about 1/3 bag chard. To say nothing of the chard and lettuce and tomatoes growing in the yard…

LOL! I also found a treasure trove of home-made ice packs. Apparently every time I sprain something, I make a new ice pack, rather than bestirring myself to search for one that’s already in the freezer. Whenever I stumble back to normalcy, I toss the new ice pack into the back of the freezer. 😀

What can I say??? Some of these, I threw out (or, if they contained washcloths, deconstructed and laundered). Just put away enough to cope with the next little disaster.

So. There was whole lot more stuff in there than I expected. On Wednesday I’ll make a Costco run and hit the front door as they open (Costco restocks on Mondays and Tuesdays, meaning Wednesday is the optimal shopping day there). I’ll grab what I can to try to bring the dog-food makings up to snuff, and also try to score at least a rack of lamb, if nothing else. I understand they’re rationing paper supplies and meat. Then at the Fry’s on the way home, I’ll try to grab two or three more large rolls of Freshpet dog food for the hound…one of those lasts her about 12 days, so a total of three in the freezer would be almost 40 days’ worth of Fake Food for her, not counting about 7 weeks’ worth of real food (…assuming I can snab 3 double-packages of chicken from Costco). Even if I can’t, that kind of low-end chicken cut is the sort of thing you find in Mexican markets, so I may be able to nail the chicken from El Rancho.

Okay, that will give me about three months’ worth of meals for myself, about…what?…eight or ten bread loaves for myself, and during the summer when things are growing, easily three to four months’ worth of veggies.

So it looks like in the short run, rather than perishable foods what I really need to stash are beans, rice, pasta, and household goods (paper products, cleaning solutions, shampoo & conditioner, soap, and the like).

LOL! Don’t Get Old, Kids!

Do not do what I have done
In the house of the setting sun…

😀 Whatever you say about dotage, you do have to allow that it gets funnier and funnier the the further you journey into the House of the Setting Sun.

Yesterday I wrote an entire post about the corvid  [SQUACK!!] virus. That would the the one that looks a lot like this fella…