COVID-19, AKA Coronavirus

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I’ve done two posts related to coronavirus, AKA COVID-19, and I’m sorry to say it’s time for a third. Let me get the basic message down right at the beginning: this is much worse than the mainstream media and government officials are telling you. Here’s why:
COVID-19 is highly infectious. The data from the Diamond Princess cruise ship is extremely valuable, as it was the only truly contained “experiment” we had. Before TPTB decided to repatriate people (the height of stupidity in my opinion), the infection rate was running around 12% to 13%. In 2018, a “bad” flu year, the infection rate for standard influenza was around 7%.
COVID-19 can be transmitted before people know they are sick and after they have apparently recovered. There’s a reason the quarantine periods are increasing. While the available data is hard to obtain, it looks as though the period of possible transmission may be as long as a month after recovery.
COVID-19 is undoubtedly much more widespread than is believed. The way it’s spreading outside China makes this clear. There is no question that pretty much every country in the world has asymptomatic individuals going about their daily activities and shedding the virus left, right and center. Part of the problem is that the symptoms are very similar to standard influenza: fever, cough, headache. The only way to find out for sure is to test specifically for COVID-19. In the US, to take one example, that means the specimens must be sent to the CDC – results take three to five days or more. And many people with flu symptoms aren’t coming in to get tested at all. The data suggests that there are plenty of infected people out there who think they have the flu when they actually have COVID-19. In addition, cases are showing up in people who have not traveled to China or been in contact with anyone who has. Since most of the world has gone right on traveling and holding large gatherings (like Mardi Gras coming up), I don’t think it’s going to get better.
COVID-19 probably has a higher death rate than the official statistics would have you believe. I’m particularly concerned about the data coming out of Iran, which suggests the death rate may be as high as 17%. Now, that may be because they simply haven’t identified all the positive cases, but please note that they started with two cases and two deaths. The latest report is 43 cases and eight deaths. The other worry is that the Iranian form of the virus may be a mutation that makes it more lethal.
Other important points:

  • There is no vaccine and if a vaccine can be developed, it will probably take 12 to 18 months.
  • A flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID-19.
  • You can catch this disease more than once and the second time around is typically much worse.
  • Men seem to be more susceptible by a ratio of five men to three women.
  • Older people (60 and up) are definitely more susceptible, more likely to develop complications and more likely to die. This is probably partly because they are also more likely to have other health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Mixed data on whether smoking increases susceptibility and whether Asians are genetically more susceptible.
  • So what can you do? The two most basic strategies are to bolster your immune system and practice “social distancing.” In other words, don’t travel, don’t go anywhere there are large groups of people (church – South Korea’s outbreak was clearly made worse by a superspreader who went to multiple church services; seminars; Mardi Gras; airports). Do practice good basic hygiene and I recommend you start wearing a mask out in public. Buy or make some elderberry syrup and stock up on vitamin C. Start taking both. Look for other sources of information than the mainstream media. This ain’t over yet and it is unquestionably going to get worse before it gets better.

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    Herbs for Coronavirus

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    Many spices have antiviral or antibacterial properties.


    I’m currently in the process of an inventory of my herbal medicine chest, considering the use of herbs for coronavirus. All the talk about coronavirus, or COVID-19, as it is officially named, has me double-checking various supplies. While I do collect, prepare and store various herbs every year, I don’t think I would call this a typical year. COVID-19 does increasingly seem to be much more infectious and serious than the mainstream media and government would have you believe. The kinds of things you might need for COVID-19 are similar to those I prepare and store every year for cold and flu viruses.

    One thing we’ll never run out of around here is blackberries.


    Blackberry Syrup – Of all the fruits we have on the ranch, the blackberry is empress (yes, that’s above the queen or even king). We have plenty of water sources and the fruits spread readily. Even in bad years, we can harvest hundreds of pounds. Blackberry has antimicrobial and anti-diarrheal properties. It’s good for many virus and cold symptoms.
    Elderberry Syrup – Not as numerous as the blackberries and much more popular with the birds, elderberries have specific antiviral effects. They are also an immune system booster and can hamper the ability of viruses to infect body cells.

    Horehound in the bucket, with Foghorn the Delaware rooster “helping” in the background.


    Horehound Cough Syrup – There’s a reason this is called cough and cold season. Many viral infections cause coughs. And should you develop pneumonia, which can be viral or bacterial, the cough can hang on for what seems forever. Those with asthma and allergies or who smoke may also have trouble with coughs. Because horehound helps liquefy lung secretions, it makes them easier to cough up. At the same time, it helps suppress coughs, so you cough less frequently but more effectively. It’s also a diaphoretic and febrifuge, meaning if you have a fever, it helps you sweat more effectively.
    Herbs for teas – Chamomile is effective for fevers. It can help with nausea and is very effective for conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Peppermint can help with nausea and indigestion, as well as headaches and clogged sinuses. It is anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory. Menthol, one of its active compounds, can also make your breathing easier. Menthol seems to affect airflow within the nasal cavities.
    Fire Cider – An old tonic to help boost the immune system. Because it’s loaded with antivirals and antibacterials like garlic, horseradish and citrus fruits, it provides extra protection during flu season. And it tastes good as a salad dressing or marinade.
    Yarrow – helps induce sweating (febrifuge) and stop bleeding. It can be used as a tea or powdered yarrow can be applied directly to a cut.
    Tea Tree Oil – can’t grow it here, so this is one I buy. Good disinfectant and anti-fungal.
    In the garden itself, I also have live evergreen herbs I can harvest as needed. Rosemary is anti-viral and good for indigestion. Other uses: febrifuge and gargle for sore throats. Thyme has antiviral properties. Eucalyptus stimulates the immune system and has antimicrobial properties.
    My herbal medicine chest – actually a drawer in the bedroom – should see me through until it’s time to harvest again. Here’s hoping these herbs for coronavirus work as well as they do for the garden-variety virus infections.

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    Old-Fashioned Cooking: Strawberry Tart

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    Come on, strawberries!


    In this modern-day-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and shove-it-in-the-microwave world, we often lose sight of what real food tastes like. Not too surprising, when you look at the ingredient lists on most prepared foods. Many so-called foods have more chemicals than food ingredients. I figure if you can’t even pronounce half the ingredients, you shouldn’t rely on it as a major food source. On the other hand, just think about beef stew or chili simmering slowly through the day, ready to warm the cockles of your heart – not to mention your cold hands – come dinner time. Or home-made breakfast burritos or Cornish pasties, stored in the freezer for those mornings when you can barely find the kitchen, let alone think up a menu.

    Since Henry the Eighth died in 1547, odds are he tried a recipe very similar to this one. Old King Hal being a notable trencherman, he may have eaten several at one sitting. I bet the strawberries of the Tudor period tasted a heck of a lot better than the stuff we currently find on supermarket shelves, though, so maybe we can understand Henry’s gluttony. Unless you grow your own old-fashioned strawberry varieties or can find some wild ones to eke out the supermarket kind, you’ll probably want to add a bit of sugar.

    Here’s the original recipe, from Margaret Parker’s A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, published in 1557.
    “To make a tarte of strawberyes.
    Take and strayne theym wyth the yolkes of foure egges, and a lyttle whyte breade grated, then season it up wyth suger and swete butter and so bake it.
    To make short paest for tarte.
    Take fyne floure and a cursey of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolckes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye. The coffyn must be fyrste hardened in the oven.”

    Strawberry Tart – The Modern Version
    2 ½ cups strawberries
    4 egg yolks
    2 slices of bread, grated to make breadcrumbs
    1 ½ cups brown sugar
    ½ cup unsalted butter (melted)
    For the pastry
    2 ¼ cups plain flour
    1 1/8 whole wheat flour
    7/8 cup butter, softened
    2 egg yolks
    2 tbsp water (warm)
    2 strands of saffron

    Place the saffron in the warm water and let it sit for five minutes. Sift the flours into a bowl and dice in the softened butter. Rub the butter into your flour with your fingertips. Beat the egg yolks and then add them to the flour with the saffron water. Mix until you have a soft, silky pastry. Add one or two spoonfuls of flour if it seems wet. Knead gently for a few minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Grease a large tart or flan tin. Prep the strawberries while the pastry chills – wash, hull and mash slightly with the brown sugar, breadcrumbs, melted butter and beaten egg yolks. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin, trimming edges. Line with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake about 10 minutes or until the pastry has dried. Remove the foil/paper and weights, pour in the filling and bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Cool before serving.

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