My Home Apothecary

Friday, I spent most of the day making capsules at our kitchen table. I have two capsule machines: size 0 [~500mg] and size 00 [~600mg]. With either of these I can make 24 capsules at a time. It is a slow process, but not difficult. It has allowed us to reduce our use of pharmaceuticals and improve our health dramatically. Back in September 2013, I reported about talking to my doctors about ginger and turmeric. I make those capsules. Sine I make them, I can add some black pepper into the turmeric capsules, which is an added bonus, not yet available off the rack at CVS. Turmeric is much better activated when combined with black pepper. This way, I don’t have to remember to add black pepper to every meal when I am taking turmeric.

I have managed to stay off Lipitor due to turmeric. With the turmeric and ginger, I have not had to have a Synvisc or cortisone injection in either of my knees for three years now. They were at the point of talking about replacement. They seldom bother me anymore. The site where the infection had eaten into my spine is totally clean and restored, as if nothing had happened there, according to the last MRI. This is what powerful, natural anti-inflammatories can do for you.

Capsule Making Machine
Capsule Making Machine

I also made 600mg cinnamon capsules and 500mg green tea capsules, Friday. These serve similar purposes. They both help regulate / reduce blood sugar and are powerful antioxidants to prevent cancer and other degenerative diseases. These take some careful choosing and preparation, however. There are a few different kinds of cinnamon. The most commonly available is Mexican (or Ceylon). The bark comes tightly rolled and smooth, with an orangey color. It has a relatively sweet flavor. So-called Saigon cinnamon looks like it is basically a transplanted cultivar of the Mexican. These are what virtually all of the ground spice in the stores are. That may taste great on your rice or snickerdoodles, but it is not what we want. It lacks the antioxidant potency of the Chinese bark (Cassia). The Chinese bark is darker brown. It does not curl up tightly in the drying process, and, most of the time, isn’t smooth. It takes some effort to break up the pieces. Be careful not to burn out your coffee grinder in the process of powdering it, like I did. This is why I now have this slightly more expensive Mr. Coffee grinder. It has a timer. I know I have to give it a rest after a 12-cup fine run, even though it’s going to take that twice to get my cinnamon fine enough to encapsulate. Another word about cinnamon; if you have Type AB blood, you are most likely allergic to it. Cinnamon actually helps lower blood sugar by helping the body to produce more insulin.

One would think it would be a simple matter of going to a food store and buying a box or tin of loose, green tea. Read the fine print! On my last trip to Assi Market, it took me over 20 minutes in the tea aisle before I found a box of simple green tea, nothing added, vacuum packed. It was from China by way of an Irish importer! Green tea has a range of benefits. It lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. It can lower blood sugar and improve the metabolism to digest and burn fat. This is especially important for those on a low carb diet. There is evidence that it is good for the brain to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It can help prevent stroke and congestive heart failure. No wonder there are so many Chinese!

From time to time, I also make coriander, to help the kidneys; and garlic, to fight a cold or infection. I’m allergic to at least six classes of antibiotics, so I have to do my own homework and do my best to stay healthy. Using herbs and minerals, I have managed to avoid knee surgery, and those expensive injections for years, and reduce the number of prescription medications I regularly use from six to two, while improving my cholesterol, and more importantly, ny inflammatory numbers. Plus, I lowered my A1c to the basement, no longer at risk for developing diabetes. Whereas, when they discharged me from the hospital a few years ago, I had diabetes from the kidney failure and steroids they had put me on to fight the Stevens Johnsons Syndrome. So I think the time and effort are worth it.

I have set up two men my age down on the street with capsule making machines. One went to a walk-in clinic with bad arthritis in his knees. He was handed a prescription for a medication that would cost almost $400/month. He came to me. He said, “What are these people thinking? I am coming to a free, walk-in, clinic. How do they suppose I am going to afford this much for their drugs?” He paid me $15 for a capsule machine and a starter supply of ginger and turmeric from our good, bulk supplier in Amish country. This set up cost The King’s Jubilee about $30. He wanted to pay. I gave him a low ball number. He will stick to it and do it, if it cost him something. Although, he is a serious person. I started supplying another man, who used to be homeless, who then volunteered with us, with ginger and turmeric and green tea capsules. This started after he disappeared for a couple of weeks. He reappeared and told me the reason for his absence was he ate a chocolate bar and it put him in the hospital. I got tired of making his capsules, so I gave him a machine and bulk spices. The next week he said, “That’s really hard work! You must really love me!” His daughter was able to stop her insulin after she started faithfully using the green tea and turmeric. He passed on the love!

40 Year Skillet Maintenance

When Bethann and I got married in 1975, we received Corning Ware Centura dishes with matching cookware that was supposed to be unbreakable, oven to freezer to microwave, last forever. We had four daughters, worked full time, rehabbed a couple of houses we were living in; exercised radical and exuberant hospitality and disproved that theory, or whatever it was. When those unbreakable pans hit the floor and broke, they shattered with panache! (Let it sink in. … OK … now ,,, both parts? groan?  Thanks.)

So we replaced the dished with cheap apple stoneware dishes for years. They take up too much room in our limited cupboards in our current old house, so we bought speckled enamel tinware in Amish country for our everyday plates. We can fit so many in our cupboards, we don’t need paper plates any more for parties. That’s right, the post is about skillets!

Back in 1975, we were given a set of three cast iron skillets. We have probably used at least one of them almost every day since. That set cost far less than a placesetting of our CenturaWare® or than one Corning® pan. Cast iron is superior to Teflon® for several reasons, the most significant of which is the production of it does not poison seals at the North Pole. If we had been given Teflon® pans, we wouldn’t be talking about them now. They would be long gone. Any bits we would have ingested would have been carcinogenic; whereas bits of cast iron pans are iron, which most people need in their diet.

Cast iron skillets take some basic maintenance. We wash them with hot water and steel wool. Then we put them on the stove with the flame on low to dry. Occasionally, if it looks too dry, we put a little olive oil in it while it is still hot and rub it around evenly with a clean rag or paper towel to re-season it.

After 40 years of use, your pan may look like this:

Medium Skillet with 40 year accretion of crud
Medium Skillet with 40 year accretion of crud on bottom

It was time to take action to restore this skillet, so it could continue to serve for another 40 years. It was simple, I took a spent oscillating cutter tool blade and scraped the accumulated charred crud off the bottom and outsides of the pan. Then I scrubbed it with steel wool and rinsed and repeated. Then I finished by scouring the bottom and outsides with comet and hot water with steel wool and rinsing thoroughly.

Almost done.
Almost done.
Good for another 40 years
Good for another 40 years

Now it should take less energy to heat and cook. It will distribute heat more evenly, like when it was new. So mark your calendars to do your 40 year maintenance on all your cast iron skillets. It works the same way for Dutch Ovens, too. With them, you could probably get away with 50 years, as there isn’t so much stovetop use.

This was one of my “sidetracks” from home repairs. I get in the mode of fixing things, then that mode sort of generalizes in me. I get sidetracked onto these little projects as breaks from the bigger ones. Not to worry, I did manage to finish replacing the fan in the upstairs bathroom.

I work on these projects and write about them to combat my severe depressive disorder and cPTSD. Maybe you find something helpful.

This house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



My 11 Step Program

Measuring pad to mark for center
Measuring pad to mark for center

It started with my wife and I deciding to change the color of the living room as our Christmas gift to each other. It is the gift that keeps on giving. The living room color determined the stairway color and upstairs hall, that is, since we changed the color of the woodwork. I had painted the steps before. I wanted them to hold up better this time. Bethann thought it would be nice to soften the noise a bit and make them easier on stocking feet.

Step painted & taped. 1 strip of paper to be removed yet.
Step painted & taped. 1 strip of paper to be removed yet.

Our house is old. Of course, this staircase is in the “new part” which was built in 1845 to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through Souderton.
It is narrow at 30″ at the bottom and less than 29″ at the top, in just 11 steps. We have 7′ ceilings. I had painted the first coat on the floor, before I decided the ceiling needed repainting. That white paint really drips! At any rate, I found a simple and economical solution in carpet pads at Home Depot. A pack of 13 sold for under $11. They came with no installation instructions. They were being sold near the large area rugs and window treatments, not near the stair runners. I found a pack. I wasn’t sure if they were dark olive or gray. The Home Depot is only a mile and a half away, so no big deal, if they ended up not looking right in the stairway. (It turns out, in context, they appeared to be dark olive.) Almost all of the tape at Home Depot or Lowe’s is in their paint departments, with certain exceptions. How consumers are supposed to keep track of all the ins and outs of capitalist, retailer, marketing manipulation, I don’t know. Half of the employees don’t know. They learn as they go, as training is minimal. So I went to the paint counter to ask where I could find a fairly agressive, double-sided tape. The man showed me to that expensive, thick 3M stuff, that never comes off, leaving a foam residue, or removing part of the substrate if ever removed. I told him that was too aggressive. I was taping down carpet pads. Gravity and regular foot pressure were on our side. He begrudgingly told me they sold carpet tape two aisles over, with the flooring, but that it was thin and not very aggressive. You could easily remove and reposition the carpet pads with that. He was disgusted as he said it. I said that sounds like just what I need!

While others were sleeping, I started at the top and worked my way down. I centered a pad and marked both ends’ location on the step with pencil. Then I painted up to those marks and roughly just within where the pad would go. Next, the tape was applied to the step. Then the pad was pressed into place. I did five steps one night and the remaining six a few days later.

Completed Step
Completed Step

My 11 Step Program was completed for a total cost of just under $20 plus the paint.

I am working on our house against hope and professional advice. We are facing foreclosure. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Re-use McCormick Pepper Grinders

We go through a lot of spices. I like to use fresh ground, black pepper. It is better for you and more tasty. We don’t have the budget or the space for those ornamental, high end pepper grinders, but to constantly be buying throwaways from McCormick isn’t that economical or ecological either. Here is a solution:

Easy way to refill a McCormick pepper grinder.
Warm the black plastic grinder top a little with a hair dryer.
This makes the plastic pliable enough that you can pull
the black plastic grinder top off the glass bottle with your
hands. To reattach push back on until it snaps over the
glass bottle lip.