Mid-Lent Update

Sundays, as we all know, are not counted among the forty penitential days of Lent. I now have it on good authority that Sunday is “the longest day of the week”, beginning at vespers on Saturday and ending at matins on Monday morning. It sounds Jesuitical, but I don’t make the rules. With respect to my self-imposed blogfast, it is therefore permissible not only to blog on Sundays, but to blog on Saturdays after vespers. What time is vespers? There is no set time, I was told, but Wikipedia says it is traditionally held between the tenth hour (4pm) and the twelfth hour (6pm), before natural light is extinguished – i.e., sunset. Here in California it is presently just after ten o-clock on Saturday morning. That means I have six more hours of blogfasting today. However, it seems pretty clear that I have stored up an extra sixteen hours of “Sunday” time due to not blogging at all the past two Saturdays after vespers. In the spirit of making up for the oversight I offer this mid-Lent update from Saint Isidore Ranch.


I enjoyed pruning the fruit trees this year. Jonathan, my oldest, helped with this project and seemed to catch on pretty well. Pruning trees can be frustrating because there is so much subjectivity involved. You start out with a general idea of what you want the tree to look like – bowl-shaped with sunlight in the interior, interference with fruit minimized, water shoots removed, productive branches directed properly, etc. – but you quickly discover that your tree cannot be made to look like the model in your head. Very often you need to decide which one of two or three productive branches should be removed. If you remove this one, you end up with one set of problems. If you remove that one, you end up with another set of problems. And so on. Sometimes there is no easy answer. Sometimes you just need to flip a coin. That makes teaching difficult. Pruning fruit trees seems to be one of those things that is impossible to “teach” and just has to be absorbed.

In other orchard news, they say that peaches need to be sprayed twice during the dormant season: once around Thanksgiving, and once around St. Valentine’s for various diseases and pests. I missed the November application and fear another infestation of boer worms this year. However, I just applied the fixed copper fungicide for peach leaf curl, which was pretty easy for 150 small trees.


Our goats are still in the hills with some friends, where they were bred last November. They are now nice and pregnant. In preparing for their return LeXuan and the children spent one day this month painting the barn (which was somehow forgotten after construction). And last week, the boys got out their rakes and shovels and wheelbarrow and gave the barn a good cleaning. Before the goats return I need to put in new panels and spray the fenceline again. This year we could be milking three or four goats every day, which means we’re going to have to make a lot more cheese. It will be nice to drink fresh goat milk again: we’ve all missed it.


Some advice for those suffering with the stomach flu:

1. After vomiting, you will be thirsty. Don’t drink anything if you can help it. Water will not help you. It will not quench your thirst. Your stomach will not pass it. Nor will the water you drink be distributed through your body’s natural hydration system. The water will sit in your stomach and cause painful cramping and bloating, only to be expelled again in a very unpleasant manner. Rather, have a bowl of ice cubes on the bedstand, or if you are not strong enough to reach the bedstand, place the bowl by your pillow, and suck on these ice cubes very slowly, one at a time.

2. Have two large, empty containers close at hand – one on each side of you. Sometimes you will not be able to turn over fast enough, and sometimes turning over is by itself enough to induce more vomiting.

3. Don’t worry about not eating for a few days. But if you think you might be capable of holding something down, avoid dairy products, especially ice cream. A little bit of applesauce watered down with ice cubes in a cup is a good start.

4. Remember that some people live with this kind of misery every day. Offer your sufferings up to God for them, that they might have some relief.

5. Give thanks for the kind and loving woman who checks in on you from time to time – for her touch, her voice, her sympathy, her tenderness. Remember that many suffer without even this much consolation.

6. When you begin to recover, don’t be fooled. You feel good now, but if you eat that whole meal in front of you and drink that big glass of apple juice it will start all over again. Take it very slowly. Continue to avoid dairy products for a few more days.

7. You will lose 5%-10% of your body weight before the week is over. Every cloud has a silver lining, eh?


Late last year I finally had to quit drinking coffee due to a condition I had been developing for some time. As it turned out, quitting coffee not only eliminated my reflux problems, but also eliminated my heart palpitations (along with other strange “twinges” in my chest) which had been getting progressively worse. The reflux problem was not caused by the caffeine – drinking decaf didn’t help – but was caused by some other ingredient in the coffee. The palpitations, on the other hand, were a caffeine issue.

I’ve always been a coffee lover, so eliminating my daily coffee fix has been a difficult thing to accept. I tried substituting green tea for a while, but never really enjoyed the taste and found that it didn’t much agree with my stomach. I also tried a a coffee substitute called Pero: it doesn’t bother me but it doesn’t have much flavor at all. I have to drink it with cream and sugar, even though I seldom ever used cream and sugar in real coffee. While doing a little research I came across this article, which seemed to explain my dilemma perfectly. The article promotes a product called Teeccino, a “caffeine-free herbal coffee” that isn’t really coffee. It sounded good, so I placed an order. I have to say that it fits the bill. It approximates the taste of coffee pretty well (although it doesn’t have the “bite” that I’m used to) and has a delightful aroma while brewing. If you need to give up coffee, Teeccino is the way to go.


I find these things laying around the house in the most interesting places. Fortunately they make great coasters!


I wasn’t going to do a Lenten blogfast this year – it would have been the first time ever – but I now I am sure it is necessary.  I have removed two posts because, quite honestly, I’m just too cranky these days to write well. My apologies to Zach and Jim Curley whose comments were deleted along with the blog entries.  May God give you all a holy and profitable Lent!