Fri, 10/09/2020 - 8:34am

Mind Your Elderberries

A tale of Beagles and botanicals at a very special national specialty

Back in February, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, BIGMICHAEL, through his lifelong interest in alternative holistic medicine / healing, ordered a massive supply of Brazil nuts and dried elderberries for making syrup. He put the Brazil nuts in a large, clear apothecary jar and placed them on the counter in the smaller of our two kitchens. He then proceeded to process his elderberries.


2 cups dried organic elderberries

4 cups cold water (spring water works best) “Thank God we have spring water!

2-3 tsp. organic dried ginger root

1 organic sweet cinnamon stick

1 cup raw, local honey – “It pays to be a beekeeper!”

1 cup of vodka to increase shelf life – “Now this makes perfect sense – how about 2 cups? Let’s see! What could I do with an extra cup of vodka??? Hmm.”


1. Combine berries and herbs with cold water in pot and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer 30 to 40 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and let steep 1 hour.

4. Strain berries and herbs using a funnel overlaid with doubled cheesecloth or undyed cotton muslin bag and squeeze out liquid (careful, liquid will likely still be hot!). Discard used herbs in compost.

5. Once liquid has cooled to just above room temperature, add honey and stir to incorporate.

6. If using vodka, add here and stir until well combined. (Just one cup!)

7. Bottle in sterilized glass.

“Sweetheart, I want you to take two, and, yes, only two, Brazil nuts per day, along with two to three tablespoons of elderberry syrup. This is going to boost your immune system and assist in the prevention of contracting COVID-19. And, remember, do not take more than two Brazil nuts per day. And, here is a jar of elderberry syrup for your refrigerator and remember to take it every day!”

“May I dare ask where you came up with this strategy?” I inquired, knowing full well I should have shut my damn mouth and trusted the delivery man. For the next hour, I received a comprehensive briefing.

“Well, COVID-19 enters the cells through the ACE2 receptor sites on the cell.” (I nodded my head as if I understood.) “Looking at a similar coronavirus, NL63, elderberry directly stops the attachment of that virus to ACE2, so it likely will do the same for COVID-19 as they are similar in structure and function. Blocking entry to cells blocks the survival of the virus! So, as your loving husband, just eat the damn nuts and take your elderberry syrup without question.”

“Okay, all right!” I laughingly agreed. “So what’s up with your nuts?” I wittingly egged BIG MICHAEL on.

“Don’t be a smart ass! Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which supports antioxidant activity that can help protect immune cells from damage. Just make sure you only eat two per day, and no more. Too much can cause a reaction.”

“Got it! No problem … two nuts and two tablespoons, every day.”

For the past eight months BIGMICHAEL has faithfully supplied me with my COVID-19 prevention treatment. Every three weeks so, he mixes up his brew, leaving the entire house with a narcotic, urine-like smell.

“Thank God you’re mixing that stuff with honey, cinnamon, ginger and vodka!” I proclaim each time.

“What am I going to do when I leave next Monday to judge (National Beagle Club)?” I ask BIGMICHAEL.

“You will be happy to know that I have ordered you individual packages of Brazil nuts, three in each pack and elderberry capsules. The capsules are not as good as my syrup, but it will hold you over until you get back home. It’s the best I can do.”

I begin to panic at the thought of altering my daily COVID-19 wellness treatment and not starting each and every morning with a shot of vodka. “Oh, well, I will have to make it work!”

Monday morning, September 21st, along with Black-Ballistic-Nylon-Rolling-Garment-Bag (B-B-N-R-G-B) and Black-Ballistic-Nylon-Mini-Man-Bag (B-B-N-M-M-B) containing four individual packets of three Brazil nuts each and a small container of elderberry capsules, I leave for Richmond International airport, via Charlotte, North Carolina, with Dayton, Ohio, as my final destination.

BUICK is parked. I double-check to make sure I have all necessary PPE – four face masks, three small bottles of hand sanitizer, eight pairs of surgical gloves, four individual Zicam adult nasal swab tubes, and two travel packages of Clorox wipes.

Fortunately, both my American Airline segments were upgraded, allowing for additional spacing needs and my morning vodka. Who knows, maybe they added elderberry juice to the selection? I ponder while locking up BUICK, putting on my face mask and gloves, and walking to the terminal.

B-B-N-R-G-B is dropped off, tagged and placed on the moving conveyor belt. “Good morning, MR.FAULKNER, it’s been a while since I have seen you. Welcome back!” SHAREEN the gate agent, whom I regularly see, enthusiastically exclaims.

“Thanks, SHAREEN! This is my first show in eight months. I am both excited and apprehensive at the same time. I’m loaded up with PPE and BIGMICHAEL’s holistic treatment.”

“Well, if his treatment is half as good and tasty as your honey, you are going to be just fine!” SHAREEN offers with a wink.

Several years ago, I was traveling and brought two jars of my raw honey as a gift. I check B-B-N-R-G-B, forgetting to put the honey in. The jars were too large to carry on (liquid requirement), so I left them with SHAREEN for her personal enjoyment.

Turning left from the ticketing counter, I move toward Terminal A, Gate 6. There is no one in the TSA Pre-Check line. I hand over my driver’s license. “Thank you, MR. FAULKNER! Please lower your mask for me. Okay, great … have a great day!” B-B-N-M-M-B is placed on the moving belt and sucked into the TSA screening machine. I walk through the detection device, no alarm, and wait for B-B-N-M-M-B to come through the opposite end. She slowly moves forward and just when I think I’m in the clear, she is sucked back in the machine for another look and pulled to the side for manual inspection. “Crap! What the hell could be in there?”

“Is this your bag sir?” MR. TSA (tall, gruff-looking man appearing to be in his mid-70s) asks. “Yes, it is” is all I muster. He starts by unzipping her many compartments and violating her privacy. At times, I want to turn my head in shame, but stay focused on the task at hand. MR. TSA slowly removes item after item from the bag, mumbling the names of the contents as he places them on the table next to the bag – “Brazil nuts, Zicam, Clorox wipes, gloves, face masks, pens, keys, cell phone, elderberry capsules, measuring tape” – he pulls the tab of the small tape-measuring device for drama, as if questioning what I use it for – “wallet, phone charger … Ah ha – here it is – a wine-bottle opener. I’m sorry, this little guy will have to stay with me.”

“No problem, it’s been eight months since I have flown, and I forgot it was in there.” I offer in defense of my criminal deed.

The two flights are on schedule, uneventful, and I am thankful that AMERICAN AIRLINES requires everyone to wear masks at all times, and offers disinfectant wipes to every passenger as they board.

We land in Dayton 20 minutes earlier than scheduled. Luggage is collected and I walk across the street to the parking area to collect ALAMO and make the short 30-minute journey to the Holiday Inn / Roberts Centre (show location).

My room for the next three nights is #205. Off the elevator, to my right, then left, to the fourth door on the right. I settle in, unpack, organize my toiletries in the bathroom, my PPE on the desk, and my Brazil nuts and elderberry capsules next to the coffee and tea station. Take-out dining is ordered from MAX & ERMA’S (hotel restaurant) and I settle in for the night.

My dear friend VICKI S-C judged the sweepstakes classes today and continues in the morning, prior to my start at 10:45. The best part – I will be able to spend a few quality minutes with her over lunch before she leaves.

At 9:20 DROID signals that I have received a new text message from Show Chairperson - LSANTINI (whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting). “Good morning!! We are about halfway done with Veteran sweeps. Hope your flight was good and your night restful? (heart emoji).”

“Yes, thank you! Getting some eggs and see you soon” is my response.

I begin judging on schedule and complete the day by judging the Junior Puppy Classes, Best Junior Puppy, Junior Handling, all 15 Inch Dog Classes, Winners Dog and the Veteran Dog Classes.

Upon completion, LSANTINI gifts me with a red and white tote bag filled with several gluten-free items for in-room enjoyment.

I re-enter #205, undress, immediately shower, and like a kid on Christmas morning start foraging through the red and white gift bag. Gluten-free snacks – both savory and sweet, pens, hand sanitizer and to my wondering eyes a bottle of liquid. I lift it out of the bag and examine closely. Not your normal judge’s gift-bag bottle of water or cheap wine. “LSANTINI – we are connected on a deep metaphysical level!” I blurt out while examining a bottle of elderberry juice. “How in the hell did she know?” I ask. I immediately send her a text message: “You made my day with the elderberry juice. I will explain tomorrow.”

Her reply: “I believe in Eastern medicine, too, though I have been a nurse for 30 years.”

I tear open the small packet of three Brazil nuts and unscrew the top off the bottle of elderberry juice. Slowly, I chew the nuts, swallow, and follow with one-third of the bottle of elderberry juice. I am grateful for another healthy day and another opportunity to do what I LOVE! And thanks to DR. BIGMICHAEL and LSANTINI, I did not have to travel to India to meditate transcendentally and personally wade in the Ganges to discover my COVID-19 regimen, or scour the Ohio Valley for elderberries.



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