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Once Upon a Fall

Fall beards. If you haven’t heard of this phenomenon yet, I’m sure you’re not alone. For some, it’s kind of a new thing. However, I will caution you against confusing the Fall Beard tradition with a current trend (think manbun). As long as I can remember, men in my family have grown beards in the fall, only to cut them off later in the year--some did so at the immediate end of hunting season (with no-so-silent urging from the wife), while others waited until spring. Still, year after year the beards showed up and disappeared as if on some sort of schedule.

This is the tale of one very lucky Fall Beard. This seasonal habit--or maybe a tradition if you want to split that hair--is the one that changed Eric’s life (and mine for that matter). In the fall of 2013, Eric’s Fall Beard is what drove him to formulate and bottle our first Mountaineer Brand beard oil. Eric said that he had always wanted to keep his Fall Beard, but eventually got frustrated and shaved it. Frustrated with what, you ask?  Frustrated with trying to make his beard look good. His beard became unruly after a while and he always ended up looking like he had been wrastlin’ a bar and pert-near wun (that’s WV speak for wrestling a bear and almost winning--that’d be one messy beard, huh?).

Beard oil was beginning to make its way to the market and there was a little bit of a buzz beginning to surround the beard trend and the accompanying beard oil market; the market, at the time, was very different than it is today. In 2013, there were only a few companies who were making and selling beard oils and conditioners and they were doing so at boutique prices, making this search for a solution to a bristly beard an uphill climb.

Determined to keep the beard, the exasperation and the economic constraints were just enough for Eric to focus his energy in another direction. In the end, he concluded that if given enough research and experimentation he could come up with a product that was every bit as good, or better than, any already on the market. So he did. What luck for everyone of us that Eric tends to be single-minded and focused when he makes a decision.

I saw a few articles that debated the merit of a Fall Beard; a few bearded gents weighed in on the pros while others chimed in on the cons. Of course, what it comes down to is preference (and that of your spouse or the one who has to kiss your face). But I would like you to consider this. Is it possible that a Fall Beard can be lucky? You tell me.   Mountaineer Brand sprang to life from this perfect storm of events and has been gaining speed since with no signs of slowing down. And to think, it all started Once Upon A Fall...

Our evolution from the baby steps in Eric's kitchen to our current space has been thorough and will never be complete. We are in a constant state of change. Some of the changes are easier to trace than others. Take a look at some of our first labels:

 

Without changing our labels from this, our first attempt, Mountaineer Brand would not be what you know it to be today.

After adopting our iconic logo (below), we added stories to our first 3 oils (Timber, Coal, and Barefoot). The labeling requirements left little room for the stories, but we're still fond of them.


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Farewell to Summer

It’s that time of year again. Time to put away the coolers, beach chairs, and sunscreen (just kidding, please keep using that). Time to get the kids ready to go back to school--or maybe they’re already there. It’s another season gone. Of course a new one is about to begin--it’s hard to forget since endless songs and poems remind us of seasons ending and beginning--but I’m not ready for fall yet. I want my goodbye to summer to last a bit longer. So I am taking a few extra minutes to say a proper goodbye.

See ya next year, dandelions. Dandelions are my favorite flowers. I don’t want to hear it from the Dandelions are weeds crowd; I’ve heard it all before and I have decided that it is an argument of semantics--and I refuse to participate. This is not a topic for discussion as Dandelions are the flowers of my heart. All of my own children and countless others have picked an endless number of Dandelions for me, both in single flower form and in bouquets, all of which were proffered with love and pride. And these same yellow beauties turn into wish machines later in their life cycle. I don’t know about you, but I believe in wishes. After all, what is more pure than a wish? What are wishes but hope and, if you believe in them, faith? This perfect flower is also a medicine, a food, and some have even made it into a wine. (Ask Mr. Mountaineer about his own Dandelion wine sometime). How much more perfect can one flower be? I will miss you my yellow sometimes pillow headed friends.

Farewell, long nights. This is hard to let go of. I spend all winter looking forward to the longer days. When the sun tucks itself in below the horizon at 4PM, I want to crawl under the covers too, and 4PM just isn’t a responsible time to go to bed. Not if you have kids who need fed and cared for. Summer is different. Summer is all about the sunshine, and I love sunshine! I think humans are just hardwired to enjoy the sunshine. Think about what happens physically when we expose our skin to sunlight. Our bodies go to work producing Vitamin D (a much needed vitamin for good physical and mental health). It just feels good. There is just something magical about warm summer nights; time seems to stretch itself out in a lazy sort of way--almost like a yawn. It justifies late bedtimes without the need for excuses. Until next year, my warm, lazy companion.

Godspeed, lightning bugs. Aren’t these extraordinary little things? All of these tiny, random twinkle lights sprinkled throughout the sky for what appears to be no other reason than to put a bit of spark in our summer nights. But did you know that lightning bugs, also called fireflies, occasionally sync their flashing? And that their lights can be yellow, green, or orange? And that this light is the most efficient light in the world? Maybe extraordinary doesn’t really cover it at all, but I enjoy their summer light show so thoroughly that I truly miss it when the curtain closes for another season. Take your final bow, tiny little miracles.

Adieu to the additional time available to spend with four of my favorite companions. I love spending time with my kids. I’m not going to put cake frosting and sprinkles on this and tell you that it’s all good times and laughter. My children have a way of plucking my nerves like no person should have the right to do without being tried for crimes against humanity. But the plucking is worth it--and not really all that frequent. Spending time with these incredible souls--crammed so full of ideas, thoughts, personality, hopes, questions, spirit, dreams, and who knows what else that they are absolutely bursting with an almost contagious vitality--is a privilege and an honor. When it comes to time, spending it with those you love the most is time spent wisely. I love summer for giving me more of it. Treat yourself well extra time; you deserve a rest.

See you on the flip side, garden veggies. When we were growing up, our dad used a good portion of our back yard for a garden. We grew all kinds of veggies: zucchini, squash, onions, corn, kale, chard, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes… there were actually quite a bit  more, but those are the ones I remember the most. It was like having your own private produce section. When my mother was about to prepare dinner, she would ask one of us to go to the garden and pick a zucchini or a squash, maybe a tomato, or all three. Just from the vine, holding these backyard garden crops felt like holding the sun itself. I liked to roll  them against my face and neck; it was like nuzzling the sun. (All fun and games until the thorns on a zucchini vine pricked me--but I still did it over and over again.) I don’t have a garden in my yard today, but I have friends and neighbors who bring me the extras from their own gardens and I visit the farmers’ markets as frequently as possible in order to get the season’s sampling of my favorite comfort foods. We’ll meet again next season, my lifelong companions.

That’s a bit better. I am still not quite ready to let go, but I do feel a bit more prepared. Of course, the season does have a few things that I will be glad to see put to bed for a while--biting bugs, overwhelming heat, humidity, sunburn… well, you get the idea; there is always a bit of bitter that comes with the sweet. As the weather cools and the leaves start to turn, I will begin to focus my attention on all of the wonderful things that the fall season brings and air will be charged with that certain something that is unique to autumn. That exhilarating, thrilling season is waiting for us all. What does it have in store for you?

Here are a few good links:

This site will tell you about the health benefits of Dandelions. There are quite a few.

As always, I have a good book to recommend: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. It’s about Summer and Dandelions. You’ll like it!

I can’t go making claims without backing them up, so click here to read about the how the sun is linked to Vitamin D production.

And those tiny little miracles? You really should read more about them. Facts about Fireflies

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SerendipiTEA

 

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m sure some of you are all… “tea? This is a beard blog,” but you’re going to miss the point if you are thinking “beard” every time you read one of our blogs, so let’s get it out there--I’ll just say it--Mountaineer Brand is about WAY more than beards. Our blog is about us--our Mountaineer culture, which happens to be expansive, eclectic, authentic and, quite frankly, a wild ride.

I have been enjoying this wild ride and I have been enjoying the twists and turns on he journey and I have had the pleasure of meeting so many people that I would have never met otherwise. I decided early on that it’s best to go with it and see where it takes me. Some of the best things that have ever happened to me have come into my life serendipitously. Tea is the most recent best thing.

I’m not talking about sweet tea, bottled tea, English tea, or anything that I had ever experienced before. Get those things out of your head right now: breathe in--think of freeing your mind; breathe out--and erase all thoughts of McDonald’s, country songs, dainty cups with pinkie fingers lifted, and bottled 7-11 drinks. Even still, you may not understand where I’m going… but go anyway; it’s fun. I know I’m on to something great because my 13 year old daughter rolls her eyes and does the whole elongated, sing-songy “Moooooommmm” thing when I talk about it.

Here’s how this happy happenstance that soon became my tea obsession entered my life. This spring when my family hosted 2 exchange students from Beijing, China, both students brought tea as gifts--so I’m thinking it might be a big deal, or the universe is trying to tell me something, or at the very least there is tea to drink. So I ordered some tea paraphernalia (I was not prepared for the world of REAL tea--I hate to admit that I was a pre-bagged tea drinker) and took my first steep.

I was so very unprepared for the life-changing event that this first cup of tea turned out to be. I can’t say for sure what kind of tea I drank first because it was labeled in Chinese characters and the only English I could find that identified the contents said “Green Tea.”  I can only say that I experienced what is an indescribable feeling I have since learned is known as  Cha Qi. Cha Qi, it turns out, is not something everyone believes in -- kind of like the Santa Clause of feelings. Now, I love Christmas, Santa is fun, Holiday Cheer… blah, blah, blah… but this is BETTER than Christmas. Humbug, you say? Try it before you dismiss it.

Since I’m very new to this experience, you’re going to get the pre-beginner’s guide to intro to tea 101 for dummies. I know very little other than my own experience, and I have yet to experience much in this new-to-me-ancient-to-the-world microcosm. However, everything I have experienced so far has been a thrill. And I know that “thrill” and “tea” don’t seem to go hand-in-hand, and I would never have believed it either but they really do. This is the part where I’m getting all impassioned and my 13 year old, with her impeccable sitcom-like-timing enters the room with her eyes cocked in pre-roll position ready to fire away with whatever she thinks will put me in my place the fastest.

I will save my passion for another blog (yes, there will be more). I have included what I think are a few good links at the bottom of the blog if you want to check things out on your own and I will give you the few basic things I have learned--some things to get you started.

Always smell your tea before you brew it. I mean really go in deep. If you can feel the smell, this is a tea that you want to drink. You aren’t going to know what I mean by feel the smell until you experience it, so stop judging and start smelling. Remember--deep. One word of caution. Don’t smell the teas that have a bunch of floaty things hovering over the tea when you open it- those tend to be the blends with things like mint and jasmine. They taste great, but not so much for inhaling.

If one cup of tea is good, two cups is better. Think of the first cup as a primer and the second cup (and beyond) as the real deal. The best part is you can use the same tea leaves, but get this, your second cup won’t be the same as your first; somehow it’s even BETTER. I don’t think it’s something that can be explained--it’s just the magic of tea. Just kidding, it has something to do with the tea leaves opening or something, but having that second cup is really an almost must.

Tea tastes better with friends. I had to share this incredible new thing I had found with anyone I knew would approach it with an open mind. I now have several fellow tea nerds in both my professional and personal lives; we can go on for hours about tea mountains and Puer. Maybe not hours. But we can go on for several minutes at least while we bliss out on a good tea. Don’t tell them I said so, but I’m thinking of turning my staff meetings into tea parties.

I’m still learning but I have miles to go before I sleep. I want to cram as much knowledge in my head as fast as I can. I will, however, for the wellbeing of those around me take it easy and enjoy the journey. I hope some of you will give it a try.

 

WebMD gives a few health benefits of Green Tea here

This site provides a lot of useful info. Start here for a history of Green Tea in China.

Finally, I read a good fiction book that is not about tea exactly, but is a good read and brings you right into the Tea Mountains of China. Lisa See, "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane." Amazon.com is my go-to for books. Check it out here

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The Agony of De-Feet: Keeping your feet pretty and pain free

“Left foot, Left foot Right foot, Right. Feet in the morning. Feet at night.” -Dr. Seuss

As important as our feet are, far too many people neglect the basic care and maintenance needed to keep your feet not only looking good (somewhat important, depending on who you are) but also feeling good (very important no matter who you are). Don’t agree with the latter? Then perhaps you’ve never properly stepped on a lego lying in wait or experienced any number of foot-related injuries to their fullest. If you have not,  you’re lucky-- also, I don’t believe you.

When your feet are in pain, your whole body is in pain. Of course certain injuries cannot be avoided simply by caring for your feet. Even the most beautiful toe can get ninja kicked by furniture in a dark room--all you have to do is walk in the dark in a room with a single piece of furniture; apparently that’s enough of a taunt to rile the furniture into action--so watch out. You can, however, ward off many things with just a bit of basic foot care.  

Don’t laugh at this suggestion. Or do laugh… but I’d be willing to bet that some people don’t actually do it. WASH YOUR FEET. Yep. Wash your feet. This does not mean to simply allow the soapy water from the shower to wash over your feet; yes, there is soap and water involved, but come on, that’s not washing. Not to mention nasty! Wash between your toes and get the bottom of your feet. Use a washcloth or sponge--just about anything will do. Be sure to DRY YOUR FEET WELL (and between your toes) when you’re done. Both washing and drying  at least once a day helps prevent Athlete’s Foot and other foot funk related things caused by bacteria and fungus.

WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES. Take it from anyone who has worn the wrong size just because they were the “perfect shoes.” It’s NOT worth it. Size does matter. So back it up even further to this tip--BUY THE RIGHT SHOES. Make sure you know what size you wear and try shoes on; not all shoes are created equally. Also, try to go shoe shopping at the end of the day when your feet are at their worst. If you try them on after a day of standing, walking, kicking, or whatever you do all day, and they fit, they’ll fit you all day long the first day you wear them. This may not be true of shoes tried on under one condition and worn in another.  Be sure to choose the right material for your shoes too. Don’t think for a second that synthetic leather shoes will stretch or that you can “break them in.” That’s not to say that you should stay away from synthetic materials--just know what you’re getting into. Your shoes should NOT hurt your feet--regardless of how they look. Pain from shoes can result in blisters, corns, and calluses.

FLEX YOUR FOOT MUSCLE. Keep the muscles of your feet in peak condition if you want to prevent future issues such as fallen arches and more. This is something that goes beyond your feet and can affect knees, hips and other joints. Anything that affects your gait or stride has the potential to mess you up, well, pretty much everywhere. Taking walks is the easiest way to keep your feet in good shape. Done! I walk every day. Slap on your Apple Watch and now you can  ensure that you’re getting in the prescribed number of steps. Boom. Done. But I have one more for you that, until today, I didn’t know existed. And I am SO doing this. Foot Yoga. Sounds made up, right? I swear it’s not (Check it out on YouTube). Here’s why I’m doing it. I have been doing Martial Arts for years and one of the struggles I have is cramped arches in my feet. Especially when we spar (if you’re familiar with Martial Arts,  you know there is a great deal of bouncing on the balls of your feet).  For me, sparring is one of the reasons I love Martial Arts; I WILL NOT give it up. So I deal with the aching feet. Foot Yoga here I come. I would encourage anyone with similar concerns to give it a try. I promise I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

SMOOTH OUT THE ROUGH SPOTS. You know what I’m talking about; it’s those patches on the heel or the sides of  your toe that get snagged on your bed sheets or silk socks. Just typing that made me cringe. If you have let your feet get that craggy, you really need to use a cheese grater (DO NOT DO THIS--of course this is a hyperbole used to make a point, not a real suggestion). All jokes aside, this is a very simple thing to do. Skip the Epsom Salt; it’s too drying. Just get a bowl or something big enough for your feet, add some warm (not hot) water and soak your feet. Pat them dry and use a pumice stone or foot file to get those rough spots smoothed. If they’re stubborn, don’t keep trying or push harder; try again the next day. It may take a couple of days before it’s as smooth as you’d like it to be. Don’t give up--it will come off.

The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. -Leonardo da Vinci

MOISTURIZE your feet after washing or soaking them. You can use Cocoa Butter, Coconut Oil, or any of your favorite moisturizers. For an extra bit of help, coat your feet before bed, put on some thick socks, and sleep with your feet in little moisture cocoons. If you are lucky enough to be with someone who doesn’t mind feet, or better yet someone who even has a thing for feet (you know who you are), hand over the Foot Rub and sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s a win-win. You will get the benefit of having moisturized your feet as well as an invigorating foot massage, which is great for circulation, and the other party gets the pleasure of touching your feet.  

PAINT AND PEDICURE.  For a simple paint job, you can do this at home with very little cost and in very little time. You can get the long-lasting gel nail polish on drugstore shelves now. Paint on your favorite color followed by a top coat and the end. For those who prefer the salon experience, I offer this piece of advice--make sure you choose a reputable place. Salons who cut corners are subjecting you to serious risk of infection. Some don’t clean instruments or baths properly and you’re getting someone else’s foot funk--stewed to perfection. If you have, or get during the procedure, any open cuts--nope, I’m done. You can surmise the rest or Google it. I don’t have the stomach to finish that thought. Just be careful. Use Yelp reviews or ask friends for referrals.

Here is one final thought on feet. When I was doing what passes for research in order to write this blog, one thing I ran across several times was that to keep good foot health one should not go barefoot. Blaspheme! As a West Virginia native, I disagree, I am offended, and I object. My favorite pair of shoes is no shoes at all. I have standards; I’m not totally feral. I do try to wait for warm weather to go barefoot outside, I rarely go out in snow without shoes, and I almost never walk around in mud. And while it may not be dainty, delicate or even feminine, the bottom of my feet are similar to those of a dog’s paw. But screw dainty--I can walk across a gravel drive without shoes and I don’t even flinch…because I can’t feel it. The few times in my life that I went in for a pedicure I was terrified that they would scrape off my dog pads. Those took a lifetime to create! I cannot recommend going barefoot since there may or may not be a liability issue involved since the Internet doesn't want us to do it--and the Internet is always right. But I do have a great pair of shoes to recommend. I’ve attached a picture of mine. Yours will probably look a bit different since they are made as one of a kind. You can find them at the end of your legs. Use with caution.

“In the house, and on the street, How many, many feet you meet.” Dr. Seuss

 

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What are you getting Dad this year?

Father’s Day is just around the corner, and if you’re anything like me, you may start to think about what you’re going to get the dad (or dads) in your life in a day or two. For your sake, I hope you already have this thing buttoned up. But if, despite your best intentions, you are still in a holding pattern, I may be able to lend a hand.

Disclaimer--I am a first-class, top-notch, award-winning procrastinator. Case in point, I have been planning to write and post this blog for two weeks now. To be fair, this is only due in part to the fact that I am decision-making impaired. I know I am not alone in this. I am part of a larger group of people--no longer I; it is we.

Some of what we face as people who put things off until the last minute is the same as what regular people face; we get busy and sidetracked with work, school, kids--life. And here we are again with just over a week to go, empty handed, empty minded with nothing to give our fathers, husbands, or baby daddy’s on Father’s Day.

I’m afraid it’s not too original, but I’ve put together a list. This is not one of those ultra cool top 20 never before seen or heard of must have wtf is that but I have to have it for my dad lists. The research on that would have to have been started several months ago (refer to personality disclaimer). I spoke with some of our staff to get some of their ideas.  And although I did take the easy way out on this, the results are useful and practical. You may not get that ever-so-useful link to a bow tie made from some recycled, free-trade, gluten-free, vegan-friendly (in case you want to eat it), environmentally-safe, organic wonder material, but if you’re looking for some real-world suggestions that range from $ 0 to Sky, take a look.

Take him fishing. If your dad is a fisherman, this is a great suggestion. Of course the length to which you participate in this depends on you and your relationship with your dad, but there are many great options and opportunities here. Tammy’s suggestion, for example is low dollar investment but yields high returns. She plans to take her dad out on her paddle boat on the family pond for an afternoon of fishing. Add a few cans of beer or a bottle of wine, depending on taste, and the fish don’t even have to bite; it’s a recipe for a perfect day. As with any recipe, you can season to taste; from Tammy’s tranquil family pond to ocean fishing Hemingway style and everything in-between, if your dad is a fisherman, what have you got to lose? 

Go to a concert. My first thought when Whitney suggested this was "Nope." My dad and I don’t have the same taste in music, and the only type of concert that came to mind, at least initially, was the Hollywood Bowl style--you know the kind... packed with bodies and noise, never mind the loud music. But if you dial it back a bit, lower the sound, take it local, and thin the crowd, I believe my dad and I just may have some common ground after all. We could both twang out to some bluegrass; we are Appalachian-Amercicans after all. Regardless of taste, concerts take on all shapes; from small local venues to the Sydney Opera house, music with dad sounds like a winner.  

Take him golfing or to go a ball game. I can't attribute this to one person as several people actually suggested it. If you have the type of dad who is into golf, you know that this one can get tricky because when someone really loves golf, it’s best not to get involved. However, if dad has a more casual relationship with the sport, get out to the driving range, hit some balls and have a blast. As for baseball, if you’re lucky enough to live near a major league park, the cost is still reasonable, even if you throw in a few dogs and some beer. Minor league parks can be just as fun. Take a mit; maybe you’ll catch a foul ball--instant souvenir. Play ball!

Take a hike. No surprise this suggestion came from our outdoor enthusiast, Shelley. It doesn’t have to be a hike, but getting outside for some fresh air and a bit of exercise is the fundamental idea. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find the type of trail or path that suits your own particular, or peculiar, fancy. For example, from my front door, if you head west for 10 miles, you can park your car and join fellow hikers on the Appalachian trail; if you head northeast for about 5 miles, you can walk a nature trail rife with wildflowers, birds and butterflies--complete with markers and descriptions.   

When I approached our staff in preparation for this blog (yes, only moments before I began to write it), I asked each of them what they would get their dads for father’s day if money were no object. The results were unexpected. I am a bit of a smarty pants myself and I can’t say for sure how I would have answered, but unsolicited, each and every one of these people--metaphorical blank check or pile of money in hand--chose to spend time with their fathers; most of them chose to do so at a relatively low cost. It takes a lot, but I was both surprised and impressed.

As for me... I'm still considering my options. 

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