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Social Distancing On The Backroads

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Added by Mel in Variety


In this special episode of TCR, we visit 3 remote homesteads and find out what “social distancing" is really all about.

Cheri Brannon
140 Ward Lane
Bulls Gap, TN 37711
Phone: 423-552-3109


John Wells
2500 Mailbox Rd.
Alpine, TX 79830


Nancy McIntyre
North Carolina

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Video Script:: 

if you've been traveling with us for even a little while maybe you have noticed that we normally stay as far away from current events as possible we figure it's best just to leave all that to the news guys but some things it seems just cannot be ignored recently we've been going through a strange and unprecedented time in our history a terrible worldwide virus has affected every person on this planet in one way or another truly our lives may never be the same again right now about all we can do is to keep as much distance between ourselves and other people as possible and as our normal lives and travels ground to a halt it occurred to us that this whole idea of isolation really is a strange thing for most Americans but out on the backroads for years we've run into people who choose a life of isolation and self-reliance the way many people did 70 or 80 years ago so we thought it might be a good idea for you to meet some of those fascinating people and since this is a worldwide thing and not just a Texas thing this week we're gonna wander outside of our borders just a little bit so why don't you just hop in and travel with us I'm Bob Phillips and I'm Kelly Phillips and this is a special edition of Texas country reporter [Music] [Music] I don't know how to explain that I really don't know how to explain that but you become a part of Tennessee becomes a part of you you know life comes from the mountains and it provides a good bit of my life it's wonderful it's kind of like stepping back in time a little bit high in the mountains of eastern Tennessee there's a breeze that drifts up from a place called Gap Creek sherry Brannon farms along that trickling stream and it's the breeze that carries the aroma of Sherry's all-natural organic chemical free soaps SAVs and senate concoctions for whatever ails you I get it from the mountains I get it from the plants that grow here I don't know you begin to get this connection with the land [Music] sherry is an expert on herbs and the healing properties of stuff that grows right outside our house stuff that finds its way into all her soaps this is Jewett soap and the color of it is strictly from the plant material I harvest jewelweed on our Mountain Julie it is a natural antidote for poison ivy and so we made with this and we use the jewel weed tincture and it dries up what used to take weeks of poison ivy to just maybe five or six days it's great this is pumpkin spice and it's made with real pumpkin pumpkin is really naturally moisturizing for the skin and smells just like a piece of pumpkin pie and this is spiced oak bark it's just a spicy smell it's got little flakes of organic oats in it for exfoliation probably about 15 years ago learned what was in a typical barf so chemical color and see used and I don't want to put that on my skin and so began a life of natural plants roots herbs and vodka drink I use vodka to extract the healing properties out of plants so this is a percolation tincture it's a new way to do a tincture it's a faster way to do a tincture and the tincture is the strongest form of plant remedy a lot of what I do comes from these hills the traditions come from these hills it's Mountain medicine that I make it's Mountain soap making just taken to a newer level with finer ingredients this is my egg soy SAP and took me about a year to come up with a formula it really like it's deep heating salve it's all natural ingredients there's no chemicals in it this is breathe easy this is my answer to what the big bucks sells for helping sleep at night and breathe you can't buy soap in the grocery store anymore or a big-box store you can only buy detergent bars and they're full of chemicals that are really bad for your body almost every detergent bar is full of something called SLS sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate it's a chemical used to degrease jet engines and professional mechanic flowers and if you read the hazmat safety sheet on it you're not supposed to get it on your skin but it's in our toothpaste and it's in soap when we started this we just did it for ourselves I made medicines for my kids I mean it's ABS for my kids and then I think we gave a lot of this aways Christmas gifts and then those people came back and wanted more so I started a website and it's Tennessee farm girl calm and started selling it and I sell it all over the world a hundred years ago all our grandmas did this this was just normal life these are old-time country skills that we've lost but I want everybody to have again so I want to teach people so that they can do it too local college would bring kids out here because we're an organic farm and one morning it was early it was very cold and I served a homemade pound cake and I had shown the kids the difference in eggs from a store and eggs from a farm and this little girl was saying to me that's cake it's so good why is this cake so good I said well honey it's because it's made from scratch and she thought for a minute she said where can i buy scratch now but she was dead serious she's a local girl and she had no clue [Music] from a small farm deep in the Tennessee mountains Sheree Brannon is resurrecting a long-forgotten lifestyle of self-reliance it's been said that what's old is new again and like these wooded slopes shrouded in fog so too were the old recipes and formulas for healthy living discovered and dusted off once again for the ages I want people to learn how to do this to better their own lives I want them to learn how to use the century oil and plant remedies and how to make soap how to can their own food I think they're important skills that we still need today John Wells can't really remember when he decided to move out to the middle of nowhere it is rather harsh we don't have streams and Springs in this particular area and if you can if you can get well water it's not very good I was warned that it gets hot in the summer and they were right it gets hot my immediate family was really concerned that I was coming here to be a hermit but most of my friends knew what I was interested in and you know they all thought I was a little crazy to come way out here and I can't remember the exact moment it happened I decided to sell my house in upstate New York and move out here know the West Texas Sun hasn't baked John's brain but it is baking his bread in a device called the solar oven John can cook up a corn pone that would make any Dutch oven devote a proud no campfire no coals just a burning ball of gas about 90 million miles away the solar oven is one of many experiments going on at this outdoor science center called the field lab [Music] using high-tech windmills and battery arrays along with no tech marvels like the solar hot water heater John Wells turns mother nature into a mother lode of renewable energy it's all part of a plan to become self-sustainable to live completely off the grid not bad for a man who spent his younger days among the subways and skyscrapers of New York City why don't you come to be here what if I could answer that question that's the million dollar question I have no idea you know after years of working in Manhattan for a long time as a fashion photographer and a set and prop builder for film and television it occurred to me from all the labor I was putting in to just buy everything prepackaged for me it might be interesting to try doing it for myself I don't think I would go back to a big city it that kind of life doesn't even make sense to me I'm more in the I think I'm in the part of my life now where I'm into exploring new things as opposed to being stuck somewhere so you know there's plenty to discover out here so no more city life for me I get I get nervous when I drive to the city now even to alpine [Music] so Bob this is the inside of my house we're in the foyer right now and over to our right is the kitchen right right here right over here under the kitchen yeah we're in the kitchen okay and if we turn around we're in there it's a bedroom over here right over here now I'm in the bedroom exactly and then over across the hallway is the office okay okay so one two so it's three rooms in a foyer pretty much yeah 128 square feet and I use every square inch of it these days John's abode is even smaller than a Manhattan apartment and he no longer looks much like a fashion photographer he has become instead a thinker and a tinkerer a researcher and a reporter on what it takes to live simply the high-tech way you know as remote as it is here I have a DSL line in the morning I start off with a computer and check email and in the end of the day I usually spend an hour or two working on my daily blog that I do so that in you know that has to include something interesting I've done for the day and it has to include a photo of the day John Wells doesn't know exactly what he's looking for or if he'll ever find it we suspect he's searching for something about himself for now he's happy trying new things [Music] [Music] I have loved these mountains as long as I can remember morning is always my very favorite time I like sunsets and night - but mornings were sort of a new day I always look out to see what the sky looks like it's a new day there are new opportunities new ventures way back in the to River Valley of the Appalachian Mountains Nancy McIntyre pays no mind to the cold and rainy morning it's just another day in this 12 foot by 14 foot cabin that she's called home for many years it can be very cold it can go through you very easily it went down to 16 below one night but I have a down sleeping bag and I put a wool blanket inside of it then I was cozy the hard part is getting out of bed and starting the fire but I have right many heavy sweaters and I just keep putting on sweaters and I sit there and feed the fire until it gets going in the house warms up quickly I love this old stove it's my heat and I'm cook on it the cooking and heating is done by fire and water comes from a trickling spring close by for most of us this would be a hardship but for Nancy life in this tiny cabin without electricity or running water surrounded by miles and miles of wilderness is all she ever really wanted I like to cook on top of a stove anyway I mean I can even make biscuits on top of the stove corn cakes on top of the stuff I don't have to have the oven this is the kitchen area and this is where I sleep at night - and it's comfortable that's a comfortable bed it is 12 feet this way 14 feet this way my children have been very concerned about my living alone in a cabin with no running water no electricity but they have accepted it and they they laugh about it now they say they tell me they just simply gave up on me Nancy hasn't always lived such a secluded existence she worked and raised four children in the suburbs and then she took the term empty-nest to a new level seems her childhood memories of an old family place in the mountains kept tugging at her heartstrings this is a picture of my father when I think he was 12 in that picture this is the cabin where I started going when I was one month oh and I always loved it like a cabin no longers they are a huge tree fell on it and collapsed it one thing that's carried her through the years is writing Nancy's an expert in leading advocate on organic farming way before it was fashionable her articles have appeared in numerous publications but it was a little over two decades ago when Nancy McIntyre reluctantly took on the task of caregiver in 1993 there was a what looked like a wolf standing towards the bottom of the hill the vets were saying part wolf part dog recovering from wounds they had it had been found badly wounded in the 11 years that he lived with me I never once heard him bark now ever he never barked no one else ever heard him bark wolves don't bark say how I've heard him howl and it was one of the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard Nancy kept a journal of her 11 years with Luke through the long healing process a rear bond developed between the unlikely pair up until the day Luke passed away and he did die in my arms I was sitting on the floor holding him when he died after I wrote the book about Luke friends were asking to read it I finally tapped it up so other people could read it because they certainly couldn't read my handwriting the name of the book is rush of river of Iraq here the moon hang stamp and close and stars seem near touching an unseen life of night lingers and early dew and the Sun rises with ringing that go from two ridges and a river over I know Luke adds to my life and I would let him choose if he could return to the wild there is no longer much wild like old faces that show craft of bone in paths of a lifetime Luke and I walked the woods a lot to see what we can see he practically dances with my laughter my joy in him he was a delightful companion for one thing but I think the more important thing perhaps was he was not all the way wild and he was not all the way came and I think in some ways we were kind of kindred spirits in that way I almost get tears in my eyes just rooting for him about how people very thankful for that memory as full as this mountain wilderness seems with towering rhododendron and twisting mountain laurel for one eighty year old woman there's an emptiness here that can't be measured she does venture out now more than in the past for book signings and public appearances a reluctant author who's become somewhat of a regional literary celebrity her cabins always had everything she needs and now it has something else memories I've got food I've got heat I've got water I've got the out-of-doors so even if I end up living the rest of my life alone which I would never have imagined I'll enjoyed it anyway I'm Kelly Phillips and I'm Bob Phillips and this has been a special edition of Texas Country Reporter stay strong stay safe and we'll see you next time closed captioning provided by h-e-b primo picks thousands of unique one-of-a-kind products picked especially for you [Music] TCR is brought to you by Capitol Farm Credit together we're better Muller incorporated metal roofs metal buildings ironclad guarantees ho Hine Prairie insurance Texans serving Texans since 1892 and top Texas towns Abilene Hillsborough Del Rio Waxahachie and San Angelo [Music] you


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