I realize that in a lot of ways, I am different from the majority of my contemporaries. Most people in my generation, or in those directly before mine have iPhones or iPads in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other. We are a nation addicted to our coffee and to our electronic devices.
As for me? I usually have a book in one hand and a mug of tea in the other. Or, I am playing a board game, with a mug of tea. Or working on a model railroad project, with a mug of tea in hand. And yes, I do mean “mug”. As in, big, German mug typically used for….other beverages, (which I do not use it for). I certainly don’t use a sissy cup for my tea, thank you very much!
I guess, really, at least in this aspect, I am not too abnormal as there are plenty of people who like to drink tea. Tea does have some good effects on the body, and it tastes good. There is nothing quite like a warm, creamy spiced chai, or a refreshing, slightly sweet, peppermint tea, or even the warm and bright flavors of an orange spice tea.
(Coffee just never has been my thing. By the time I get enough cream and sugar in my cup to make it palatable, it hardly counts as coffee, but maybe a coffee flavored sweet dairy drink! )
So why this fascination about tea? Or more specifically, why devote a post to it?
Simply, because tea has two great benefits: It is a great drink, and it yields useful modeling material for my railroad. Now, I will not delve in depth in the first point beyond what I have already written because more than likely, you didn’t come here to be convinced of the joys of tea-drinking.
What about the second point, that it yields useful material? This is a tip I have really just recently discovered anew, thanks to surfing the MRH blogs and forums.
When you finish brewing your tea, don’t throw away that tea bag! While it is still wet, snip the top off the bag, and spread the tea leaves out on newspaper to dry. Set aside the tea bag to dry as well. (assuming you have a paper tea bag)
The results of your frugal craftiness? Scenery materials and canvas tarps!
The dried tea leaves can be used in a couple different ways. They can be used as ground cover, but I think they would also be better suited to simulating leaves. Instead of dunking tree armatures in ground foam, dunk it in dried tea leaves, to give it more of a leafy texture. Sprinkle it on top of bushes, or, paint some white glue up a wall, cover it with the tea leaves, shake it off, and you have an ivy vine!
Now, all tea leaves are not equal here. Green and Mint/Peppermint/Spearmint leaves are green in color, and so are best suited for the methods described above. Black tea leaves could be good for a late fall tree holding onto a the last few of its brown leaves. My preferred method is to take the black tea leaves, blend them with a little bit of orange and yellow ground cover, and then shake this mixture liberally on the areas around the forests and trees on the layout. This nicely simulates the fall ground covered with fallen leaves.
As for herbal or fruity teas? Dry them out, and see if the resulting shades of leaves are useful or not. Not every tea is equal in its usefulness. If you dried some out, and don’t like the texture or color, just throw them out! Nothing lost save for a few minutes of your time.
The tea bags can be used as a canvas tarps. Cut them into scale sized squares, soak it with diluted white glue and drape it in place. After it drys, you can leave the color as it is or, paint another color on the tarp. Highlight the texture with a black wash, and then dry brush it gently with an off white paint. Voila! now your inhabitants of the railroad can keep their equipment covered and dry in inclement weather!
Tea really is a wonderful drink. It relaxes and satisfies. And, when that cup of tea is gone, you have some useful, cheap materials to work with to enhance your Model Railroad! Sounds like a win-win to me. Now, if you excuse me, I am going to make myself another cup of tea!