Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Week in Review - April 28, 2012

Here are some of the highlights from the week gone by:
Part of phasing chemicals out of my life includes hair color. I used Light Mountain 'Auburn' henna on my hair....and the bathroom floor, walls, sink...it's a little messier than what I'm used to but I do like the results.

 


Finally got around to making 'thank you' notes for my generous church family that has provided many meals for my family while I'm going through my detox. Love the fact that I can order just about anything online because I can't drive right now. These prints were ordered from Walmart.com and delivered in just a few days. I added photo corners to folded card stock and glued index cards on the inside to write a message on.



I made these early in the week and now they're my favorite new snack food! They are carrot cake cookies, but really more like eating a muffin top than a cookie. They are delicious and healthy!



The grain chuffa got planted in the garden this week. It wasn't as easy as I would have liked it to be. I'm enlarging the veggie garden by removing an abundance of orange daylilies that seem to have 'walked' their way over. Just a small amount were moved so far to make room for the chuffa.



Husband brought me to one of my favorite places on earth - Logee's Greenhouses. My grandfather took me there when I was a little girl and I try to go back at least once a year.

The greenhouses are very old and the aisles are VERY narrow. You can see Husband (above) walking sideways to not run into established plants growing from the floor of the greenhouse.
Jade Vine - it almost looks fake, doesn't it?
 
Taking time to smell the lavender - he's such a clown.


Here's my purchase from Logee's. A Black Pepper Plant - so now I can grow my own black pepper. (Bottom left) Strawberry Scented Geranium - I have a thing for scented geraniums, the leaves get used in the vacuum cleaner bags for natural air freshening. (Bottom right) Elfin Thyme - Daughter bought this for me, it's so cute!
Close up of the green peppercorns on
my new pepper plant.
We took the long way home on our way back from Logee's and stumbled on this cute little garden center. The owner was very friendly and helpful and sold me things I didn't even know I needed!


My purchase from Goudreaus all nestled snug in a little box: Brussel Sprouts, Vietnamese Coriander, Lovage, Catnip, Chinese Cabbage, and Collards.

Looking forward to the coming week-

This post linked to: Barn Hop #60, Wednesday Homestead Hop

Friday, April 27, 2012

Kefir and Kombucha

There was a time in the shadier part of my little history that my best friends were Ben, Jerry, and Jose...you know...Cuervo. Ohhhh, Jose and I had many a Happy Hour(s) wastin' away again in Margaritaville. We even had our own theme song:


Oh, how life does change, thank you Lord!

Me and Ben and Jerry spent many an evening together too, perhaps too many. It ALL catches up with you, just you wait. Actually, mark your calendar that I told you so in case I forget.

These days my new best friends are Kefir and Kombucha. They don't have their own theme song or tourist attraction destinations, but they are much healthier friends to have around. These are lifetime friends that help bring a body closer to good health.

Kefir and Kombucha are basically yummy probiotic/health drinks that you culture at home, info can be found all over the internet. The purpose of this post is to share the culturing techniques I use, to share with those that I share the extra cultures with.

Kombucha
Here is a great article about the health benefits of kombucha. In order to brew kombucha, you need a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). You can order them on line, grow your own, or find a friend who might be harboring way too many in a scoby hotel in her kitchen under the counter (ahem). Only handle your scoby with clean hands free of soap or lotions.

This is a 'scoby hotel' that stores the extra scobies.
Each time you brew kombucha, you'll grow a new scoby on the surface of the kombucha.
We brew in 1 gallon jars. For the sake of time, I make the tea in a separate container with about 4 cups of boiling water, 1 cup of sugar, and 4 black tea bags. The tea bags are removed after 20 minutes.

From there I let it cool a bit, but then because I'm impatient, I pour the now warm tea mixture into the 1/2 gallon jar and cool it down completely by adding cold water to the top of the jar. Filtered water is recommended.

The mixture must be totally cool or room temperature before you can float your scoby in the top of the jar. Place a cloth over the top and secure with an elastic band. This is the first ferment.
The next step is a matter of preference. Personally, I want the scoby to eat ALL the sugar and caffeine, so I let it brew (ferment) for 3-4 weeks. When it has a vinegar-y kick to it upon sampling, I know it's ready for the final step.

The final step (final ferment) is where the carbonation comes in. I like my kombucha carbonated. I always add cubed ginger (4-6 cubes or so), and some kind of fruit or 1/4 cup fruit juice in a each final bottle.
We use these flip top bottles for the final ferment.
Ginger and fruit/fruit juices are added first and then the brewed kombucha.
The kombucha is left at room temperature for 2-3 days once it's bottled. The warmer your house is, the quicker kombucha carbonates, so be careful! No, really. Once the carbonation occurs, move the bottles to the refrigerator to stabilize or it -may- explode. I've never had a bottle explode, but I have gotten a face full of kombucha from opening a bottle that was over-carbonated.

1/2 gallon of kombucha will fill about 7 of the above pictured bottles.

Kefir
Kefir and I have not gotten along until recently. The 'magic' of kefir eluded me until a friend gave me a live culture. I learned that it wasn't me, but the grains I had been using - for me, there is a big difference between live and dried grains. What a difference healthy live grains make!


Chances are, if you're reading this you already know about the health benefits of kefir. For those of you that want to know more,
here is a site with more information than you could possibly retain about kefir, including the bacteria and yeast strains.

See the 'pockets' or 'separation' through the side of the jar? This is how I judge when the kefir is done enough for me. Give the jar a bit of a swirl to mix it at this point. 
Some people like their kefir tart, others like it more mild. The taste depends on how long you let the grains sit in the milk. The longer it sits, the more tart it becomes.
Before separating the grains from the milk, the surface has a thick cheesy texture to it.
Using a PLASTIC slotted spoon, remove the grains from the milk. I don't always strain my kefir. If I'm going to drink it by itself, then I strain it through a PLASTIC strainer. But usually, the kefir is used for smoothies so straining is not necessary. I like skipping steps when I can.
When I strain the kefir, the solids sit in the strainer to drip for 8 hours or so, reserved to season and make kefir 'cheese'. My family will not drink kefir, but they love kefir cheese on toast and homemade bagels.  It's also great as a dip.

This is a nice shot of what the grains look like. Mine stay together in one large clump.

Here, the new milk is poured into the jar and the clumped grains float to the surface. Time to give the jar another swirl. Swirl when you think of it during the day. I think the grains like it.

That's about it. Repeat as necessary.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Grain Chuffa


New gardening adventures are exciting, just when you think you've grown it all, something like Grain Chuffa pops up out of nowhere.

I purchased chuffa based on this customer review from the Baker Creek website: Sweet, nutty taste. Great snack. Very prolific. Each tuber will multiply itself by 100. Easy to grow and requires no attention (I planted in spring and forgot about them until fall.) Difficult to harvest. No matter how hard you sift through the dirt you always leave dozens behind. They can be grown in pots. I would recommend cleaning the tubers in a bucket of water with small gravel, stirring, rinsing, repeat, similar to cleaning walnuts. Chufa can be invasive but will be killed by northern temperatures. Often planted as a food crop for deer and turkey..


I'm not too concerned about them being invasive here in Connecticut, although, those in the south should beware and think carefully about containing chuffa based on what I've read about them taking over gardens and lawns.

Difficult to harvest? I'll take the challenge.

Twenty five seeds came in the packet, and I started half of them inside to get a jump on the season. The young plants and remaining seeds were planted outside yesterday. I'm excited to see what happens and hoping that it doesn't go like the peanut crop failure of 2008 (-smirk- northerners don't grow peanuts for a reason). I'll follow up at harvest time.


Enjoy the day -

Monday, April 23, 2012

Can Your Own Dogfood


Canning dog food isn't so much about frugality for me as it is nutrition and preparedness. My dogs mean a lot to me and while their days are numbered just like ours, I want them to be as healthy as they possibly can each and every day. This could be a point of argument, but dogs were not really meant to eat solely dry kibble. Many of our friends and visitors can't get over the fact that we feed our girls 'people' food. My Zoe is 12 and Evie is 4. They are very healthy, happy and have the usual amount of gas that dogs do - really, they are not stinky dogs. Besides, I really like knowing what I'm feeding them. Remember what happened a few years ago with the pet food supply?

I like having jars just for my girls on the pantry shelf too.

When I order my groceries from the grocery store, I always order 3-5 pounds of beef hearts. My canner will hold 9 pint jars, so I spread out the beef hearts over the 9 jars each time.


The beef hearts get cut into cubes. This is the longest part of the process. I highly recommend using a tomato knife or knife with lots of serration for this job, it will make it easier.

This is about the time that I'll feel the island that I'm working on start to tremble. Looking down, it's always my foodie, Eve. She knows what I'm doing and that it's for her. She shakes with anticipation, actually before every meal.

"Momma, you're the best cook EVER". I know Baby.

I line up the jars on the island, and evenly distribute the cubed beef hearts among the jars. Two tablespoons of brown rice also gets added to each jar.





Next step is to boil a kettle and fill each jar with boiling water to just before the threaded rim as you can see in this photo.


Wipe the rims with a cloth moistened with white vinegar and place sterilized lids and rings on. Pressure can (ONLY pressure can this recipe in a PRESSURE COOKER) for 75 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure.

How much does it cost to can dog food? Not much. I spent $3.81 for the beef hearts, used around $.70 for rice. Each jar (there's 9) will last two to three meals and gets mixed with (our) leftovers, eggs, and yes, some dry kibble.

Enjoy the day-

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dandelion-Violet Lemonade

At this time of year, you can't go clicking too far on the internet without reading about dandelions and their virtues. While I won't reiterate the fact that they're worth their weight in calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C what's already out there in cyber-space, I'd like to share an easy and nutritious spring time drink that will allow you to use up all those sunny yellow flowers in your yard right now. It's fun to get the family involved in the collection process too!

I haven't always loved dandelions. I may have been programmed from childhood to associate them with 'bad', something that invaded and took over lawns. One spring not too long ago, I paid a certain child five cents a piece for each dandelion carcass turned in. That ended up being not to my favor. I think I had to write her a check. THAT'S also the reason for our current dandelion relocation program, we're short on dandelion supply and have had to look elsewhere for them. Yes, I have been spotted digging up dandelions and transplanting them to a nice little dandelion garden on our hillside.


I printed out the original recipe last year from learningherbs.com. Since then, I've learned that violets (yes, the ones that take over lawns) are high in vitamin A and C (by the way, you can also eat the leaves raw in salad). They also happen to look very pretty in the jar with the yellow dandelion flowers, don't they? Sure does make a good conversation piece when people see it.

We only make 1/2 gallon at a time. Here's how:

  • Fill 1/2 gallon mason jar 1/2 way with dandelions and violet flowers.
  • Add the juice and rind of two - three lemons.
  • Fill to the very top with water and cap tightly.
  • Let steep in a sunny location for a day like you would sun-tea.
  • Strain through muslin (we only use butter muslin - you'll never use anything else for cheese making once you try it!) and really squeeze all the moisture out.
  • Add honey to suit your taste. We don't add honey to the pitcher, only directly to the serving glasses as needed, but do as you like.
On a side note, Daughter made several batches of this for me during the last cycle of my detox and I recovered to 'normal' a lot quicker that the first two cycles.

Enjoy the day- 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Detox/Raynaud's Update - April 19


As I write this, I have completed the third cycle of my detox. It's hard to believe that this has been going on since early February. It's even harder to believe that it will take most of the summer at this point. My body has to heal between cycles and the doctor has given me liberty to 'know' when it's time to start the next cycle. These days have been hard for this Type A girl, running at half capacity. There are two things that have helped when things have been at their worst.

1. Prayer - prayer to get me through this and prayer for those that I love as I try to take my thoughts off of myself. When I think I've run out of things to pray about, then, I recant the miracles of Jesus to God.

2. Blogging - writing has been very good for me. It's been difficult at times for me to get the words out of my mouth in an organized manner...and make sense, but writing has been easy and a little therapeutic for me. I try to keep my daily detox woes out of posts other than the updates though.

The last time I gave an update on the progress of my detox, my liver was in trouble and I had to wait it out until it calmed down so I could proceed to the third cycle of DMSA. Waiting things out patiently is not quite my style, so here are some things that helped. (Hoping this info helps someone out there that might go through something similar someday.)

Detox Baths
2 cups of epsom salts, 1/2 cup sea salt, and 1/2 Bob's Red Mill baking soda (read here to find out why you should use Bob's), and three drops of lavendar oil. Info on the benefits of detox baths can be found all over the internet, but the best info I've found is here. I will, however, tell you my personal experience with these baths have been extremely good. I find they really calm me down, you know, my insides and my brain. I'll go into more detail in another post on this.

Juicing
Carrot, kale and ginger. I go into more detail here on why juicing is great for the liver.

Tincture
Herb Pharm's Healthy Liver Tincture. I've made a tincture that costs me a whole lot less that still needs another week to go before it's ready. I purchased the ingredients from the Bulk Herb Store and followed the directions in the video below.



Stinging Nettle Infusion
This is for nourishment and energy. I put some lemon verbena and sweet fern leaves in the infusion to 'soften' the taste. It's great chilled. Pretty much I drink it all day. Check out here for more info on nettles and how to make an infusion.


Liver function returned to normal three weeks after the last cycle, and I'm sure the things mentioned above helped. As well as the fact that my diet has been EXTREMELY healthy with much of it being raw (and chewing each bite thoroughly), and consuming very little meat if any. Meat slows down my digestive system and I need it to not be slow.

Like I mentioned at the top of my post, here I am at the end of the third cycle. It - was - not - fun. Three days of not - fun. The pain was almost unbearable. Pulsing, pressure, throbbing, burning/freezing, all over. Very hard to explain. The worst part is the fever. A funny hummm in my head happens too, the volume goes way up, and then way down over and over. I cried. I yelled "I quit" (to no one because no one was there to here it). I'm yellow, again. Back to square one.

I've been reading a book that has helped me understand just how toxic our world really is. Everlasting Health by Robert Bernardini, M.S. This book makes it a little more clear to me why this process has been so painful. Our bodies protect themselves from 'non food' items by storing most of them in our fat cells. How many 'non food' items have you eaten in your life time? Artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives? Knowingly AND UNknowingly, I'm sure. These things are not food. Just because the FDA says it's ok, doesn't mean you should eat them! Getting them out of the body is more than a little uncomfortable.

So here I am and here I'll be for a few days more, in my bed that Daughter put fresh white sheets and linens on for me, windows open, listening to the birds and the not-so-mute swan flapping his wings on the pond. Life could be a whole lot worse.

Enjoy the day-

The Life of Barn Cats

When Husband and I married, the one thing we vowed that we would NOT have, would be a cat. Never - Ever. Then we got chickens. And needed cats. You know....to keep the critters at bay that want to eat the things in the chicken yard and grain and what-not. I prayed for a cat. Really, I did. Because I wanted the Lord to send me one that desperately needed a home because it would spend it's life outside, in the barn, year round. Enter Sunshine, an answer to prayer. If you read the link attached to her name, you'll see why there's now seven. It's just a number. It's not who I am (smirk). I haven't reached crazy cat lady status....maybe.

The plan was that they would live in the barn. That was the plan. But JUST LOOK at how cute they were!



Their momma left them so often...how can cuteness like this possibly be left in a barn, with no momma? So I brought them inside they came inside. Not everyone was on board at the time (ahem), but let's just fast forward to the present, shall we?

They are hunters. There is no doubt about it. They hunt like cheetahs. Just look at those paws. What could possibly escape from cats with thumbs?


They stay out all night and sleep ALL day. ALL day. One would think I have lazy cats until you look around the outside of the house and notice all the corpses from the nightly hunts.

Peanut and Penelope - sleeping.


Piper - sleeping.


Priscilla - sleeping.


Samson the Great - sleeping.


Seven the Last - sleeping.

All sleeping. Except Sunshine. Who knows where she goes during the day. The problem is that now that the weather has warmed up, they've brought home dozens of 'friends' with them. Ticks. It's like a bad horror movie. This is going to be a bad year for ticks. They've been covered with them, not in them, but just clinging to the cats waiting to come in to feast on me, I think. We have to be vigilant to pick them off as the cats come in in the morning.

I'm in need of something natural, that actually works. Maybe picking them off is the only natural way of doing this. I've done a lot of reading on the use of flea and tick preventatives and the effects they have on humans. It is not good. Not good at all. I'm thinking of dusting them with diatomaceous earth, but have to do more research on that to make sure it's not going to dry their skin out too much. Thoughts would be appreciated.

I hope you like the photos of my 'barn' cats!
Enjoy the day-

This post linked to Farm Girl Friday #54, Homestead Helpsand the Barn Hop.




Monday, April 16, 2012

New USDA Hardiness Zone Map

Have you seen the 2012 USDA Hardiness Zone Map? It's a little more refined that the one we've been using since 1990 (Organic Gardening Magazine April/May 2012). Go to the USDA site, and click on 'Interactive Map'. Then type in your zip code. You can actually see your specific zone based on the main roads in your area! Pretty cool, huh? Well....I thought so.

Image Credit


For the most part, there is nothing new here....well, except they did add two more tropical zones, AND it may help with future plant purchases to ensure their hardiness because instead of being a zone 6 gardener - I am now a zone 6a. Special. The Interactive Map makes it easier to distinguish exactly what zone you are.

Enjoy the day -


Monday, April 9, 2012

Perennial Vegetable: Jerusalem Artichokes

Mary & me at OSV.
A couple of years ago, my dear friend Mary brought me a gift of a big pot of Jerusalem Artichokes from her garden. She knew that I wanted these, because I've fawned over them on our yearly homeschool field trips to Old Sturbridge Village. The vegetable garden at OSV beckons to me as soon as we arrive AND it happens to be the furthest point from the entrance...so I have to practice patience. I love to see the old varieties of veggies and I'm also constantly scanning the gardens for old techniques.



photo credit
I planted the clump of Jerusalem Artichoke tubers, as they were given to me, in a corner of our veggie garden. And there they've stayed, growing tall and blooming pretty yellow flowers each year. Occasionally, I'd be reminded by them (being in the vegetable garden) that they ARE edible. But then I'd get sidetracked - OH LOOK, a butterfly - and there they sat. Until the video below (humorously named - and don't worry, I have plenty of winter savory....you'll soon learn why), motivated me to do this right.


Oh, so I should unclump them and stop treating them like an ornamental? Ok. So, I set off to work by digging up the clump of tubers. This was really a quick and easy project. The tubers were absolutely beautiful and just tumbled up and out of the soil. I look forward to the fall harvest.

Freshly dug Jerusalem Artichoke tubers.

Jerusalem Artichokes in their new bed.

Hoping that this post will motivate you to try Jerusalem Artichokes this growing season!

Enjoy the day-

Monday, April 2, 2012

Garlic Bath

Our family just loves garlic. If one of us eats garlic, we ALL have to eat it so we can stand being around each other. We use so much that it's in our best interest to grow our own. Garlic is one of those 'set it and forget it' crops. Anyone can do it.

Not sure why, but the garlic that's been in storage is sprouting like crazy. In previous years, there has been garlic still in great condition during cucumber season! What is going on? Perhaps is due to a milder winter? Not sure.

Anyway, we CAN'T waste as much garlic as this....


My thought at first was that it might still be ok to lacto-ferment the garlic. This would be a new one for me and I was excited at the opportunity. After opening just a few heads, it was clear that fermenting was out of the question...very soft garlic. Speaking of opening or peeling all this garlic, I tried this method that's all over Pinterest (excuse his potty mouth):


Did it work? For the most part, yes. I'm sure had the garlic been in prime condition it would have worked better.

These were the biggest bowls I had that fit together.
The ones that didn't get peeled by the bowl beating, got peeled with this handy-dandy garlic peeler that my only sister most awesome sister gave me for Christmas. This is such a great little tool!


Now, how to save the garlic? Or as I like to think: Project No Garlic Left Behind. Clearly, with this much garlic, the only thing that you can do is - a GARLIC BATH! Ok, not THAT kind of bath, although I'm sure there are people out there that swear by garlic baths as the end-all-to-cure-all. But what I'm talking about it Ray Bayless' kind of garlic bath .... Mojo de Ajo, aka: liquid gold or garlic gravy
Basically, I just tossed all the garlic (yes, even the ones with greens sticking out the top, trust me, it'll be fine) in a dish and generously covered it with olive oil, baking it at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes (watch that it doesn't get past the 'soft' stage).
The original recipe calls for the garlic to be mashed at this point. This time, I'm leaving it whole.
Husband came home and told me he could smell it from the driveway, it's pretty powerful when you roast a ton of garlic at one time.



How to use it? Eat it with a spoon if you're truly a garlic lover, of course. Or; use it in salad dressing, stir fries, fish, chicken, veggies, in hummus, for bread dipping, you name it! We had some for dinner drizzled over some broccoli rabe. Yum.

So if you find yourself with a bunch of garlic that's sprouted, don't compost it quite yet.....it's bath time with Mojo de Ajo, baby. Garlic gravy goes with everything....except cereal...and maybe pancakes.

Store in a jar up to three months in the fridge as long as the garlic stays covered with oil.
Enjoy the day-

Linked to Homestead Revival's Barn Hop #56, Simple Lives Thursday, Frugal Days/Sustainable Ways #21, Hearth and Soul.