Full of Life

I went through a few of the photos on my phone today and it’s been busy around here. Lots of good, lots of bad, lots of grace.

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This is a photo Avery took with my phone. It has little relevance to anything going on except that I think it’s a really great photo.

I’ve had a rough couple weeks but thanks to my phone photos, I’ve realized that mixed in with the bigger, bad things (car accident, stomach bug, plumbing issues), are some really lovely moments.

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Ida is a happy, baby girl. I recently decided that playing out in the front yard is really good for the neighborhood. I’ve had more neighbor interactions and feel generally more connected with the people on my street. Also, the boys love it.

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It’s like they know that it’s off limits most of the time (any time I can’t be outside with them) so they just freak out and run all over the place and tackle eachother and then have cute conversations before they get up.

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I love our quiet street. It’s a combination of original homeowners (been here 50+) years, new families like us and established families with teens.

I also love my garden. It’s harvest time for spring crops and I’ve been quite enjoying it.

IMG_20150509_161411That’s my Pac Choy. Very delicious. I’ve been putting it in every salad and also sometimes in my green smoothies but it’s finally starting to go to seed so I’ve been harvesting it by the head and they are glorious. I also made my first rhubarb harvest. I’ll be harvesting throughout the season but you have to harvest before new stalks will pop up.

IMG_20150504_182803I harvested the long stalks and the NEXT day, new leaves were uncurling from the base. Nature is amazing.

We’ve spent some time with family lately too. Shane’s grandparents stayed with us a couple weeks ago. This weekend his step sister graduated from highschool. The kids love grandparents of all kinds.

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I also thought it’d be a good chance to have another photo of the fam….which was good.

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The boys weren’t into it. In fact, Eli really couldn’t deal and we got this amazing outtake.

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Outtake are better than the ‘perfect’ picture in my opinion. haha

Finally, a shout out to my amazing husband who has kept me sort of sane lately. I wrecked his car the day before Mother’s day, just after my car had some costly repairs and I was pretty distraught. It was a hit and run and made me insecure about driving and also kinda left me traumatized. I’ve never been in a wreck before so it shook me up a bit. I had a throwing up little boy and on Mother’s Day I had to stay home from church to stay with the sick kids. I was pretty down about things and he got home from church, had a sitter (my amazing cousin Elise) watch all the kids while we went for a little retail therapy and some much needed food and drink…that I didn’t have to make haha. I know Mother’s Day is all about family but Shane knew that in this particular stage of motherhood, a break from kids is just what I needed.

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He’s the star of my show.

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So even though we have spent thousands of dollars in the past week on plumbing and car repair, at least all the things that matter are here with me and totally amazing.

 

 

Gardening in 2015

I haven’t really talked much about my garden this year so I thought I’d do a little update.

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I have a LOT of greens.

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This is my second year gardening here. My soil is in MUCH better shape after the work I put into it last fall. However, in my state of massive pregnancy, I was only able to plant cover crops in two beds. I composted two more and will have to do work on the rest of the beds this year (mostly fall). Gardening is always a work in progress. But already, I notice the leaves on my plants are bigger.

IMG_20150429_182710Here are the greens I have.

  • Romain lettuce
  • Pac Choy
  • Arugala
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Winterbour Kale
  • Napa cabbage
  • Collard Greens
  • Assorted colored lettuces

Some of these I would never have planted but one day I was out at my family’s (I take pictures for their facebook page) and my mom had just planted some greens in their garden and she told me to take the partial left over trays.  Actually it’s funny, I swore off Romain lettuce because of two previous failures to grow it well….probably better soil was the trick. haha

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Even my spinach (another green I haven’t had a ton of success with) is looking good!

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The weather has been kind but I’ve still been a little hesitant to plant anything less hardy than greens. Just a couple days ago I planted some basil and a couple tomato plants. Mostly I have more hardy herbs and a lot of perennial herbs. Like my amazing comfrey that has come back so strong and hard.

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I have a few more abut this is the most glorious one. Borage is sprouting all over the place because it’s not a perennial, it’s a reseeder. I hope a lot of calendula starts sprouting too!

My other perennial is rhubarb. I spent twenty bucks on this bad boy last year and this year my dad started growing them….but I don’t regret it for one second. This thing is a beauty, and well established. I bought it with a big bulb and moved it last fall to a more permanent spot. It’s huge.

IMG_20150429_182439 (1)Other than this, I have decided to focus more on flowers. Flowers are important to attract pollinators and also make my garden look beautiful. just started planting some this week so I’ll update on that one they start taking root.

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This doesn’t quite show my whole garden (I took this to show my two adorable boys playing pirate on the chairs in the patio) but you get the idea. It’s awesome.

I’ll keep doing updates as I go and talk about what I learn. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I love gardening.

 

 

 

 

Kombucha Making

I was bottling a batch of kombucha the other day and thought I’d record and share it here. It’s not exactly a tutorial because I am starting with the bottling but I’ll get all the important stuff in by the end:)

Everyone does their fermenting and culturing differently because there are so many right ways. I am doing two gallon batches of kombucha right now so this might not look like your operation or how you want to operate at all.

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I ferment my kombucha in these gallon jugs. You need to keep airflow to your SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast)  so they just get paper towels and rubberbands.

Before I bottle I get a tiny bit of sugar dissolved in water (about a half teaspoon per 16oz bottle) for fizz and this particular batch I also put some fresh apple juice in (a tablespoon or two per bottle)  for flavor.

The other stuff I grab includes a funnel and a ladle. The SCOBY floats on top of the kombucha (but don’t worry if your starter SCOBY doesn’t…the new ones that form each batch do float due to carbon dioxide. Mine is getting pretty thick.

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Pretty cool/gross, right? Right.

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These aren’t quite full gallons because I always end up scooping out a ladle here and there to test or just drink some of it. You want to bottle it when it has NO sweetness left. I add the little bit of sugar water to the bottles because this gives it the pleasant carbonation. I wait 3-7 days after bottling to consume so that there won’t be sugar left. If I feel the need to sweeten it, I use stevia drops.

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Basically I press down the SCOBY with the ladle and scoop out the tea until there is just a little left in the jug with the SCOBY.

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This is the starter for the next batch. I do wash the jugs between batches because they get sticky.

I use commercial kombucha bottles a friend gave me so I just screw the lids on tight and store on top of the fridge or in a pantry until they’re ready.

Then I brew new batch of tea for my SCOBYs.

SAMSUNG CSCMy kiddos enjoy hanging out outside and occasionally ‘helping’ me.

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The real help is when the boys entertain Ida. hehe

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I basically make a gallon batch of tea and add a cup of sugar per gallon. Notice the color difference? The batch I bottled was green tea and the new batch is black.

I then let the sweet tea cool and add it to the starter and SCOBY.

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Don’t worry, SCOBYs are actually quite hardy and pouring the tea over them won’t harm them at all.

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The whole process starts again.

The benefits of kombucha are many, but also a lot them are anecdotal due to lack of research. The long history of kombucha is a testimony to it’s properties and if you try it yourself you may find it can help your well being. There are, however, a few claims supported by science and those include high probiotic content (each batch is slightly different depending on the tea, sugar quality and time of fermentation, but there are at least ten to twelve strains generally present), the presence of b vitamins (trace) as well as several beneficial detoxifying elements.

Obviously doctors and scientists aren’t much apt to recommend or study this drink because it’s not a money maker, so research has been minimal.

I can only attest to my own results and those of people I know. It has been beneficial for my digestion, I DO feel better when drinking it somewhat consistently and it has most definitely helped when I felt allergies or a cold coming on.  I know several people who have used kombucha as a tool for overcoming soda addiction and no matter how you look at that, it’s a good thing! Also, CHEAP. Just the cost of some black or green tea bags and a little bit of sugar.

I don’t eat many animal products and the b vitamins have been proven to be present (in however small amounts) I think that is also beneficial for me personally.

Before I go, there is one more thing I want to mention. When you do secondary fermentation in the bottles you can add any flavoring you want. Adding ingredients that compound the benefits of kombucha, like ginger or lemon can only add to the nutrient content. I highly recommend using ginger kombucha before taking allergy medicine. The cons of medication are not always mentioned and usually involved damaged digestive tract.

I hope this helps you understand kombucha better! If you’re local and want to try, I have SCOBY to share:)

 

 

 

Water Kefir Tutorial

Okay, I talked about milk kefir and now I’m going to talk you all through how water kefir works. It has only about a third of the probiotic strains as milk kefir but that doesn’t discredit the ability to transform you life. Especially if you are trying to rid yourself of a nasty soda habit.  For informational/education reasons, I will list the probiotic strains involved.

Bacteria

Species Lactobacillus
L. brevis
L. casei
L. hilgardii
L. hordei
L. nagelii

Species Leuconostoc
L. citreum
L. mesenteroides

Species Acetobacter
A. fabarum
A. orientalis

Species Streptococcus
S. lactis

Yeasts

Hanseniaospora valbyensis
Lachancea fermentati
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Zygotorulaspora florentina

Source

Water kefir is very much like milk kefir, in that, it all starts with the ‘grains’. Again, they’re not actual grains but symbiotic colonies of bacterial yeasts. They also consume sugars and product probiotics.

SAMSUNG CSCIt’s also kind of rubbery, although firmer than milk kefir, and instead of clumping together they remain in separate pieces.

When you first get your water kefir grains you will want to put them in a jar. Maximum of a quarter cup per quart. You can have as few as two tablespoons to start though.

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It’s quite simple after that. Warm up some filtered water and dissolve sugar in it. While it cools go ahead and put a drop of black strap molasses on the grains to give them a good dose of minerals.

SAMSUNG CSCIf they aren’t fed adequate amounts of minerals  they won’t grow and you want them to grow.

Then you pour the cooled sugar water over top and cover with a cheese cloth or paper towel and rubberband. The reason you don’t seal this like with milk kefir is because it produces a LOT of carbon dioxide and can be quite explosive.

Similar to milk kefir, the grains will generally consume all the sugar within a 24-48hr period. After this you will want to put it into secondary fermentation. This basically means you’ll add as small amount of sugar (just under a teaspoon per 16oz) and some sort of flavor. My favorite is ginger and lemon but you can really go with any fruit you want. My next batch I’ll be adding grapes!

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After a day or two you can start drinking. Make sure you strain before drinking! I just pour through a strainer right into my cup!

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Fizzzzzzz!!!!

It’s a fast and simple process you can do with all the kiddos around.

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Water Kefir

  • 1/2 cup water kefir grains
  • 1/2 cup sugar (preferably evaporated cane juice or other less processed sugars)
  • 2 quart water
  • 2 drops of black strap molasses

Dissolve sugar into warm water. Put grains in either one half gallon jar or two quart jars and add molasses. Once wate is cool pour it over grains and cover lightly with paper towel or cheese cloth.

Allow to sit for 24-48 hours until it no longer tastes sweet. Secondary bottling is optional.

*quick tip. Just like with milk kefir, do not let metal utensils touch the kefir grains. They hate it. Use wooden spoons, glass and plastic only.

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I hope you can find time to add water kefir to your cultured food arsenal. I’ve read around the internet of people being transformed by just water kefir alone but when used with other foods like milk kefir, kombucha and cultured vegetables it makes a formidable enemy to illness! I bought my original grains on amazon (when you search be sure you get organic, LIVE grains, not dehydrated) and they have grown significantly. I have given away three separate portions and still have enough to make a large batch.

 

 

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