Friday, January 20, 2017

Kombucha

You could easily pay up to $4 for a small bottle of kombucha at the health store, yet it is easy and relatively inexpensive to make it at home. When you make it at home you also get to make it just as you like it, want it a little stronger, leave it a day longer; want it berry flavoured or ginger flavoured, the choice is yours. To make it at home you need six simple things: A SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast)with starter liquid, tea, sugar, clean water, a warm place and time, that's it, that is all you need....oh and a couple of one gallon containers, preferably made of glass. 

There is much myth, much mystery, many claims and all sorts of fads around the drink, I am not going to say it will heal all your woes, or that it will be the answer to all your problems. We do know that probiotics are good for you with proven health benefits, but when anyone mentions the word probiotic we immediately think of yoghurt, sauerkraut or kimchi. That is fine but unless you make your own yoghurt, commercial yoghurt contains oodles of sugar as well as other ingredients you may not want in your healthy diet (just look at the ingredient list on the packaging.) Sauerkraut that has been bought has usually been pasteurised, again bringing into question the diversity of the remaining healthy bacteria. As for kimchi, let's face it, not everyone likes it or wants to go to work the next day breathing fire and garlic! We drink a glass of kombucha every day because we like it and it ensures a healthy dose of daily probiotics. We also eat homemade yoghurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi, but not on a daily basis.


Here is how to make it:


Bring a gallon of unchlorinated, non-fluoridated water to the boil and add 4-5 tea bags (just regular black tea will do) and a cup of sugar. Allow the tea to cool to room temperature.


Place the SCOBY and starter liquid in a clean gallon glass jar and add the cooled tea. Place a coffee filter over the jar and secure with an elastic band. We write the date on the coffee filter as you will want to set the jar to one side for 10-15 days. We do the first fermentation for 10 days, but that is a question of taste, the longer the fermentation the more sour it will taste. Now some people leave it at this and strain off the kombucha into a clean jar or bottles and refrigerate. Whatever you decide, you will need to keep the SCOBY and some starter liquid in your gallon jar for the next batch.


We go on to a second fermentation. You can use berries, soft fruit or our favourite, fresh ginger (NO citrus). Put aside the jar with the SCOBY and starter, you won't use this till your next batch. Just keep it covered and don't allow it to dry out. Place the filtered kombucha in a clean gallon jar, grate your ginger or crush your fruit and add it to the kombucha with a few tablespoons of sugar. Cover with a clean coffee filter secured with an elastic band. Allow to sit for 5 more days. Filter and put the finished kombucha into bottles or large container and refrigerate, it is now ready and refrigeration will stop the fermentation process.


If you want your kombucha to be really fizzy, simply put the filtered product into airtight bottles, we use Grolsch beer bottles with the wire tops. Beware, if you use this method, the pressure can build up. We have never had a bottle explode but it is possible, so take all the precautions needed for home brewing. We keep our bottles in the refrigerator slowing down the fermentation, perhaps that is why we have never had an exploded bottle.


There are a few things that should never come near your kombucha process, anti-bacterial soap or dish washing soap, citrus of any sort, or metal objects. Keep it clean, keep it simple. 


Enjoy your kombucha and as your SCOBY grows, share it with friends so they can start their own, too. We throw the SCOBY from the second ferment and the remaining fruit out to the chickens. The dogs like it, too but we have found it may make them unpleasant to be around as it gives them some rather smelly gas.


Any questions and we will be happy to try and answer them.



Friday, December 2, 2016

Holiday letter 2016


 As 2016 draws to a close and we reflect on all that it has held, we have to admit it has been a very good year!

One of the highlights of the year had to be all three of Anita's boys coming home with their families at the same time. It was an auspicious occasion for so many reasons, not least being the 90th birthday of Anita's Mom, Margaret and then her own birthday the very next day. We would all sign up to reach 90 in our own homes, with all our faculties working well, and physically able to enjoy life to its fullest as does Margaret. Not only is she an inspiration, teaching us new things on a regular basis, but the hall we rented was full for most of the day. Those who remembered to sign the guest book totalled 155. She even got blisters from opening all the cards and thoughtful letters she received from friends and family. For us it was a joy to be part of the celebration, spend time with Anita's siblings and their families but there was the very real joy of a kitchen filled with the noise and laughter of all three boys and their families. A table loaded to the gills here at home, it doesn't happen nearly often enough with each of the boys living in a different state.

Every now and then we have the privilege of meeting someone who not only becomes a friend but will also have a significant influence on our lives, and this happened to us in April. We became friends with someone deeply committed to enabling women, but also to revitalising downtown Watertown here in South Dakota. Admittedly there was not much choice involved, she is such a good sales person,  but we were 'dragged' into participating in the Thursday Night Live Farmers' Market. We hoped we would be able to sell some of our homemade products but it made us so much more than money. We made new and lasting friendships with people we might never have met otherwise, a retired Catholic priest springs to mind, a truly loving, well informed, well read, and generous man who very unexpectedly has remained a positive part of our lives. The Market became like a small village of people that, to this day, three months after the last market date, is still influencing our lives. A very positive experience that still has us smiling as we look back on it. We were also thankful for Margaret's contribution as she made doughnuts every week that were a very real hit with the Ladies from the Jenkins Living Center who came down every week to buy some. It was fun to be able to include my Mother and my nephew Joe in these events as they highlighted the basis of our lifestyle that is friends, community and healthy local foods.

Gardening was a challenge this year with the lack of rain and the early start to the high summer temperatures. Just getting seeds to germinate was difficult but with trying several times we were able to grow enough veggies to fill our basement shelves with canned goods, our three chest freezers are full and we have a cabinet filled with our own dried herbs, spices and other 'stuff' we put through the dehydrator. We may not have had very much to sell but we do have enough to feed us till next year as well as to share throughout the coming months. Life is good! The goats made a significant contribution to our lives, as usual. They make us laugh every day, they keep us healthy not just with love and laughter but their ability to escape ensures that we also get regular exercise from rounding them up and from building bigger and better fences every year! The 22 babies filled the barn with so much cuteness that we were indeed fortunate that so many of them were boys that have to be sold. We have no room for more than one buck. We did actually keep one doeling and she is already showing promise as she jumps the gate back to the area of the barn where we store feed. A new venture this year is a dozen guinea fowl that we hope will also produce babies and help keep down the tick population next spring. When the weather is so dry and hot, not only do our own animals feel the stress but the wildlife closes in on us as they need to feed and water their young. We were hit particularly hard by the racoons who decided that both our baby chicks and adult hens were a fine way to teach their young the important lessons in life. Fortunately, Anita received a birthday gift of 50 baby chicks and we were able to also buy some full grown hens along the way. We are already seeing signs that they will all start laying eggs on a regular basis.

Each year we make most of our Christmas presents and the start of winter and snow sees us in the sewing room. Even as I type, Anita is sitting at a table in the living room working her magic with glue and tweezers on some very special gifts. All summer long, the sewing room is just a closed door, but as the cold weather starts it is like a siren calling our names, waiting for us to throw ourselves into the stash of fabric and yarn. 

We are fortunate that our pick up was able to be repaired, we will be able to go and bring it home this weekend and it will soon be performing its regular duty of dragging home firewood. We both prefer to cut and split in the winter and it gives us something to do other than to sit indoors. Having the vehicle out of action has made us late on dragging some equipment to the barn for the winter, but the weather predictions seem to suggest we will still have time to drag the trailer filled with bicycles, mowers and other small engine equipment out to the barn next week. While cold is in the forecast, there seems to be little sign of more snow.

The end of the year not only allows for looking back and appreciating all that has been, but it is also the time for making new plans, deciding on any changes we may need to make for the coming year, it is a time of hope and promise. Our biggest change for next year, and one that we are really looking forward to, is that we will be including a good friend in all that we do in the gardens. We have referred to her as the Young'un, and it is an exciting prospect for all of us. She wants to learn, her daughter wants to learn, they want to garden, their backs are stronger than ours, and we seem to have found the perfect solution for all of us. We each bring specific skills to the garden that make us stronger and more productive as a group. We foresee much love and laughter as we work together, starting this winter as we share, and hopefully infect them, with our love of seed catalogues and garden planning.

As the year draws to a close we wish you all a very happy Christmas, Channuka, Yuletide, or any other holiday you may celebrate. We hope that the memories of 2016 have been kind to you and that 2017 may bring you all that you need and, as the Irish say, 
"May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire."

We thank each and every one of you for showing interest in our lives, for sharing in our happiness and making us so very aware of all that is positive in our lives.

Anita and Edith (Two Old Broads)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It is spring!

It is spring, Mother Earth wakes up, the weather improves and there is a stirring in our hearts. We no longer feel as if we are fighting Mother Nature to keep our animals alive. We no longer feel as though we have to outwit the weather to have enough; enough wood for heat, enough hay for the animals, enough food in storage, enough sales to keep us going. Spring is a time of hope, a belief that pursuing self-sufficiency, while never 100% attainable, is at least improving every year. Spring is a time of babies, goats and chickens for us. There is more bubbling laughter as we watch the babies grow and play, there is just a lightness in our step that has been heavier in the heart of winter. 

It is spring. There is an inexplicable draw to play in the dirt, to plant seeds directly into the ground, to put seedlings grown under artificial light out into the real sunshine. There are the concerns of too windy, will it scorch the plants; too dry, should we water; too cold, will we get a late frost; too hot will it ruin the harvest or drive up the price of hay. Yet with all of that, we are drawn to thrust our hands in the dirt, watch our skin slowly change colour. Our hands and feet get black from the soil, our skin brown gently under the protection of home made creams that drive away the bugs that would make us sick.

It is spring and we no longer turn on artificial lights to mark the rhythm of our day, our bodies respond to sunrise and sunset, or the sound of birds playing in the trees. Mother Nature may not give us straight lines and yet we take pleasure in laying straight lines of seeper hoses that will deliver moisture to the plants we grow to feed ourselves and those in the local town unable to grow their own food. The day extends as we apply ourselves to do just one more thing before we head indoors. We eat when we are hungry, we remember to drink as our bodies need it.

It is spring, and we do not have the heat that summer will bring. We have near perfect temperatures in the 70'F. We bring out our trusty but worn summer clothes and hats. We change the scent of our skin cream from tea tree oil to lemon eucalyptus and cloves to deter the insects. We can dig all afternoon without fear of heatstroke. Though we have planted fruit bushes and trees there is still grass that needs mowing at least twice a week before the summer temps slow down the rate it grows. Yet that too gives us what we need as we use the grass clippings to mulch between the rows of vegetables.

It is spring. We start our year with a list of things to be done that could be daunting, but even that list has its own rhythm. The crops are rotated, there is an order that Mother Nature demands of us. Potatoes and onions, peas and radishes, there can be no rush with tender plants. We have four large gardens but once we decide on the rotation, the timing of each garden is determined by the weather, the strength of the sun and the date of the last frost. There is no fighting these things.

We are both into our sixties, why do we do these things? It is spring and we have felt the earth breathe and knew we had to respond!