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by Monica Melograna-Ward

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Guest Blog Post

Tested and Written by Jamie Andrew Ward
Edited by Monica Melograna-Ward

Jamie’s Kombucha – 101

K1

Before you begin, you must get a SCOBY. This is the engine that drives the whole kombucha car. You can get one online or ask a friend for one. A “baby” scoby (which can be easily peeled off and removed) grows with each batch, so people can share them easily.

You’ve gotten your scoby. Now what do you do?

K2

Step A1: Boil water.
I always use a little extra water, in addition to what would fill my container – due to evaporation. Boil it for 15 minutes to ensure that any impurities are gone.

K3

Step A2: Make a big batch of black tea.
Black tea works best and helps keep the scoby healthy. You can use herbal, but only after a few batches with black tea. Then you need to go back to black. I use 18 tea bags per 1.5 gallons.

K4

Step A3: Add sugar.
I use 2 cups per 1.5 gallons of water. The scoby ferments on the sugar and thus eats most of it. The longer you ferment, the less sugar you have in your kombucha. GTS has 2g per serving. I aim for about that level.

Step A4: Make sure that the sugar has dissolved into the water, then cool.
Let your mixture return to room temperature. This is crucial, because hot water will kill a scoby.

Step A5: Place in large GLASS container. Cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band to seal the top.
This lets the air in, and thus fermentation to occur. It also keeps the bugs out. Gnats love kombucha. I like jars with a spout, but the spout must not be metal!

K5

Fermentation

Step A6: Place in cool, dry location for about 2 weeks.
You can taste along the way to check on how your production is going. You can use a straw and extract a sample. Insert the straw into the liquid, then cover one end of the straw with a finger to pull some drops out.

2 weeks later…

K6

Secondary Fermentation (Bubbles and Flavor)

Step B1: Remove scoby, and some of the tea, into a separate container.
Store this until your next batch. You can look up how to keep a scoby and feed it between batches. I tend to do one batch after another, so I have not had need to learn how to do this.

K7

Step B2: Add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the tea.
You will see it foam up.

K8

Step B3: Set out your sterilized jars.
I run then through the dishwasher, twice. Recycled GT containers work the best. I was using ball jars also, but was not getting the fizz that I get from the GTs. I completely stopped using the mason jars. In a pinch, they work OK.

Step B4: Add juice, if desired, to the bottom of your jars, for flavor.
I use ½ cup of juice per 16 oz container. Add juice. Then add the tea.

K9

Step B5: Close containers tightly. Let sit (counter or table) for about 3-7 days.
I have found SEVEN to be the magic number of days – so, exactly one week.

Step B6: On the 8th day, refrigerate all bottles.
This slows down the fermentation process and allows your mixture to mellow, or, at the least, take its time developing. Experiment, have fun, and feel free to choose your own chill date.

Note:
If you get something slimy in your bottles, this is a baby scoby. You can remove or swallow this. It won’t harm you to ingest (GROSS! – comment by MMW).

Handy Tip:
When I clean the big containers, I use hot water, and a very versatile product, VINEGAR. I get a large bottle of white vinegar at Costco for about $3.00. It helps keep the PH okie dokie. I use vinegar to clean my coffee pot too. So, if you not only love kombucha, but also coffee, this is a great (and natural) cleaning product to keep stocked in your kitchen.

Conclusion

In the intervening weeks, I assess what I did and didn’t like about the latest, completed batch. Then, adjustments can be decided upon for the next time I begin production. Trial and error is where you will live for a while: More or less sugar, more or less juice, more or fewer tea bags, more or less sugar before the secondary fermentation, etc….

You’ll find your rhythm, enjoy special recipe homemade kombucha and save a lot of $$$. That’s it!

Happy Saturday and Enjoy Your Weekend Projects!

Please join us here on the Farmette!

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FourThirtyAM

For a variety of reasons, which I have decided to keep private, our little Farmette was dismantled. We re-homed the two ponies – to great homes and caregivers. The last bantam chicken, a hermit crab and a parakeet, that were lingering here, also got new digs. Our two, now senior, but surprisingly energetic canines, were all that remained.

So, it has been three+ years and it is 4:30 in the morning. In this article’s featured image, you can see the yellow-tinged light coming from my office. It shines in the darkness of the cold night that permeates my pajamas, as I stand outside to take the picture (photo: Canon PowerShot A1300). I have gotten to the age where insomnia comes often and I now choose to take advantage of it. I get the quiet work done. The type that won’t wake up the whole household. This morning that work is writing, which I just adore.

The experience with farm animals; from horses to goats to pigs to sheep to chickens to guinea fowl to ducks to turkeys to quail to geese to bees, has been so enriching. We learned so much! And with all of that behind us, and a wealth of knowledge, we have decided to remake our mini farm, on a small and easily manageable scale.

We now have our two existing dogs, two new young cats and four Swedish Flower chickens. These are our two pairs of new chickens:

SwedishFlowers_1

Swedish Flower Chickens – 16 Weeks Old (photo: iPhone SE)

Swedish Flowers are a rare breed that has only been in the United States since 2010. I was browsing craigslist in the farm sales section and happened upon them. After looking them up online: https://www.backyardchickens.com/reviews/swedish-flower-chicken.11461/, I decided to go ahead and get them while they were still available. That means that they are currently residing in a four chamber travel cage while I construct the ultimate predator proof coop and run. Whenever I am outside working on the new coop, they get to hang out in the temporary outdoor pen.

The following is a photo (also taken with an iPhone SE) of the base of the coop in progress. There are nine old boards screwed into three old 4x4s that will be drilled with holes for pulling/moving the cage. Since taking the photo, I have removed the corner braces from the frame (This suggestion came from my brother J. He is helping me via pics, text and talk from Baltimore, MD). Most of the materials are being cannibalized from other cages and shelters on our property. So far, the only new materials I plan to purchase are metal braces, paint and some sort of repair material(s) for the aluminum roofing.

PPcoop_base

As you can see, the base is solid wood. I will be drilling some holes for drainage and using pine shavings to line the bottom. But, we will not have to worry about foxes, raccoons or weasels digging underneath and in to eat our future egg-producing, clucking, crowing residents.

PS – Welcome Back Readers!

 

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A great realization has come to me. I have incorporated Buddhist ideas into my life over the years. But, up until recently, I have merely dabbled in the true practice of this philosophy.

BuddhaHeadW

My husband had been spending some time at Vajradhara Buddhist Center. I went for one of the meditation sessions. It was good, but I did not make the effort to get to more sessions.

I was unhappy for that period of time in the Fall of 2012. Learning to practice patience was one of the things that helped me snap out of an unpleasant cycle.

My birthday celebration in late February (2013) was lovely, even though I had been dipping into another difficult cycle. I had been thinking a lot about our life as humans and about history. Thoughts of man-made importance and achievement weighed heavily on my mind. Everything that I was working for seemed make believe. Motivation was difficult to grasp during this persistent wave of thoughts.

I was feeling disappointed. I was feeling frustrated. I was practicing patience, but I was not progressing. I kept ending up back in the same spot in my mind.

The opportunity to attend a presentation about Modern Buddhism presented itself. Although I was still feeling run down from a lingering virus, I went. The talk gave me a gift – calmness. There was much unrest swirling with it, but I could still feel that centered, peaceful feeling somewhere within the storm.

Then, I thought some more. I thought about who and what I love. I thought about things that aggravate me. I was searching for how to proceed.

The purpose of life is to live it and to live it well. Kindness is the key.

The best way to live it is to accept suffering, show compassion and practice patience. Lack of acceptance, blame and retaliation all lead to an unhappy path. I want a better route. I want it for myself. I want it for my family. I want it for my friends. I must practice wanting it for my enemies. Therefore, I must practice and find compassion for those who act aggressively towards me.

To let go of “I” and “Mine” in our daily dealings with the world helps quite a bit – whether it be about material things, personal successes or even negative acts done towards us. To take criticism and harshness as something unpleasant, and in actuality not truly about us, is the path to contentment. We must look at those who are unkind as suffering greatly themselves.

I have been more angry than is healthy. To remain angry is to let poison flow through our veins. I am practicing to redirect this energy – to accept it and let it go  – out of my brain. When uncomfortable things approach, I will try to see them as an opportunity to practice.

AmerSer2W

Spring has come. The sunshine feels good. I wander out to care for our poultry flock. Chicks are hatching from our incubator. I stop to explain how an embryo develops to my son. We enjoy the new, little lives. It is a great fortune to live ours.

I attempt to share what I learn about navigating a farmette lifestyle. We may practice connecting with the earth.

Another road that I am traveling has a destination. Periodically, I will also attempt to share what I learn about practicing Buddhist teachings. We may travel towards a place of happiness in enlightenment.

Today’s inspiration came from the Buddhist book:
“How to Solve Our Human Problems – The Four Noble Truths” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

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I just watched Farmageddon, which explains the disappearance of local farms in America. The reason that I can give it a great endorsement is that it lives in the middle ground.

Meat and More

Meat?

Extremism (in either direction) is not something that I am fond of. Honest, fact-based descriptions of obvious issues are the ones that I can relate to. One showing people that take a look at their opposition calmly is another trait that I admire in a documentary.

I agree with their take on small and organic farming. Natural food eating is discouraged by the rich. Corporations are rich. They influence our government, and then our government imposes regulations that are corporation friendly. These rules are the kind that destroy small operations.

The regulations drive costs up in paperwork, licenses, fees, surcharges, workers, equipment, supplies, taxes and so on. This drives the small farmer out of business. Managing regulations has become a full time job and has become a poison to productivity/efficiency. The corporations win by bullying those who do not have the time, money, resources, personnel or energy to fight back.

Health and safety are top priorities of being human. I understand the concerns regarding both of those in relation to food. But the thing is, there is SO much out there to buy that is over-processed, over-salted, over-sugared, over-fried, pesticide heavy, petroleum rich and full of unnatural chemical mixtures. It is all REALLY BAD for your body.

Sauce with Bonus Ingredients

Sauce?

But somehow, edibles raised/grown on the land are being marketed by the media as dangerous (the corporations pay for what news gets to you via advertising dollars). The cost of organic food is driven high beyond the reach of the average family. The availability is scarce. And so we all eat the junk food.

And then we get sick, and health care is BIG business. That system makes a lot of money. And then they use it to control the population by influencing our financial leaders and politicians. And that negative cycle continues on.

Fresh Eggs!

Fresh Eggs

There is risk involved in EVERYTHING. The truth is that FEAR is taking over our society. It is now normal to be afraid of PEANUT BUTTER.

Venison Jerky-  ready for the oven

Venison Jerky- Ready for the oven

And the thing is, the more that we expose ourselves to organic, fresh, unpasteurized foods, the healthier we will be. Our immune system learns how to work correctly by doing so. Most of the ills that now plague the country like obesity, diabetes, cancer, food allergies, dependence on medicines, etc. are becoming more epidemic as we move away from eating the way we really should – directly from the earth.

Live Sage!

Live Sage

We are human. We are mammals. We will live. We will be sick. We will be injured. We will die. Sitting inside a house, eating fumigated, boiled, bleached, test tube food will not cure all these woes.

Dried Hot Peppers

Dried Hot Peppers

We can go outside, we can roll in the grass, we can breathe in the fresh air, we can suck a Honeysuckle flower or eat those tiny, wild strawberries. It is OK. Is it possible to catch something from doing this? Yes. But, it is so unlikely, that we are more likely to be struck by lightening.

Farm Stand and Trader Joe's - for the Winter.

Farm Stand & Trader Joe’s – for the Winter

Do you want to live your life, as fully as possible?

Dormant Peach

Dormant Peach Tree

I am glad that we have fresh chicken eggs to eat. I am glad that we have venison in the freezer. I am glad that we can flavor our meals with fresh herbs and spices. I am glad that we have a lovely garden – that gets bigger every year. I am glad that we have fruit trees. I am hoping to have goat milk this Spring. And I wish that everyone that wants this could have it all too!

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It is my favorite time of the day. It is quiet. The dew drenches the grass so much that my travels through it leave an obvious path. The smaller birds are flitting about in the bushes near the front door.

That door opens to a view of the pasture. Most days are so busy, that it is difficult to take a moment to soak in the view. I need to just stop. It is right here. It is the time to just look and listen and smell and breathe.

I always loved the city in the morning too. The sounds of construction overriding the chatter of office workers as they scurried into tall office buildings. Steam rising as the sun starts to shine on the asphalt. Late night leftovers stumbling back home, manage to gift a passing smile. But it is a different kind of love out here on the country roads. It was silently overwhelming at first.

When it is too quiet, the sound of the roosters’s calls comfort me. They are voicing their presence, calling to their hens. They are telling them, that when the dawn comes, they will be protected. Their crows start just before the light changes in the sky. The vulnerability of the darkness will be over soon.

And then I wake fully, and walk outside, and do stop to take in that view. “Bigs” is usually waiting. He is blind, but he can feel the vibrations of my footsteps through the ground. He perks his ears – listening, smelling, breathing.

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This is the first deformed chick that has hatched here on the farmette. I really should not joke and call him a freak. His name will be Chance II since his survival will hang in the balance where eating and drinking are concerned.

The story can be told mostly in pictures. As much as his beak is twisted, he is able to drink. That is good. Food will be a challenge. Instead of having a shallow food bowl, I am going to try one that is deep. It will be filled with chick starter food (fine crumbles).

Chance II is an amazing chick so far. He cracked his way out of his shell with that crossed bill. Maybe it was an advantage and worked like scissors (I really should not joke).

Surprisingly, despite this baby’s special physique, he is strong and healthy. He peeps and runs around behaving just like the other chicks. If you look down in the brooder bin, you really can’t tell that anything is wrong.


I saved the best view for last. This angle shows the left side of his face as normal, but he right side gone a-rye in development. He can see fine out of his left eye. The right one did not form into something usable. I am glad that he is not completely blind.

It was hard to get Chance II to keep still for photos. This is a good thing. Maybe our oddball chick will not only drink, but eat some chick starter food soon. 🙂

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“RESERVED with $60.00 deposit” by Jessica C.
1. Jessica C.
2. Chelsea F.
3. Laura B.

We’ve been calling her “Little Jeffrey”. It does not make any sense since she is a girl. But, pygmy doe kid #2 born March 9, 2012 is colored just like her daddy, Jefferey (colored creamy white with chocolate markings.). She doesn’t seem to mind it. The name is only temporary since she is up for sale.

Doe kid #2 AKA Little Jeffrey was born the second of two. She was a nice hearty 2 pounds (her sister, doe #1 AKA YoYo was 1.5 pounds at birth). At one week old they are hopping and skipping all around.

LJ’s price is $100.00. She can be reserved until she is weaned for $50.00 ($25.00 of this refundable if you change your mind). We do not expect her availability to last long, so reserving may be your best bet.

She will be ready for her new home the weekend of April 28-29, 2012. LJ will be handled a lot and exposed to children and dogs. We leave our pygmies with horns due to their size, even the boys. Our herd sire will push his harem around, but never ever attempts that with us. As soon as he was weaned – he was raised here. We did not play rough with him as a kid which helps keep the bucks tame.

Pygmy goats are great for brush clearing. They can be milked. The production level just won’t be as high or the milk quality as great as a goat bred for dairy use. Ours are also our very entertaining pets.

They need fresh water, grain or hay or brush… and a good dry shelter for the rain and cold. Ours prefer to stay outside. The shed gets use if it is wet outside or extremely cold and windy.

FYI: Goats are herd animals, so it is best to keep at least two. They will bond with a human or a dog or a horse… but other goats are their favorite above and beyond the rest.

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