Kombucha – I got this.

The first time my friend Angela gave me a scoby I felt clueless and overwhelmed, and Shawn was terrified of it. (‘It’s going to climb out and suction onto our faces while we sleep!’) Well I assure you that it’s not from Alien vs Predator and it’s so easy I’m certain anyone could do it. The health benefits of this delicious elixir far outweigh the awkward first handling of the scoby.

Fermented Kombucha

This time around, despite what almost every blog told me, I didn’t use organic tea. I happened to have some Monks Blend from my days as a Steeped Tea rep and it worked wonderfully. So I wanted to write out a few tips that I learned along the way, some of which I would have never thought of.

  1. Wash everything thoroughly, including your hands. First with a soap that is not antibacterial, and then with apple cider vinegar. This cleans everything and ensures your batch and scoby aren’t compromised. Be sure to rinse really well.
  2. After boiling your water and steeping your tea of choice, let it cool down to room temperature. Also be sure to remove your scoby from the  fridge about an hour before you put it in so that it also is at room temperature. I used a gallon jar and I ended up leaving my tea to cool for the afternoon. My first batch I didn’t let it cool enough and the scoby sank to the bottom – I later realized that this is totally fine.
  3. If your scoby sinks, don’t worry. This can be caused by a difference in temperature in the tea or if the scoby culture is weak. Sweat not, a new culture will grow across the top.

I’m currently on my second batch and am about to get ready to head out the door to deliver the scoby baby to a friend. I’m excited to learn more, try new teas, and share this with friends and family. As I learn more I’ll post, but for now I’m really enjoying experimenting.

Kombucha

Seedlings aren’t for the faint of heart

damping off

Let me start by saying I am by no means a professional when it comes to growing food. I am however very passionate about it and eager to learn whatever I can from whoever will teach me. Books have been pretty informative so far but I find reading other blogs and interacting with other gardeners/homesteaders to be the best source of knowledge. Oh, and don’t forget your own mistakes – you’ll learn a hell of a lot from those.

Back to the topic at hand; plants and the daunting yet rewarding act of growing them from seeds. I was optimistic this year since my first garden (last year) was so successful. I thought, ‘hey, you know what? I’m going to double the size and quality of my garden this year and I’m going to start from seed. No transplants for me!”  So I started planting, watering, watching frequently, and rotating my babies to optimize the sun from my relatively small South-Western facing window. Well they grew, but they also suffered an ill fate damping off.

Needless to say I’m starting over and I’m hoping these ones will be healthier. Instead of bagged seedling starter I’m going to load up my trays with some good ol’ cow manure and peat moss. Luckily the hubby works on a farm where both are in great supply. (It’s the best miracle grow I know of and why I didn’t use it to begin with I’ll never know.)

SEED TRAYS

This year I didn’t really do too much planning, which was short-sighted on my part. On a whim, I decided to buy seedling starter pots that you could just plant directly in the ground with your transplants. Looking back on that decision I regret it because now that I’ve found a DIY idea I love, it just seems silly to have PAID for them. Note: I really don’t think they benefited the health of the plants either.

These Recycled Newspaper Pots are brilliant and super easy to make. Today’s looking pretty gloomy outside so I think my toddler and I are going to have a crafty afternoon constructing little plant pots. I definitely suggest these to anyone looking to recycle and save money. Did I mention they’re environmentally friendly?

Paper Plant Pots

Garden Betty’s Recycled Newspaper Pots

WATERING

This was certainly an issue for me this year – being a little overenthusiastic with the spray bottle was not a good idea. A late start to the season, cloudy days, and water without any great deal of sun turned into disease in the soil, wasted seed, and a flustered gardener. So, I’ve decided to modify my watering schedule a little.

– First initial watering is just misting the seedlings to create damp soil. Cover the tray your pots are in with a plastic dome or plastic wrap. They can be kept somewhere warm, and since they don’t need sun at this stage the soil won’t dry out quite so fast – little to no watering needed.

– Only if the soil is dry to the touch do they need light mist. Only watering when soil is dry will allow more time for the soil to dry out which promotes root growth. (Instead of keeping the soil damp by spraying both morning and evening like I was previously.)

– Once sprouted, setting trays (with holes in bottom) in a dish of water to absorb from below for about 2-3 minutes. This is only needed every other day or else you risk root rot or damping off. It also ensures you’re not wetting the leaves or stems, which also cuts back on your risk of disease.

 

These are just the first few steps in growing my seedlings. Once I know they’ve grown sturdier and more likely to survive I’ll work on hardening them and then transplanting them into my raised beds. I’m pretty excited to get this whole process down pat and become confident in doing it multiple times a year.

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides”

– W.E. Johns

Note: Major shout out to Linda Ly at gardenbetty.com – SO many wonderful and informative posts!

REAL food and REAL life

Is food really so complicated or do we just make it that way? One of my biggest struggles in living a healthier lifestyle has definitely been mastering the art of eating the best foods for my body. I never understood why it was such a complex thing until I started my search for better information in my early 20s. I realized quickly that there is just SO much out there. Seriously – walk into any bookstore, health food section, or google anything to do with food and you’re instantly confronted by a thousand ways to lose a few extra pounds, cut carbs, fat, or sodium, etc. It’s just within the last few years that mainstream media has grabbed hold of books, articles, and blogs that get down to the nitty gritty and discuss REAL food. I’m not sure about you but I’m tired of wading through fad diets and fast food advertisements. For this reason (and many others) the homesteading movement really appeals to me. Getting back to the basics and being self sufficient sounds blissful.

This leads me into what I’ve really been wanting to talk about. Homesteading. Getting back to our roots and eating real food, not the crap in packages that is marketed as ‘natural’ or even as food at all. Don’t get me wrong, I do indulge in junk, but my main goal is to make or grow whatever I can myself. There’s just something so rewarding about doing things yourself and not relying on anyone else. Last year was my first year gardening on my own and I have to say there is nothing like pulling fresh food out of the garden and eating it right away. You don’t realize how much flavor the grocery store produce is missing! (Not to mention nutrients.)

At first homesteading can be ridiculously overwhelming because there really is an endless amount of things you can take on. From reading and talking to others I’ve come to realize that it’s all about small steps and learning things thoroughly. There’s no need to rush. I want to make sure that when I’m learning these lifelong skills that I’m giving them 100%. On my list of things to do this year I’ve continued on with gardening and canning preserves (Still SO much to learn), and also added fermented goods to the list.

Recently I kind of fell into a rut feeling like I would never get around to any of this because I was overwhelmed by my mild OCD with cleaning (it’s endless if you allow it to be) and my silly addiction to my phone. On a side note: It’s nuts how much time we waste on a regular basis doing things we really don’t even want to do! I baffle myself sometimes. Why the hell would I spend any amount of time surfing Facebook when I could be playing with my little girl, journaling, creating delicious healthy food for my family –  just concentrating my efforts on things I enjoy and that pertain to me. Not so-and-so’s vacation photos or the many status’ that ooze with either negativity or the awesome stuff OTHER people are doing. *Facepalm*

Enter the wise words of a homesteading supermom. Martina is a fellow mom I met through the Nova Scotia Cloth Diaper Network on Facebook (I know I know. But sometimes Facebook is beneficial) and through a mutual friend. I’m not sure she realized how much she really helped me, but it was just what I needed to realize that I’d been stressing about things I didn’t even care about. Though I already knew on some level that I had complete control over my life there was just something that stood out when in regards to cleaning and ‘having it together in other people’s eyes’ she wrote, “My secret is just letting go of those things and not giving two shits. Doing the things I love and keeping the kids fed, happy, and healthy.” She also wrote, “Honestly the things that I take time for are my ‘escape’ gardening, homesteading, fermenting, and cooking. These are my escape from the 24/7 attention that I give to the kids. They benefit from it, learn from it and I make it my thing.” How is this some kind of eureka moment for me you ask? Because I didn’t know where to start and I thought cleaning was a huge part of what made me happy. Turns out that if the laundry’s folded and the sink is empty I’m no more happy than if I had just left them and done something more important. I’m actually happier and more energetic concentrating on family, cooking, and homesteading.

So that all being said, I wanted to make sure that others looking to get into homesteading weren’t crazy overwhelmed. Just get yourself to the point where you have a list of things you want to concentrate on and that make you happy, and go for it! Take your time, learn new things, and for the love of god stop worrying about what you ‘should’ be doing. I feel like I’ve wasted enough time thinking, planning, and cleaning, I’m just ready to DO. My first order of things is to spend as much time with my little as possible and include her in as much of the homesteading process as I can. I’ve sort of avoided this at times because it’s faster to get things done if I do them, but the speed at which it’s done doesn’t matter in the least. So what’s holding you back? What’s overwhelming you and preventing you from doing the things you love? What makes you happy? Why haven’t you done these things? Could you be taking time from things like surfing the net and watching TV to do these things?

 

NOTE: This is the video that took me from interested in homesteading and self sufficiency to being passionate about it. The Dervaes family is so inspirational when it comes to being self sufficient. I aspire to learn the skills necessary to create my own oasis and provide for my family in such a profound way. Please take a look 🙂