Top 10 Things to do with Your Extra Kombucha Scobys

CREDIT: thegreenest.net

How many of you just thought Kom-whattie- whattie?  It’s ok- if you haven’t heard about this drink, you aren’t alone.  Kombucha is a naturally fermented drink that is made with a culture (often called a mushroom or Scoby) and sweet tea.  It is typically effervescent and somewhat reminiscent of vinegar.  It has many health benefits, chief among them is its ability to assist the body in removing toxins from the liver and blood.  As part of our Medicinal Herbs CSA this past summer I included a Kombucha culture for our shareholders.  Part of making this drink is figuring out what to do with your scobys which will multiply like rabbits.  For every batch, your scoby will have a “baby”.  You can keep making more and more batches, invest in a continuous brewer such as the system found here at Kombucha Kamp, or figure out other uses for them.  I don’t have a continuous brewer myself, but I not-so-secretly lust after them….  have any of you tried one?  My CSA members have been asking since the summer for ideas, so here goes:

1. Use it as a facial.  Put it on your face for about 15 minutes.  You can also use the tea itself in baths and on your skin and hair!
2. Make more Kombucha.
3. Share with friends!
4. Dry it and give it to your animals as a treat (it will be slightly chewy, not brittle).  This will be kind of like pigs ears, but you can actually just save the extra work of drying and give it fresh to dogs, cats, chickens and more.
5. Put it under a bandaid to help heal a cut or burn.
6. Add to your compost or grind it up to side dress a plant that likes a more acid ph.
7. Use them to experiment with different teas and sugars. If you kill them, no worries!
8. Blend small slices into your breakfast smoothie.  There are other food applications here as well- I hear some people use it as a fish substitute in sushi!
9. Use in crafting as a leather substitute.
10. Add bits of scoby to the vase of water to perk up fresh flowers.

Have any favorite uses for your scoby?

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How much cheese would a family curd if a family could curd cheese?

So I’m wondering…. how much of each type of cheese would an average family have to put back for a year? I have some great numbers from a Weston Price posting for other staples (rapadura, maple syrup, grain, coconut oil, etc.) but I don’t think they include cheese. So I’m in the process of trying to figure this out.

Let’s see, there are some fresh and soft cheeses that one would not be able to store, they’d have to be made fresh and often. Cream cheese and cheddar curds come to mind here. But there are hard cheese which need to age that one must think ahead. Another factor to throw in is that if you just have one cow (like we do), you have to think ahead for the two months that she’s dry. For those who aren’t familiar with all things bovine…. you “dry” your cow off, or stop milking her, for about 2 months before she has her calf. This gives her a chance to focus on her health and on growing the calf.  So during the dry months, you don’t get milk everyday… it’s time to go to Disney or the beach or whatever else you can think of to fill the loads of free time you suddenly have.  During that time though, you need to have cheese and milk frozen and cheese in your cheese cave if you plan on using milk products.

So help me here…. what cheeses do your family most often use?  Each batch of cheese typically makes about 2 pounds of cheese.  A quick survey of the internet says that the average American eats 31 pounds a year!  That means…. times 4….. I’d have to produce 124 pounds… that’s 62 batches…. hmm…. subtract the 1, divide by 200, find for the quadrilateral of pi….. In the 44 weeks I have left to me of milking, I’d need to average about 3 cheeses a week.  I’m definitely on track there!

So, 3 cheeses a week, typically means 2 gallons each.  6 gallons of milk tied up in cheese per week.  In this house I’d say we use Havarti, Cream Cheese, Colby, Cheddar, Gouda and Gorgonzola the most.  This would be followed by smaller amounts of Parmesan, Brie, Hot Pepper Cheese and Specialties.

A plan that included making at least one or two varieties of the most used cheeses every week might look like this:  Havarti- 7 (14#), Colby 10 (20#), Cheddar 10 (20#), Cheddar Curds 11 (22#), Gouda 7 (14#) and Gorgonzola 7 (7#).  I would then follow that Parmesan 8 (16#), Brie 4 (1#), Hot Pepper Cheese 5 (10#) and Specialty Experiments as I wanted.  Wow- that equals exactly 124 pounds of cheese!  That doesn’t include cream cheese which is actually a by-product of making yogurt in this house.  I’ll probably be making a batch of that every week.  That means I’ll need 7 gallons a week for yogurt and cheese, 1 gallon a week for kefir, 1 gallon for ice cream/sour cream/cream/etc., and 1 gallon to drink.  That makes my family’s milk needs right at 10 gallons.  No, I didn’t forget butter…. that comes out of the 6 gallons that goes to making cheese.  That’s also where I’ll get our buttermilk.

My parents will need 4 gallons, so in the off peak milking months that leaves me with 7 gallons for which I don’t have plans.  In the peak milking months that’s more like 21 gallons…. I’ll definitely have to figure out where all this extra milk goes.  Perhaps we’ll have to put cheese in our CSA!

Oh crap, then I’d have to allow in my plan for making cheese to give away as gifts…. oh well, back to square one!

What are your favorite cheeses?

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Diaper Rash Solution

When my daughter goes through her periodic bouts with teething, her urine gets so strong she develops little ulcerous sores. Of course being in an area that’s constantly shut up in a diaper, or unpleasant messes happen, it’s very difficult to treat the way I’d really like. I’d love to let her run naked and get some fresh air and sunshine on it, but it’s not summer and I don’t fancy a wet trail cleanup. I get enough of those with Aidan’s naked potty training.

So every time she goes through this I alternate between powder and salve and agonize over having to put on a diaper. During the summer, my powder works great because it wicks away the moisture that makes these sores worse. It is made of arrowroot powder and ground lavender, comfrey and calendula. My children LOVE this powder and so do I, however, it doesn’t seem to be the thing to use in the winter when part of the issue is an overly dry situation. So I go back to our Universal Salve which can heal up pretty much anything. However, again with the diaper holding in moisture, it is not the area where a salve would shine.

Every time I go through this I eventually break down and fill a small container of honey fresh from the honey kitchen to put near the changing table. Of course, it is perfect in this situation. It is a natural humectant, but effective at sealing away moisture. It is antibacterial and healing all at the same time. Inevitably, an angry looking sore goes to healthy pink within a day and after a couple days there is new skin. My clinical self thought, “hey, I should get a before and after picture” and then the reality part of my brain reasonably countered with “Child Services and embarrassing news headlines”…. so no pictures.

Honey is, in fact, the solution of choice for very bad burns and un-healable diabetic sores. I don’t know why I don’t reach for it in the first place every time…. so from now on I have a jar of raw honey in the kitchen… a jar in the medicine cabinet…. sometimes one in the shower… and ALWAYS a jar at the changing table.

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Homemade Wine

Homebrew- Rose Metheglin and Dandelion Wine

Just so you don’t think we’re all about work here at Mockingbird Meadows…. Last night I tasted the wines I made this summer. It was a hard day because I was tired… the kids had run me ragged outside in the snow and I was NOT in the mood to think about what to fix for dinner… suddenly my homemade wines in the corner caught my eye. I’ve been so patient since June, but that was all about to end. All I can say is YUM! I’ve always wanted to make my own wines… probably since I watched “Good Neighbors” as a child and they made their pea pod wine. If you don’t know the British show “Good Neighbors” find a copy! I made my husband watch it before we got married so he understood what he was getting into. It made a huge impact on my life and I probably model myself somewhat on what the Goods were doing.

At any rate, if you’re a wine drinker, like I am…. you can’t be entirely self-sufficient unless you have something to raise in your glass while on the deck at the end of a hard summer day’s work watching the sun go down over the pond.

This summer I made Rose Metheglin and Dandelion Wine.  Metheglin is a Honey Wine made with herbs. I only made one half gallon carboy of each since I’ve never done it before…. for all I knew I’d wind up with interesting vinegar! That, and Carson was skeptical to say the least.  Next year we’ll be making a much bigger batch!

The Rose Metheglin came out like a dessert wine. When you inhale, your palate is flooded with rose, but it isn’t overpoweringly sweet. Of course, it is made with our honey which is complex to begin with. The wine is slightly rose colored. Dinner wound up being chocolate chip sour dough pancakes with fresh whipped cream… an oddly successful pairing with the Rose Metheglin.  But perhaps that’s just because of the higher than average alcohol content…..

The Dandelion Wine is just as advertised…. sunshine in a glass. It is reminiscent of a Riesling, which is our favorite! There are slight floral and fruity notes in it and it is slightly dry. It too isn’t overly sweet. It was definitely worth the time it took to pick all the dandelion blooms and then pluck just the petals off! When the first flush of dandelions hit the yard next year the cow and goats will have to fight me off!

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Late-onset “Lactose Intolerance”

I’m starting off slow this morning.  I was up until 3am finishing up a batch of cheddar curds and pressing my parmesan.  I really have to start earlier in the day with my cheeses!  We’ll see if I get around to any today.  I’d like to try making some Gouda.  I need to get back to my Gnowfglins course, so I’ll probably make some lacto-fermented mayo and hot sauce… and maybe some sourdough, chocolate brownies.  I also need to get ready for our Medicinal Herbs CSA drop-offs starting tomorrow and into the week-end.  The theme for this month will be natural mood enhancement and seasonal affective disorder…. normally,  ’tis the season… the weather has been nice though.  Anyone out there felt this yet this year?

So I wanted to share a little more about our raw milk experiences by talking about my dad- hi dad!  My dad used to drink milk like I drink water (which is a LOT).  His whole life he loved milk and I’m pretty sure he’s had both raw (when he was a kid) and pasteurized.  Around about the age of 50 he suddenly found he couldn’t have it anymore without getting sick.  Why is it that so many people “become” lactose intolerant after years of eating milk with no problem?  I see this pretty typically in my practice.  For someone with this late onset intolerance, it is not the milk at fault, but the pasteurization process.  When milk is pasteurized it destroys the enzymes (lactase chief among them) it naturally contains to help us digest lactose.  We can still ingest it obviously, it just causes irritation and inflammation in our digestive system.  By the time we reach 40-50, our body has had enough.  One day it just says “look, I’ve worked extra hard for years putting this through the system…. and I’m done!”  This late onset, coupled with the fact that they usually can eat butter and yogurt, is a great distinction between “pasteurization intolerance” and true “lactose intolerance” that usually starts at birth.  As a result of pasteurization intolerance, many of these people experience arthritis, high cholesterol and other inflammatory disorders along with their digestive upset.  At this point, most folks drop milk products from their diet.

Dropping pasteurized dairy from the diet is actually a good idea, but instead of alternative milks (which contain a lot of sugars and chemicals), some are switching to raw milk.  Understandably, this can be a scary trial if you have been getting sick after drinking store milk.  However, I have read about countless folks who make this switch successfully and have now seen it in my personal life.

My dad was reluctant to try raw milk.  He started with butter, then moved to cheese and ice cream and just this week tried milk straight out of the jar just like he used to.  He reports a mild reaction…. he’s not getting sick, but he’s sort of aware his body is working a little harder.  I will refer back to my post a couple days ago here.  I wouldn’t expect him to get noticeably sick, but I would expect his body to go through a very small healing crisis.  His gut flora is repopulating with some of the good bacteria that may have been missing or impaired.  Before long I expect he will be able to drink as much of Ruby’s milk as he wants without fear of reprisals.

Are any of you lactose intolerant after a lifetime of drinking pasteurized milk?  Have you tried raw milk?  If so, what was your experience?

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Homemade Butter

Well, Ruby has finally bonded with us.  She must have had a bad experience somewhere along the line before she got to us.  Her last owners said that she wasn’t very social and didn’t want her head or neck touched.  She was never violent about it, but for the first week she would throw her head at you if you tried to pet her.  I’ve been giving her a few pats here and there while we milk her and respecting when she doesn’t want to be touched.  Yesterday we had a break through.  I was in the kitchen and I could hear her moo-ing.  When I went to the door, there she was at the gate looking at me.  I went out and she wanted me to pet her!  It was really nice.  I stood at the gate and pet her head and neck while she ran her nose all over my face and hair getting a good smell of me.  Then she started licking my arm.  I’m really happy she’s settled in so well… of course this means that I have one more chore during the day…. pet the cow when she calls!!

I thought today I’d talk about how to make butter.  You can do this with good quality cream from the store, or you can do it with raw milk that has set (in the fridge) a day or so.  It takes that long for the cream to separate and rise to the top if you are separating the cream by hand.

I like to take the cream off the top and then use the milk for cheese.  I don’t have any set amount of cream I need before I’ll make butter, just whatever I get.  I’ve found that our Kitchen-aid mixer works really well.  I add the cream, put on the paddle attachment and turn it on about 4.  You really just need to start with whatever setting isn’t throwing cream all over your counter!  This should take about 15-20 minutes start to finish.  It will start to look like whipped cream.

Just starting to whip....

At this point, you can increase the speed to 6 or so usually.  Keep going.  As you continue, the whipped mass will start to shrink down and sort of collapse on itself.  It will start to look more and more “wet”.  Then- all of a sudden- it will separate into milk fat (butter) and what looks like skim milk (real buttermilk).

Milk Solids and Buttermilk

You want to knead the butter together until it holds a shape and then drain off the buttermilk.  Continue to knead the butter until all to buttermilk is out…. if any is left in, your butter will go rancid.  When you think it’s clean, pour in cold water and knead it with the water to give it a final wash.  Rinse out the water and add a little salt here if you’re making salted butter.  This is also when you would add herbs or honey to make specialty butter.

Draining the Buttermilk.

Squeezing out the Buttermilk

Jar up the buttermilk and save it to make buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, coffee cake…. the list goes on and on.  Now form your butter into whatever shape you like, wrap it in waxed paper and put it in the fridge or freezer.

Our butter right now is almost white.  There’s not a lot of grass for Ruby to eat, so she’s been eating hay instead.  In the summer when she’s able to get grass this butter will be dark yellow and will be even more nutritious than the butter we’re making now!!

Have you ever had fresh made butter?  Ever made herbal or honey butter?

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The Healing Crisis

While I was sampling our honey spreads at Whole Foods a couple days ago, I met a nice older woman who was a little nervous about trying something new and healthy.  She had apparently been reading a lot about “cleansing” and had decided to give it a try herself.  It sounded like she had gone with a whole foods cleanse rather than one of those that you get out of a box, however she had had such a horrible and confusing experience.  After a day, she broke out in an itchy rash all over her torso.  Her response was to throw all of the healthy food she had just bought away… all of the quinoa, ginger, lemons, shiitake and other yummy stuff went right out and she said she isn’t touching any of them ever again.  She went on the say that she looked everything up on the internet and found a site that expressed caution in using ginger if you have sensitive skin.  She therefore decided she must be allergic to ginger.  I asked her if it specified using it internally or externally… of course it didn’t!  So just to clarify, most likely this site was talking about the use of ginger externally.  It can indeed irritate and even burn if used externally on sensitive skin- just ask my husband about that (have I already shared how I burned him once with ginger while treating him for a cold?)

My advice to her was totally different.  I explained that the best thing she could do was to keep going.  That, while an allergy wasn’t totally out of the question, what she was experiencing was most likely what is known as a “healing crisis”.  When we start a detox or cleanse, often the organ targeted for clean-up is our liver.  Many skin conditions are the outward sign of a clogged liver, while new rashes can often be an expression of another eliminative organ’s distress- the kidney.  The healing crisis comes into play because any time we are attempting to remove deep seated toxins from our body, it is much like wakening a sleeping enemy.  Those toxins had been happily rooted in one of our organs and may not have been overtly noticeable.  When we shake them loose, they begin to circulate freely in our body looking for an exit.  This, of course, can manifest itself in as many different ways as there are people.  It is most often seen though, that any current health issues will get worse for a time.  As skin is one of our largest organs of elimination, it is a logical place for us to see the acting out of this healing crisis.  This woman asked me, “what in the world could I have done to create such a toxic situation?”.  She was in her late 70’s, so I asked her “how long have you been eating conventional foods?”.  She said “all my life”.   Of course, there is the answer…  potentially some 50 years of pesticide, and later on, gmo build-up in the body can do some nasty stuff when we try to escort it out!

Many people get frustrated when they hit the “healing crisis” and stop what they were doing… thinking, “all this healthy stuff is bunk!  I feel worse than before!”  However, if they’d just push through it, when they got to the other side they would feel much better.  Knowing this, of course, in advance would be nice…. it would keep people from trying to detox during inadvisable times such as pregnancy, nursing, during an already weakened state, during recovery from an illness or when malnourished.  It would also help psychologically to know what you’re in for so that you have the willpower to continue on to the good part!!

Meeting this nice lady was timely for me!  We are in the process of going another step deeper into healthy foods… I am soaking and sprouting all our grains before grinding it myself, we are now drinking our own source of raw milk, etc.  I noticed just this morning that my body has been feeling bloated and heavy and that it is starting to eliminate at a greater rate.  This is great when you understand where you’re headed, but perplexing if you don’t make the connection!

If you wish to detox, but want to start slowly, there are some great herbs that can help.  Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is a great traditional blood cleanser and liver detoxifier.  People used to drink it in the spring when they wanted to shift all the winter “bluh” they had collected.  It’s delicious, easy to find and easy to drink in a tea.  Do avoid it if you are currently on blood thinners (ex. coumadins) as Red Clover can be a mild blood thinner and shouldn’t be combined with allopathic medications of the same nature.

Have you ever done a detox/cleanse?  What kinds of healing crisis did you have to endure?

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