Life on a little urban homestead in the making, with ideas for self-sufficiency, Permaculture, DIYing, organic gardening, food preservation, Chicken keeping, cookery, crafts, thrifting and more...

Jan 28, 2014

How to Make Water Kefir, Choc Chip Oat Pecan Cookies, Freezing Rain, Ice and Snow's Coming...

How to Make Water Kefir-
I had heard about Kefir years ago, but I only found out about Water Kefir a month or so ago. A friend introduced me to it, and she thought it might help me. I'll try any kind of holistic stuff, so I tried this! This supposedly has all/most of the probiotics you could ever want, and you can make it cheap.
I watched my pal make it at her house, she gave me a batch, then I made some at home. It's easy to make, and it's kind of like sourdough- you just keep some of it alive for the next round. Basically you can make it indefinitely, unless you kill it. It has helped my acid reflux. I'm hoping over time it will help y allergies and asthma. When I don't take it things spike back up. I drink about 4 oz. on an empty stomach first things in the morning. You can add flavorings to the batch that's ready to drink. You can buy the grains online if needed. My friend got hers from another mutual friend, who bought hers from Cultures for Health I'm going to make fermented pickles this summer with some of their cultures. It's pretty simple, but there are a couple of strict things-

1- Treat this like canning- everything has to be STERILE. Jars, strainer, spoons, etc.
2- Disinfect your counters tops when done, as this is a type of BACTERIA.
3- Best to use organic ingredients.
4- You can leave it at room temp for up to 72 hours, and then you need to make more and separate it. It eats up all the sugar. If you don't want to make it that often, putting it in the fridge will slow it down.

I make mine about every 5 days, using a qt. canning jar. I use Sucanet and raw sugar, spring water, unbleached coffee filters. That's it. It's really cheap to make.

Do your own research before you start this. There are many health benefits, and NO dairy, but it may not be for everyone. Some use small amounts for the dogs and cats. I give Anya about 1/8 teas. every few days.

So here's how I do it- sterilize everything, lay all on top of a clean towel. The "recipe" for the sugar water may vary depending on personal preference (flavor) and the grains you buy. My version tastes like diluted brown sugar water. The kefir has no flavor of it's own. Many people add a citrus peel, grated fresh ginger, or whatever to the ready-to-drink batch.

My two sugars

For 1 qt. I use-
3 TBL. Turbinado sugar, and 1 TBL. Sucanet sugar,  1 qt. spring water. NEVER use tap, or home filtered. You need the minerals. If you have our own, clean well, or spring water, all the better. Mix all this well in a sterilized jar, and leave about 1" head space. Shake well til dissolved.

Sugars and water ready to shake

Strain the existing Kefir water into a new sterilized jar, using a fine mesh strainer, or coffee filter, set aside.


ready to drink

Kefir grains, sorry no macro lense

Cover new batch to drink with a coffee filter, so it can breathe, flavor if you wish. Set aside.

Now take your kefir grains, about 1 TBL and add to your new sugar water. Do NOT shake.

Kefir grains floating

Kefir grains at the bottom

covered and ready to sit for 72 hours

I run the excess grains down the sink. Cover with filter and set aside for up to 72 hours. Then repeat. I keep my two jars in separate spots in the kitchen. Enjoy!

Choc Oat Chip Cookies-
While the cookies baked I made kefir. I like these the best as they have oatmeal and some good fiber, etc. I used 1/2 w.w. pastry flour. They're awesome!!! Choc Oat Chip Cookies recipe. I added 1 cups pecans.

Freezing Rain, Ice,  and Snow's Coming...
Just when you think the weather can't get worse... we're going from WEEKS of a foggy, bad air inversion, highs in the 20's to....FREEZING RAIN, THEN SNOW. OMG, I'm so hoping for a ...

Snow Day!!!

Jan 25, 2014

Girl's Day Out, More Fog- Will It Ever End? How To Avoid Foot Surgery!

Little Blackie scanning the backyard

Girl's Day Out-
With the cold weather sometimes I don't let the girls out for some free ranging. With the snow melted, I left them out today! They had a blast digging thru the leaves and looking for yummies-

Ellie walking along the raised beds, asleep for the winter

Two heads are better than one!

My daughter's metal yard sculpture she made us in college, all recycled metals welded

What is that?

Little Blackie posing

More Fog- Will It Ever End?
Two weeks of this and I'm ready to move. Staying in the 20's, and the one local weather man says this is the worst inversion he's ever seen. He's lived here for 20+ years! Can someone just turn on a giant fan and blow this crap out??? Fog, cold, damp. No blue sky. This is my life. Snow already or something! I'm going to make some hot cider.

This is my gray life, sigh, mid afternoon... truly "dark days"...

Last summer, Anya hanging out on my wheelie cart

How To Avoid Foot Surgery!
Last spring when I was getting ready to set up my summer surgery on my left foot, I was told I also have 3 round calcifications in my right Achilles tendon. It showed up on an Xray. After limping off my left foot so long, it probably stressed it, or at least didn't help. After having my much need 1 1/2" bone spur removed from my left tendon, I thought about getting it fixed. My foot doctor (of course) pushed another surgery for the right foot. Another summer would be shot, more expense and pain. And I would have to wait for summer.

 I limped into the new school year last August. I got my lower back working again, after listing to the side  for over 1 year. I asked my PT person, listed as one of the top ten in the country (somewhere) what she thought could be done. She started poking around, and I about came off the table. She did some deep pressure on it, as I could tolerate. After three more sessions she could put quite a bit of pressure on it, with much less pain. This winter I had sciatica, did an aggressive approach and went straight to a new person, who's a Chiropractor AND and excellent acupuncturist. My insurance would cover the acupuncture through her. After getting my back situation situated (only 3 sessions!) I asked her to work on both my feet. The left foot was healed but had a little residual swelling, the right foot swelling and some pain. She did 3 sessions, and a red lamp that's good for inflammation. Result? Yesterday, for the first time in 1 1/2 years I was able to wear my Danskos to work with no OTC anti-inflamms! Victory! I have very little pain, and good range of motion. ALWAYS check out alternatives, and ask around. I never thought deep tissue work would loosen things up, and the acupuncture helped too. Maybe over time we can get them to dissolve. If not at least I can live with them. Now I have floaters in both eyes. More about that another time!

*** Yes, I fixed my watermark :)

Jan 20, 2014

Fog and Inversion, The Kestrel's Back, Dark Days Meal, Blogger Glitch- Faded A's?

Looking down into Boise, from Bogus Basin ski area

Fog and Inversion-
It's been a busy week, sorry for not posting more. I hate this time of year. We get an inversion over the valley, with bad air and fog. It's sunny up in the foothills, oh joy! A couple of weeks ago we had a 44 car pileup due to unusually dense, rolling fog on the freeway Multiple Crashes Police indicated citations would be given for texting, tailgating, and speeding in bad conditions. Really? You have to wonder.... There's a man who survived the crash in his Subaru Outback, amazing. Yes, that's a car next to the log truck-

Not much car left, but he was in there, laid across the front seat, WOW!

The freeway was closed for hours

The Kestrel's Back-
I went out this morning (off work today) to give the girls a treat, and found this-

Looks like he got a ground dove early this morning. Ew...

Dark Days Meal-
Yesterday I took a bag of home-grown, frozen plum tomatoes out of the freezer. I made a nice batch of hearty pasta sauce with mushrooms and sausage. I used homegrown herbs too. Along with the local artisan bread (found at the Grocery Outlet), we had a feast! I used this pasta, great for a heavier sauce-

Sorry, no pics of the sauce

Blogger Glitch- Faded A's?
I have no idea why all the A's in the text seem to be faded! Working on it... If you know, please let me know!

UPDATE- I fixed the faded A's, for some reason it was because it was BOLD. Go figure!

Jan 12, 2014

How We Accidentally Saved $- Part 2, Chicken Eating Eggs Solution, Independence Days

How We Accidentally Saved Lots of Money, Part 2-
Dave and I both thought of a few more things after the 1st posting, How We Accidentally Saved Lots of Money Part 1 so here they are!

*Getting a Pro Anyway?- If you're hiring a pro to do some big jobs, like plumbing, electrical, whatever, have them do the LITTLE jobs too. They will charge you a minimum fee just to show up. If you tackle a small job yourself it might take you 3 trips to the hardware store, and a LOT of aggravation. If someone is coming to do a BIG job, have them do the small ones too. You'll save time, and money. And maybe get a warranty!

*Barter, Swap, Freebies- I used to be, and Dave still is, resistant to asking for freebies. Example- "hey are you throwing away those bricks?", that you see you're neighbor down the street demoing. Or "hey are you going to throw out all that rhubarb?" My neighbor would let hers die all summer. She hates it! We love it! She said "help yourself". Check the "free" section in CraigsList. I've gotten tons of plants, bedding, clothes. I even found a hide-a-bed. We cleaned it, got a new cover for it, and it's great for the spare bedroom. Barter too- I have traded eggs for other things, and have participated in clothing/home items swaps at work. I also got a lot of free veggies at work from the fall harvest. I even dumpster dived once for a monitor riser. It was new, and right on top, so I couldn't pass it by! Last year Dave bought our daughter's nice DSLR camera, she bought another one, Dave gave me his old one, and I've stored my old point and shoot.

*Conserving Power- An programmable thermostat can save you up to 60% on your power bill! That's a lot! Dimming your lights by 10% (which is barely noticeable) will save you up to 47% on your power bill too. Hubby learned that in his classes in the electrical field :) If you have an attached garage ALWAYS keep it closed in the winter, so it's warmer in there. Don't let your pipes freeze. Use some heat tape and keep them thawed. Buy a front loading washer, and buy Energy Star if you're buying something anyway.

Photo From Bell Haven Farms, link below
Chicken Eating Eggs Solution-
Last week Dave caught both the girls eating their own eggs, ew. I thought the one had stopped laying, but apparently she has been eating them. Lazy girls! I remembered a solution I had seen years ago, a Nesting Box Egg Catcher Problem solved! Since the girls are on a high quality feed, with healthy treats I know it's not some kind of defiency. I showed the concept to Dave- an angled floor with a padded area/tray to catch the eggs, that way the hens can't get to them. Since I've read it's really a hard thing to break, we're going with it. Dave will modify the nesting box by shimming the floors, then add something to catch the eggs. Photos coming after we're done, maybe next week.

Independence Days-
This is for the last couple of weeks, too busy to keep weekly track. I will try to get back to a weekly post now that the holidays are over. I hope....

1. Plant Something- Nope, but I do have seed catalogs I'm looking at!

2. Harvest Something- Eggs. We will have more after we modify things.

3. Preserve/Store Something- Freezing the normal, breads, fish, cheeses, misc. stuff.

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep-  Bought lots today at the grocery outlet, my regular place. I FINALLY found a good winter coat, online, from LL Bean, on sale! Free shipping of course. I've been looking for weeks online, eBay, local stores. Everything was either too heavy or too light. I needed something mid-weight. I love LL Bean stuff because it lasts forever! It's a bit longer than my old one, which will be great in the cold weather. Here's my new baby, coming home soon-

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe- Starting to use the fruit in the freezer, rhubarb, nectarines will be in a cobbler later today. Making a big pot of veggie chili in the crock pot today too. Using up lots of old tea bags in the Keurig My K Cup, which works great!

6. Build Community Food Systems- No yet.

7. Recycle/Re-Use- Selling a few things on CraigsList. More donations to the thrift store, since we're cleaning out a little office. I thrifted a cute twig reindeer, and some table top New Year's goodies for next year. Also found a gorgeous Advent tabletop wreath 1/2 price online, just gorgeous. Will reuse some scrap lumber for the coop redo. Bought a HUGE bird feeder at a thrift store for $4..00!!! It's a monster, I love the design, and the squirrels haven't touched it so far-

8. Skill Up- Learned how to make my own Water Kefir. Good results so far- bloating is down, lost some weight. Hopefully, over time, it will fix some various issues. I had no idea how many things it can help with! The nice thing is you can make you own indefinitely, and not have to buy it. Kind of like sourdough.

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- More eggs!

Jan 8, 2014

A Little White Stuff, Dark Days Meal-Home Cured Salmon Salad, Tiny Houses Of Denmark, Winter Road Trip

A little Idaho City Snow

A Little White Stuff-
We woke up to about 3"- 4" of new snow, and now it's melting a bit. Pretty, but a little slippery going to work. No snow day here! I'm hoping it won't been really icy tomorrow  morning :(

Dark Days Meal-Home Cured Salmon Salad-
For lunch a couple of days ago, I decided to use up the Gravlax I'd cured, with the mustard sauce. What a great idea! Added some rye cracker, and iced tea, delish.

My favorite, photo from article below
The Tiny Houses Of Denmark-
What a wonderful article! Tiny Houses Of Christiana, Denmark  Great, creative designs!

Winter Road Trip-
Saturday we took a short road trip, in the nice weather. Idaho City for lunch, drove past and took some shots by the roadside. They're getting LOTS of snow now, with more coming, 2-5 feet! They need it at the ski resorts and for the snow pack...

Jan 4, 2014

How We Accidentally Saved Lots of Money & Supported Our Local Community Services, DIY-Indoor Hanging Herb Garden

How We Accidentally Saved Lots of Money-
After I read this blog How I Accidentally Saved $200,000. I started thinking about all the ways we've saved money too. Sometimes we've intentionally saved money, but sometimes it comes from a voluntary simplicity mode. Do we really need more stuff? Am I (or we) shopping to make me feel better emotionally (this may be more of a chick thing)? I used to follow some blogs that were all about decorating. I realized that's not that important to me. While I love a beautiful home (I get lots of compliments) I'm not obsessed with the newest trend. Like OWLS- get over it already! Is this how I want to spend my time? Is this what I want to support? Shopping all the time, and owning more STUFF? It's easy to get sucked into the "Look what I just found for 80% off!" But do you really need it? Is there a void we're trying to fill?

And Supported Our Local Community Services- While I do buy some items at retail stores, I shop more at Thrift Stores. There's always stuff "on sale" there :)  They are non-profits who provide community services. Your retail stores don't do that!!! One local thrift store I go to a lot also employed two of our kids, as college students. It's Idaho Youth Ranch They provide lots of great services to at-risk kids, and their families. Try to think about that before you go shopping for "bargains" next time. Who are you really supporting? There are some things I only (usually) buy new- shoes and underwear. That's what works for me. I also usually find better deals online for new shoes like The Clog Outlet (great for Danskos, Sanitas, etc.), eBay is great too, if you're sure of your size, and they are new. I also buy various things from from Craig's List, yard sales, and estate sales. That supports local folks too.

It's hard to track all of it, but here's my shot at it... What we've saved on and how-

*Mortgage- we pay every 2 weeks, instead of once a month. You make 13 monthly payments per year, instead of 12. The 13th one, in total, goes to the principal. You pay it down much faster. It's easy to set up, but nobody PUSHES IT! The lenders make more $$$ that way. Wise up and save more money! That's pushed 1000's $ more towards paying off our house.

*Every year we check on our home and car insurance to make sure we have the best deals.

*What kind of Housing?- We downsized our large 4 bedroom, 3 bath house, as the kids started going off to college. Some people don't do that, and complain their housing costs are too high. Downsize folks! If your house is paid for, it may still cost more money to maintain, not to mention labor. It's a interesting process to go thru- stay or sell. We hit it just right before the housing market crashed. We're not upside down in our home and it's value has come up the last 2 years. While I still want to live in a rural area, for now, we're here.

*Learn how to take care of your place- I can caulk, replace screens, replace broken glass in windows, replace the glazing, paint, tear off roofing, turn off the water/gas mains, install a wood fence, set fence posts, use baling wire (love the stuff), do all kinds of home repairs. Learn what NOT to do yourself, like complicated plumbing or electrical.

*Utilities-  we insulated our home, put in new windows, newer doors (used), and bought insulated curtains for our west side windows. It all adds up. We try to save water usage, watch the lighting, etc.

*Water- We have water barrels, 2 x 55 gallon ones. I use those for the garden. We removed some of our turf for food production and buy low water shrubs, and perennials. We've save 1000's, there's less work, and watering all that landscaping! Less mowing too, think low maintenance!

*Cars- We have one car we bought used, with low miles thru a car rental place. It's our trusty Subaru Outback. It's paid for, has low insurance and runs great. We chose both of our cars for regular, every day use. We didn't buy a Suburban for a twice a year camping trip, for instance. We chose to invest in one new car, 3 years ago. Our other sedan was falling apart so we went with a new car. We bought a Mazda 3 hatchback (boy can I cram a lot in there!), after I researched thru Consumer Reports online. $4.00 a month subscription, then you cancel. It saved a huge amount of time, money and worry. We got down to 3 very reliable, well reviewed cars, then got the best deal. Three years later the Mazda has had 0 problems! We also watch the gas, and combine trips. Get regular oil changes, tire rotations (free), etc. to keep them running well.

*Expensive Toys- We don't have a RV, sailboat (I wish), camper, boat, snowmobile, jet ski, etc. Unless you use them year round, you have to store them off-season. You also have to pay for the fuel involved, either using it or towing it. Then there's repairs and upkeep. We'll pass. I'd love to get a canoe someday. That would be easy to store in the garage and easy to move. No fuel, very simple.

*Clothing- probably save $100-s- $1,000s a year, depending on the year. Some years I buy coats, etc. I buy from thrift stores, and a lot on eBay, other from various online places. Some like new, rarely used, for 89-90% off. Even with shipping it's much cheaper. I love classic lambswool sweaters, the better made, thicker kind. I've gotten those off eBay as a lot of places don't even make/sell them anymore. Great for winter, and they last forever, if you take care of them. Today I got 2 pairs of jeans, and a dressy cord shirt for $10.00.

*Household decor- lots saved. I also donate too, so we don't get cluttered or have to store a lot.

* Furniture- We have a used solid wood coffee table, 2 living room cabinets, dining table, and 2 used dining chairs. We did invest in a new Flexsteel couch after wearing out several cheap, new couches. We will do the same sometime with our two overstuffed chairs. Lesson learned- with couches (unless they're well made and used) pay the extra for new and well made. Fabric covers are cheap, once the frame and base goes, you're done.

*Cell phones- I have a discount thru my employer, and recently AT&T went ever lower. It was already cheaper, or the same, as the other plans. I just changed our plan last week and saved $30.00 a month! That's $360.00 a year. we've saved 1000's of $ over the years with my discount. Now it's even better!

*TV- Re-think if you get cable, or not? We do have Dish, since we rarely go to movies. Some don't want TV period. I get it. This works for us. We have a "low" level package. I also get a lot of DVDs thru our local library to watch.

*Shop at local grocery outlets, and buy bulk at other stores. Spices alone would be $100+ yearly otherwise, they're fresher too. I also grow my own. I have saved 100s of dollars just last year.

*Beverages- I rarely buy soda, including at work. I drink water, almond milk, a lot of iced teas, and hot teas. Dave drinks coffee, teas and a rare beer. We don't drink hard alcohol, ever. That's good for your health. That's saved 1000's of $.

*Smoking- we don't smoke, never had. That's saved tens of 1000's of dollars, and our health.

*Eat out less- We do go out more than we should (still working on that), BUT I do use coupons some also. Last night we saved $8.00 on our Baja Fresh dinner out. Pretty healthy too. We choose not to go to fast food places.

*Buy less packaged foods- Except for emergency! No cake mixes (talk about nasty stuff in there), pasta mixes, etc. I make it scratch as much as possible. I do buy some soups and Annie's Organic frozen lunches, for fast work lunches. I don't like to eat out at work, as there's only fast food nearby. It's a cheaper, healthier trade off. Lots saved there! I made a home grown nectarine cobbler a couple of days ago. Fast, easy and wonderful flavor. I had it made and in the oven in 15 minutes or less. My palate has changed over the years to less sugar and salt.

*Grow your own food- As much as you can. That varies, based on climate, if you have a home, apartment, condo, etc. Raise some other things too, like chickens. When I decided to buy chickens I did a LOT of research first. Housing, feed, predators, county rules? We've planted 3 fruit trees already, in 5 years. We garden for food, have eggs, buy some local produce. If we go rural some day my first purchase will be 2 milking goats. After a LOT of research! Goats and chickens, I'd be all set!

*Make your own- Clothing, cheeses, soaps, lotions, etc. Sew, knit, crochet!

*Buy a good sewing machine- Learn how to use it. I have sewn, repaired and altered all kinds of things. Even my mother of the bride outfit, which was way too long. Came out great!

*Health- that's a big one, especially when things crop up. I'm using more alternative stuff all the time. Acupuncture for my back, and soon I'll start on Kombucha and Water Kefir. Good for asthma, allergies, and other things. I plan on getting more exercise and losing weight. With my chronic foot pain, and then surgery, I really got slammed. Gained some weight back. That sucks.

*Pets- When we decided to get another pet, after losing ours, we went with a cat. Lower cost, easy to keep if you travel once in a while. Feed good quality food, and lots of fresh water. Help them play and enjoy! No walking, scooping poop, etc. with dogs. Dogs don't mix well with chickens- your chickens are more likely to get worms, from what I've read, if they share a space/yard with dogs. I learned that the hard way, after 2 dead hens.

*Hair care- I go to the same place as I did 15 years ago for cuts- $18.00 every 3 months. That's a really good deal locally. Sorry, I won't cut my own, and I color at home :)  Too much gray!

*Medical- I have wised up the hard way on this. Doctors DON'T CARE about what you have to pay out of pocket. Sad, but true. I recently was told "you need an MRI since your white count is high", for my lower back. They didn't bother to ask me if I had a cold? Duh. I declined, since I had- a cold. Ka ching. I go to a more "expensive" place for my glasses because they will take our double insurance. I purchase vision insurance, cheap thru my employer. My hubby has his that also covers me. Ka ching, much cheaper than the "cheap" places. Sometime it pays to do your research with that too!

*Sell your excess stuff and make money- I have sold thru eBay, and Craig's List. Everything from clothing, purses, jewelry, furniture, bikes, to sports equipment. Why not make some $$$ on stuff you're no longer using. Can't sell it? Donate it and get a tax write off. Or barter.

There's lots of things I'm probably forgetting. The basic thing is- what do you really want? Do you want more $$$ to save, in an IRA, etc.? Fix up your house so it's more energy efficient? Buy land? Travel? Wear the latest fashion? Be healthy? Feel like you're involved in your community, in a ethical way? Think about it the next time you want to go shopping.... and save some money. I hope you found some useful tips here!

                                                                 Images From  Persephone Magazine

DIY-Indoor Hanging Herb Garden-
What a great idea! I found this blog The 104 Homestead, then found this link DIY Hanging Herb Garden  What a wonderful way to recycle, and grow herbs in a small space, thru the winter. I will try this next fall by either bringing my herbs in, or buying more. Over my kitchen sink would work well. How smart!!!

I love the fabric, or you could paint.

Jan 3, 2014

Clean Up And Organizing, On Risking and Trying

Clean Up And Organizing-
I've been... deep cleaning the kitchen, cleaned and organized the junk drawer, and tackled the pantry closet today. I try to catch up on stuff while I'm on winter/spring break. Some vacation, but I like starting the new year clean and organized! Anya was fascinated when I was cleaning out the junk drawer! She climbed in the drawer hole, while I had the drawer on the counter top. While I was adding some small re-used cardboard boxes, and dumped the trash, she explored-

What's this pasta doing here?

Rice, what's that?

And what's that?

When I was done I opened the cabinet door, and slowly put in the drawer. Not a good idea. Anya could get her head out from below, but that was it. So, drawer back out, I shook the kitty treat bag and out she came :) She loves to eat. Drawer back in, all done. 

On Risking and Trying-
I was talking with a good friend yesterday about being who we truly are, living an authentic life. We agreed it's hard to do when you're always worried about other's expectations- family, job, kids, spouses. How much do you share, what will you give up for safety, what if you're judged? When do you finally give yourself permission to really be yourself? What gifts do you hide? Later I saw the ending again of the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I love the character Evelyn's ideas on things, I found it very encouraging-

But it's also true that the person who risks nothing, does nothing, 

has nothing. All we know about the future is that it will be 

different. But perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same.

So we must celebrate the changes.

The only real failure is the failure to try, and the measure of 

success is how we cope with disappointment. 

And from Sonny, another character- 

Everything will be all right in the end, if it's not all right, it's not

yet the end.

Amen sister, and brother! Wonderful film if you haven't seen it, especially if you're a bit older :)  Maybe when I turn 60 I WILL go jump out of a plane, with a parachute, and do a water landing!
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