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Lifestyle

Homesteading Skills: Brewing Kombucha

If you have ever met me or H, you know that we have a dream of creating a net-zero homestead in the mountains. Our goal of being maximally self-sustainable guides a lot of choices I make as I consider how to spend my free time. I have always enjoyed learning how to do new things, but now the pursuit of knowledge has taken on a special purpose. Every time I am ready to take on a new project, I consider what kind of things will benefit our family in the future when we are establishing our home.

One of these projects has been learning to brew kombucha. H and I drink it regularly to support digestion through a healthy microbiome, but buying it at the store can be extremely expensive. When comparing store prices to the affordability and ease of home brewing, it becomes a no brainer!

For those who are unfamiliar, kombucha is a fermented tea that is made using a culture of gut-healthy bacteria called a scoby. A scoby, for lack of a better description, basically looks like a thick slice of deli turkey and has a slimy feel. It’s not exactly pretty! Every time you brew it “reproduces” by growing a new layer, which can be peeled off and shared! My first scoby was given to me as a gift, and as it has grown new layers I have given baby scobys to others to start their own brew. If you know someone who makes kombucha, ask them to share their next layer with you! If not, you can also order live scobys on Amazon. I know some people who have used this one and had great results.

To start your own home brew you need:
1 gallon glass jar
A scoby
Organic *plain* black and green tea bags
Organic cane sugar (must use cane sugar- NO coconut sugar, honey or sugar substitute, these will harm your scoby!)
Vinegar (plain ol’ white vinegar)
Cheesecloth or paper towels
Rubber band or string
Mason jars with plastic lids or swing top bottles

Start by boiling a gallon of water in a large stockpot. Once the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and let sit for one minute or until there are no longer active bubbles in the water. Add 1 cup sugar, 3 black tea bags and 3 green tea bags. Do not use flavored teas, as these can upset the ph balance of your scoby. Stir to dissolve sugar, then cover the pot and let the tea steep for at least 15 minutes. I usually just leave the tea bags in until the water returns to room temperature. This won’t hurt your tea and it means you can walk away from your pot as soon as the sugar is dissolved and come back to it later in the day.

Once your tea cools to room temperature, rinse your gallon jar with water and then rinse with white vinegar. Don’t worry about drying it, leave a coating of the vinegar on the inside of the jar and dump out the excess. Add your tea, then add the scoby (which should be stored in some “mother tea” from its original jar- add this to your jar as well). Make sure the rim of the jar is completely dry, then cover the mouth of the jar with a double layer of cheesecloth or paper towels. Secure with a rubber band or tightly tied string. Make sure the covering is well secured! Using cheesecloth or paper towels allows your scoby to breathe, but prevents fruit flies or anything from else getting in. You can store the lid of the jar for some other use, you won’t need it for kombucha.

Store your jar in a dark place, such as a kitchen cabinet, and leave for 10-14 days. The longer you leave your kombucha, the stronger it will be both in terms of flavor and fermentation. Do not leave longer than 14 days.

At the end of this first fermentation period, it is time to prepare for the second fermentation. This is when the kombucha carbonates! This is also where you can get creative with your kombucha. You may prefer to have it unflavored, but if you would like to flavor your kombucha there are endless options!

For unflavored kombucha, remove your big jar from the cabinet and rinse the insides of your small mason jars or swing bottles with the white vinegar. Fill each jar or bottle with the kombucha, reserving 2 cups of it to stay in the gallon jar with the scoby as mother tea for your next batch. Seal the small jars or bottles, then put them back into the cabinet and leave to ferment for 7 more days. At the end of this 7 day period, transfer the jars to the refrigerator and enjoy within a month.

For flavored kombucha, begin by filling the small jars or bottles about 4/5 of the way full with the kombucha from your big jar. Then, top off with organic fruit juice, other kinds of tea, fruit, ginger, or other flavorings! My favorite combination is lemon ginger, which can be made by adding slices of fresh organic lemon and a little knob of peeled, fresh ginger root to each jar. Blueberry mint is also very tasty and can be made by adding mint tea and fresh blueberries or blueberry juice. You can experiment with adding rose petals or lavender, basil, etc! You can find a million other ideas for flavorings online. Just keep in mind that whatever you are adding to your kombucha needs to be organic and clean- anything with chemical pesticides can mess with your culture. Seal the small jars or bottles, then put them back into the cabinet and leave to ferment for 7 more days. At the end of this 7 day period strain any solids from the tea, then transfer to the refrigerator and enjoy within 2 weeks.

You may notice when you prepare to enjoy your kombucha that a small scoby or some stringy bacterial colonies have grown in your tea. This is totally normal. The small scobys can be discarded and while some people choose to drink the stringy bits, I personally don’t have the stomach for it and I choose to discard them as well.

I like to always have kombucha brewing, since we drink a lot of it. To make this happen, I make a new batch of sweetened tea on the morning when I know I am going to transfer my kombucha to the smaller containers for second fermentation. Then, once I have filled the small jars, I move my scoby and 2 cups of reserved mother tea to a clean glass (or any non-metal) bowl, rinse the gallon jar with vinegar to keep it clean, then start my new batch just like the previous batch. If you need to take a break from brewing, you can store your scoby in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Just place your scoby in a tightly sealed glass container with 2 cups mother tea and enough fresh, sweetened tea to cover it. This basically puts your scoby into hibernation. Once you hit the 3 month mark, you will need to remove your scoby from the fridge and make at least 1 batch of kombucha with it before returning it to hibernation.

**Caution: If your scoby begins to drastically change color, omit a strong nasty odor (aside from its normal, vinegary odor) or shrivel, discard it and the tea immediately. This indicates a problem with your scoby such as contamination or a ph imbalance. It is better to discard everything and start over than risk getting sick from a compromised scoby. To be fair, I have been brewing kombucha for 5 years and have never had this problem. However, it is possible and should be taken seriously.

Have you ever made your own kombucha at home? Do you have a flavor combination that will rock our socks off? Share with us below!

KD

Lifestyle

WTF is Cycle Syncing?

I recently posted in my Instagram story about how I was adjusting my morning routine on a specific day to accommodate my cycle syncing needs for that day, and received a barrage of responses and texts from my friends, all essentially asking me, “What the f*** is cycle syncing?”. Out of curiosity I did a poll and discovered that 93% of the women I interact with on social media had never heard of it before!

I wish I was surprised, but I can’t say that I am. I had never heard of cycle syncing myself until recently, when I saw the phrase casually mentioned on a health Q+A. I was curious and started doing a great deal of research, eventually finding myself buried in books, articles and testimonials about the myriad benefits of this practice.

So… let’s answer the question! Cycle syncing is the practice of adjusting your food, exercise, mental focus and sex life to the stages of your fertility cycle. Did you know that we have 4 distinct stages in our cycle, and that the fluctuations of our hormones in each stage affect us in a variety of ways? They prime us to be more successful in different types of mental tasks at different times of the month, they influence our energy/endurance levels, make us feel more/less amorous and cause our body to crave different nutrients. By understanding these fluctuations we can make decisions to support our bodies and come into a harmonious flow with our, well, flow. Benefits of cycle syncing can include reduction of PMS symptoms, weight loss and other physical improvements, increased happiness… I could go on and on.

The four stages of our cycle are Follicular, Ovulation, Luteal, and (you guessed it) Menstrual. I’ll be doing more in depth posts about each phase in the coming months, and sharing my own tips for harnessing the power of this practice for your health.

If you are feeling the pull to dive in deep with cycle syncing, I recommend this book and the MyFlo app (it’s the best couple of bucks I’ve ever spent).

With Love,
KD

Lifestyle

Golden Milk

Golden Milk has been gaining popularity recently for its myriad health benefits and delicious, comforting taste. It can be enjoyed hot or cold depending on the weather and can be made with different milk and sweetener options depending on your personal preferences.

Golden Milk

2 cups Basic Almond Milk (or milk of your choice)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon organic maple syrup -or- honey -or- 2 pitted dates
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder -or- small piece of fresh ginger -or- 1 to 2 drops ginger essential oil
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch of black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender
Blend until smooth
Pour mixture into a small pan and heat to your preference, but do not boil!

Once your mixture is heated you may choose to drink it immediately or strain it through a cheesecloth into your mug. Either way this drink is both nutritious and delicious, straining it just removes the sediment so the last few sips won’t have any solids.

If all of the above seems like too much effort, you can also order this ready to use mix and add it to the milk of your choice. The same mix is also available to Thrive Market members for less (use this link for 15% off your first purchase).

I like to drink golden milk at the end of my eating window each day, right before I start my fast. This way I am loading my body with helpful nutrients, inflammation fighters and metabolism boosting compounds to assist my body while it cleans and heals itself.

Is golden milk a part of your life? Do you have a dynamite recipe we should try? Share your experience in the comments!

Happy Milking,
KD

Lifestyle

Yogi Tea

I was given this recipe during my yoga teacher training by a master teacher who has studied under Yogi Bhajan. It’s a healthy, delicious tea and if you include the black tea it can be a more beneficial alternative to coffee.

According to yogic science, the spices used possess the following properties:
Black Pepper- blood purifier
Cardamom- digestive aid
Cloves- beneficial to the nervous system
Cinnamon- strengthens bones
Ginger root- healing for colds and flu, increases energy, helps with nausea
Star Anise- antibacterial and antioxidant

I generally buy my spices in bulk at the grocery store, but you can also order most of them at a great discount if you join Thrive Market (use this link for 15% off your first purchase) or on Amazon, as linked below.

Yogi Tea by the cup:
10 oz boiling water
3 whole cloves
4 whole green cardamom pods, cracked
4 whole black peppercorns
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon loose black tea (optional)
2 slices fresh ginger root
Small piece of star anise (break one arm off of the “star”)
1/2 cup milk (whole grassfed milk, almond milk or coconut milk)
Organic maple syrup to sweeten as desired

Combine all spices in a mug and add boiling water. Let steep for 3-5 minutes, then strain (optional) and add milk & syrup as desired.

Yogi Tea by the pot:
12 cups water
2 tablespoons whole cloves
3 tablespoons whole green cardamom pods, cracked
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 whole cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons loose black tea (optional)
6 slices fresh ginger root
2 whole star anise
Milk and organic maple syrup to add to individual cups

Add water and spices to a large stock pot and bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. I make my tea this way and keep it on my stove all throughout the cold season. I boil it every day and just add water or more spices as needed.

If you want this tea on the go, these tea bags are a more portable option!

Enjoy!
KD

Lifestyle

Peppermint Cacao Coconut Balls

I recently attended a DoTerra demonstration where the consultant had made these amazing little chocolate coconut balls. They were so yummy, I had to get the recipe from her and try them for myself! I adjusted the recipe to suit my own preferences and maximize nutritional benefit.

1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour (I make my own! Instructions here.)
1/4 cup solid coconut oil
4 tablespoons raw maple syrup
1/2 cup cacao powder (I like the Thrive Market brand for quality and price- use this link for 15% off)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 drops DoTerra or YoungLiving peppermint essential oil (I recommend only these two brands because I know they are safe to ingest- many brands available at health foods stores are for topical and aromatic use only)
Generous pinch of Himalayan salt

Reserve 1/2 of the shredded coconut for rolling the balls. Combine the other 1/2 and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. I find a fork to be helpful for breaking up the solid coconut oil. I would not recommend using a hand mixer, as it creates a consistency that is too gooey.

Once combined, form the dough into small balls and roll in the remaining shredded coconut. Place on a baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes to harden. These tasty treats can be stored in your refrigerator for a week, or in your freezer for months! They’re rich and sweet- perfect for a sweet tooth attack without any harmful sugar or additives!

Enjoy!
KD

Lifestyle

Rose and Lavender Bath Soak

At the end of a long day there are very few things that are more relaxing than a hot bath with Epsom salt. Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate, which can be beneficial when absorbed through the skin. Its two most significant benefits are stress relief and soothing sore muscles.

I like to make my own Epsom salt soak using essential oils and dried flowers, especially when I have roses that I can dry and use. This salt soak can make a great gift, and the 4 oz jars linked below are perfect for that purpose! One jar = one bath.

 

Rose and Lavender Bath Soak
1/2 cup Epsom salt
20 drops Lavender essential oil
3 tablespoons roughly chopped dry rose petals
4oz glass jar

Mix the Epsom salt and Lavender oil in the jar and layer the rose petals on top. That’s all! Easy peasy. If you feel like getting creative, you can experiment with this by trying a bigger jar and layering in different salts, such as Himalayan salt or Dead Sea salt. You can also add a layer of dried lavender buds.

You can order dried rose petals as linked above, or you can dry your own! If you grow roses in your garden or receive some as a gift, it is easy to give your dying blooms new life by drying them and using them again. However, I would not recommend buying fresh roses specifically for this purpose, as it is more cost effective to buy the dried petals in bulk.

If you do have some fresh roses, keep an eye out for the point when they start to look a bit wilted and are no longer perky. At this point, trim the stem about 1/2 inch below the flower. Take a needle with thread and pierce each stem, stringing the roses on the thread. I like to double the thread to make sure it doesn’t break. Then, find a warm, dry place to hang your thread horizontally so the roses hang upside down. A dark place is ideal, but anywhere out of direct sunlight will do just fine. Leave the roses for 2 weeks, then check to make sure they are completely dry. Once your roses are dry you can remove the petals for use!

Happy soaking,
KD

Lifestyle

Chemical-Free Dog Wash & Spray

 

Meet Tio, our 3 year old Plott Hound rescue baby. He came to us in 2014 through Austin Dog Rescue, an incredible organization that pulls sweet dogs from euthanasia lists at overcrowded shelters and places them with a foster until they find their forever home.

Please forgive the mess in this picture, we had just moved into our new apartment when I took it! 

Tio is a beloved part of our family, and we try to take care of him as such. For me, that means not using shampoos with harmful chemicals when I wash him, or toxin-filled sprays when he gets a bit stinky. I want to keep him happy and healthy so he can keep eating peanut butter like a little weirdo!

I make my own shampoo & spray using essential oils, and I have found them to be just as effective as store bought products, without all the mystery ingredients.

Dog Shampoo:
12 oz water
1 tablespoon castille soap
3 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops peppermint essential oil
2 drops rosemary oil
** I have seen recipes on the internet that also call for eucalyptus oil, but I avoid this as eucalyptus is toxic to dogs if ingested

Mix all ingredients and pour into a glass bottle. Shake well before use.

Dog Deodorant Spray:
10 oz distilled water
12 drops lavender essential oil
8 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix ingredients and pour into a glass spray bottle. Shake well and spray onto your dog’s fur when needed, avoiding the face. This spray can also be used for general odor fighting use around your home. I will sometimes spray it into a smelly trashcan that’s not ready to be emptied, or use it in the bathroom to combat unpleasant smells.

I always recommend using glass to store essential oils to avoid the leaching of toxins from plastic bottles into your mixtures. Also- I only recommend Young Living and DoTerra brand essential oils, since they are the only ones I will use for myself. Both companies offer Therapeutic Grade oils, which means that the quality is carefully controlled.

Woof Woof!
KD