Saturday, March 26, 2011

Garden Time






Here's a bit of a summary of my gardening efforts for the last month or so. The lovely photo on the left shows my garden plan. It's got a lot going on and very small text, but what it shows is a year-round planting scheme that is focused on the veggies that my family eats the most: garlic, kale, beets, squash. And for some variety and permieness (permie as in "Permieculture" aka permaculture) I've added an edible flower/insectory (meaning to attract "beneficial" insects and repel "non-benefecials") in the middle of the garden. ♥





This here picture is the garden at the beginning of this month, before the sheep got in and without my new cold frame (see below) in place. The far right bed in the foreground is home to my garlic babies, oooooh, so precious. Off to the left in the background you can kind of see where the magnificently-delicious-berries grow. I think they're boysenberries or something like that but I don't know for sure...



So far I have planted some lettuce (in my cold frame, hooray!), snow peas, snap peas, spinach and purslane. If I have my way I'll be out today poking some carrots and radishes into the ground. I've been dreaming of gardening like this for YEARS now. Oh fa la la! My dreams are coming true! Here's a picture of my cold frame:

Happy Spring!











Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lambs

The little lambs have arrived. These are Queen Frostine's twins. They were born February 19. Hooray babies....
These two photos show the lambs on their first excursion from the pasture to our back yard.


This one is the little ewe lamb.

Here's the ram lamb with his mama.



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Getting Nerdy

I've been wanting to post for the last couple days, but I've realized that the topic I want to write about is something that is going to be a lot more than one post worth of materials. It may even turn into a whole subsection about (drumroll) nurition in pregnancy Weston A. Price style! and some of the potentially deleterious effects of soy that deserve more attention especially those issues associated with reproduction, pregnancy, and infants/children. The Weston A Price thing is mostly my own dorkiness that I thought I would share if anyone is interested. But I think that the soy thing is more of a developing agenda on my behalf, especially as I embark on my journey to serve pregnant/postpartum women and families. I thought that soy was a health food and consumed it liberally and really felt great. But as my tastes shifted I stopped eating it, but still didn't give much thought to people who say that soy is not a health food. I conceded that many are allergic and that it may not be the right food for everyone...but now that I've looked into it more it seems like there is a lot of information out there about how it actually interacts with our human biochemistry that is really concerning. I'm really wanting to come at this with a very open mind and to always respect people's own wisdom in choosing the best diet for their bodies. It just seems like something that deserves a closer look. So I've been dorking out on that a lot and I'm excited to blog about it. But really the most exciting thing for me is what these posts are going to be called, "So we can make perfect babies!" This is a quote is from Weston A. Price's research that paraphrases the reason why the people who ate the (admittedly sometimes funky (by Western standards anyway)) traditional diets that they did.

Let me say that again...

"So we can make perfect babies!"

Doesn't that make your heart melt? Isn't that the best reason for doing anything ever? I think so. (Let me add that I also think there are lots of ways to make perfect babies...about as many as there are families...I just really like this quote because it inspires me to do challenging things like drink powdered clay and eat liver, and may be (hopefully) similarly inspiring for people who have similar nutritional inclinations as myself).

Ok everyone look forward to lots of nerdy nutrition posts at some point in the future!

Lots of Weston A Price references here, if you don't know who that is or what I'm talking about this link may be helpful:
http://www.westonaprice.org

But if you don't want to follow the link heres a little background on dear Weston: He was a dentist who noticed a marked decline in the quality of children's dental health during the time of transition to an industrial food supply. He and his wife traveled the world to try to find people in perfect health (especially dental health, and that were free from chronic and degenerative disease). They found lots of healthy people and analyzed their diets then he wrote a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration which many people got excited about and started a Weston A Price foundation (see link above) to celebrate butter!--spring time pasture butter that is! (ok the butter part is just a joke, mostly).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Farewell to you, Tina the Llama

XT loves to bring animals in the house. This is him with Tina in the house the day that she went to her new (happier) home.

She actually left our place a while ago, but I wanted to post this picture because I think it's AMAZING!

In other news, spring is coming (um...in case you haven't noticed that or are in the process of becoming uncryogenically frozen or something) so I've been trying to pop into action and get on top of all the late winter/early spring projects that I've been wanting to do. Today XT and I finished up pruning the pear tree, and I did some pruning on the apple tree too. Pretty major cuts since they were so overgrown when we moved in. We'll see how much fruit we end up getting this year. I also spent a minute digging through a pile of scrap wood sorting it into project piles as my first step toward making a couple of cold frames and a new drawdrerry (known by most others as "strawberry") bed.

What I haven't done today is study. Last week I did so much reading that my brain kind of short circuted so I'm telling myself that this is just a break from the intensity, but by now its been about four days since I've really hit the books. I've definately been learning some really amazing stuff about women's health, pregnancy, healing and all that other stuff I like so much. I'm wanting to do a post about one of those topics soon, so stay tuned. I'm not quite up for it today. But please do scroll back up and enjoy the tina in the house picture one more time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wool Processing--Thanks Queen Frostine!

Here's some pictures of wool processing. We sheared the sheep in November, which is necessary for our sheep because they are a long wool breed so they must be shorn twice a year.




Thanks for your wool Queen Frostine!





Washing the wool. This may actually be Dalton's and Queen Frostine's. Since they are both white, their wool was grouped together in the bags. It took about 3 soap baths and 4 or 5 rinses to get this wool clean.






Drying the wool in front of the woodstove.



Choberson helping to spead the wool out to dry.




Carding....so much carding!


Carded wool ready for spinning...





One of my first attempts at spinning using a drop spindle. It's "artistic" yarn.

Kraut!



I made another batch of Kraut earlier this week and took some photos for sharing.

Kraut is super nutritious because its full of probiotics and enzymes...So I basically feel like a bazillion bucks when I eat a little bit with every meal. All of the enzymes are especially helpful for promoting digestion when you're prone to acid reflux (especially during pregnancy), if your liver tends to be sluggish, or if your eating a meal that is mostly or exclusively cooked foods and/or a lot of (cooked) meat.


Kraut is easy to make. You basically take cabbage, slice it thinly, mash it into a food-grade non-metal container with some salt until the juices flow (reaching a higher level than the vegetable content), then cover it and let it rot until it smells sour and delicious. You can use whatever vegetables you like to eat and especially whatever veggies are in excess at the time you're conjuring up your batch of rotten veggies (er...kraut).


So let's look at some fancy photos of my kraut making operation and I'll try to break this down a bit more step-by-step with some more details.


You'll Need some stuff like:

veggies (cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, beets, carrots, turnips, onion, anything really...) salt and/or savory seeds and/or seaweed

cutting board
a knife or one of those special cabbage shredders

a mashing device of some kind (there are special utensils made for this purpose. i don't have one)

a plate

a ziplock bag (optional)





0. make sure you begin with a squeaky clean cutting board, knives, fermenting vessel, masher, spoon for your salt, etc. and don't forget to wash your hands!





1. First you take the veggies and you slice them! you slice them! You're going for thin slices here. Bite-sized ish is also nice for the length, but the veggies will also get a bit smaller as they ferment. I'd say about 70% as small as if you were cooking them.






I like to arrange my vegetables in little dishes by type so I can add them into the crock in roughly the same proportions, but really with all the pounding and mashing that happens, things get mixed up pretty well.




2. Once everything is cut up, add a layer of cabbage (and other veggies if you have more) that's about 4-5" thick, sprinkle some salt (I like the fancy celtic sea salt for its mineral content) on it, then take your masher (I used an empty glass bottle) and (carefully if your using my method of a glass masher) pound the veggies until they look good and bruised. Repeat until your crock is full.






Usually I put about 1/4 to 1/2 a tsp. of salt in each layer of veggie. I like a lot of salt in my food, you might like a bit less. The saltier the concoction, the longer it will take to ferment. It is important to add enough salt because it favors the beneficial microbes that will make your rotten veggies rot correctly--and by correct I mean that they will rot in a way that will make them edible and nutritious to you, a human (I assume) and not just nutritious for your compost heap. You can also supposedly use savory seeds (dill seed, caraway, celery seed...) or hijiki instead of salt. I've never tried this exclusively, but I do find that those items can be tasty additions.






When you're mashing the veggies, you're creating the liquid brine (veggie juice mixed with salt) that will allow your vegetables to ferment (rot in a fancy way) rather than just plain rot. So it's important than the liquid you mash out of your veggies ends up covering them by the time you get to the top of your crock (or jar or bucket). I've found that for this first few layers of veggies I mash, there really is not appreciable liquid content in my crock. So if this happens to you, don't be discouraged! Usually by the time the crock is half full I'm seeing some liquid. By the time I'm doing the last couple of layers, I'm getting splashed in the face with the juices that come shooting out as I pound the veggies.






3. Covering up the crock is the last thing you need to do with your crock...today that is. You can use a plate or a similar flat object (that is clean of course!) to press your cabbage down below the level of the liquid. Often you'll need a weight to keep enough pressure on the plate. A clean jar full of water or a clean rock works well for this purpose. There is also this clever idea out there about just using a ziplock bag full of brine (aka saltwater) to weigh and press the veggies down. Its filled with brine so if your plastic springs a leak, it won't interfere with the fermentation process.


As your schlopp ferments keep an eye on it to make sure the liquid level stays high enough, or that it hasn't overflowed (usually this happens only in the first couple days) and is in need of cleanup. If the liquid gets to low, the veggies exposed to air will start to mold (especially if you live here in the NW). If this happens, don't despair, just remove the moldies (and a safety layer of unmoldies below that, according to your own comfort level...about an inch is good enough for me), clean any mold off your fermentation vessel, add some brine, promise yourself to be a more vigilant fermentor and keep it fermenting! It takes anywhere between 4 days (according to the literature on fermentation, though I've never seen it go down this fast) to several weeks to completely ferment. Keep checking it as you it ferments. When it smells good and sour then taste it. Don't taste it if it smells bad. Though, its important to note that the fermentation involved is a series of two different kinds of critters, the first is a bacteria so it's possible that your kraut will smell less than tasty early on in the process. If this is the case, consider giving it some more time. If you're kraut it more than a couple weeks old, you probably have missed the golden level of deliciousness for this batch. You can try to salvage anything that may still be tasty from the bottom of your crock, but you may have to start a new batch.


For anyone who isn't already familiar, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz is a good book on the topic of fermenting foods, though he (the author) is fond of digressing from the topic of ferments and giving lengthy personal anecdotes which may or may not be an interesting read for you. I find it frustrating sometimes when I'm just trying to look up a quick fact or two and I have to wade through several paragraphs about his housemate to find it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Photographic Intros






The last post I made was an introductory post already, but I wanted to make another series of intros, this time with pictures!
Chickens! XT (el papa) loves when the birds come inside.
Marzipan!







Tutti-Frutti and Queen Frostine.










Dalton. hes a wether. poor guy.







This is MustacheKittis. He commonly goes by the name "mustache" or "mustacchio!"




Grundl.

So there you have it folks. I don't have any rabbit pictures in the current collection because they're so tricky to photograph (you have to sneak up to them).





Thursday, February 3, 2011

Finally!...and...Introductions!

I've been thinking about starting this blog FOREVER! In fact, I've been taking step by step pictures of projects I've been doing for the last nine months thinking that I would start blogging soon and put them up to share. At last I'm getting this started.

So let's begin with some introductions:

la mama: First and foremost you should know me as (or think of me as if you for some reason are reading this, which you are welcome to do, and do not actually know me in person) a nerd. In fact, I belong to an exclusive and highly esteemed (joking) order of nerds known as the Thrall family sisters. I love to dig for information and read extensively about any and all things that I'm interested in doing or speculating about. I'm into making things, especially things that are practical (shine on virgo sun), doing things in a natural kind of way...in short I aspire toward a handmade life, hence the title. Although the title is actually a metaphor borrowed from Clarissa Pinkola Este's book Women Who Run With the Wolves and not some ungrounded dogmatism or handcrafty fanaticism....Anyhoo, enough of that tanget. I am a student midwife of sorts. Perhaps student wisewoman is a better way of putting it. I'm currently focused on midwifery and the childbearing continuum, but I'm also passionate about psycho-spiritual-somatic-emotional healing and holistic homebased earthbased education. WOO!

el bebe: is about 16 months as we begin and is just learning how to waddle around like a little drunken hollerizing grimlin.


la homestead: 4.5 acres of pasture and forest. currently home to my first earnest attempt at a vegetable garden (currently inhabited by struggling cover crops as we shall see), 11 chickens, 4 sheep, 3 cats, 2 peahens, 2 flemish giant rabbits, my mini pro-biotics farm, fruit trees and berries, and a lovely assortment of wild flora and fauna including coyote, raven, huckleberry, wild strawberry, cedar, douglas fir, st. joans wort, wild strawberry, oregon grape, yarrow, dandelion, chickarees....and SO many more. Future home of Hermie, my dream dog. Also future home for more chickens and some ducks, probably more rabbits, maybe a worm farm...Certainly more medicinal and edible plants will be invited to join us!


vision de blog!
I'm hoping to share a lot of the projects I do, some of the thoughts and reflections that come along, and just keep some distant family (and maybe even friends) updated on the goings on in my world. Maybe even some unknown distant internet surfers will find their way here to be entertained or inspired by my little posts. I feel like I'm juggling so many projects and interests all the time!

Here's some kind of listing of prospective topics: garden stuff and food cultivation, fermentation projects, good times with animals, natural pregnancy, natural birth, natural parenting, holistic education, holistic healing, holistic anything (really), fiber arts, other art projects, permie culture style things, clothing making, speculations about how to become a better human more consciously integrated into my community and landbase; possible speculations about extraterrestials, ancient civilizations, and the nature of the universe (what fun!); potential book reviews especially of fantasy novels....ok maybe thats a good enough list for now. Another major reason for writing this is that I am just wanting to WRITE somewhere other than my journal where there is some possibility that someone might appreciate it (I'm looking at you Joy!).