Monday, November 25, 2013

Over the river and through the woods

We are getting ready to head out to grandma's house for the start of the holidays. Its hard to believe that its the end of November already. I'm 29 weeks pregnant and this fall has been a busy. I started writing for a website called Go check out all the cool articles on natural parenting and crunchy mommy hood. It has been exciting and taking a bit of time to get in the swing of yet another set of deadlines, I'm enjoying the challenge and it has given me so many ideas for posts I want to write here. C is growing an amazing rate and turned into a smart caring little boy, he is defiantly not a baby anymore. I'm still sewing my nights away working on Roxy Roodle projects. I'm hoping to get organized enough to finally get a few bulk buys run this spring and summer and defiantly do a lot more next winter. We have, as always lots of big house projects planned both before the baby gets here in 10 weeks ( omg that is soon!) and this summer.

That's what is new and happening in our household at the start of crazy holidays this year. Hopefully everyone traveling will be safe and have fun. Eat lots and lots of pumpkin pie and latkes and try not to stress out to much about the ever growing to do list.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Elderberry Syrup

I've been hearing a lot about elderberry syrup and how a spoonful of the stuff taken everyday drastically reduces your probability of getting a cold. With a two year-old in the house (we all know what germ magnets they are) and being pregnant this winter I don't want to get sick, my husband can't afford to get sick (hes saving up his sick time for when the baby is here) Anything that might help us avoid getting sick sounds like a good idea. The stuff is supposed to taste good too, and it can't hurt to try it. Which is my philosophy on most things crunchy. The only thing standing in our way was the cost of a bottle of this magic stuff at 20 dollars for a 16 oz bottle there was no way we where buying it. Which left good old make it yourself.  Finally I got around to ordering a pound of organic elderberries off Amazon which was around 20 dollars including the shipping. The recipes online looked pretty strait forward with the same basic ratio of water to berries and honey the herbs and spices differed depending on who wrote the recipe. So I didn't follow them exactly

Boil 3/4 cup of berries in 3 1/2 cups of distilled water along with whatever herbs or spices you wanted to add in to boost the germ fighting goodness. I threw an organic echinacea tea bag, some ground fresh ginger (about 3 teaspoons), and some cinnamon (a tablespoon maybe) Let the brew simmer for 45 minutes to an hour till it as reduced by about half the amount of liquid. Then strain the mixture into a glass bowl through a fine mesh sieve mash the berries to get all the juice out and then discard them. The brilliant purple juice should be about 16 oz worth give our take.  Let it cool a bit then add in a 1/2 to a full cup of local raw honey. I added a half cup after hearing from a friend that a full cup (what most recipes call for) was way way to sweet. stir the honey around let it devolve and pour the syrup into a jar. You can take up to a tablespoon a day to keep sickness away, or a few tablespoons if your sick. Kids under a year or two should not take this since it has raw honey but if you have older kids they can take a 1/2 to a full tablespoon.    C thought it was really yummy and asked for more medicine after licking every last drop off his spoon so I don't foresee and issue getting him to take it everyday. I have to agree with him it was pretty yummy. Hopefully it works and we won't get as many runny noses and colds this season. I'll let you know how it seems to be working as the winter progresses.

Bucket list :Cheese making

I'm not sure why I was so intimidated by making cheese, with so many pictures of how easy it is on Pinterest and all the oh so simple guides in all the homestead books I read. I was though. The whole concept of heating up milk adding a few things to it and in and in a few hours having pretty amazing cheese is kind of cool.  With the help of a friend we tackled cheese making today. The tutorial we used was the one on The Family Homestead blog. It didn't require a microwave like so many tutorials out there and it had the added bonus of how to use the whey to make ricotta.  Since everything is already dirty and the tons of whey (it was over 2 gallons) isn't so useful was a nice way to expand the cheese making experience and not feel so bad for wasting all the whey.

Taking the milk temperature basically you add the milk to the pot a little citric acid and let it heat up to 88 degrees
 then you add rennet that has been diluted in water and let it keep heating up till it gets to 105 degrees. Stirling the pot occasionally.Then you cover it let it sit for 15 min and the hard part is done. It was ridiculously easy. Hardest part was trying to figure out how to get the thermometer to stay suspended in the giant pot (not the sewing thread and clothes pin) and keeping 2 two year-olds out of the kitchen. 

 It gets all clumpy and becomes curds and whey. (feel free to insert Miss Muffet jokes here) 

 Then you drain off the whey. We put a colander over attached a cheese cloth. Well a flat cloth diaper, the gauzy cheese cloth stuff doesn't work don't use it but the cheap flat diapers work great.

 This is half the whey we had left over its going to make a few dogs and chickens very happy, I hope. Apparently they really like it on their food. You can all so use it in baking as the liquid in bread or in soups. We try to minimize the amount of dairy that C come in contact with though so I didn't save any food cooking 

After you drain off the whey (before you dump or store it) you take the still suspended cheese and pop it in the fridge for a few hours and put the whey back into the pot add some more milk and heat it back up to 105 degrees. Let it sit for 15 min and then drain the whey out and you get ricotta.  It looked solid until I added more fresh milk and broke it up a bit then it looked much more like the stuff you buy in the store. Thousand times more yummy. C was dancing around the kitchen singing "yummy cheese I eat it more."

Finishing the mozzarella cheese was a little more complicated. You take it out of the fridge and run hot water over it to get all of the whey out. It falls apart into a curd mess that is terrifying if you aren't expecting it. I drained mine through the cheese cloth and kept running the water over until it was clear. Then you stretch the cheese ball and the clumpy cheese gets magically stringy and looks just like mozzarella should.  

I will defiantly be doing this again. Often. We love eating lasagna and you cannot beat a mozzarella basil covered tomato that has been roasted on the grill in the summer. With cheese being so expensive however (not to mention filled with extra preservatives and hidden soy and gluten, yuck)  We don't get to have lasagna goodness all that often.  I have a feeling that might change.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Homestead Bucket List

I spend lot of time nursing C and scrolling through Pinterest looking at pins of crunchy mommy, crafty DIY, house and garden dream lists, and lots of homestead ideas.   I realize that this lifestyle of earthy mom, attachment parenting, make it yourself and make do without. Simple natural life thing is oh so trendy right now. Lucky me it means lots of information on how to do all sorts of "old fashion" skills with pretty pictures. I'm a sucker for good photos. 

I am not a new passenger on the Crunchy Homestead train. I grew up in it, well before it was cool. We walked the walked and grew the garden and lived a simple life.  Now that I'm raising my son as a 2nd generation crunchy homestead kid, I want to try all sorts of aspects of the lifestyle.  There are aspects that worked for my parents that wont work for me and like wise things they chose not to do that we may end up incorporating into our life.  A big part of growing up this way is that you constantly evaluate if things are working or if they need to be changed, Comparing the reality of life with an idealized picture of how it could be (with an endless supply of time, money, and people to run it.)

Which brings me to my bucket list. I am a big list maker, I like to plan and thing things out and often don't ever actually get around to doing them. The point of the list is to save all the "oh one day I'll try that" things and to actually cross things off. Evaluate if they worked and are worth doing again and hopefully it will provide the motivation to Try things vs just think about it. My Goal is to do a minimum of two things (or one really huge one) each month. Eventually after a few months I may increase the number or type of projects for the Bucket list project breaking the list down into sections and doing one thing from each section. I want to start of small and work up to doing more however since its the start of the holidays and I'm 7 months pregnant things are a little busy around here.

My plan for this month (November)

Elderberry syrup:  Apparently taking a spoonful of Elderberry syrup every day helps keep you from getting sick and when you do get sick upping the dose makes you get better faster. Sounds cool and worth trying out. A 16 oz bottle of the stuff costs 20 dollars at the Co-op. I decided that if we were going to try this it would be good old DIY way. I ordered a pound of organic elderberries off Amazon and found instructions on how to make the syrup. As soon as the berries get here (should be today!) C and I will try making some. If it works, I have plans for planting two bushes in the back this year so we can harvest them ourselves and sell the extra.

Mold-able bees wax for sculpting:  This  looks way easy to make, other than messing around with melting bees wax. I have hopes it will be a great gluten free substitute to play dough and C will enjoy creating with it.

The whole Bucket list will be posted somewhere on the blog as soon as I get around to writing it all out. Its a long long list that I see getting longer all the time as I find new projects and discover new interests in my crunchy mama homesteader adventures.  Things that will definatly be tacked in the next few weeks/months are
Sewing Fitted Cloth Diapers
Sewing Mama Cloth
Sewing Baby Wipes
Making Herbal Sitz Bath

I'm having a Blessing way and Preparing for this baby and a homebirth (February is getting closer I'm 28 weeks already!)  Which means I'm sure lots of cooking, recipe trying and other little diy projects for the new little one.  I'll be posting about it all (I promise!)

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