Wild Roses, Potatoes and Kombucha


Spring!  Glorious spring!!  It has finally arrived here at the Homestead.  It’s been such a long time coming here and we are rejoicing in it.  Of course, its supposed to be 86 degrees on Friday here and I’m not looking forward to that this early in the year…but, with the winter we had, I won’t complain about it.   We’ve even seen black flies and mosquitos and I’m not even complaining about them yet, that’s how you can be assured what type of winter we had here.

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With the advent of spring, some different things are popping up in our grocery stores here.  I found some pretty organic strawberries, so we had the first of many strawberry shortcakes for the summer season the other night.  I was also able to make a batch of strawberry ginger Kombucha as well.  Can’t wait for that second ferment to bubble up so I can give it a try!  What the heck is kombucha you ask?  Well, it is a fermented tea drink that contains an amazing amount of beneficial bacteria that feeds the good stuff in your gut.  It helps with digestion, but has been linked to all kinds of great things for your body.  If you’d like some in-depth info on it, google the benefits of kombucha and you will be amazed.  For 22 years, I struggled with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), sick and not willing to take medication with horrible side affects.  After reading up on this, I started myself on a regimen of fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) and kombucha.  And after a 22 year battle, within two months, no more symptoms.  Gone, completely.  So, I am a big believer in the benefits of fermented foods in our diets.

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My sister-in-law invited me to join her for a class on making kombucha at home.  Now, if you’ve been someone who purchases it, you know how appealing that is.  This stuff is liquid gold and quite expensive to buy.  The 1 liter jar you see above, when I originally bought it was $8.99.  I kept the old bottles because they are perfect for making new batches from scratch. Many brands will charge $3.99+ for a 16oz bottle of it!  So, I was paying those prices because it is necessary for my health.   I am now able to make organic kombucha at home for about $.50/liter! At this class, we learned how to make the concoction on our own, and the instructor even gifted us with our own “scoby” to take home.  The scoby is the “mother” to the ferment.  It contains the beneficial yeast and bacteria that continues to grow and change and ferment the tea.  Homestead photos 1 006

This is the scoby, along with some reserved kombucha. I know, it looks gross, and it’s kind of scary at first.  It’s slimy and grows in layers and can cause you to pause if you think about it too much, but all I know is this magical little substance makes my body very happy. So, I think of it like a layer cake…and when you get too many layers, you can share them with friends…or chickens…or the compost pile.  I got my hubby hooked on kombucha before he saw this, and honestly it’s a good thing.  It’s rather unappealing in reality.  He saw me making a new batch one day, took one look at this mass in the bowl and said “What is THAT?”.  I told him the magic scoby, nothing to see here, move along.  If you want to have a healthy body biome, the ferments are crucial.  If you’d like more info on this, you can comment below and I will refer you to some of the many sources I have researched on fermented food and kombucha. I highly recommend adding it to your self-care, it’s good stuff.

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Are you wondering what you are looking at here?  A wall of vines, a new crochet project I’m working on, or perhaps the entrance to the West Gate of Moria?  No, this is the horrible, snarly, blood inducing wild rose vines that cover a good portion of our property.  The boys and I spent a good chunk of their school vacation this week beating some of this into submission and reclaiming some of our back yard.  It looks great now that we have put many hours into removing it.  My husband actually began to tackle this particular patch of it just this morning after finishing a large patch behind the chicken coop.  It really does rip the crap out of your skin as its covered in thorns and on some of these plants that are older, there are huge thorns that will rip a serious gash in you.  I know, this sounds like so much fun, you can’t wait to join in removing it, right?  This is only made better by the icing on this particular cake, the poison ivy that intermingles with a lot of it as well.  My oldest son forgot not to scratch his face with his gloves (despite many reminders not to touch bare skin) and he now has a face that looks like it’s flaming with acne but it actually covered in poison ivy.  Poor kid!!  And I managed to get it on my legs and the itch will drive you into insanity.  Especially at night when you’re covered by the sheets that, for whatever reason, seems to irritate it more than even pants do.

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Piles of vines waiting to burn
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The Thorn Warrior finally getting to mow in the backyard!

We have much more to remove, it will be an ever-present struggle because if you see the picture above, beyond the fence is our neighbor’s property.  This lot is covered in these vines.  Which will forever want to make its way across that fence line to re-infest our side of nirvana.  We’re up to the challenge, bring it!Homestead photos 1 021

This year’s experiment for me in the garden will be these new potato boxes.  I have purchased indeterminate types of potatoes to plant in them, which should start a new set of spuds in each layer of dirt that is added to the box as it grows up.  When the greens start to be about 6 inches, a new layer of soil is added and a new board to the sides.  By the time the potatoes are ready to be harvested, the boxes will be 36 inches high and hopefully contain a lot of potatoes!

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The Wee Three as I like to call them.  I’m hopeful that trying to get them to grow vertically instead of horizontally will work out of us.  We don’t have a lot of space for a garden here, so I’m trying to embrace the planter and container growing where I need to.   I have another great idea to grow my harvest that needs trellising, like cukes and beans and peas in large planter boxes that with the trellis will allow us some privacy in the backyard. We currently have none, and as I have explained previously, we live on a fairly busy road that is a pass through from one community to another.  We always said we would not live in another house on one of these roads, but you have to go where the budget allows and so here we are, determined to make the best of it.

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I hope that this spring is finding you happily ensconced in your own projects and dreams.  Soon, an update on the garden and perhaps a new deck in the future as well. Until then, be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all.




Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts and Crochet

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Spring has certainly taken its time arriving to us.  We had an extremely mild February, which was followed by a bear of a March and seems to want to keep us in the chill for April.  The 10 day forecast on the intellicast.com website for our area doesn’t have us higher than the 40’s for the next 10 days.  Bah Humbug.  I’m very ready for spring and I’ve a feeling, like our last Autumn season, we’re gonna be robbed.  It will go right from early spring to full-blown summer.  I am not a woman of average size, and I also have a medical condition that makes heat very hard for me to bear, so I am not looking forward to that little battle.    But, it is what it is, right?  Homesteading is nothing if it isn’t about adapting to what comes your way daily.

So, you see my bowl at the top of the page.  That bowl is my favorite pasta bowl, I have had it for about 25 years now.  I bought that at the Crate and Barrel outlet store way back when, I just loved its cheery colors, it makes me feel like a summer day.  So, I pulled it out and decided that I would take care of that craving that I’ve been having for some soup.  I am a huge mushroom fan, but alas, my husband doesn’t like them.  At all.  He tells me he’s allergic to them so that’s why he won’t eat them (umm…the fact that he’s allergic to lobster and also milk doesn’t stop him from consuming those delicacies…but I digress).  That’s okay for the most part, but when I get a hankering for them, I need to just make it for myself and the boys.

Since we’ve been having chilly and rainy weather the last couple of days, it seemed the fitting meal for me to have a go at.  I subscribe to Mother Earth Living.  I’m sure there isn’t a homesteader out there that doesn’t know about Mother Earth, right?  This is the sister magazine, geared mostly for women is my take on it, that has a lot of natural living type articles on all topics.  The January/February issue had an article on meals that can be made from wild mushrooms.  I made the “mushroom bacon” recipe, thought it too salty and spicy for my taste, but I will do it again because the results were good enough to want to add it to my soup and perhaps make a MLT sandwich with it as well.  I decided to make the “Wild Mushroom Chowder” they featured.  I happen to have a bag of Shiitake mushrooms in the freezer and I bought King Trumpet and Portobellos to go in it as well.  It was good, though a bit bland for my taste buds.  I’m a spices, herbs and flavor kinda girl.  The recipe is actually vegan, but I added some stuff to it that I felt it needed, and one of the ingredients (which you can leave out if you prefer the vegan style) makes it vegetarian rather than vegan.  If you’d like to give it a try, I recommend it.  It is creamy (without cream), warming and hearty and I will for sure be adding it to my soup file for the fall and winter cooking.  Or the chilly and rainy spring day, grumble, grumble, grumble.  It is nice accompanied by crusty bread warm from the oven as well, or a side salad of spring greens with a citrus dressing.  Hope you enjoy this one!Blog ables 4-4-18 005

Wild Mushroom Chowder

makes 9 cups, about 6 generous servings

3 tbsp miso paste

3 tbsp coconut oil

3 medium leeks, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced

7 cups wild or other mushrooms, diced into 1/2″ pieces

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3/4 lb red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 cup unsalted raw cashews, soaked overnight in water and drained

3 tbsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch works as well)

1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar if you don’t have the red wine kind)

2 tbsp minced fresh parsley

Then I added to the recipe, because it was bland to me:

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce (I used sirracha), or less if you prefer just a hint of heat

dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream to garnish

  1.  In blender, combine miso paste and 4 1/2 cups water to make a broth, set aside.
  2. In heavy-bottomed pot, warm oil over medium heat.  Add leeks and saute 2 minutes to soften, add mushrooms and garlic (if using) with  salt and pepper, and saute another 5 minutes more, stirring often.  Add potatoes, thyme and blended miso broth along with hot pepper sauce (if using ).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  3. In blender, combine 1 cup water with cashews, arrowroot powder (or corn starch if substituting) and vinegar until smooth and creamy.  No chunks should appear, it should be silky smooth texture.  Add mixture to soup, and return to simmer.  Continue to cook, uncovered for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes to thicken well.
  4. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with a sprinkle of parsley, and dollop of yogurt of sour cream, if using.  Enjoy!

Since I couldn’t make this for a meal for the household, I enjoyed it for lunch with a bunch left over to bring to my friend’s house for lunch tomorrow and for my boys to enjoy on a night they might need to cook for themselves. It should freeze well.  For supper, I decided to make a lovely baked dill salmon tonight, with crusty bread and since brussels sprouts season is arriving soon, I made up a recipe with brussels sprouts. This is also good with any type of meat or served in a warm sandwich as well, we like it with warmed sliced turkey sub with onion jelly.  Must get those cruciferous veggies in, they stave off the cancer!  And for my vegetarian mother and nieces, this would be really good in a warmed pita bread with the onion jelly on its own as well.

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Cranberry Brussels Sprouts With Almonds

4 generous servings

1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and washed well, sliced about 1/4″ slices

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup sliced almonds

3 tbsp bacon grease (or olive oil, but you’ll miss the lovely bacon smokiness)

  1. Put cranberries in a mug and cover with boiling water, let sit for about 15 minutes while you prepare the other steps.  Drain before using in recipe.

2. Melt bacon grease (or olive oil) in bottom of pan over medium heat.  Add almonds and saute quickly, stirring constantly.

3. Add shredded brussels sprouts and saute until just beginning to wilt.  Then add drained cranberries and continue cooking for another 2 minutes until all is warmed through.  Serve immediately.

As you can see, its been cooking here mostly.  We did get a start on our potato boxes, and I’m going to post on that next.  Wanted to try them in raised boxes this year to see how they work out.  We’re using a bunch of wood we had left from other projects here and we’re also going to be making a bunch of raised beds for other veggies and I’ll be posting on those as soon as there’s something to tell.  Right now, just in the holding pattern waiting for the daffodils to show their smiling faces.  I have also been adding to my skill set with a few things this winter, one of them being crochet.  I told you I crocheted a bunch of stuff for my new grand-nephew, but I have had a few other projects in the works as well.  I’m almost done crocheting a rug for my bathroom.  I couldn’t find exactly what I have been looking for, and when that happens, I usually try to figure out a way to create it.  Luckily, I possess a few skills in that area.  When that’s done, I’ll get you photos of that as well.  And soon, we’ll be outside a in and I can’t wait for those days!  Until then, be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all.