“To plant a gar…

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow…” – Audrey Hepburn

It’s about that time again!! Almost time to begin planning and plotting…  to start seeing the potential in that little piece of ground and calling the shots.

Can’t wait!

What are your plans for your garden this year?

What’s to fear about a little Kefir?

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Shannon and I have taken the plunge.

Nope, we didn’t go swimming – seriously guys, it’s January – no… we have taken the plunge into the world of probiotics.

That little bit of lactose based moonshine-like goodness pictured above is Kefir. (The Adam’s Jar makes it taste better) Recently our neighbor a street over with whom we often share wonderful conversations about homesteady topics, gave us a REALLY good Kefir starter. She’d been feeding it on raw milk for a while, and it had absolutely taken off, in fact was getting away from her a bit, so she split it and gave us a good sized gob of the kefir grains and home we went to experiment, (prancing with excitement) and immediately placed the grains into a mason jar 3/4 full of raw milk… it did it’s thing, one time, two times, and now 3 batches later, the picture above was taken.

Kefir, for those that are not aware, is a fermented milk beverage. The Kefir grains which function as the starter are a symbiotic collection of bacteria and fungus that just so happen to LOVE lactose. They go flat ballistic in raw milk, and in the space of 12-36 hours at room temperature – will ferment the milk that they’re sitting in into a liquidy, yogurty substance.

It’s good – but it is an acquired taste. It’s sour, sweet, yeasty… kind of all rolled into one. One of the primary reason people consume it however is that it is an incredible probiotic, capable of repopulating and fortifying intestinal flora. While yogurt contains anywhere from 5-7 different probiotics… Kefir can contain up to 30+. It’s fantastic stuff for folks that have digestive issues, and even if you’re lactose intolerant, letting the Kefir ripen on the counter for a while allows the microbes to digest most of the lactose giving you a beverage you can safely consume without explosive after effects…

It has been around for 1000’s of years and the peoples of Caucasus mountains produced and consumed Kefir regularly, with anecdotal evidence that it was beneficial to their longevity.

So back to the image at hand.

This is our 3rd batch of Kefir so far and it seems as though the Kefir grains are getting stronger and more effective with each batch. They are just rip roaring at this point. In the picture you can see the divide between the Kefir and the whey. The whey is the clearish-yellow liquid on the top – that can be used in all manner of things, from various recipes, soaking grains in it, making fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, and a whole host of other uses – the bottom stuff is the kefir. You can drink it straight, mix it into smoothies, drizzle it over fruit, etc. in order to get all your necessary probiotic goodness.

I think we’re going to use our whey to make sauerkraut with – since as we understand it, it helps to make a more consistent product each time. If there’s anything that can be said about our sauerkraut experiments thus far… “consistent” would not be one of those things. “Good” might not be mentioned in the same sentence either. We need some help…

We’re having fun with the experimentation process though… seriously, it’s the dead of winter. What else are we going to do? If you’ve never given Kefir a shot – you should give it a whirl, it’s fun to watch it do its thing.

If you want to find out more about Kefir, or want to find out anything and everything you could ever want to know about Kefir – check out Dom’s Kefir Site.

Prost!

You Are What What you Eat Eats…

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You are what what you eat eats. – Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food)

Here at the Little House on 17th Street, we’ve been thinking quite a bit about the above quote after finding the neon red honey in our hive in the past couple of weeks.

We’ve come to realize that this urban homesteading experiment we’ve embarked upon – however noble – has the potential to unravel before our very eyes with certain factors that are outside of our control, and frankly, that is somewhat unnerving.

You Are What You Eat

The age old adage is certainly true, you are what you eat… We began this renovation of our home and yard in an attempt to get the adulterants out of our food supply. We weren’t interested in eating food-like substances chock full of all of the preservatives, chemicals and genetically modified components they can cram into them. All of that can be mitigated by simply growing your own and purchasing intelligently. The problem with that concept however is when the surrounding environment – in our case, suburbia – decides to slowly interfere with your plans…

You Are What What You Eat Eats:

The truth is, when you live on an urban homestead – you have no control of what is being done beyond your fence. You don’t know if the flowers that your bees are visiting have been sprayed with insecticide, you don’t know if they’re visiting trees treated with Safari, whether they’re invading the local cannery and drinking long and deep at the vats of HFCS and Red 40. You have no control of where the roots of your plants go – if they leave the boundaries of your fences, and absorb glyphosate from individuals attempting to keep their weeds down in their little corner of manicured suburbia. For that matter, you don’t really know what the previous homeowner did in the soil… you have no idea whether your chickens are eating bugs that have been sprayed at the neighbors house and simply immigrated across the border to our homestead to die…

…things are truly outside of your control.

It’s a strange irony that at the times when you try to control for all these variables by raising your own chickens and growing your own foods, that the foundation you have built your homestead upon can erode so easily with the coming or going of food chain elements, or the past sins and indiscretions of the homeowner… in all honesty it makes you feel particularly vulnerable.

It has also got us thinking – what is truly organic? Can every little variable be controlled for and guaranteed that what you’re buying in the store that is labelled organic is truly organic? Don’t get me wrong – it’s got to be significantly better than what is being done conventionally – it’s not being sprayed directly, it’s not GMO, the list goes on – but it’s kind of scary to think that even if you do wish to opt-out of the conventional industrial farming model – that it may not be possible to keep it completely unadulterated due to the actions of those who don’t wish to opt-out…

Food for thought. You are what what you eat eats…

Victory.

Victory.

It’s done – all the hardscapes are in, the leftover material is moved, and I’m one tired dude.

Shannon and I have our anniversary coming up – and I did this as her anniversary present. That’s part of the reason why I’ve been busting it to get it in before then, the final piece of that anniversary present is the wad of cash to go down and buy all the primary plants. I ended up finishing a little early, but I’m pretty pleased with it – and so thankful that I have a wife who would rather get something like this than Jewelry…

So Close…

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… but I ran out of compost.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

We got the top compost layer added to the center beds, topped up the gravel in the paths another inch or two to come partway up the rocks that line the pathways, to hopefully hold them in place a bit, then added about 4-6 inches of compost to the beds raised beds, 3-4 inches on the outsides. We made a large rock garden under the Little Free Library out front… We are close.

…very, very close.

In fact – once it’s all in – the final step is handing Shannon a wad of cash and sending her the nursery.

… should I be scared?

Color

I marvel at what a little color can do.

Primaries, secondaries, accents – whether they’re bold and bright or faded and reserved –  it’s all about the contrast. So when we began to near completion of the front yard project hardscape, we just had to have an accent. I also wanted it to be functional, “read: I needed a place to plant my cheeks at the end of a long day”.

Enter the new Adirondack Chairs. Picked up two of the three they had left at Home Depot the other night – got them assembled and put into place – but it was just kind of blah.

It needed something more.

It needed color. So I got busy today and made a beautiful accent piece for the front garden.

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I’m very happy with it, and I’m excited to see how they’ll accent and contrast the remainder of what we’re putting together as we put in the flora over the next few months.

… but for now, back at it – there’s still hours in the day.

Cheers!