Kombucha for digestion

Over the last year or so I’ve been making Kombucha (about a gallon per week) and I’ve enjoyed the process along the way. I began doing this to avoid the $2.34 per liter cost of kombucha when buying in bulk at costco. Now my cost is about 50 cents per gallon (for sugar and tea). I first tried ordering a scoby online but it was too hot here in September (in Phoenix, AZ) and I think it died in the mailbox on a 118 degree day. Then I found someone nearby on craigslist who I could buy a live scoby from.

I actually had to buy a scoby twice because the first time I was trying to use raw sugar and the molasses contained in it caused the kombucha to smell like puke, especially after a few weeks. Since then I’ve been strictly using white sugar and haven’t had trouble.

Kombucha ready to harvest

Kombucha ready to harvest

My weekly process goes something like this:

  1. Make about a gallon of black tea (I use 4 bags) with 2 cups of white sugar mixed in
  2. Wait until tea cools or put ice in it to cool it to room temperature
  3. Get 6 glass quart jars out, and a bowl for holding the scooby while harvesting kombucha
  4. Take the scoby out into the bowl from one of the gallon jars of kombucha, and peel off any old layers of scoby. I used to throw this away, though I had thought of making a foot scrub as described in Kombucha Revolution. But this time I fed the extra scoby to my worms.
  5. Pour the Kombucha into smaller jars and seal them
  6. Rinse out the gallon jar before filling it about halfway with sweet black tea
  7. Add about half a quart of kombucha back in before gently placing a scoby on top.
  8. Cover the lid with a dry paper towel secured by a rubber band. This allows the kombucha to breathe while keeping flies (and kids) out.

The small jars contain kombucha which is becoming carbonated in the second phase of the process. I usually leave them on the counter a day or two before putting 1-2 jars in the fridge at a time. I like mine cold, but you could drink it without refrigeration.

Harvested Kombucha in the quart jars and extra scoby in the bowl to feed my worms.

You can open it up and stick a straw in it to taste it every couple days to tell when it’s done, but I noticed that it always tasted sweeter after being in the fridge so I stopped doing that and just try to keep to a schedule (+/- a day or two).

When you procure a scoby from craigslist or from amazon, the first batch will be smaller based on the size of the scoby and how much kombucha starter you get. But a healthy scoby can double in size over a week or two depending on the temperature (In the summer it grows faster than the winter at my house).

Vermiculture for kids

I decided to start composting using worms to speed things up and reduce the smell and flies, and I wanted to start with a controlled environment so I chose to start with an indoor worm farm, aka vermiculture.

First I ordered the worm “house”, then I was looking at purchasing worms online. I was planning on purchasing the “Uncle Jims” brand worms, but then I found the Arizona Worm Farm about a half an hour from my house. I planned a trip after getting my vermi-hut (so I would have a place to put the worms when I brought them home) and took a couple of my kids with me to get them.

After bringing home the worms, I setup the worm “house” and soaked the coco-core which came with it in water, then my kids took over and it was the best I could do to keep up with them while reading the directions in the provided manual that came with the VermiHut.

I knew the worms would be an attraction but I was pleasantly surprised at how hands on my kids got. I barely got to see the worms because they were so into it. ūüôā

vermiculture for kids

My kids took over the setup of our new VermiHut.

Beet Kvass for Post Nasal Drip

I learned about a great way to find relief from sinus allergies recently. It started with home delivery of local organic produce from Natures Garden Delivered here in Arizona, which gave me easy access to a much wider variety of fruits and vegetables than I even knew existed.

One day I was looking through the list of items I could exchange in my box the next week and I saw beets. This reminded me of the beet kvass I made years ago when we lived in Portland and had raw milk delivered to our cohousing community. One a side note, I think red beets are better suited for making beet kvass than either chioggia beets (which I call zebra beets because of the stripes inside) or golden beets. I’ve tried all 3 kinds, the chioggia beets make a light pink color kvass and the golden beets make a pale yellow kvass.

We’d been getting raw milk for several months from saveyourdairy.com, a local organic dairy farm in the Phoenix area (visit realmilk.com to help you find a source local to you). One week we didn’t use as much so there was leftover milk, so I decided to make whey by taking some raw milk out of the fridge and letting it sit in a jar on the counter for a couple days until it separated into curds and whey, then pouring it through a cheesecloth to separate the curds from the whey. Then I think I ate the curds and put the whey back in the fridge. More details and instructions for producing whey are on page 87 of Nourishing Traditions.

Once I had whey ready in a jar back in the fridge, I then added locally grown organic beets to my next delivery of the organic produce box using the user friendly order customization interface (at az.naturesgardendelivered.com).

When I first started doing this in January I drank about a gallon or two per week of beet kvass so I could keep ordering beets every week in my produce box (and because it felt so good to have relief from post nasal drip). I ended up getting a urinary tract infection and passing 4 kidney stones one day because I had effectively replaced my water intake with beet kvass for several weeks.

This recipe is in the “Tonics and Superfoods” section, not the Beverages section of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, and now I understand why. The Tonics section starts with this paragraph:

The following tonics are offered for their medicinal rather than epicurean qualities. They are useful for fasting and detoxification. Caution: Fasting should only be undertaken under a doctor’s supervision. Consult a qualified health practitioner for the treatment of all serious disease conditions.

I had gotten carried away and drank the tonic like it was water, which is why I got into trouble. So I took a month or two off from drinking beet kvass before making a new batch, which I only do once every other month or so now. I am careful to stick to a small cup of it per day (when I’m most congested) and drink plenty of water throughout the day now. Last night I had some after dinner because we had pizza.

This is a great way to help resolve post nasal drip when I’m not experiencing other sinus issues. I’ve written other articles about how I reduce nasal congestion and deal with sinus infections.

Indoor Allergies? Get New Furnace Filters!

This spring has been challenging for us in terms of allergies, the pollen combined with no rain in Phoenix to clean the air meant that we were sneezing and wheezing often over the last few weeks. Last night I had a dream that I couldn’t breathe and ended up breathing through my mouth and waking up exhausted (and sneezing) this morning.

I knew it had been 2-3 months since I changed the furnace filters so after dropping off the first batch of kids to their elementary school I took the two younger ones to Lowes and bought the best air filters I could get (the ones with the highest performance rating). We have 2 A/C units with 2 air intakes each so for 4 filters I ended up spending over $80. We plan to move to Prescott in another month or so, but I want to be healthy in the meantime.

After we got home I replaced all 4 filters and turned on both furnace fans to clean out the air. I can honestly say I haven’t sneezed since, and I haven’t heard anyone else either. It’s amazing how much better I feel now in my own home! Now I think the air quality is better inside than out, and I look forward to a good night’s sleep tonight. ūüôā

I remember last time I bought filters I couldn’t find the high quality ones in both sizes I needed (maybe I was at Home Depot then). I bet that most of the air went through the poor filters due to the reduced resistance in those, so this time I’m glad I got good filters all around. If you have trouble finding good filters in your size at your local store you can check out Achoo Allergy to find the specific size you need.

How I work at home with young children

Sometimes people ask me how I get any work done at home with five little kids running around.  I thought about this the other day when two of them were arguing and came to me at my desk in order to plead their cases against each other.  I told them I wanted them to work out their differences between themselves and hoped for the best.

I was actually listening to a guided meditation at the time from the “In the Vortex” CD from Abraham-Hicks publications. ¬†I had it playing on my phone and just happened to be sitting at my desk when they tried to pull me into their argument. ¬†Fortunately their scuffle¬†dissipated when I showed firmness in staying centered and not taking sides. ¬†Sometimes one or two of the kids will even join me when I listen, that’s always nice.

I read “The Vortex” book, but the most useful tool to me has been the¬†guided meditations with background music which I copied onto my computer and my phone (and my next phone and the one after that – they don’t last as long as computers it seems). ¬†There are four different topics to choose from with positive affirmations about each topic in 15 minute “songs” on the CD.

I can pick one and play it on my phone sometime in the morning wherever I am (usually somewhere in the house) in order to help me relax. ¬†Then I’m able to get into a good feeling place that helps me to be focused and productive in my work so I can enjoy time with my family when I get to a stopping point later. ¬†It also helps me to be more flexible and understanding of interruptions throughout the day, both from my kids and from clients calling about issues to be addressed.