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).

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. 🙂

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 got my son to take a nap

I feel very proud of myself, because I was able to get my 3 year old son (who doesn’t like naps) to go to sleep while his 8 year old brother was playing in the same room next to his bed and all three other kids were up playing as well (even coming in the room on occasion to ask me something). If you have children who don’t like to take naps or even sleep at all you’ll understand how big of an achievement this is. But first I’ll provide a context to help you understand why this was so important for us today.

My Son - Napping

In the morning I had spoken to their grandma who wanted to take the older kids to see a movie in the afternoon. The last time I tried to take Hani to a movie I almost lost him because he kept wandering off and wouldn’t stay in a seat (even in my lap). Apparently Popper’s Penguins were not as interesting to him as the lights on the floor (for the walkways) or the rows of folding seats or the multitude of people (including many children, some his age that he probably wanted to play with) sitting and staring at the screen. Or even the curtain under the screen or the hallway outside the theater or… just about anything but the movie.

I took the kids to the children’s museum in the morning to give them something to do since it was too hot to even swim before sundown. I packed a lunch this time so we could eat when we wanted and we wouldn’t have to wait in line for it. After arriving back home I got a confirmation call from grandma to decide on the movie and the time she would pick them up. It was about an hour away so I told her I would try to get Hani to sleep so he wouldn’t see everyone else leave for the movie. We had already had lunch but I made a fruit/veggie smoothie for us to share as a snack. Then Hani brought me a snack pack of fig newtons and asked me if he could have it. I told him he could share it if he laid down with me afterwards (I wanted every advantage I could get).

After Hani finished the fig newtons I asked him if he was ready to lay down with me in my bed. He said no, but I reminded him of our agreement and ushered him into his room (as the alternative to my bed). I was a bit disappointed because I was tired and wanted an excuse to rest, but I stayed the course, undaunted by his resistance and change of plans. I put him into his bed and was going to try and lay down with him, but he told me to get off his bed so I agreed if he would lay down and close his eyes. Then I pulled out my phone and started a lullaby app which I had installed a few days ago. He complained that everybody else wasn’t laying down (the other kids were up playing, throughout the house) but I just empathized with him and turned up the music.

Less than 10 minutes later (after trying to relax while sitting against the wall) I realized he had fallen asleep so I got up and started reminding the kids to get their shoes on. He stayed asleep until about an hour after the others left for the movie when he woke up crying, but I just went back and turned on the app again (I had removed my phone in case it would ring) and he fell right back asleep.

So how did this work? Here are the six things I did to help manifest this much needed nap for my son amidst a cacophony of boisterous juveniles:

  1. The trip in the morning gave him plenty of stimulation and got him tired
  2. I made sure his tummy was full but not stuffed
  3. I made an agreement about him laying down (for the fig newtons) that I felt good about holding him to later
  4. I stayed with him until he went to sleep and made sure he stayed in bed
  5. I gave him empathy without trying to ‘fix’ whatever he protested about
  6. The soft piano music (lullaby) helped give him something to focus his attention on besides the joyful noise of 4 other kids playing in the house

How to recover from too much Halloween Candy

Halloween Candy

Candice took the older three kids trick or treating for the first time this year, and they had a great time. Luckily it was on a Saturday so we had family over and they all went together, then watched a Scooby Doo mystery movie afterward (it goes with the spooky theme).

Of course during the movie they had their candy “loot” spread all over the floor in the TV room, and were happily gorging on assorted chocolate and sugar sweets. Near the end of the movie Kayin began doubling over in pain, screaming that his stomach hurt. So I put some nutmeg in a cup of water and gave it to him to drink. He said it helped and stopped screaming, and said he was fine as long as he had the cup with him. He was about to resume his feast when I reminded him that he already had too much and took his basket away for the night. 🙂

The next day Demitri broke out in a rash of little red bumps all over his skin so we felt good about putting away (not quite throwing away yet, but we’ll get there!) the rest of the candy in all three baskets. Demitri needed some rest so we put him to bed early that night after Candice gave him some herbs to help clear the toxins from his body.