Thursday, January 17, 2013

Foolproof Rejuvelac

Enjoying Rejuvelac
I love fermented beverages like kombucha, kifir, and of course hard apple cider, but the one I'd choose when every cell in my body screams HYDRATE ME, is Rejuvelac. 

What's so Great About Rejuvelac?

Made of sprouted and slightly Fermented wheat berries, nothing beats rejuvelac for it's ability to hydrate, refresh and restore. With a slightly tangy lemonesque flavor its easy to inhale an entire glass when you really need it. But beyond crisp deliciousness the rejuvelac vitamin profile astounds me. A glass contains the entire B-complex, C, E, and K vitamins, as well as probiotics and digestive enzymes. To summarize- It tastes great, feeds you vitamins, hydrates you and heals your guts all at once!

Other commercial drinks billed as thirst aids and vitamin waters, fall short and cost a bit more. They contain lab produced vs naturally occurring vitamins, and lack probiotics and enzymes, while delivering the hydration and a stew of sulfates or High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Given all this- I'm sure the only reason you are not a daily rejuvelac drinker is because you've never heard of it and /or you have no idea how easy it is OR you've tried and the result smelled like feet. Well I'm here to help. Following is a step by step guide complete with pictures on how to brew your own rejuvelac successfully every time.

Foolproof Rejuvelac 6 step process:

Dried soft wheat berries
1) Get the grains. I use soft wheat berries but Rye works as well.

Soaking Wheat Berries
2) Put 1 cup in a jar with water and soak between 8 and 24 hours. (till you remember to get to it). You don't need a fancy sprouting jar-cloth covering is fine to keep bugs out. This is the soaking phase and the point is to mimick natures first heavy rain, softening seeds for sprouting.

Sprouting wheat berries
3) Move seeds to a colander and place near a window. Keep the seeds moist and wet till they sprout. This will mean rinsing them whenever you notice them. If you have to go somewhere for awhile cover them with something transparent to keep the moisture in while allowing light.

Sprouted Wheat Berries
4) As soon as they grow little tails- this size or longer- put them in a blender and  blend.

Fermenting rejuvelac
5) Add blended goo to a container with a gallon of water and squeeze a little lemon on top.  Adding lemon is what makes this foolproof. Acid in the mixture guarantees the right bacteria-the good probiotic kind, will ferment this drink.

Glass of Rejuvelac
6) Wait a few days and smell it. If it smells like feet throw it out, If  not, pour a glass on ice and ENJOY! Refrigerate the rest and keep drinking while it still smells good.

Process Review:

  1. Source
  2. soak
  3. sprout
  4. blend
  5. wait
  6. and enjoy
The first time I made rejuvelac trying to follow Sally Fallon's recipe in Nourishing Traditions, the result was HORRIBLE. It smelled and tasted like old socks. What's worse is that the raw food forums I visited to figure out why said it was normal, that in order to get the benefits of nutrition sometimes you have to suffer taste. Yeah right! The nose knows! I've learned to trust it. 

Trial and error and a bit of research led  me to this particular process because results are 100% yummy this way. No more socks, only clean refreshing tangy vitamin, probiotic, enzyme packed Rejuvelac.

Economic comparisons:

A cup of wheat berries is the only expense being around 50 cents. That equals a gallon of Rejuvelac making 12 oz cost only a NICKEL!
12 oz poweraide=1$
12 oz  Vitamin water=1.5$
12 oz Emergen-C=67 cents


This beats any sports drink or hangover cure out there. I'd suggest that rather than carrying around a water bottle- make it a rejuvelac bottle to constantly supply your body with everything it needs to grow, thrive, heal and digest. Once you do I'm betting you'll never buy a poweraide again. This beverage fills in the missing dietary pieces in our enzyme deficient diets. Sources out there boasting the entire range of B-complex- and the elusive yet essential vitamin K are all but impossible to find. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Baste Chicken

It there anything worse than working hard to find a REAL chicken from a happy farm, only to destroy it by some method rendering chewy chicken? Those  birds are not cheap and it's just plain wrong to waste a life. The last few birds I got failed and ended up in the stock pot (ok not a complete waste but all that meat!). I almost swore it off entirely until I found this recipe at epicurious.

I felt skeptical yet if it's so different from anything I've already done it must be worth a try. It came out with crispy flavorful skin and juicy meat.

Here's the simple instructions in non-chef speak

  • Rinse your whole bird
  • Dry it all the way
  • salt and pepper inside the chicken hole
  • Tie it's arms and legs up (called trussing)
  • With breast up salt the skin
  • Cook 45-65 minutes 450Degrees
Also thyme is good sprinkled on the bird!

Safety note- When you start to hear some pop and sizzle about 15 minutes before finished, put a sheet of tin foil loosely above it or else you will have a fire alarm problem and you might burn your eyeballs when you try to remove the bird at the  end.

A whole bird's a great way to afford farm fresh rather than foster farms so I'm so happy to learn how to really do it justice.

Next blog will be a journey into my Brothel where I'll show you how to make stock.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why I Enjoy sourcing food locally- Food Freedom principle #1

Or should I say why I will once I make a good strong habit of it (first the mind-the rest will follow).

I'm going to avoid a "save the world" argument here as to why I think finding food close to home is a good idea. I mean I care and all but usually reasons closer to here, now, what's fun or not fun, costing money or free, and what is yummy, guides my decisions. How selfish right?

So yeah, obviously finding local food means lessening energy dependence and all the yada yada, but other reasons a compel me more.

But before I list them- what do I even mean by source food locally? Well as my blog title says I mean forage farm and ferment. I mean looking to local nature, local farms and home gardens, and my own kitchen to provide as much food as possible for myself and my family.

So besides being naturally wired to distrust all forms of institutional authority including industrialized food and its pyramid pimps, the following reasons drive my conversion to local food systems.

  • Foraging= nature respect- A nature walk takes a new level of interactivity when foraging. When I learned miners lettuce makes a tangy salad, how tasty wild mushrooms make a cream soup, or that natures herbs make delicious and healing teas- nature took on a new quality. It's grocery shopping without needing money! And it helps the kids learn to appreciate nature, giving the little squirrels (my kids) purpose.

  • Garden therapy- I learned that good living soi lcontains a bacteria which  exudes a smell triggering happiness. I fully believe that-it holds promise of future food so of course evolution would have us react favorably to it. Not to mention that caring for a tender seedling on it's way to maturity and then food on  my plate- feels like an accomplishment, even if it's just one plant. There's also an intrinsic metaphor in gardening- when we care for something it will care for us-happiness and abundance requires getting outside of ourselves-predicting another lifeforms needs reaping tenfold rewards. But it's interesting-when I tried to care for a plant and killed it I never thought  "you stupid plant. I give and give and you just go and die before it's my turn to take from you". More just felt sorry I failed it. 

  • Food grown=money saved. If I were to start from seed and use compost created from what I'd otherwise waste- vegetables cost nothing (almost). They may cost in time but not really because even  as a lazy weeder- I still have more than I started with. But honestly where I live I can't make tomatoes not grow. I planted five plants in my compost soil, had them on a morning night water timer-totally forgot to weed and ended up with more tomatoes than I could eat. That's 40 easy lbs for nothing which is great considering organic heirloom tomatoes in the store never go below 3 dollars per lb. Yay I made 120 easy bucks.

  • Transparency- Small local farms want me to get to know them. They offer volunteer exchanges for food, and exude pride in their methods which means I'm certain they don't use night soil for fertilizer. YUCK. I can also ensure  chickens aren't living life in one square foot of feces, or that  pigs aren't covered in sores. OK I'LL STOP but you get the picture. Industrial food won't show us their process. Journalists have had to infiltrate as employees to get the lowdown, and that makes me a tad uncomfortable. Actually it makes me really uncomfortable. If it's wholesome enough to get FDA  backing, why hide? And when did the average person get so cozy outsourcing their trust?

  • Taste-When I discovered lacto fermentation via Sally Fallon from her book Nourishing Traditions, I swear to you my life changed. I felt like a lost orphan who finally found home as my SOUL remembered the tatse of lacto sour! I made kraut, kimchee, cordito, carrepeno, krishna kraut, ginger carrots, pickles, lacto ketsup, and creme friache. Meals became an excuse to eat condiments. (I must confess becoming lazy about making new batches which is part why I started this blog- To keep the good things I do alive!). After finding the delisiousness of tangy sour fermented foods, I no longer craved the chemicals in processed food- no more bbq lays or nacho doritos. The flavoring in those mimics the taste sensation the real thing I'd found.

  • Community-can anyone remember when food was culture? Since the 50's marketers convinced us food was a problem convenience could fix- freeing up our time- But growing, cooking, baking,  canning, and eating food with friends and family is one of life's simple delights. We got time-time now spend chasing money to pay for food and health insurance. Did we win? My opinion is no. But where I live food returns as culture in both senses of the words. We have a culture which cultures- crazy people carrying around sourdough starters in a pouch return among us, potlucks abound, and I couldn't be happier.

But despite compelling reasons, I roll back. I know the path to food freedom and an interconnected life- but without continuosly challenging new skills and forming new connections- habits overtake me. I am not writing this blog as a garden guru or a brawny homesteader. I'm a regular person with kids in public school who gets really excited for projects sometimes-often forgetting to complete them. Bear with my on my path- spiritual, practical, and philosophical, to food freedom and to one day fully practising what I preach.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Build Soil- Food Freedom Principle #1

Food Freedom Principle #1-Build Soil

“I would rather be tied to the soil as a serf ... than be king of all these dead and destroyed.” --- Homer, Odyssey
In a search for meaningful quotes to illustrate the connection soil has to all life, this 3000 year old phrase jumped out for it's relevance to our now. The industries of those with most apparent power, kill and destroy the resources which support life. The kings of the dead and barren are,

 Agribusiness-With its focus on consolidation, specialization and petrochemicals, leaves soil thin and barren, mountains of antibiotic laden manure leaching into water, and sun choked rivers as algae blooms on the food of nitrogen pollution.
Pharmacudical-Creating "a pill for everything" mentality leaves us weak and vulnerable as our immune system forgets how to fight. Our own guts are dead and lifeless as antibiotics assault our digestive assistance- leaving us nutrient deprived, subject to the diseases of inflammation. The pills leach into soil and water creating a world of superbugs.

Defense (offence)- Not only the sourcing of materials but the destruction the final products wreak
Many others belong here. The entire economy facililates further destruction- my computer for example (talk about cognitive dissonance). But I say apparant power because even these kings must eat,(unless factories now create Execuborgs, and Presidroids.

But serfs tied to the land exist and they, like the lorax did for trees, speak for the soil. They know soil can only grow food within it's limits and that it too, must eat. They know within one inch of living soil holds a microscopic universe, such is it's complexity.

But farther up the industrial soil chain we find hubris destroys humus believing MAN has conquered soil- extracted its secrets and reduced it to the components  Nitrogen, Potassium. and Phosphorous. Weak and vulnerable crops depending on fertilizer like an illicit drug, guarded from superbugs by an herbicide army, prove this,a disastrously arrogant conclusion. 
But we can reclaim even the tiniest space to bring soil back- creating cache's preparing for Peak Soil. Even in the city- scraps can go into an under counter vermicompost bin. And even for one without a desire to grow things- their collected compost can feed community gardens. Or they might learn how easy it is to grow window herbs, striking dollars off the monthly food budget.

Why is this #1 in my five principles to food freedom? Because soil is the start! If the idea of growing food links only to dead soil and manufactured fertilizer- you remain chained- dependent on money and the future of oil. Real food freedom  breaks those bonds. Fallen leaves, cut, grass, and food scraps feed food and food feeds soil. And as that food chain returns to the home, we edge away from the unstable and vulnerable food system.  We take back money and a sense of our personal power to meet our own basic needs.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Adventures in compost

5 years ago our disposal broke, so I learned to compost.

 I'd like to say I always espoused this waste not want not  mentality- that it's just part of my nature loving nature to turn orange peels into black gold , but...not so much. I'm actually just a master procrastinor who hates spending money on boring stuff like disposals. But After a disastrous first attempt I  traded procrastination for backyard science determined to create the darkest, tilthiest, squishiest, most moisture retaining, smelling of the stuff of life-ish, soil possible. (And I eventually did just that).

Following is my soil saga- my dirt diatribe- my humus history. From this- you'll learn that the best compost is the one you leave alone.

My first attempt failed despite going googlematic first, reading everything, digesting blogs, tutorials and ezines about vermicompost, thermacompost, biocompost, sheetmulch compost. I learned about everything you supposedly can and can't compost and the persnikety ratio's of carbon to nitrogen. I absorbed microbiology 101 regarding the difference between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria  and at the end felt overwhelmed with how precise it seemed one had to be, to achieve soil success. I'd either need a PHD or a 300 dollar compost turner doohicky thingy.  

But I often suspect people complicate things in order to sound like experts or to sell something that fixes an imaginary problem so I chucked it all and struck out my own way.

Compost attempt #1, late summer-2008
  1. I drilled holes in a 10 gallon rubbermaid storage bin top botton and sides. 
  2. Added table scraps each day
  3. Wondered three weeks later why the patio stunk like sewage.
Hmmm. Maybe the experts I casually dismissed had something after all. I returned to the google and figured the bins were nitrogen rich and carbon poor, in addition my bin lacked air pockets creating a great environment for anaerobic bacteria to flourish. To fix this I needed leaves and lots of them. That and shredded junk mail.

Compost attempt #2 Fall 2008
  1. Waited for yard maintenance day at our apt complex
  2. Stole gardeners leaf piles 
  3. shredded junk mail
  4. Made holes in my mucky bin stuffing them with leaves and credit card applications.
  5. Fixed the yuck smell in 3 days.
It seemed I did it! yay! But the bin filled too fast for our families scraps and I had to create another bin. This would be a problem if stuff didn't break down sooner with our limited apartment patio space. The word vermicompost (using worms) popped in my head from original research and I reopened that book. They called for complicated specialized "wormhouses" with "three teirs to facilitate optimal vertical worm travel", also costing 99$. Remember that I don't like to spend money right? so I just added a lb. of internet worms to my bins.  

Three tiered systems allow different stages of compost- from scraps to the mature and fully worm pooped castings. But it's completely unnecessary if you select deliberately which side you add scraps to. Add scraps to the left till it fills, then add them to the right. As worms finish eating the goodies on one side they'll move over to the new stuff leaving harvest-able goodies for your plants. 

Compost Attempt #3 Winter 2009-May 2009
  1. Bought 1b. red worms off amazon.
  2. Added them to bins
  3. Kept bin moist
  4. Became a worm fan
  5. Then FAILED

Vermicompost was FUN! I got to know the worms- how often they seemed to double-their most active times and temperatures. I loved how they'd huddle up like spaghetti during the cold and how breaking them in half only creates a NEW worm. Such resilience! I loved them so much I always covered them with the bin lid as some vermicomposters warned of escaping problems. 

Bad idea.

May came and brought 100F heat. On errands my squirmy friends entered a thoughtcloud- I imagined them in a rubber bin, hot sun beating down upon their plastic lid, frying to death. I rushed home, opened the lid and saw NOTHING. Not a single worm. They could not have escaped as the holes were too small. I learned that when worms die they disintegrate becoming dirt almost immediately  I cried! I kept them prisoner when they needed to run. The lid amplified the heat of the sun. Is it weird to cry over vermi-genocide? 

This experience affected my personal philosophy regarding relationships and nature. Worrying about worms escaping is absurd. As long as conditions are correct; good temperature, good food, and water- they want to be there! It's their favorite place ever- but if those conditions fail, they SHOULD escape. It's the only way they'll live. Just think about that for a second and relate it to love. (Perhaps that's for another blog).

Compost attempt #4, May 2009
  1. Ordered new worms from a farm in Galt CA. 
  2. Stopped covering bins
  3. Watered daily and kept top covered in leaves
  4. Watched as my worms thrived my compost aged to perfection.
  5. Met a bizarre compost visitor
Somewhere around June the strangest thing "infected" my bin. Inside under a shallow layer were monstrous looking maggots! First I thought Crap. Flies. That's why I'm supposed to keep it covered cause flies will get in but then I learned how this was actually the coolest thing that could have infected my compost. They were Black Soldier Flies and they have many benefits. 

First, the grownups are harmless. They look like black wasps and fly like they are drunk so the're fun to watch. They do not barf on human food and they do not carry diseases. What they do is this. They eat like CRAZY. If I throw in a bucket of scraps after dinner, the scraps disappear by morning! What they poop out is just right for the worms to eat so the compost gets double digested-first by BSF larvae and then by worms who coat the particles in a moisture retaining mucus creating soil tilth. If you don't know what tilth is- its pretty much soil that you can mold. It's moist and dark and will hold the shape you squeeze it into. Tilthy soil acts like a water sponge making watering necessary only a fraction of the time. And it smells like happiness.

THIS is titlh. If you take a handful and make a fist this soil will keep the shape.
Things were going well! My compost pile acted like a digestive system churning black gold from bread mold, and amazingly enough all this was happening on a tiny apartment porch so you folks out there who think you can't compost because of a small space- It's just not so. Anyone can compost!

But then we moved. Growing tired of an abysmal suburban color monotony, (taupe, beige, terra cotta, burnt unber, white, grey), we decided to pick up and move to the character infused town of Grass Valley. We finally had a small yard rather than a concrete patio. One thing I made sure to move with us was our two compost bins. It took 2 years to get that great and I couldn't bear to lose my buddies (flies and worms).

We've been here for two and a half years and we no longer use bins. We have a section of the sideyard that is a perpetual sheetmulch composting system.

We feed it EVERTHING!
  1. citrus
  2. vegggies
  3. MEAT
  4. BONES
  5. Dog hair
  6. fingernail clippings
  7. Pizza boxes
  8. Junk mail
Yes you CAN feed it meat and bones as long as you have things to eat it like our Black Soldier Flies. They LOVE meat and eat the fat too. A far as the complaint of attracting critters, SO? We attracted a ringtail with our pile and that was the coolest thing ever. Critters are cool visitors and plus if you keep a leaf layer over your pile it will be ok, and double plus- the BSF larvae will get it before a critter even knows it's there.

So I'd like to bring this tale to a close by clarifying the moral of the story. ANYONE can compost. Rumors spread that you just have to have a 3' x 3' pile so it can get hot enough to break down, but nature has many ways of returning spent life to earth to feed new life. In fact a debris pile large enough to be hot is rarely found in nature. From a bio-mimicry perspective, insects and microbes are the true allies.

Not only can anyone compost regardless of space- but it costs NOTHING. Chances are if your pile touches ground and has tasty worm noms- they'll find their way in so you need not even bother buying a lb. You don't need a fancy barrel turner thing- nor a worm mansion. Nor do you need this

for your Black Soldier Flies. All you need is green stuff and brown stuff going into a pile together open to the air allowing nifty bugs to join the party.

After a bit you'll have the planting material that works wonderfully for minimalist (lazy) gardners who use water sparingly (forget to water), like me.

Principles of Food Freedom

Food Freedom is the very definition of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In fact Thomas Jefferson said, 
 If people let governments decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies  will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.
His words ring almost prophetic as our countries collective health continues to decline with our increased reliance on allopathic medicine and industrialized food.. Even the most successful and lifesaving remedy, (the one largely attributed to our greater lifespan) antibiotics, in its escalating battle with germs, destroys our gut microbes needed for digestion, and creates nightmarish strains of resistant bacteria.

With the decline of national health comes decline of personal wealth. Health insurance rivals mortgage as our largest household expense, thus destroying our food budget. See the cycle? We now must feed ourselves cheaper, less nutritious food, guaranteeing our future need to utilize our insurance policies-driving the price for all, and escalating the cycle.

It's a state of slavery! We cannot pursue life, liberty, and happiness while chasing the growing amount of money needed to survive- chained to dehumanizing jobs, corporations who view humans as a way to balance the expense books to make the quarter look good for investors. We endure 60 hour workweeks for diminishing wages because we are "lucky" to be employed in this economy.

We lost our connection to the land- to the source. We forgot how to care for ourselves and outsourced everything we used to do for oursleves becoming chained to dollars. We traded farms for factories, then factories for cubicle offices, and the farther production moved from our home- the further we fell into desperately believing our daddy companies are "too big to fail". We gave companies that cared nothing about us the threadbare shirt off our back.

But as bleak as this seems- hope abounds. We are human. Our ancestors understood the land as our source and they had the skills to create abundance of real value. It's in us and we can learn to remember. By identifying and following 5 principles of food freedom we can emerge from this place, stronger than ever.
The following are what I've identified as those principles.

  1. Grow soil
  2. Source as close to home as possible
  3. Use and magnify the value of everything
  4. Create beneficial relationships with neighbors
  5. Stand by each-other in times of need

If we keep these principles in mind while achieving the goal of satisfying our basic need to eat- we'll take back our freedom. We'll trade corporate, state, and hospital reliance for SELF-reliance.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Welcome to Economic Resilience!

The economic and political climate of the past 5 years have created a sense of insecurity over our future ability to meet our basic needs. Combined with reports our oil supply might not support our future needs, the insecurity grows.

I hope this blog can alleviate fears and provide hope that even if everything in our giant system fails- if the dollar crashes, if oil runs out, if GMO crops infect all grocery store foods- we will survive it. Not by stockpiling reserves in a bunker to go underground and "wait it out" but by cultivating skills, connections, and local economic systems that create personal and community resilience.

Something people are relearning, is that the land is the source of all we need. It was a personal aha moment when I learned that a manzanita tree provides at least three different remedies to our ailments while also providing food and the hottest burning wood in California, or that vegetables and livestock used to always be on the same farm fulfilling eachothers needs. I grew up having no clue about the relationship of my dinner plate to its source.

For people like me who could only imagine food coming from grocery stores the thought of a collapsed dollar could be terrifying- If I can't BUY food how will I eat?

If I do this blog right, expect to learn the answer to that question. I will explore what the wild has to offer, the food forest your suburban lawn can become, and traditional techniques for preserving your harvest while maximizing the nutrient value of your food. But the deeper motivation is to share a sense of hope. We are going to be ok and if not- we'll have had a great time trying.