Makin’ Kraut

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I love cabbage in an obsessive, kind-of-creepy way.  I adore it raw in salads, sautéed in butter, and cooked down alongside a big ole’ roast in a low and slow oven.  But perhaps my favorite way to enjoy this curciferous comestible is in its fermented form as sauerkraut.

I have been starry-eyed about kraut my entire life.  In elementary school, I was the kid ordering ruebens with extra sauerkraut.  In high school, I could be found asking for sauerkraut as a pizza topping.  And when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, sauerkraut was one of the few foods I could eat while battling morning sickness.

Beginning to make sauerkraut at home has only increased my passion for this food.  The taste and texture of home-fermented kraut is unmatched, and the nutritional value is even more unfathomable.  Loaded with literally millions of healthy bacteria, homemade sauerkraut is one of the healthiest foods you can consume.  And, one of the easiest to make.

Here’s how we do our kraut:

Step 1:  Thinly chop up a head of cabbage (green or red).

Step 2:  Spread a layer of chopped cabbage in the bottom of a glass jar or crock, sprinkle with some salt, and bash away at it with a wooden spoon.  (This will break down the membranes of the cabbage, allow the salt in, and pull water out.)

Step 3:  Continue the layering process (cabbage, salt, bash) until you have used all your cabbage and there is enough water to cover the cabbage leaves.  (You may need to add a bit of unchlorinated water.)

Step 4:  Use a plate or glass to weight down the cabbage so that every tiny piece is submerged beneath the surface of the water.  (This is very important because any cabbage leaves exposed to oxygen will grow mold.)

Step 5:  Allow to sit on your counter or in your basement.

Step 6:  Check on your kraut every couple of days until it reaches the tartness and funkiness of your liking 🙂

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Lavender Rosemary Biscuits

Lavender Rosemary Biscuits

We Fagans LOVE us some biscuits! And the only thing better than a biscuit is when we can load it up with fresh garden goodness and therefore call it “healthy” 🙂  My girls and I loved how these lil’ dumplings turned out, and we hope you do as well.

Lavender Rosemary Biscuits

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 4 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar.  Next add 3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary and 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lavender blossoms.

Then add 3/4 cup cold salted butter (cut into small cubes) to the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or fork.

Using your fingertips, mix 1 1/4 cups buttermilk into the mixture until just combined.  Turn out onto a floured board, roll until about 3/4 inch thick, and cut into rounds using a biscuit cutter or the top of a glass.

Place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes (or until golden on top).

Enjoy!

*A note about all my recipes: I use all organic ingredients, local when available. I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified. All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished. All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

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Recharge

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A while back a friend said to me, “In an airplane emergency, first you must put on your own oxygen mask, then help those around you. Have you put on your life mask first?”

Since December, I have diligently tried to remember to practice self care as a means of improving my own life, and also the lives of my family members. This has been a difficult task for someone like me. Someone who often says yes to everything others ask, without any thought as to how this decision will impact me on a personal level.  Someone who puts the thoughts and feelings of others before my own.  Always.

Last week we ventured to the Northwoods of Wisconsin for a family vacation, but also for a personal recharge. While Up North this year, I tried to carve out some “me time,” where I could breathe in the positive energy around me, and release any toxic, negative energy that was holding me down.

I ended up finding time in the early morning hours, while my family still slumbered. The sun cast a faint glimmer upon the mirror-like surface of the lake, while the frogs and toads sang me a melodious tune. I found myself in the many green spaces on the property, pulling weeds and tending to the small plants that managed to survive the feast of the nearby deer. With my hands beneath the soil, I could feel the energy of the Earth pulsing through me, filling me with a profound sense of peace. It was during these moments that I felt connected, not only to the Earth, but also to those in my life whom I have lost and to the God who placed me here at that moment to embrace the spirit of my surroundings.

Yes, these moments of recharging my mind, body and spirit have proven to be my life’s saving grace. And for that, I am so very grateful.

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Better Late Than Never Garden Update

Well friends, it’s June 16th, and I am coming at you with my first garden update of the 2017 growing season.  Hum.  Where exactly did the time go?  And better yet, what on earth have I been doing?  Time has somehow slipped between my fingers so rapidly, that I cannot even seem to identify the activities that filled these minutes, hours and days.

But nonetheless, this garden of ours is surely well underway, and perhaps the furthest along we have ever been come this time of the year.  I believe I can owe a great deal of this success to the fact that my girls have been real, active participants in our homestead this year.  While in the past the girls surely had “jobs” like collecting eggs in the morning, watering their fairy garden, and picking ripe cherry tomatoes from the vine, but this year the girls have been logging some legit man-power hours.  Gianna hauls spent dishwater outside to water plants, and she moves the sprinkles around to various locations throughout these hot, dry days we have been experiencing.  Addie tilled all the garden beds this spring, and she does a great deal of the wedding that needs to be done in the veggie beds.

And let me tell you, this year these littles are much more appreciative of the strawberries gracing their breakfast table and the cilantro and lettuce making its way into their tacos come dinnertime.  And isn’t this what homesteading and forming connections with our food is all about?  With the knowledge of the human labor and natural resources needed to grow our food, we are much more humble and filled with an awe-inspiring sense of gratitude when we are able to bring that food to our tables.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend, in which you are able to nourish your body with food that gives you strength in body, as well as soul.  

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Homemade Sunscreen

Homemade Sunscreen

I have been experimenting for a while now to craft a homemade sunscreen that works for my family.  I wanted a sunscreen that was not too oily, didn’t turn our skin completely white, and most importantly, one that actually worked.  Well, after much trial and error, I believe I have found the perfect combo and ratio of ingredients that meets all of those requirements, plus one:  it smells amazing!  I am so thrilled to share this recipe with you today.  Enjoy!

2 oz. beeswax

2 oz. cocoa butter

2 oz. coconut oil

1 1/2 oz. grapeseed oil

1/2 oz. carrot seed oil

1 oz jojoba oil

2 1/2 oz. non-nano and uncoated zinc

Measure the beeswax, cocoa butter and coconut oil by weight and place in a double boiler.  Heat until all components are melted.  Remove from heat.  Add grapeseed oil, carrot seed oil and jojoba oil.  Mix well to combine.  Finally, whisk in the zinc (also measured by weight).  The mixture will thicken up pretty quickly.  Once mixed and thickened, spoon into a glass jar with a lid.

As with most natural sunscreens, you need to reapply often.  I have found best results when reapplying this sunscreen every 60-80 minutes.

(*Note:  Be sure to wipe out all vessels and utensils thoroughly with paper towels before washing, as beeswax can clog plumbing.  You can then discard of the paper towels in your compost bin.)

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Home

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The last few weeks have kept us very busy with a variety of DIY projects around the house.  With the absolutely beautiful weather gracing us, my girls and I decided to take advantage, move school outside most days, and just get after it.

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We first needed to fashion a new table for our deck.  Our old table, after weathering many a Midwestern winters, had finally called it quits and we needed another piece on which all of our summer family dinners could take place.  I happened to find a local woman who was selling barn wood, so we ventured to her barn and listened to a wonderful story of a Swedish family who immigrated to the Rockford area with hopes of building a family farm.  They bought property on the corner of Baxter and Mulford Roads and there constructed a home in 1902.  Later, in 1903, they gathered with neighbors to build a barn in which to begin their farming venture.

We brought home three 10-foot boards, washed them, and ran over them once with some sandpaper.  I then applied three coats of //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=makofahom-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B000C011CE&asins=B000C011CE&linkId=96a4608fd8c32411f7f8bbe7d4f64747&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff“>an exterior marine polyurethane to all sides of each board.  I connected the boards with 2 x 4’s in order to create a removable table top that I can bring inside during the winter months.  I then created “table legs” using cinder blocks.  I was so thrilled once the project was complete because I was able to craft a one-of-kind ten-foot table to entertain upon for under $100.

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My girls and I also got busy building a backyard washing station. While visiting Koviashuvik Living School in Temple, Maine last August, I was struck by all the ways in which the Knapp family used seemingly random household objects to craft “new” devices to serve a very sustainable purpose.  Our washing station is not completely sustainable, as we do plan to start our washing process with city water from our home, but our hope is to eliminate one avenue of waste through this process.  (And keep my kitchen cleaner too!) Each garden season we are faced with what to do with the dozens upon dozens of 5 gallon buckets filled with dirt-caked veggies that make their way into our kitchen.  Enter…our OUTDOOR veggie washing station 🙂

We had a random cement slab that was found in our yard when we bought our house and it has been milling about under a tree ever since.  So, with much assistance from my strength-and-conditioning-coach hubby, we moved the cement slab near our backyard water spigot.  I used the old legs from our outdoor table we had just scraped, and attached them to a countertop my dad had just removed from his basement during a remodel.  I then placed a washtub next to the table, with a bucket beneath the drain.  We plan to plug the washtub, dump in our muddy produce, and fill the tub with our nearby hose-water.  Once all the veggies have been scrubbed clean and placed in a strainer on the table, we can drain the tub into the bucket and then use that greywater to water our plants with.  And all of this will happen outside, and now only gloriously clean veg will make its way into my kitchen.

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And last, but certainly not least of our DIY adventures of late, I have created a spot in the garden entirely for me.  I moved around some aimless pieces that had been littering our property and used them as the basis for this new space.  I then crafted prayer flags and stitched each stitch with a heartfelt intention.  So here I stand to greet my morning, in my very own corner of the garden, setting positive intentions for my day.

Wishing you all a productive, yet peaceful start to your week.

 

 

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In Gratitude

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Awhile back, I use to post trinkets of thanks each week.  I felt that in expressing my gratitude I was able to put positive vibes out into the atmosphere, and illustrate that it is often those seemingly minuscule or insignificant items or events that end up constructing a full life.

So, after a four year hiatus, on this 13th day of April, I am so very grateful for…

~a new computer and refreshed space in which I can write.

~Apple Support and their aid when this non-techy gal tried to set up the above mentioned computer. Whew.

~my seven year old, who led me through on the of the best yoga sessions of my life.

~this new book by Ashley English, and the fabulous recipes it contains.  Many of these recipes are sure to find themselves on my kitchen table in the very new future.

~a freshly mulched garden. (And yes, that is a glass of wine on the fencepost.  One needs some mode of relief from the back pain of hauling said mulch, right?)

~several days with family this upcoming weekend—sure to be filled with farmer’s markets and swimming, farm-fresh food and tasty cocktails, laughter and tears.

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