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The past two years here at Heavenly Homesteading have been quiet, at least the blog has been quiet.  The family behind this blog has been working away to fix up an old run down house, an investment, an opportunity to let go of this modern way of life and fly free.  I am excited beyond words to share with my readers that the old run down house is now clean and new in almost every way possible.  It is up for sale and we are getting ready to go . . . where?  If you would like to find out, you can follow our journey and continue to follow Heavenly Homesteading at Journey To Surthrival, our new website that we hope to launch in the next couple of months.

Please forgive the mess as we transition to the new website.  As posts disappear from Heavenly Homesteading, rest assured that many will reappear over at Journey to Surthrival.  I hope you will join us as we step out in faith and begin to live out our dream of being part of an agrarian community, where we don’t just survive, but thrive!

Blessings,

Carrie

Update:  After over a year into our journey, we are finally at a place where we can begin to share some of the “glory moments”, the challenges, and the day to day work of building our homestead.  The Journey to Surthrival website is currently not live.  Much has changed over the past year, so we are now at a place of prayerfully deciding what we should share and how.  For now, Heavenly Homesteading will be our outlet, but we hope to merge this blog with the Journey to Surthrival project.  For those who didn’t get a chance to check out Journey to Surthrival before it “disappeared”, it is a multi-family project intended to give real life perspective and encouragement to those who are endeavoring to walk in the old paths, otherwise commonly referred to as an agrarian way of life.

For those of you who remember that I said I would try to post some before and after pictures of our home that we have been fixing up over the past two and a half years, here they are.  Our home is up for sale now and we are getting ready for a new adventure that I can’t wait to share with you . . . soon!

Front entry before . . .

Front entry after.

Front entry after.

Living room before . . .

Living room before . . .

Living room after.

Living room after.

Formal dining before . . .

Formal dining before . . .

Formal dining after.

Formal dining after.

Main bath before . . .

Main bath before . . .

Main bath after.

Main bath after.

Knocked out wall between bedrooms before . . .

Knocked out wall between bedrooms before . . .

One of the now two separate bedrooms with new paint, closets, and carpet.

One of the now two separate bedrooms with new paint, closets, and carpet.

It has been a very busy past couple of years, but the end of this project is in sight.  We feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity to make something old into something new.  We wait now for a buyer and for the return on this investment that will launch us into our dream of living the agrarian way of life.  All glory to God for where He has brought us and where He is leading us next!

Water kefir soda has become a favorite drink in our home, but it took a while to learn how to make it how we all like it.  I almost gave up on it for a time until I discovered that water kefir could be used to boost sourdough starters.  My first wild sourdough starter took almost a month before it was active enough to use, so I was thrilled to see how quickly water kefir boosted sourdough starters became active (2-3 days!).  I love working with sourdough and am so excited to be able to make this healthy, probiotic rich, fruity, fizzy drink out of my new sourdough booster.  So, here is how I now satisfiy my cravings for fruity carbonation:

Raspberry Soda“:

Ingredients: (for making 1/2 gallon)

- about 2 T. water kefir grains (hydrated, not dry)

- 1/2 gallon room temperature water (filtered if needed to get rid of chlorine, etc.)

- 1/2 cup organic sugar*

- 1 slice fresh organic lemon or 1 t. organic lemon juice (optional)

- about 1/4 cup organic raisins (optional, but very helpful)

- about 2 dozen fresh or frozen raspberries

- some form of mineral supplement (ie. an egg shell, mineral drops, or molasses)

* You can also use rapadura or sucanat, which adds more minerals to the water, but our family didn’t care for the taste when I used sucanat.  Note that you can decrease the mineral drop amount to 1/16 t. or 6 drops if using a mineral rich sweetener.

Simple Process:

First Fermentation

- Fill a half gallon jar about two inches full with hot water and add sugar.  Swirl or stir to disolve sugar.

- Add enough cold water to take water level to about 2 inches from the top of the jar.

- Add water kefir grains, lemon slice (or juice), raisins, and mineral supplement choice. I’ve never tried using molasses, so I’m not sure how much to use. If using an egg shell, make sure to rinse it well first.  If using mineral drops, which I definately recommend, use about 1/8 t. or 12 drops.  My grains are actually growing like they are supposed to since I started using the mineral drops.  Water kefir grains love minerals!

- Cover jar with a cloth or napkin and a rubberband and let sit on counter for 24-48 hours, until the raisins all rise to the top (this is the first fermentation).  The raisins are a huge help to me, because I always seem to forget how long my jar has been sitting.  I love having the visual to tell me when it’s time to move on to the second fermentation and our boys love to see the raisins floating around in the jar.

Second Fermentation

- When raisins have risen to the top of the jar, carefully scoop the lemon slice and raisins out with a slotted spoon.  I put them in a bowl and then dump them into our compost bin.  If some of the raisins dart to the bottom of the jar when you go to scoop them out, be sure to taste the water kefir to make sure it has at least a hint of carbonation at this point.  If it is still quite sweet without any carbonation, I would leave it to sit a few hours more.

- Once you have a little fizz going on and you have removed the lemon slice and raisins, carefully pour the water kefir into a clean half gallon jar or two quart jars (or whatever other jar combination you have) without letting any grains out of first fermentation jar.  I like to pour it through a fine tea filter to catch any “sludge” that likes to float around with water kefir and to make sure no grains get into the new jar(s).  I also like to leave about an inch of water kefir with the grains so that I can easily store them in the fridge until I’m ready to start a new batch (they store this way for about a week). 

- Or, you can start a new batch right away, in which case I would carefully get as much water kefir out as possible, being careful not the let the grains fall out (they usually stay to the side of the jar in a group when pouring very slowly).  Then, I like to gently rinse them a couple of times with cold water while still in the jar, slowly pouring out the rinse water each time, being careful that no grains fall out.  Prepare a fresh jar of sugar water, lemon, raisins, and mineral supplement as before and simply dump the rinsed water kefir grains (with a little water to help push them out) into your fresh jar.

- Now for the fun part!  Add to your water kefir about 12 fresh or frozen raspberries per quart.  This doesn’t have to be exact, just try to get a good layer of raspberries on the top of the jar(s).  Seal the jars with airtight lids and leave to sit on the counter for up to 24 hours.

- After your water kefir has been infused with the raspberry juices, scoop the raspberries out with a slotted spoon, just as you did with the lemon and raisins.  You can now drink it right away or keep it sealed tight on the counter and drink it as you want it.  We prefer to drink it within a day or two because it is sweeter and has no alcohol taste.  If it sits out of cold storage for more than a couple of days it may get a hint of an alcohol taste, but I am very sensitive to that taste (quite dislike it), so many may not even notice it.  You can also store your raspberry soda in the fridge to make it last longer, but it will lose some of it’s carbonation.

If you make this fun drink we call raspberry soda, I hope you enjoy it as well as we do!

Some Of My Favorite Water Kefir Resources:

- This is a very helpful video: Sophisticated Peasant Video Tutorial

- Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS instructions: How to Make Water Kefir

- Kelly @ Kelly The Kitchen Cop: Is Kefir Soda An Alcoholic Berverage?

- Cultures For Health: This is where you can buy water kefir grains (you might also find these at Amazon) and watch many helpful videos about water kefir.

Esther, our 7 month old, is on the "let's taste everything diet".

If you’ve never heard of the GAPS diet, you will want to know that it is a diet designed to heal the gut.  Why heal the gut?  It happens to be where fully half of our nerve cells are located and 60-80% of our lymphatic system (the body’s first defense against infection and desease) is in the small intestine.  More than 80% of anything harmful in our bloodstream is from our own digestive system.  It is an amazing system that God created and what we allow into it is incredibly important for the health and wellness of our bodies.

Our family has been on a modified GAPS diet for almost three months now.  I say modified because we flew through the intro. part of the diet in less than a week and never gave up eating cultured dairy products.  We have also allowed small amounts of homemade sourdough baked goods and tiny bits of a few other little non-GAPS items (ie. baking soda, arrowroot powder, cocoa powder, and homemade whey).

A LITTLE HISTORY

To give you some history, our family has been on a journey of eating more and more healthy for over five years now.  By eating healthy, I mean consuming beyond organic (grass-fed/pastured), home processed, traditionally prepared foods and beverages as much as possible.  And yet, we have still struggled with lingering health problems, somewhat due to invironmental/situational issues, but also largely due to the poor diet of the years before the past five and the affects that had on ours and our children’s guts.  After doing a lot of research and being convinced that our guts needed healing, I prayerfully settled on the GAPS diet.

THE PLAN . . . CHANGED . . .

My original plan back in April of this year was to only do the GAPS diet for a month or two.  Having not read the book (I’m waiting for Gut and Physiology Syndrome to be completed), I just had all the great information I found on various blogs and websites to get me going.  I didn’t know that 6 months to 2 years would be more realistic for a good GAPS diet time frame.  I also didn’t know that my husband was going to be more determined than myself to stay on the GAPS diet for longer than planned.  So, with his encouragement and with the blessing of great results so far, we are sticking to it until at least the 6 month mark, possibly longer.

THE CHALLENGE

The challenge has been that you really have to prepare for being on the GAPS diet this long (or at all for that matter).  My pantry is fully stocked with buckets of GAPS diet “illegal” foods (I do bulk buying every 6 months) and we were not prepared for the added expence of all the meat, eggs, and nuts needed for this diet.  So, we have had to modify things to fit our current situation, making the results slower and less dramatic, but amazing none the less.

THE RESULTS SO FAR . . .

The result of this diet that I am the most excited about is the healing my husband has experienced with his sinuses.  From the time he was a young teenager (over 20 years, not to make him sound old), he has suffered from chronic sinus infections.  More resently, he got to the point of having to do a nasal rince twice a day, homemade nasal spray multiple times a day, as well as take daily herbs and medicines to help decongest his sinuses . . . all just to keep the infection away.  By the end of the first week on the GAPS diet, he no longer needed to do the nasal rince.  By the end of the second week, he had stopped taking the herbs and decongestants.  Now, he just uses the nasal spray every once in a while.  He feels like his sinuses are 90% healed.

Other encouraging changes we’ve seen so far (besides all the not so fun “die-off” symptoms) are:

My husband:  lost over 15 pounds.

Caleb:  has a much better appetite (he is very skinny, so the more he eats the better).

Joshua: can focus on a task and complete it now.

Nathan:  his bald spots on his head have grown back and he is sleeping much better.

Esther:  her eczema has cleared up almost completely (though the baby probiotic may be the reason for this).

Myself:  more strength and energy, less fatique, and also lost 15 pounds, but this is normal for me after having a baby.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

There are two books that I highly recommend that helped our family in being ready for the GAPS diet before we ever knew what it was.  They are The Maker’s Diet, by Jordan S. Rubin and Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.  Then of course, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Natasha Campbell McBride, would be the best resource.

Here are a list of blog posts and websites that have also been very helpful in preparing for and sticking with the GAPS diet:

Why You Might Consider The GAPS Diet 

How To Prepare For Going On The GAPS Diet

GAPS Intro: For Gut Healing And Sealing

Full GAPS Diet Food List

Many GAPS friendly recipes

Kid Friendly Recipes

Do you have any experience with the GAPS diet?  I would love to hear about your experience if you do or your thoughts on the idea if you don’t.

     Our boys love to play with playdough, but I think since we started making and coloring our own, they like to make it even more than they like to play with it.  It is so much fun to make colored playdough at home!

It all started a little over a year ago when I started adding a mix of powdered herbs to some of our smoothies and drinks.  Some of those powdered herbs are so brightly colored, especially the beet root powder!  Some of them also smell wonderful, like the orange peel powder.  So, we decided to try using some of those herbs to color our homemade playdough and were very excited by the results.

TO MAKE PLAYDOUGH

You need:

2 cups flour

2 cups water

1 cup salt

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

4 tsp. cream of tartar

Simple process:  Mix all ingredients in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until ball forms (or until stiff enough to knead).  Knead until smooth.

TO COLOR PLAYDOUGH

Choose 4 or 5 powdered herbs that are bright in color.  You may want to have these ready before you make the dough as they seem to mix with the dough better when it’s still warm.  We used the following:

Beet Root Powder = fire brick

Bilberry Powder = purple

Burdock Root Powder = light brown

Spinach Powder = sea green

Orange Peel Powder = golden rod

            Scoop 1 to 2 Tbls. of each powder into separate cereal bowls and divide your dough between the bowls (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dough per bowl).  You can vary the amounts of powder and playdough to make lighter or brighter colors.  Just have fun experimenting! 


We store our playdough in ziplock bags and it lasts about 4 – 6 months, depending on how and how much it gets played with.  Hope you have as much fun as we have coloring playdough someday.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

This past Spring in Alaska was even more amazing than the last, having lived through our first winter here.  It was almost unreal to see what life sprung forth out of ground that just weeks before had been covered with piles of snow and ice.  Last summer we decided to get chickens, due to our desire to have organic eggs without having to pay the high price of storebought organic eggs . . . well then came winter.  So much for trying to save money when your chickens are locked away with no free-range free food to eat.  None the less, we are glad we started the chicken adventure and have learned so much.  My hope is that this post might someday help someone else out there who wonders if raising organic layers in Alaska is really worth it.

From Our Perspective:

First I’ll say that if the chicken experience is your greatest priority when it comes to raising chickens, then yes, from our perspective, it is definately worth the cost!  Our children have truly enjoyed having chickens and my husband and I greatly value all that we have learned to this point.  But, if your only real purpose for wanting to have chickens is to save money, then raising organic layers here in Alaska might not be all that you hope it would be.

Our Estimated Cost/Production Comparison:

We have 18 layers, ranging in age from not quite one and a half to four and a half years old (most are not quite one and a half).  We feed them their eggs shells for calcium as well as our organic kitchen scraps and a few “treats” (worms, grains, seeds, etc.) in addition to their organic layer feed.  Here are the estimated costs (aside from the initial costs of chicks, coop, fencing, feeders, etc.) that we had during our first year of raising organic layer hens in comparison to what they produced in eggs.

          May – September (free-range months):

                      $70.00/month on organic layer feed and bedding

                       20 dozen eggs/month (at $4.00 a dozen, that’s $80.00 in eggs)

                       = $10.00/month savings during free-range months

          October – April (partial to no free-range months):

                        $130.00/month on organic layer feed, grit, and bedding

                        10 dozen eggs/month (at $4.00 a dozen, that’s $40.00 in eggs)

                        = $90.00/month cost during partial to no free-range months

          Final Cost Comparison For First Year – $580.00/year for a great experience!

 

Tips We Learned For Surviving The Winter Coop:

          – Ventilation is a must! 

          – The deep litter system works great . . . can’t imagine doing it any other way.  Just keep throwing down fresh bedding and let the natural processes fight off bacteria to help keep your chickens healthy (besides, it will all be frozen most of the winter anyway).

          – Covering the hen boxes with paper strips greatly reduced the egg eating by our hens (thank you Deedra for this great tip!).  We just cut up our empty feed bags for this purpose and used a staple gun to attach the pieces to the hen boxes.

          – Having a timer system for your light for laying is a huge help!

Are There Going To Be Chickens In Our Future?

Lord willing, yes.  In this current season of looking for our own home, we are sadly considering selling off our flock.  We may be  moving around quite a bit over the next couple of years and the less we have to move around the better.  Our hope is to let our oldest son take over the chicken raising in the future.  We also hope to do things a little differently if we are able to build our own home and chicken coop someday, making it a more financially profitable venture.  Maybe in a couple of years I’ll be able to post about another set of chicks coming home.  Until then, we will continue to learn and prepare for our homesteading dream. 

How about you?  Do you have any chicken raising stories or advice to share?

Whole grains are great for most people, but only if prepared the right way.  It has been exciting for me to learn how to make baked goods using soaked or sprouted grains (someday I hope to tackle sourdough) and have them actually turn out and be tasty.  A little organic white flour added to some of my recipes seems to be the trick, as with these hamburger buns.

INGREDIENTS: (for 6-8 buns)

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbls. plain yogurt (or kefir,whey, apple cidar vinegar, or lemon juice)*
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup organic white flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup oil (I use palm or coconut)
  • 1 Tbls. sweetener
  • 3 tsp. Saf Instant yeast
  • 1/2 Tbls. vital wheat gluten (optional)

HOW TO MAKE:

  • The day before making, mix whole wheat flour with oil together in a bowl (palm or coconut oil can be “cut in” like you would if you were making a pie crust).  Add 1 cup of warm water and 1 Tbls. yogurt and mix until all flour is moistened.  Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let sit overnight.
  • A few hours before baking, add the remaining ingredients and knead dough until all ingredients are incorporated.  Press or roll out dough until it is about half an inch thick.  I like to use a small canning jar ring to cut circles and stack them two high onto a baking stone.   Then just cover them with a dish towel and let them rise until about double their size.  The home we live in is usually between 60 and 65 degrees, so I allow about 2-3 hours for them to rise.
  • Just before baking, peheat oven to 400 degree F.  Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool on racks.  When ready to use, split buns horizontally.  These will keep in a plastic bag in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks.

*UPDATE:  I have since learned that calcium may interfer with the process of breaking down phytic acid in grains, so water kefir, ACV, or lemon juice would be best.

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