How's that for a light-hearted title?
My suburban life with pets didn't really prepare me for what it would be like to see a chicken suddenly get sick and die within a 24 hour period, or to find a rabbit suddenly succumbed to a 100 degree heat wave. Facing death so inevitably out here first threw me for a huge emotional loop. Was I a failure? Should I have even brought these animals under my care if they were only going to keel over? But as we lived and continued learning through our early summer months, I started seeing that death was not something I could avoid. And, in fact, that it might just be an important, necessary part of homesteading life.
Though it's not always an easy thing to talk about, I think this is a really important thing to discuss with folks looking to raise livestock--or any animal, really. I wrote an article for Nifty Homestead.com on the topic. Head over to their site to read it in context!
I love fermenting. I love learning about fermenting. My husband and I even write for a fermentation website! So, when it comes to finding good information on how to interact with this ancient, well-designed process, we're quite serious about finding resources that are worth our time. We have found that with fermentation’s recent surge in popularity, information on how to join the trend has never been more available. Beautifully formatted books fill the kitchen section at stores, recipe blogs fill Internet browsers, and hyper-saturated photos of Things In Mason Jars litter Pinterest boards. It seems that there has never been more information available on how to trendily convert vegetables into something buzz-wordily probiotic.
For the occasional fermenter, this huge sea of information may be enough. I have found, however, that most of it is a mile wide and an inch deep in terms of being thorough or educational. It’s highly likely that the rattled-off explanation of the processes of fermentation given on some blogs or in the introductions of many books may start looking familiar--perhaps even copy-pasted. If you truly desire to understand fermenting--not just engage in a mysteriously-guided recipe that results in yet more pickles--is there a better source?
Enter The Art of Fermentation ( http://amzn.to/2AwO1Bp ). This is a large, thorough book, not for the faint of heart (is anything in the fermenting world for the faint of heart?), but it is the only one I recommend to those who want to truly learn about how and why to ferment. The author, Sandor Katz, is a unique, driven individual who does not just write about fermentation, he lives it. A self-described “fermentation revivalist,” he has made it part of his life mission to educate, demystify, and empower others to take back their health, food, and to make fermentation more than just something that describes the occasional condiment.
Not quite a recipe book, not quite a textbook, and not quite a travelogue, Katz’s book straddles the lines of all three, tracing fermentation through its myriad uses and forms throughout time and throughout the world. Pickles and sauerkraut are merely two stops in a huge tour of fermented possibilities that include everything from familiar classics like tofu and cheese, to kombucha and tempeh, to ones you may have never known existed like Hawaiian poi (fermented taro root), merissa (Sudanese Toasted Sorghum Beer), smreka (Bosnian Juniper-based drink), and tipliaqtaaq quaq (Native Alaskan fermented fish). Realizing the sheer scope and breadth of fermentation in human culture and how odd it is to have it absent from modern American diets is certainly enough to give one pause!
I have found this book to be immensely useful because it explains the processes for making each food in detail, and doesn’t just provide recipes alone. It more explains the process of creating the food and invites you to experiment, make mistakes, and be encouraged through success. As the intrepid fermenter may soon find, working with wild yeast and transforming food alongside it is more relationship than formula. Seek to harness it like a mere algorithm, and you will soon find yourself surprised by something unexpected.
Katz is fearless, and his boldness in dealing with food in various foamy, bubbly, and effervescent forms is inspiring. Every section of the book provides the reader with ideas, methods, wonderfully thorough troubleshooting, and personal anecdotes about his huge array of experiences with making the food described. In addition to discussing fermentation as a source of nutrition and healing, it also explores uses of fermentation beyond the kitchen. Bioremediation, alternative clothing design, energy production…who knew that humble little yeast and bacteria had so many abilities? Finally, the resource section at the back of the book is truly indispensable. Since this book was recently published in 2012, you can expect all the references to still be currently relevant.
In my recent exploits of harvesting and converting the huge amount of acorns on our land into edible flour (my first batch is drying by the woodstove as we speak!!) I have been reading a lot about what to do with my finished product. Wouldn't you know that there's even a section on fermented foraged acorns?? I'm serious--this book is my one-stop shop when it comes to fermenting.
Read it straight through or open it at random to take in an inspiring chapter or two, I guarantee that The Art of Fermentation will leave you hungry to try something new. Just be warned! You may find that your kitchen will never quite look (or smell!) the same again!
One of this summer's batches of lacto-fermented pickles!
Do you ferment for your daily meals? What's your favorite thing you've made?
By the way, here's the Fermentation Blog we contribute to:http://www.fermentools.com/blog
A huge project we tackled this summer was ripping out the rotting and falling-down fence that both circled and divided our land. Our property is two properties joined together, so having a useless fence split it down the middle was both annoying and an eyesore! It also showed us the transience of fencing--though it had undoubtedly been a HUGE amount of work to get those posts in the ground originally, they were rotted, falling apart, and had we tried to use them to contain livestock, we would have been livestock-less in short order.
But we now need some sort of fence! At the moment, our birds free-range, and our goats are on a picket lines, but this is not the ideal. We want to help heal this area through directed, intensive grazing, so eventually we'll need a way to both direct and hedge in animals. Enter the Osage Orange!
Though it will take a LOT longer to get established than a summer of fence-stringing, we've decided to implement a living hedge to both encircle and protect our property. The eventual design will use osage, cedar, and locust trees, and instead of decomposing, will grow stronger and denser with time and maintenance. We like knowing that farmers and ranchers of this area's past built their homesteads using the same techniques--so we're excited to carry on practice (and actually learn how to maintain it as we go).
So Andrew's starting a new YouTube series documenting our process and learning curve! Step one is identifying and collecting enough seeds to get started--watch the video HERE!
Osage Orange is a FASCINATING tree, by the way. The firewood has the highest BTU output of any wood in America, so all the trimmings from our hedge maintenance will keep us warm. It's also super-fine bow wood material, so our eventual hopes of making our own bows will also be supplied by these awesome trees! According to one of our bowery books, native people of the past were willing to trade a horse and a good blanket for a staff of Osage wood. Sounds good to us!
Do you have any ancient practices on your land? Have any of you ever used Osage Orange? We're still in the learning-how-this-works stage, so we'd love to hear from you!
Bring up Money in a conversation, and you're sure to get a mixed bag of responses. Anything from embarrassment about debt, defensiveness about size of salary, pride about earnings, anxiety about bills...you name it, someone has felt it. On our homestead, we have chosen to see money as a tool, the same as a saw, a mixing bowl, a length of rope. It has a use and a place, but we have decided that it is neither the focus or goal...it's just a resource that we need to use as wisely as our water.
We're certainly not cavalier about it, though! We make it a point to live frugally, but it's really a source of joy for us. We enjoy the "game" of seeing how we can save every month. Recently, Rain Country Homestead ( @raincountry ) asked us to join them on a collaboration to share how we save money on our homestead, and we were happy to oblige! HERE, you'll find our video of money saving tips and ideas.
Click here-->https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzVtTPDzFPKGw8hlJf-Ei5FKpcsEacHmR for the rest of the playlist of the other homesteads who are participating.
We'd love to hear ideas from you, too! You don't have to be a homesteader to have fabulous tips on how to live simply and frugally. What have you tried, and what works for you?
Andrew and I are so thankful for the single-wide trailer that came with our 12 acres. But we don't plan on staying here forever!
It has been WONDERFUL to have a safe roof over our head while we figure out how to wrestle this land into productivity, healthiness, and sustainability. I've seen other tough homesteaders go onto raw land, live out of a tent, yurt, or camper, and use that as home base until their house is built...but I have to say, as parents of a small kid, it has been really nice having a place with doors, a kitchen, and a room for the Boy!
All the same, we are keenly aware that this Plastic Palace (as we affectionately call it) is 100% grid-tied, and not very economical with our resources. If a power outage were to happen, or if the crazy flooding of last spring hits again, we would be directly affected. Also, even though this crazy thing has stood for a few decades, anyone who has done work on a trailer knows that they are not the most...ahem...robust of structures. There have been several points where either of us have accidentally pulled off pieces of it with our bare hands, given a sudden, bashful glance up, and then delicately attempted to re-attach whatever it was.
Our end goal is to build our own, sustainably-built, non-plastic, off-grid house. We've got the site picked out, we're amassing the resources, and we are learning as much as we can in the meantime to make that so long hoped-for transition!
So even though we are yet residents of our Plastic Palace for probably another year, we're doing what we can to fix it up, give thanks for its existence, and get it a little more sustainable/sturdy. Two of those steps are to tear out the super-fake "Fireplace" that was in the corner (complete with foam "wood," an electric heater, and AWESOME RIPPLY FLAME EFFECTS) and try our first attempt at a composting, water-free toilet (while fixing the floor...which was anything but level. I called it the Ocean Floor).
We're also collecting acorns and trying to fix up our poor goats. Lots of updates all around! Click HERE for the video on YouTube!
So, have any of you lived in a temporary place while figuring out your final home on your land? What were some of the first steps you took to get off-grid, if you are on that journey? We'd love to hear below!
We are a husband and wife who are trying to live simply. We are learning much as we transition from life in the city to life in the country. Come along with us, and maybe you can also learn a thing or two as well.
We love writing for these fine folks as well!
|Simple Life Homestead||
Simple Life Homestead