Friday, November 28, 2014

First Homemade Kefir Experience

Most bloggers tend to portray themselves as true experts in the field.  They may be, but for those looking for the experiences and point of view of a first timer, look no further. 
Everything I know about Kefir (pronounced Kee-Fur) (also spelled keefir or kephir) has been learned over the course of the past week through internet research and culminating with one highly scientific project in the kitchen.

What is Kefir?          A cultured milk product, much like cheese, yogurt, or sour cream.  It is a nutritious, probiotic-rich food.

How do you make it?
  1. Purchase the mysterious Kefir Grains (no seriously, its mysterious, no matter how much reading you do on it)
  2.  Add grains to milk, store at room temperature, and wait.
  3. Strain cultured mystery milk (Kefir) into new jar, straining the grains which have now grown, even furthering the mystery
  4. Repeat (in larger quantity, if desired) 

Is that all there is to it?     Metal kills it, so use a glass jar, with plastic lid, spoon, and strainer.

There are numerous sources to purchase kefir grains on-line.  We chose to get ours from Marilyn at  She has been doing this for many years and is very knowledgeable on the subject. 

For our first run we used cheesecloth in lieu of a plastic strainer.  The strainer we ordered (HIC Nylon Mesh Strainer, 3-Inch) came in from Amazon today, so we will be using that next time. 

Shannon and the boys used to get kefir smoothies, so luckily she knew what to expect as far as taste goes.  We tasted it this morning after chilling it in the fridge.  With no additional flavoring, it was a little tart, a little sour cream-ish.   Since neither of us gagged, we whipped it up with some frozen strawberries and served up fresh kefir smoothies to the kids.  I could not get a good descriptive comment from them, but they did ask for seconds and thirds.  I liked it too.  Next time we will be trying blueberry. 

After we get used to this we may be trying our hand at kombucha.  This is of course, Shannon’s idea.  Personally, I want to brew some beer, but we can only take on so many projects.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our Barn Raising

We have had a slow patch, with some poor weather and no progress, but the past two days have made up for it. 
Our “barn” is going up, and it is very exciting.  With the help of my Father-in-law and Brother-in-law, I got most of the back and side panels up, and half the roof.  The rain may end up putting a halt on construction tomorrow, but at least it doesn't look like a yard deck anymore.  My brother-in-law is a pro at this, so this might not qualify as a DIY project.  

We also got the chance to plan a portion of our fencing thanks to my Father-in-law, who has loads of experience corralling farm animals.  Our needs are not quite that serious but we do need to keep our two “wild humans” contained, and of course keep hungry foragers out. 

In addition, we have added a few minor project items that  we will be trying our hand at in the next couple days.  We have a cool new seed starting kit, which we will be trying out.  The next thing we will be attempting is Kefir.  This is way out of my comfort zone.  This is Shannon’s thing, I really don’t even know what it is.  I think we will be growing yogurt smoothies in mason jars.  Kidding everyone…I know what it is, but “growing” it will be a major learning experience for both of us.  We will let you know what happens.

Thanks for reading, and please stayed tuned for completion of building, and some smaller projects/ experiments we'll be starting in the days to come.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Progress on storage building and greenhouse (Homestead Essentials)

I have a rock solid wood floor for the storage building that eagerly awaits its walls roof and door.  We hoped to have this completed by now, the timing just hasn't worked out. Our greenhouse changed from 12 foot long to 16 foot long.  We were planning on using 12' clear panels, but got a great deal on 2' x 4' lexan panels, so we figured we go ought to go a little bigger.  Now that we can see the size from the inside, its "clear" that it was a good decision.  I'm sure once we move in a few plants and start a few more, we will wish that we could have gone even bigger.  We have to start somewhere though, right?  I still need to complete the end walls, build a door, add some trim. Once its all closed in I'll figure out a heating plan and ventilation plan and build some shelving.  The plans for my greenhouse are courtesy of Ana White and can be found on her site here:  Thanks!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Let the Homestead Construction begin...

G is not impressed
N on board stacking duty
Our wood was delivered yesterday.  This should cover the floor of the 12' x 20' storage building and complete framing for a 10' x 12' greenhouse.  Just after we got it stacked in the yard, Shannon gave me a few more minor items we need wood for: fence, porch, garage, swing set, and grapevine trellis.  I'll get right on that.  Started building, but it was slow going.  Setbacks included: couldn't decide where to actually build it; the sun set and it got dark and cold, just as scheduled.  Most of the metal framing was prepared last week, so once the floor is good to go, I expect the rest to go up pretty quickly.  In other news, we ordered our fruit trees a few days ago.  Four apple varieties and two pear so far.   We would like to have about 30 trees in front yard orchard when its all said and done.  This will be my first experience with bare root trees.  I understand they will look pretty sad when they arrive, essentially a big stick, ready for planting.  We shall see.


On October 2nd, 2014, I was notified that my position at work would no longer be available.  This is my first layoff and although I've spent a lot of time stressing over the possibility of a layoff in the past, I'm actually pretty good with this.  That day, I came home and began refreshing  my resume, but eventually Shannon and I started talking about other things we like to do with our lives, many of the same things that have come up numerous times over our eight years of marriage.  Most grand schemes are never very practical, with a traditional job and a growing family, but this day everything seemed much more in reach.  High on the list was transforming our house into a self sufficient homestead, and even producing enough to sell enough to pay some bills.  I'm not sure exactly when this idea became a bona fide decision; I suppose its when our homestead planning started taking a higher daily priority than the search for a "real job".  Our plans include a greenhouse (or two), a storage building, bee hives, an orchard, lots of garden, and a home school academy.  How prepared are we?  Not at all of course!  We will be learning a lot along the way, and documenting as much as we can so that maybe others can learn from our mistakes, and maybe even follow our example when things do go right.

Please note that we are not farmers.  We are not doctors, lawyers, or professors.  We are a man, a woman, and two young boys shooting from the hip, trying to do the best we can.  We will let you know what does and doesn't work for us. Something that works for us may not work at your house, and something that works at yours might be a flop at ours.  The best we can do is ask God for help, read up, and give it our best shot.  

Thanks for being a part of our journey!