Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lazy Girl's Guide to Apple Cider Vinegar

I don't know about you but in our family when we use a lot of something the first thing I think is, "I wonder if I can make this cheaper?" For a while I noticed that we were steadily using more and more raw apple cider vinegar and it is pretty expensive compared to a bottle of regular. We use it to make dressings and sauces, tinctures and home remedies, we use it for a conditioning rinse and sometimes just drink it straight for an energy boost! In fact it is kind of like in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding with the uncle who uses Windex for everything.

Feeling sick? You just take some vinegar. Dish need something? Add some vinegar. Ran out of your favorite beauty product? Use some vinegar! It is one of those household staples for us and I finally can say that I made some of my very own.

The funny thing is I thought it would be a lot harder than it was. The worst part is having patience and waiting :)  I also helps to have an awesome friend who gives you some homemade apple cider so you can experiment, thanks Hannah!

Really simple process here: you get some homemade or unpasteurized apple cider.

Put the cider in glass gallon jars and place a coffee filter or cheese cloth over the top and secure with a rubber band. To let the gasses out and keep the bugs from getting in.

Now find somewhere to sit your cider vinegar for 6-12 months. It is best to have it somewhere where little fingers don't poke holes in the coffee filer just to see what is in there. I know from experience.

You also want to make sure that it is also in a warm place to keep the process moving along however, the one time because I put it out of the house when we had visitors it froze, it didn't seem to affect the final product, so if you accidentally freeze it that is okay too. Pretty hardy stuff.

It will make a bunch of these mother cultures, kind of like kombucha if you are familiar with that process. I found out something interesting while having giant jars of vinegar on display in my house. My husband's grandma Pearl, who we named my oldest child after, used to have a vinegar barrel with a tap on the bottom that she would add cider to and tap out the finished product from the bottom. That probably had a very large mother culture! It is also neat to think that we are doing some of the things our family members have done in generations past.

When it is finished, after about 6-12 months, you just strain out the vinegar with cheese cloth into glass jars and use as you would any other raw cider vinegar! I like the fact that you basically ignore this stuff and it becomes vinegar. Very easy for a lazy, pregnant mommy to handle!

What do you use you use raw vinegar for? I love to hear about new ideas for one of my favorite panty items.
                                                               The Farmer in the Dell

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Prepping my Birth Bag!

Okay so I know that I am 9-10 weeks from my due date but I have this itch to start slowly getting things ready for when the new little one comes! Being prepared and ready helps me to relax as the day comes closer. Right now I really can't prepare for anything quick with my two little bears under foot and extremely busy farming husband needing a hand. So slow and steady wins the race right? Well that is what I keep telling myself anyway :)

My last two birth experiences were so different it makes me want to be ready for what this one is going to throw at me.

Phoebe was like the by-the-book birth experience. Everything happened just like we read about. I woke my husband up at 1:30 in the morning with the excitement that I was having regular contractions, he went to sleep for another hour just to make sure it was for real :) Then we had breakfast and thew the bag and car seat in the truck and headed to the midwife! I labored for around 12 hours, and had back labor for about a third of it. Over all, very easy non-complicated birth. I actually remember thinking about 3 hours after she was born, "Wow I could have another baby!" Crazy, I know. I went home the same day and slept in my own bed, I was so happy to be home with my family! I bounced back within 3 days and was feeling great. 

Boaz he was quite different, if I could use 3 words to describe his birth it would be fast and furious! This time when I woke my husband up at 2 in the morning to let him know I was having contractions he decided he would do the same as last time and go back to bed for a while, I mean he was thinking he had 12 hours to do this so why rush? Well we will just say we skipped breakfast and basically as soon as someone could get to our home to watch little phoebe I was halfway down the walkway to the truck praying, "Oh help me Jesus!" Literally 25 min after getting to the midwife I had my son in my arms and I had the shakes for hours! My body was in shock and so was I, 3 1/2 hour birth was not as nice as it sounded. It took a little over 2 weeks for me to get back to normal, and the after pains were almost as bad as having the baby went on for what felt like forever! No one warned me it was like having the baby over the course of two weeks.

I didn't really have time to use any of my natural birth aids last time with my son as everything was just to frenzied and stressful just getting to the midwife, who is about 50 min away from us. I am hoping this time that I can be ready for anything so I can just relax and focus on my new baby during the birth and I think that may* alleviate some of the shock and tension I experienced with Boaz.

So here is what I am packing this time in hopes I get the chance to use them!
 Essential Oils
  •  Lavender~For relaxation and reducing stress by diffusing and massage during labor
  • Clary Sage~Great for the uterus, helps with stalled labor if rubbed on pressure points/inner ankles.
  • Black Pepper~Good for back labor; mix with carrier oil and rub into lower back.
  • Helichrysum~A few drops on abdomen during birthing make for a healthier placenta delivery and post baby recovery. Also good for those who have tearing to rub on during labor.
  • Frankincense~To put on baby's umbilical cord stump as it helps it heal better and faster, for rubbing on my skin to aid in healing. Some people find the scent to be empowering as well through a difficult labor. 
  • Diffuser and Fractionated Coconut Oil~ To use with essential oils
Other Aids
  • Arnica gel~This is really nice to have as it has a cooling/numbing sensation when applied to sore aching muscles.
  • Mother Love Sitz Bath Spray~I cannot tell you how much I love this stuff, it really makes life after birth livable. 
  • Mother Love Green Salve~A great alternative to Tucks
  • Wish Garden After Ease Tincture~I am taking this right away, hoping this helps lessen the duration of the after pains this time.
  • Dates~ For energy and because well, I love them!
  • Red Raspberry Tea~For after birth to help uterus go back to normal.
  • Coconut water~For during birth to replace lost electrolytes/hydrate
Random Extras
  • Head band
  • Lip balm
  • Comfy Pjs/clothes
  • Boy and Girl baby clothes! I can't wait to find out this time!
  • Blanket/swaddle cloth
  • Lanolin
  • Diapers
  • Pads
  • Face Wash
  • Towels~ For in the car in case my water breaks on the way!
I am really getting excited to meet this little one, and of course find out if our house will be won by team pink or blue! Phoebe is really hoping it's a girl but she says a boy would be okay too :) We love 'em all!

                                                          The Farmer in the Dell

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When Eating Liver Makes You Quiver...

I had been having ringing in my ears and moments of rapid heart beat even while sitting on the couch reading to my children. I figured that I would mention it to my midwife, along with the fact that I had been exhausted and supposedly the second trimester is the time when you are to have the most energy. Oh well I figured, this was the byproduct of being pregnant and having two little ones to take care of, it is probably just sleep deprivation.

Well it turns out that these were not normal pregnancy symptoms for a third time mom, I had really low Iron. This was not what I wanted to hear as I try and take lots of measures to boost my iron with food and food based supplements. I usually take black strap molasses at night and liquid chlorophyll during the day as well as eating as many greens as I can and taking a food based prenatal that has 100% of my Iron. Apparently this was not cutting it and I really hate taking Iron supplements as they have a habit of making me feel sick and nauseated. 

I was willing to give it a try though as my energy was just not enough to keep up with my two little kids and I really didn't like ringing in my ears or feeling like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. So we went with the liquid Iron because it is assimilated better by the body and has less of an effect with the nausea. It took about two weeks for me to notice a difference, but what I think helped it along was I made myself eat liver once a week.

I know liver, I am not a liver fan. I have been trying, I'll admit halfheartedly, to like organ meats but it was not really a priority so lets say it was put on the back burner for a while. Well now I have low Iron and a freezer full of liver so I womaned-up and tried liver again. This time I used the recipe from Nourishing Traditions and surprisingly, I found that I liked it. "I must be really low in iron to like liver!" I would joke with my farmer but what I think really made the difference was that it calls for cooking the soaked liver in clarified butter. I had never used clarified butter before but it gives that butter flavor to your food while holding up to high heat while cooking.

The only downside to this awesome find is that one container of grass fed clarified butter was like 3x the price of regular butter and we use homemade anyway. The recipe uses quite a bit of the butter too so I decided to find out how hard it is to make clarified butter. What I found out was that it is very simple! I am so excited now I can use it for more than my weekly liver dose! Slather it on Naan bread use it for sauces and fish it is awesome! Here is how I did it.

Take your butter and heat it on med high on the top of the stove till it is melted and bubbling for a few min.

Use a spoon and skim off the butter solids (white stuff) on top.

Strain the remainder through a cheese cloth. You may need to do this a couple times till it comes out bright yellow not cloudy.

Pour into jar and refrigerate

That's all folks! It is so simple I don't know why I didn't try it before, liver changes a lot of things :)

                                                                The Farmer in the Dell

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How Sweet it is to Have a Maple Tree!

So we tried a new adventure this week in the Dell; we went out and tapped our maple tree! Now for you experienced people out there, we know it was a bit late to start but, we were given a tap and thought we would give it a try and see what happens. The ideal time to start harvesting your sap is from mid February-mid March. You are looking for warm days (above 40 degrees) and freezing nights to make the sap flow.

I really didn't realize that you could make maple syrup from the sap of any maple tree, I always thought it was just sugar maples. They say the sweetness is best in a sugar and black maples and less sweet in the silver and red maples. I also didn't know how simple it was to cook it down, all we used was our electric roaster! Let me tell you though the syrup we made tastes just as good as the stuff you can buy and we harvested it right from our front yard and all it takes is a few easy steps.

Things you will need:
  • An electric drill or hand drill
  • A metal tap or hose barb and 3/8th non-toxic tubing
  • Hammer or wrench
  • 5 gal bucket with the lid
  • 20 quart roaster

First you need to find a good large maple tree and drill a hole 3/8th inch for a metal tap and 1/2 inch for hose barb, 2 1/2 inches into the tree at a 45 degree angle.

Then insert your tap and gently hammer it in till secure or use wench to screw in the hose barb.

You can hang a bucket off the tap if you are using a metal one or twist tubing on the barb and direct into the hole in the top of the bucket. Use Duck Tape to close off the hole so rain and bugs do not get in your sap. 

Now you just let your sap collect. We were getting about 2 gallons a day so depending on what size tree or bucket you may need to check on your sap throughout the day. Your tree needs to be 12-20" for one tap, 21-27" for 2 taps and more than 27" for 3 taps.

I put my first 3 gallons of sap in the roaster and set it on 400 during the day with the lid off and 300 at night adding more sap as it came out of the tree.You do not want the sap to boil just steam and evaporate.

It took me 3 days to cook it down till it was brown and came off my stir spoon slowly like a syrup.
Then I strained it through cheese cloth and filled up my mason jars!

It takes 40 gal of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup so since we started late we only made a little less than one quart, but I am excited it worked and can't wait till next season to make some.
                                                                  The Farmer in the Dell