Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kombucha Week 1

My kombucha starter has been in the closet for 1 week today, and it made a floating blob! As far as I know, it's supposed to develop a film across the top that eventually develops into a disc, or the SCOBY... but nothing I do ever goes by the book. This Floaty Blob has the yeast legs that are naturally occurring in kombucha, so I'm thinking it's a good start.

It has also been pretty cold here recently. After a few beautiful, sunny days, we were betrayed this weekend with snow. Naturally, Nate and I both got colds. I think the cool temperature in the house may also be contributing to the SCOBY's slow growth, and I'm OK with that. Everything worth having is worth waiting for.

Sick, cold, and dreaming of warmer days, I ordered this new ice pop mold. My mother would scold me for spending so much money on it, but I'm becoming wary of plastic. I can't wait to push the ice pop envelope with unnerving recipes!

Finally, a photo of our stalwart Willis keeping an eye out for the dog:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Making Kombucha

Last year, I responded to a craigslist ad for a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, used to make kombucha), and the woman never responded to my email requesting the culture. Little did she realize that I was able to use the email she provided to figure out exactly who she was, or in other words figure out what kind of person would make an ad for a free scoby and never respond to my email. It turns out she was a local yoga teacher, and I will certainly not reveal her name here. Because I'm better than that.


I'm using GT's Organic Raw Kombucha to start my mother (the filmy/pancakey colony of bacteria floating on top of the batch of kombucha), per this recipe. Anybody who knows me knows that I am going to exhaust every other option before I order an expensive mother offline... it's just a culture of bacteria, after all, what's the big deal? I will update the results here.

Nate has been working hard on building the new duck pen by the creek. It will house 20-something ducks and ducklings and... 2 goslings? It's such a whirlwind of seed/animal orders around here, it's hard to keep track. Kubla and I enjoyed relaxing by the work site today in the warm sun, happy that spring finally sprung.

Our Dominique chicks ventured outside of the chick pen today for the first time. Boy, it took a long time for them to get up the guts to come out, I guess they got hungry.

Our two adult lady ducks, Dewea and Agatha, started laying eggs last week. I keep hearing people describe duck eggs as "gamey," and it is totally inaccurate. I think people go with that term because ducks are usually wild, and I guess people want to describe wild meats as gamey because they don't know what else to say. They're richly flavored and the yolks are a deep orange. The shells are a bit leathery, and the whites tend to want to stick to the shell for longer after you crack the egg... but I've heard that they make a fluffier baked good when used in stead of chicken eggs. I poached some this morning as toppers for some cheesy grits, and they were divine.

I did the first full hive inspection since last November today, and I am happy to report that the bees look textbook healthy. The queen is present and laying, making the ideal rainbow of brood/pollen/nectar pattern that I've read about but have never seen in my own hive before. I hope the two new nucs (bee colony nuclei, or starter hives of 5 frames) I get this spring from Wild Mountain Bees do as well!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This Day in Birds

We have been noticing bird activity more and more recently, especially since setting up a bird feeder right outside the back door. Birds are amazing and diverse, and it's incredible to hear the variety in the sounds they make. Here are a few visitors we have seen at our feeder so far:

Carolina Chickadee

This bird is so adorably small and puffy, and I love the severity of its little black hat. This bird means business at the feeder, but always keeps an eye out for any party crashers.

Wikipedia Fun Fact:
Carolina chickadees are able to lower their body temperatures to induce an intentional state of hypothermia called torpor. They do this to conserve energy during extremely cold winters. In extremely cold weather conditions they look for cavities where they can hide in and spend up to fifteen hours at a time in torpor; during this time they are awake but unresponsive; they should not be picked up and handled at this time, as the stress of being held may cause their death.

Tufted Titmouse

This guy distinguishes himself through his amazing triangle-shaped mohawk, and is always scaring off the chickadee. They seem like they always visit together, though, so they may formed a mixed-species flock.

Wikipedia Fun Fact:
Tufted Titmice nest in a hole in a tree, either a natural cavity or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. They line the nest with soft materials, sometimes plucking hair from a live animal such as a dog. If they find shed snake skin, they will try to incorporate pieces of it in their nest.

Maybe there is a titmouse nest somewhere with Kubla's hair lining!

The Pileated Woodpecker doesn't bother with our bird feeder, but it's always shocking to see it and realize that this bird is pretty big! He's no raven but he's no phoebe, either, and he spends his day smashing his face into solid wood looking for food. Check out this cool footage of the pileated woodpecker close up: