Monday, March 26, 2012

Update again on Chickens and Garden stuff

First, the chickens.
"DD" or "DeeDee" or however you want to spell it (it stands for 'double dot') has healed and is back with the rest of the crew. She still has a bald spot, but it's not irritated any more and the girls seem to be leaving it alone. Maybe the extra room is helping? We have them all in the outside coop and have been letting them run around outside during the warmer parts of the day. They are not too fond about getting back into their coop at night, so we are going to try and bribe them this next time.
DD and the one we put with her as a companion during her confinement seem to be a little bit anti-social for the time being. I assume they will come around though. We had a name for the companion but I forget it right now.

Inside the coop:

Outside the coop:

Our starter plants are coming along as well. I guess I should say Corban's starter plants .. he's doing all the work. He had to transplant and move most of the first starter plants. He put them in recycled plastic red cups (saved from our church fellowship meals) and set them all in a glass green house outside next to our drive way. (glass is from the old church windows) He has a space heater in there for the night time as it still gets quite chilly at night, but WOW is it cookin' in there right now!

Mostly older plants in the glass green house:

Mostly newer plants in the church house under lights:

The zucchini never seem to have a problem growing, huh?!

Here are a few misc photos of outside ...
Fruit trees doing well (peach and apple)

A few flowers; we planted the bulbs last fall ... they add a nice bit of color to our otherwise dull looking parking lot garden :)

A female cardinal that has been frequenting our feeders - she is missing a leg, but you cannot tell it here. I wonder the story behind that? I appreciate her songs when I am hanging out laundry.

We have old (heirloom) plants from last year that seem to be going to seed ... I am excited about that.



And a few new plants seeming to do well. I did not take pictures of the little kale and the baby spinach.




Peas do not usually work for us, so we'll see how they do this year. We got them out pretty early. Last year we only got a few peas ... enough to save the seeds and plant more this year. We'll see what happens.

And one final picture of our parking lot garden ... the compost piles. We started with one but then added another some time last year and now another a few months ago.

That's all today. The boys have been working at the bigger garden a little today between mowing jobs. A brother and his dad helped the boys get an irrigation system and I think they are hoping to get that set up this week??? The potatoes out there are starting to grow plants ... and it just got a lot of rain. I'll get pictures of that some time in the future, Lord willing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nifty tips to help organize

A friend of mind forwarded me an email with these nifty tips in it. I would never use some of these tips, but I figured some might, so why not post them? I did however delete one that had to do with xmas; I cannot support that holiday. The wrapping paper one was questionable to me as well ... seeing how we do not participate in anything that requires wrapping a gift ... but I sure did think the organizing tip for that was genius! Enjoy! Oh wait, one more thing ... who has that many sheet sets to spare?! And all matching at that?!

Clever Ideas to Make Life Easier
Why didn’t I think of that?  We guarantee you’ll
be uttering those words more than once at these
ingenious little tips, tricks and ideas that solve
everyday problems.

Hull strawberries easily using a straw.

Rubbing a walnut over scratches in your furniture
will disguise dings and scrapes. 

Remove crayon masterpieces from your TV or
computer screen with WD-40.

Stop cut apples browning in your child’s lunch box
by securing with a rubber band.

Overhaul your linen cupboard - store bed linen sets
inside one of their own pillowcases and there will
be no more hunting through piles for a match.

Pump up the volume by placing your iPhone & iPod
in a bowl. The concave shape amplifies the music.

Re-use a wet-wipes container to store plastic bags.

Add this item to your beach bag.  Baby powder
gets sand off your skin easily. Who knew?!

Attach a Velcro strip to the wall to store soft toys.

Use wire to make a space to store gift wrap rolls
against the ceiling, rather than cluttering up the

Find tiny lost items like earrings by putting a
stocking over the vacuum hose.

Make an instant cupcake carrier by cutting
crosses into a box lid.

For those who can’t stand the scrunching and
bunching: how to perfectly fold a fitted sheet.

Forever losing your bathroom essentials?  Use
magnetic strips to store bobby pins, tweezers
and clippers behind a vanity door.


Store shoes inside shower caps to stop dirty
soles rubbing on your clothes.  And you can
find them in just about every hotel.

A muffin pan becomes a craft caddy.  Magnets
hold the plastic cups down to make them

Bread tags make the perfect cord labels.

Bake cupcakes directly in ice-cream cones - so
much more fun and easier for kids to eat.

Microwave your own popcorn in a plain brown paper
bag.  Much healthier & cheaper than the packet stuff.

Install a tension rod to hang your spray bottles.

Turn your muffin pan upside down, bake cookie-dough
over the top and voila, you have cookie bowls for fruit
or ice-cream. 
Hmmm ... try this ... making the cookie cups on the reverse side of the muffin pan ... THEN ... fill 2 cups w/ ice cream & stick 'em together face to face to make a ball ... THEN cover 'em w/ chocolate & freeze 'em again!?

Freeze Aloe Vera in ice-cube trays for soothing
sunburn relief.

Create a window-box veggies patch using guttering.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Xylitol: Is It Beneficial, or Even Safe?

Though I do not agree 100% with everything the Weston Price Foundation believes/teaches, I do appreciate some (many?) of the things they have to say. Recently I've been looking in to artificial sweeteners and their effects on your body. Many today already know that splenda & aspartame are dangerous. If you don't know this, please do a quick search on it and quit using it. So, some have been turning to Xylitol instead, yet is it safe?? I thought this article was worth reading ... it seems a good place to start the research anyway.

Xylitol: Is It Beneficial, or Even Safe?

Heralded as an ally in the battle against tooth decay and diabetes, xylitol is another sweetener to enter the market with a great deal of hype. Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar alcohol found in some fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body. Because mouth bacteria cannot ferment sugar alcohols, xylitol is said to prevent cavities; and because the body metabolizes it primarily through the liver rather than the pancreas,1 it is said to be good for diabetics in limited amounts (no more than 60 grams per day).
Xylitol is less sweet than sugar and produces a noticeable cooling sensation in the mouth when highly concentrated, as in “sugar-free” candy and chewing gum. It is often added to foods sweetened with aspartame, to mask the bitter taste. And because xylitol contains fewer calories than sugar, products containing it can carry weight loss claims.

How Is Xylitol Made?

Originally made from birch bark, and hence associated with the very natural, nutritious and traditional birch syrup (similar to maple syrup), xylitol is anything but a natural product. The typical manufacturing process goes like this:
  1. Obtain some source material containing xylan. One commonly used source is corn cobs imported from China. Hardwood and the waste from cotton ginning are other sources.
  2. The xylan needs to be broken down, either through a chemical process called acid hydrolyzing or through microbial fermentation. (Genetically engineereed bacteria have been proposed for this step.) The results of this process are xylose and acetic acid.
  3. The concentrated acetic acid, described as “very hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. . . Hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, permeator), of eye contact (corrosive),” must be removed.
  4. Next the hydrolyzing acid and organic residues must be removed, which is done by heating the mixture and evaporating it.
  5. The resulting syrup is now free of acetic acid, hydrolyzing acid, and other residues.
  6. The syrup is crystallized by stirring ethanol into it.
  7. The crystalline xylitol is now separated in a centrifuge. The ethanol is separated from the sorbitol remaining in solution.
  8. Voilà! You have xylitol.

Xylitol's Dubious Health Claims

Since xylitol is an industrial product, it pays to be dubious about the industry’s health claims for it. First among these is the claim that xylitol prevents cavities. Indeed, many studies can be cited to support such a claim. But not all. The results of a recent two-year trial found no difference in cavities between those who chewed xylitol-containing gum and those who did not.2 In an earlier study, researchers concluded that “Overall, consumption of xylitol-containing snacks and candy did not reduce S. mutans levels.”3
As for the claim that xylitol is good for diabetics, the fact that this sweetener is not completely absorbed comes at a cost: bloating, diarrhea and flatulence. In a study performed on 18 diabetic children who consumed a dose of 30 grams of xylitol per day, researchers found a significant elevation of the uric acid concentration.4 And since 80 percent of xylitol is metabolized through the liver, a danger to liver function similar to that of fructose is a distinct possibility.
The official website for xylitol,, states, “In the amounts needed to prevent tooth decay (less than 15 grams per day), xylitol is safe for everyone.” Fifteen grams of xylitol is about 0.5 ounces. What about doses over 15 grams?
In a long term toxicology study on rats researchers found that xylitol caused a significant increase in the incidence of adrenal medullary hyperplasia in male and female rats in all dose levels tested (5%, 10% and 20%).5 That means it caused abnormal cell growth in the adrenal glands. In one higher-dose study in which mice consumed 20 percent of their diet as xylitol, there was a significant increase in the mortality of the males as compared to those consuming sucrose.6 A major study in dogs found an increase in liver weight associated with xylitol use.7

Conclusions About Xylitol

Xylitol’s own promotional material says it is not safe for everyone to use. Since children are smaller and less developed than adults, they will obviously be much more sensitive to xylitol’s effects. There are no safety data or tests to indicate a safe dosage for children. And foods containing xylitol may also contain additional sweeteners that are undeniably harmful, such as aspartame.
As for claims that xylitol can prevent tooth decay, I can only say, “Buyer beware!” Such claims are based on the faulty theory that bacteria cause tooth decay. We know from the work of Weston Price that tooth decay is a problem of nutrient deficiencies—the bacteria are just there cleaning up dead tissue.
Finally, and most importantly, this industrial product is just not necessary. Nature has provided us with many wholesome sweeteners that can be used in moderation without adverse effects in the context of a diet of nutrient-dense traditional foods.

-Rami Nagel
  1. Dehmel KH and others. Absorption of xylitol. Int. Symp on metabolism, physiololgy and clinical use of pentoses and pentitols. Hakone, Japan, 1967, 177-181, Ed. Horecker.
  2. Int J Paediatr Dent. 2008 May;18(3):170-7.
  3. J Am Dental Assoc, 2002;133(4):435-441.
  4. Förster, H., Boecker, S. and Walther, A. (1977) Verwendung von Xylitals Zuckeraustauschstoff bei diabetischen Kindern, Fortschr. Med.,95, nr. 2, 99-102.
  5. Russfield, A.D. (1981) Two-year feeding study of xylitol, sorbitol and sucrose in Charles River (UK) rats: Adrenal Medulla. Unpublished report.
  6. World Health Organization, Summary Of Toxicological Data Of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants, WHO Food Additives Series NO. 13 Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives* Rome, 3-12 April 1978 accessed at: v13je11.htm.
  7. Heywood, R. et al. (1981) Revised report: Xylitol toxicity study in the beagle dog (Report of Huntingdon Research Centre).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sauerkraut (lacto-fermented)

(here is a new video I just did for making sauerkraut: Homemade Sauerkraut)
We have been making our own lacto-fermented sauerkraut for several months now. I am not a fan of canned sauerkraut at all, so I always assumed I would not like this stuff either. But ... I do like it. It certainly is not on my 'favorites' list, but I am thankful for the beneficial bacteria this lacto-fermented stuff offers to my gut.

To make your own, you will need: 1 head of cabbage, 2T good salt (I use celtic gray salt, but Real salt would work ... or pickling salt), a large glass jug (I use a glass pickle jug that is just over 2 quarts), a 1/2 pint jar, a plastic lid of some sort (see instructions below), a glass bowl, something to pound with, a cutting board, a knife, a little bit of time.

Here are the steps ...

1) Start with a good sized head of cabbage.

2) Peel off the outer layers and chop off the core at the bottom.

3) Quarter the head and slice out the center core.

4) Cut into thin strips; I found out later I prefer a little thinner than this. You'll eventually learn what works best for you and your tastes.

5) Place a quarter at a time into a bowl with 1 1/2t good salt and pound it down. I use the tamper from my vitamix, but there are special wooden kraut pounders that would be so nice to have ... they would probably work a lot more efficiently, but oh well. Maybe some day.
**Update: I now place a quarter at a time in a LARGE bowl, sprinkle salt over it, put another quarter in, sprinkle salt over it, put another quarter in, sprinkle salt over it, and so on. I then cover it with a towel and let it sit for an hour or longer (sometimes I get busy!). This really helps to draw out the juices and reduce the pounding time. Instead of pounding it in the bowl, I shove it into the glass jug and pound it down in there with my vitamix tamp.**

6) As you can see, the cabbage reduced by quite a bit and it is getting juicy. I think I pounded this for about 5 minutes total. Put this pounded cabbage into a 2qt (or larger) jar and repeat this process with the remaining 3 quarters; don't forget to add more salt!

Here is a picture of all the pounded cabbage in the 2+qt jar.

See the liquid (cabbage juice & salt) at the bottom?

7) Now you want to pack the pounded cabbage as hard as you can into the jar. The cabbage needs to be totally submerged in the cabbage/salt juice ... to make this possible, I cut out a plastic cottage cheese or butter lid just about the size of the inside of my jar. Maybe you can see the lid on top of the cabbage in this picture below?

8) Take another glass jar and fill it with water. Put a plastic lid on if you have one. Place this jar INSIDE the cabbage jar, on top of the plastic circle. Push down and you will see the juice rising above the cabbage. This inner jar will act as a weight to keep the plastic circle pressing down on the cabbage and thus keep the cabbage totally covered with the liquid at all times. If it is exposed to the air, it will oxidize and eventually begin to rot.

9) Now the waiting begins! Let it sit on your counter for at least 3 days. Here is a picture of the sauerkraut after 1 1/2 days - notice the bubbles forming at the top of the liquid? This is exactly what you want it to do.

10) Here is a picture of our finished sauerkraut - even more bubbles at the top and the cabbage/liquid level have changed. I think it sat out for 6 days?? Last time we left it out for 3 weeks before we put it in the fridge, but it was colder then as well. Usually we let it sit out for at least 7 days but not much longer than 2 weeks (unless it's too cold in the house!) Sauerkraut can be stored in a cool place, like a cellar (or the counter top if it's cool in the house), for many months. Or you can store it in the fridge. DO NOT HEAT IT! Consuming it raw preserves all the good bacteria in there; if you cook it you will kill the bacteria.

Be sure to check out the three other posts I did today! Gardening, Chickens and Cucumbers ... oh my!