Oh September…warm summer like days and crisp autumn nights. We rang in the first weekend of fall with some fair fun and then a September picnic. It was full of good friends and family, delicious food, and cozy fireside conversations. I think my favorite part was watching the kids running up and down the hill making their own kind of fun. Sage was in her glory with all the kids to play with. The agenda for today is to cut and stack wood for winter preparations. Hope you are enjoying your weekend just the same.
Thursdays have become girls day around here. It started with Grace and I visiting my parents on a Thursday. Now with all the girls being born into the family along with my aunt and uncle recently moving into the area, we all seem to congregate at my parent’s house. The guys go one way and the girls hang out with coffee and magazines. This past Thursday we mixed it up a bit. Everyone came to my house for lunch and a trip to The Conestoga House and Gardens. If you are local to Lancaster County, this is a free garden to visit. They are open on Wednesdays and Thursdays through September. I suggest you gather a group of your best girls or even your honey for a stroll around these beautiful grounds. End your time there with a picnic or just a simple dessert like we did.
At 10 weeks Sawyer developed a milk allergy. She was allergic to the lactose in any dairy product I ate, even if it was the last ingredient in a baked product. It showed itself through her having really bloody stools after nursing. I know gross and TMI. Well it happens and it was very scary. After two visits to the doctor and a trip to the ER (all in one day) we still did not have a definite answer as to what was causing it. So, I called the lactation consultant the next day because I had to pump and give her special formula for several days while we tried to rule out the causes. She immediately knew the problem and explained it to me much better than any doctor could. Without going into to much detail, her body could not digest the lactose and it irritated her intestines to a point that it would cause blisters and when she did number two they would pop and thus the bloody poop. Sorry folks, just letting you know incase other mothers out there are having these issues.
What does this have to do with goats? Most babies can outgrow this around 4 to 6 months of age. In the meantime I had to find a way to get my probiotics other than taking it in a pill form. Goat milk is more easily digested and contains less lactose than cow milk. So I found local goat milk and used my kefir grains to make kefir.
What is Kefir?
Kefir grain is a symbiotic union of yeast and bacteria to create a culture. When these grains (they are more like curds) are added to milk they ferment and make Kefir. See my step by step instructions below. I mix my kefir with Naked brand juice because I would never drink it straight up.
Sawyer is 5 months old and I am still able to nurse. I still supplement with Alimentum formula. I have eliminated dairy from my diet and added coconut milk, almond milk, and goat milk kefir, and homemade goat milk cheeses. I am slowly adding hard cheeses to see if she has a reaction. I live on dairy products and get most of my protein from dairy. It was difficult at first. Believe me, I was ready to throw in the towel many times, but she needed that comfort only nursing could have on a newborn. Plus, I still needed that bonding time with her. There are so many options these days. So if you are a mother to a child with a dairy allergy you do not have to give up, it does get easier. As my lactation consultant said “As long as she is getting one nursing session a day she is acquiring the immunities she needs from your breast milk.”
Making Kefir Using Cow Milk or Goat Milk
Start with a kefir grain. My mom split hers and shared it with me. They do grow in size so you may be able to find someone local who sells them or you can make your own using a culture. Try looking here.
Add fresh raw cow milk or goat milk. You can use pasteurized milk but raw milk produces a much nicer grain. Only add 3 to five times the amount of milk as the size of your grain
Cover the jar with a coffer filter and a rubber band.
Let it sit on your counter for 18 to 24 hours. Sometimes I do let mine go longer. You will start to see the milk separate into curds and whey.
Skim the grain off the top and place in a clean jar. What is left in the other jar is your kefir. I transfer it to a large container so I can keep adding to it. Cover it and place it in the refrigerator. Drink a small amount at first and work your way up to more once your body adjusts. This is an amazing probiotic. In my findings, it is much better than a tablet or even yogurt.
Start the process over with your grain. Once it starts to grow larger you can split it and share with a friend or simply make more kefir.
If you forget about it for a week. Simply rinse off the grain in water and start the process again. It may take two days to get it started again.
When I have a lot of kefir I place fresh milk on the grain and put it in the refrigerator until I need to make more. It may take two days to get it working again.
Add your kefir to smoothies or mix it with a thick juice like the Naked brand juice.
Around here canning season is starting and soon to be in full force. This means less sleep and less of my undivided attention on the children. This is the time when my anxiety levels rise because there is never enough time in the day. The house is usually a disaster zone because all my effort goes into stocking up. I question our motives for why we do what we do. We seem to take on more and more each year.
I have been scribbling notes on this topic because it has been on my mind of where we are, where we have come from, and where we are heading in the future. Seven years ago when Brook and I got married we began our little garden. Oh how I wish we had pictures to show you. It was not pretty! Brook got his love of gardening from helping his grandfather on his organic farm. I had a small garden growing up and helped my mom make jam and freeze beans and corn. I can remember riding the bus as a young girl and passing one farmhouse with a big red barn, daydreaming about the day I would live in a place like that.
Setting out on this path to self sufficiency we never thought of it as homesteading. We really just wanted to know where our food came from and to stock up on a few things for the winter. Each year it grew into more. First the chickens and later the beef cow and the pig. We added a few fruit trees to the place we rented. Next, we planted a few berry bushes and along came the bees. Then the Lord blessed us with our dream home. A farmhouse and barn to raise our children. It has just enough acres to plant our roots and establish a small homestead. Over the years things have evolved into more than just wanting to know where our food comes from.
It has become so automatic to go to the store and grab some food without a thought of how it was grown or raised. Do you really trust the government with the quality of food you eat? It is a satisfying feeling when you sit at the table and look at what you have grown and produced with your own hands. Just the other day Grace wanted to go to a particular restaurant. We were running errands all day and so I agreed, thinking it would be fun for my girls and I to go out to eat together. I was really disgusted with the quality of the food and the price I paid for soup and salad. That moment made me appreciate the work Brook and I put into raising, growing, cooking, and baking wholesome food for our family. We could throw in the towel at any moment, but that is not us. When we sit around our table and say our prayers there is a connection to the land and the past generations who lived this way. It was the only way they knew. Nothing was artificial or overly processed. The ingredients were real and honest. Today we do it by choice, because we want to get back to the basics of real, honest, and wholesome food that tastes good and is good for us. It is a joy to watch the girls race to the chicken coop when they hear the chicken clucking or to sit with me and help me prep tomatoes for sauce.
Homesteading is more of a way of life for us. We can show and teach our children that things are not automatic. If you want something you need to work for it. This kind of life is hard work, but it is so rewarding. Around here if we need something we work for it or we make it ourselves. There is not much to spare at the end of the month but that is the choice we made. We are investing in our children right now. Not only are we nourishing there bodies with homegrown foods but also their minds, souls, and faith. We are raising them to have a connection to the land. For everything there is a season. Our season now is our children. We do not have a penny to spare on retirement or even putting away for college savings. My plan for now is to sell the farm to pay for some of the girl’s college. We believe they should have to put toward their school of choice. Then buy a VW Vanagon and be hippies with no strings attached. We all know the Lord has better plans. Brook hopes so! As for me, I think I would not mind it.