Sunday, January 27, 2008

V's First Kombucha


Today I, Vanessa, finally started my very first batch of kombucha tea. For whom does not know much about this, it's an ancient (apparently ~250 BC) culture of yeast and bacteria that is used to make kombucha tea, a very good and health promoting drink. Here is also a link to a funny and informative short article about kombucha http://www.centerstagechicago.com/lifestyle/articles/green-thumb-kombucha.html.

First you'll ask why on the planet would I want to make this myself when I can run to any organic store and buy myself as much kombucha as I’d care to drink? Well here we go: no. 1 reason - a single serving bottle of kombucha runs between $4-$5; no. 2 reason – I find fascinating making a drink out of live critters (granted not visible to the naked eye, but still visible when they grow and reproduce). I have always wanted to make beer for the same reason (e.g. the critters), but I think kombucha is even better as it is good for you (e.g. although I have heard that one glass of beer -- or wine -- a day is also good for you, but lots of people don’t stop at one glass with beer or wine), it taste even better (i.e. at least I think), and it seems a lot easier to make (i.e. with continuous brewing).

My mail-ordered mother culture came in on Thursday and yesterday evening I began the process of getting it going as you have to wait 8-14 days for proper fermentation before you can start drinking it. However, it got late and I had to leave my tea + sugar chow for the critters near the wood-stove to keep it at comfortable room-temperature (e.g. 70-80 degrees F or 21-27 degrees C). By the way, I refuse to call my culture “mushroom” because it is not a mushroom and I cannot understand why anybody would call it that if it isn’t. FYI, it seems the correct name is symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, or in short SCOBY. I like the correct name as well the more affectionate names that some brewers use of “mother” and “baby” to refer to the starting culture and the new culture produced in a new kombucha batch respectively! I really like the fact of getting a culture of bacteria and yeast, feeding it well (w/ sugar), housing it nicely (at room temperature), and then getting the culture to propagate by forming a new one -- it’s really neat! I do like this stuff; that is why I wrote my only published article on other critters (i.e. clean up of groundwater and soil contamination by microbes). Side note -- I really should have studied at least more biology!

Well, my first kombucha batch is now near the wood-stove (see photos) and we’ll see what happens in a week or so. Hopefully, I won’t kill the mother and will manage to get a baby for my next batch and/or a back-up for the future. Sweet… or better yet sweet, sour, and fizzy as kombucha is!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Deer Me!

Sunday morning at Stark Hollow...5 degrees above zero...very cold, but wonderfully sunny. We are working on our project list when four beautiful deer came to visit our bird feeders. Two doe with their babies. They stayed for about 1/2 hour and what a joy to watch them. One of the fawns decided she didn't want to share with a grey squirrel and kept stomping her hoof at him.

These are the mornings we love.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Introducing...Our Four Feathered Ladies..


For those of you who don't know we have 4 Black Star type chicken layers. Their names are Messy, Yellow Foot, Brown, and Baby. Here's a brief description of how each girl got her name:
  • Messy got her name because she's a messy eater. She manages to launch all her pellets, corn, or whatever else, all over, then picks the little that is left, and then looks up at you wondering where all the food has gone!
  • Yellow Foot really has yellow legs, but "foot" sounds better. Also, foot is appropriate as she's quick footed: she is very good at running into places where she shouldn't be going (e.g. the garage, under the deck, etc.). The other day, I went out to put the birds to bed; 3 of them were in their pen, but Yellow Foot was nowhere to be found. Finally after Pupper, our doggie, and I looked all over the woods, we heard Yellow Foot clucking loudly... she was under the deck in front of the main home entrance making holes!
  • Brown is simply named such because she has the most brown feathers around the neck. Also, she is Vanessa's buddy and Vanessa loves brown! Brown has come to be Vanessa's buddy first because she always comes out first in the morning, but also because she loves to remove Vanessa's hat or headlamp (and the headlamp ain't too light with batteries in it, but she's is always successful).
  • Last, but not least, is Baby who is the smallest, and we think, the youngest. She's very sweet and the first to submit, but as a result gets very nicely treated, even when it's late and Vanessa needs to go around the woods to herd the birds in their pen (I guess the birds must know the sheep will be coming as they seem to want Vanessa to practice her herding skill).
As you may know, the girls were not laying before we left for Italy, but now they all do -- 4 nice organic eggs each day. As a matter of fact, once of them lays almost daily a double yoke egg! Oh did I mention, Vanessa readjusted the winter location of the chicken pen and the wood pallets (photos are upcoming).

Well, enough about the birds; since we've gotten back Vanessa has being doing wood -- her 3.5' cross-cut saw has been wonderful... no gas, no machine, no noise, just muscle, the smell of fresh cut wood, and the sound of trees and ice (yeah well we're in VT, but i love winter). Laura has been snowboarding/skiing and "strategically"planning our farm -- she indicated last summer we need a strategic plan to determine financial needs, accounting, production, marketing, permits, etc. (well you know we're serious when we get an idea in our Leo's heads).

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Welcome to Stark Hollow Farm


Greetings from Laura & Vanessa, owners of Stark Hollow Farm. We have created this blog to explore the joys and challenges of creating a small, natural and sustainable farm in the small hamlet of Starksboro, Vermont. We welcome your comments and questions as you share our journey.