Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Simple Test

My MooseBoots journey has become stagnant.  I have been tired.  It seems like every time I turn around, I feel like I am running into a proverbial brick wall of exhaustion.  It has had me a bit concerned.  Lyme disease has become very common in my area.  And, while I have started reading Healing Lyme, I am not far enough into it to feel completely confident in my ability / knowledge to have to treat myself, or anyone else for that matter without substantial outside assistance from someone who has dealt with it.

Wendy has been investigating other possibilities.  She loves to research.  She came up with another possibility, Candida overgrowth.  I was not entirely convinced ... I had only ever heard of Candida in regards to "woman's issues".  I agreed, however, to perform the saliva test outlined on the previously linked page.  The test is simple enough and I figured I could, at least, try it.  What could it hurt?  So, this morning I performed the test and found, according to the page, that I likely had a Candida overgrowth.  It may not be a reliable diagnosis and does not necessarily rule out other possibilities. 

So, for the next month, I will be trying to stick to the documented Candida diet.  The funny part for me is that I was on the Atkins diet several years ago to lose a few pounds.  In fact, both diets recommend eating the things that my body seems to crave.  It is really the way I like to eat ... tons of fresh greens / salads, meat, cheese.  Because this diet worked so well for me, and it is the way I like to eat anyway, I see no reason not to give it a shot.  At worst, I will not feel any better and may consider getting tested.  At best, I will feel better and be healthier.  I do believe that there is a huge connection between feeling healthy and actually being healthy.

This all got me thinking, though.  What other simple tests are there out there, like this, to diagnose simple imbalances or conditions?  With my limited experience, I understand that Chinese medicine uses many simple observations to diagnose health issues and imbalances.  I do not know enough about Chinese medicine, but it all makes a lot of sense.  Stop.  Observe.  Assess.  Treat.  Of course, the Chinese do not limit the causes of medical problems to those we, in the Western World, do - problems are traditionally diagnosed by observing not only physical symptoms, but lifestyle and personal habits over a period of time.  It seems to me, in my limited knowledge and experience, to be a very complete, holistic approach to health care.  I firmly believe, for instance, that stress is a huge negative factor in our lives and level of health.  Modern, western medicine, for the most part, pays its impact mere lip service at best. 

I guess this all follows along with my philosophy of observe and learn.  It is certainly part of my journey along this MooseBoots path.  Perhaps, it is part of the wisdom that I must learn to complete my work in this life.  It definitely illustrates, yet again, how much more I have to learn.  I accept the learning with a grateful heart and a willing spirit.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Break In The Routine

Life is busy.  Wendy and I spend much of our time running around, much of which centers around the girls classes.  So, when we get a day to spend around the house, it seems like a blessing.  Perhaps, it is.  Today was one of those blessed days.  A day to work around the yard and prepare for the coming Winter.  It was really a freebie ... it should be cool, Fall-like, not 50-60F.

I decided that today was the day to get some of the chicken yard cleaned up.  The ducks and hens have left a 4-6" (10-15 cm) layer of waste on the ground.  So, I was mucking out the yard.  I took the opportunity to use this fertilizer to fill all of the garden bed ... some of which still needed to be cleaned out. 

As I worked around the yard, a friend arrived with a rooster for us to "put in the stock pot."  She and Wendy have been online friends for years, but had never met in person.  So, the rooster provided the impetus for the face-to-face visit.  We sat and talked for a while.  Then, I begged out and returned to work knowing that at some point we'd need to take care of the rooster.  Wendy and she had a nice visit.

He, immediately, went into his his dance ... dropping one wing and strutting in circles ... peddling his wares.  Having never seen this mating dance, I watched as he moved and swayed trying to attract the hens to his wiles.  The hens were not impressed in the least.  As a matter of fact, they began attacking him.  Eventually, he took the hint and wandered off to explore on his own.  I kept working.  He was beautiful.  He was also loud.

As I finished filling all of the garden beds, our visitor decided that it was time to go.  So, we all said goodbye.  No sooner had the dust cleared on the road, we started a pan of water to boiling.  We would need it for the rooster.  Neither Wendy Nor I had ever cleaned a chicken, but we were committed.  As the water neared boiling, it was time to begin.  As always, we held the chicken and talked to him, thanking him for the gift he was giving.

I decided ahead of time that I was going to try to break his neck by pulling his head and feet in opposite directions.  I think it worked, but we were not certain ... he did appear stunned at least.  We took the opportunity to use a knife to remove the head.  There was surprisingly little flapping and blood ...  we've all heard the horror stories.  We, then, plunged him into the hot water and began plucking.  Now, I have often heard how difficult this part is ... requiring a machine or hours to complete.  Really, it took 5-10 minutes at most.  Finally, we cut the feet off, and one wing to be used for shamanic purposes, and gut him.  It was not really much different than harvesting a rabbit.

Dinner was Wendy's famous chicken noodles, a family favorite.  It is a form of chicken noodle soup, using egg noodles which she makes from scratch with eggs, spices, and flour.  So, aside from the spices, the only ingredients we did not harvest was the flour.  That, we hope to remedy next year with acorns or cat-tail pollen or some such substitute.

While dinner cooked, I mowed the lawn.  After, I tried to start a basket using some of the grapevines I cut a few weeks ago.I have a long way to go in this endeavor.  I have decided that since the raspberry brambles have produced some lovely, tender young leaves, that I should harvest some of those for tea.  I'll need to do this sometime during the week.

Right now, I am sitting here, typing this, sipping some Birch Polypore / Japanese Knotweed tea.  If I am going to learn these things, I must use them.  And, I can't suggest anyone use something, if I haven't used it myself.  The tea is delicious ... we also harvested both of these.  The Earth is abundant and provides all we need, if we only look.  I am grateful to be given the opportunities to learn, and grow, in this knowledge and in these skills ... to travel this MooseBoots path.  It was a good day!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Is Better Than Apple Cider?

Wow!  Three weeks, or more, sure fly by.  I'd like to say that I have been doing great things and learning amazing new skills.  But, alas, I have fallen prey to the "REAL" world.  During these times, I often lament my lack of connection, or time to connect.  I feel in a very real way the loss.  Wendy probably gets tired of the moaning and wailing about the stagnation of my MooseBoots wanderings.

My last few posts were about cider.  At that point, several other people were also talking about making cider - murphyfish and Julie specifically.  I was asked to post about my process to compare notes.  I am flattered that people are interested.  Of course, you might imagine, if you've been to this blog with any regularity, my process tends to be very simply and natural - at least as much as I can make it in the given time, with the resources, available.

The Gathering
This year, we foraged all of the apples we used for cider.  This is not always the case.  In past years, we have purchased unpasturized sweet cider and we have purchased apples for juicing.  This year, we were cognizant of the generosity of the Earth Mother.  Everywhere we went, we saw apple trees untended and unappreciated.  We are so grateful.  On the drive to the girls's dance classes each week, we counted no less than a dozen trees along the roadsides.  When we stopped at the local drop point for Goodwill, we noticed a few trees in a public park.  During our nature class, we noticed several apples trees in a local river sanctuary.  We noted them as we saw them. 

I mentioned, in another post, that Wendy and I foraged 33 lbs (16 kg) of apples.  After that, we were told of some other trees in a local adult community where the apples needed to be picked because they were simply falling on the ground and rotting.  Wendy, the girls, and I went and within 15 minutes had foraged another 45 lbs (22 kg) of lovely (not perfect, but lovely), sweet  red apples.  And, while we were helping the dance studio owner move some wood (which we were given - bonus), we noticed her apple trees were dropping apples like crazy.  The deer sign was incredible.  We picked her a large bag of apples as well as 14 lbs (7 kg) for ourselves.  If you are counting, that is roughly 92 lbs (46 kg) if apples foraged for FREE.  These were apples that were going to drop and rot.  We estimated afterwards that we could easily forage 250-400 lb (125-200 kg) of apples in a year, if we are careful to pick these as they ripen (we missed some of the earlier apples).

This year, we juiced the apples with a juicer.  We found one on e-bay from a local vendor for $35.
No, it did not come with the oranges - this is about apple cider.  I was sent a few cool links about juicing.  Google "washing machine apple cider" on youtube.  I did talk about making a press from a car jack, but never got to it.  So ... smash ... it is juice.  The juicer yielded about 2.5 gallons (10 liters) of juice per 45 lbs (22 kg) of apples.

So, you've come to the crux of my secret exilir.  I share this hesitantly ... it is my secret recipe. 

OK ... ready.

I add enough sugar to get to 7-10% alcohol as measured with a triple scale hydrometer.  The last batch of apples, the one with the lovely red ones, was 7% without any sugar ... just the apples.  I have made it as strong as 14% and as weak as 4%.  This, I pour into the fermentation bucket.  Then, I add the yeast ... I have typically just use Munton's ale yeast

Here's the secret bit ....

Then, I cover it and shove an air lock into the lid.  Really ... not so exciting is it?!  I then let the cider ferment for a week or so ... until it stops bubbling.

Racking It Up ... er, Off
When the cider stops bubbling, I will rack it off into a carboy.  This, I let sit for months ... until it is a clear as I want it.  When I am satisfied, I will bottle it adding 1 tsp of sugar to each 1 liter bottle.  The sugar will feed any remianing yeast and carbonate the cider.  It is optional.  Then, I let it sit ... for months.  Each of the bottles is typically 6 months old before I drink it.

I don't think I will be winning any contests with it, but it is good cider.  Wendy and I enjoy it.  Isn't that all that really matters.  As you can tell, most of the steps is subject to your own likings or whims.  Make it as strong as you like ... let it sit as long as you like ... make it fizzy, or not ... enjoy!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, this last batch of cider cost me, including yeast and electricity for the juicer, $1.30. After the initial investment for bottles and brewing equipment, this hobby can be very inexpensive, yet rewarding.

In this, as with everything else, I find that there is really no wrong answer ... only learning opportunities.  This MooseBoots journey is amazingly simple and flexible.  Thank you, Great Spirit / Creator, for your gifts.