This week I decided to try my hand making coconut yogurt AND coconut water kefir with young coconuts. If you are unfamiliar with young coconuts they are the white coconuts you often see in health food stores, not the mature brown ones that usually taste nasty (IMO at least). This yogurt is a raw food dish and it is nice for an occasional treat.
I started by cracking three of them open. Actually my husband did that part. He drained the coconut water as he opened them and reserved it in a bowl. I then scooped out the meat of the coconuts and tried to keep the brownish skin on the other side of it from coming with it too much. I ended up with a fair amount of meat from just 3 coconuts.
I added the meat, a cup or so of the coconut water, and a Tablespoon of commercial coconut yogurt from Whole Foods, to my Vita-Mix and blended well to make milk. I didn’t heat this mixture at all, just let it warm a bit by letting the blender run. Afterwards I poured it into the pint jars of my yogurt maker. This machine just keeps the jars warm so that the beneficial bacteria can work and create yogurt. I had enough for 3 of the jars.
After 15ish hours I removed them and put them in the frig. The yogurt is quite tasty although my husband prefers the sweet taste of the milk without the added fermentation. I admit that it is quite delish both ways. In fact I think this would be an excellent pie filling. Just make a pie crust from raw nuts and dried dates and then fill with coconut milk or coconut yogurt, top with some sliced fruit like Kiwi or strawberries, and you have a raw pie for dessert. I also imagine that we will eat coconut milk ice cream, frozen coconut yogurt, and coconut Popsicles this summer.
I have been eating a ramekin full most mornings with a little dollop of lemon curd made with pastured eggs, honey, and coconut oil.
The water from the coconuts went straight into a quart size ball jar with some water kefir grains. The coconut water has natural sugars that the kefir will chow down on. After 15 hours it was tangy and slightly fizzy and it went straight into a glass pitcher destined for the frig. LOVE these pitchers for kefir and juice!
And my fave way to use up the coconut water kefir? Green Smoothies of course!
Oh and we used the top of the coconuts for soap dishes and the remaining shells will be used for planters!
January and February in this house means lots of garden planning. Last month the Worm Factory was set up to compost for us and this past week a small greenhouse went up. We are now itching to get to auctions and estate sales so we can grab up planters and to get seedlings going in the meantime. We have tons of heirloom seeds and lots of dreams AND fortunately for us our kids get just as excited about growing things as we do. They all want to help because a garden is magical.
Childhood is a time of curiosity, exploration, and adventure. A garden of is one of those great mysteries of life that can bring wonderment and joy to our kids and it is such an educational experience for them. Not only are they able to have a hand in bringing forth new life, kids benefit from being involved in an outdoor activity that enhances their health and their appreciation for the natural environment and how we need to cultivate it.
But not every parents loves to garden or even knows much about it. So what do you do? Well, start small. If you start big and take on more than you can handle you will fail and never want to try again. When planning your first garden I always recommend you choose one or two crops that you can grow at home in small rows or even containers. Strawberries and tomatoes are two good options. But how do you get kids excited about gardening? Here are a few ways:
Read Gardening Books
There are many children’s books on the market that incorporate gardening and child gardeners. What better way to get kids excited than for them to hear about other children and their grand gardening adventures.
One of our favorites is The Curious Gardener. It is about a little boy living an industrialized city who finds a small tree growing near some abandoned train tracks. From that humble starting place he creates a grand garden that motivates the entire city to jump on the gardening bandwagon.
Earth Tales gives children a global perspective as it shows many cultures come together with the goal of caring for their local environment and growing food. It also has several crafts for kids, like making a corn husk dolly.
Sunflower Houses – LOVE this book!! You can use sunflowers to create a playhouse. Once the sunflowers grow to almost full height you take string and tie the tops together to form a “roof” then morning glories can be grown up the sunflowers until they reach the string and fill in the roof. The whole concept is outlined in this amazing book. Another winner is Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots.
Apple Pip Princess – The story is about a sad King whose land and heart have been barren ever since the death of his beloved wife. Concerned about the future of his kingdom he challenges his three daughters to do something important to make their mark and after 7 days the King will see what they have accomplished and decide who the next ruler will be. The youngest daughter decides to use a magical Apple Pip seed from her mother as the basis of her plan.
Plan a Children’s Garden
Make a rainbow! Have the kids help you pick out flowers or herbs in the 6 different rainbow colors… red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Plant them in curving rows with gravel, pavers, river rocks between each row. When they bloom you will have a rainbow!
Grow a functional very fun, Pizza Patch. Carve out a circular section for this one and divide it into sections or slices. In each section grow a different pizza ingredient like tomatoes, garlic, onions, oregano, basil, rosemary, etc. When harvest time comes go out together and gather your ingredients and make pizza from scratch together.
Build a garden tee-pee. This is similar to the sunflower house in concept. You put wooden poles in the ground and angle them to form a tee-pee, tying them together at the top. Make sure it is big enough for kids to pay inside. Then plant vines like morning glories, beans, or gourds so that the walls will fill in with vegetation. Guide the vines at first to make sure that an entrance is left open for little bodies to crawl through.
Create a fairy garden. This can be done indoors or out. For the outdoors, use twigs and sticks that have fallen from nearby trees to make fairy houses and furniture. Use tempera paints to give them color and texture. You can even use hollow nuts to make little boats and beds for them. For the indoors you can make a moss garden in a wide mouth pot or tray and if your kids have fairy dolls or gnomes this can be their new home. There are even complete kits that you can buy to make these easy.
Garden Equipment for Kids
Children love to have their own tools. It really makes them feel like an important member of the family gardening team. There are plenty of children’s tools on the market, like this ToySmith Garden Tote with Tools. You can also scope out thrift stores, and yard sales to find regular tools and then personalize them with a fresh coat of paint in your child’s favorite color.
Play a Game
There are some board games on the market that have a garden/farming theme. Playing these on winter or rainy days will be educational and motivating. Our faves include:
Wildcraft – An herbal adventure games that helps the family to identify herbs and pinpoint their medicinal value.
The Farming Game – My daughter adores this game and requests it VERY frequently, LOL. The gameboard is a working farm, with fields full of produce. Kids harvest the food to sell at their fruit stand. The player who gets to the Fruit Stand with the most produce that wins the game!
The Yoga Garden Game – A cooperative game where the objective is to plant a flower garden before night falls. As players move the bumblebee marker around the board, they learn classic yoga postures, as well as have the chance to invent their own!
Over the past two days I have enjoyed the rainy, dreary weather by cuddling up in bed with a thick blanket and a good book. Of course I did take some time outs to spend time with family, which is probably why I was up well past midnight reading last night. I really didn’t want to leave this book until it was finished, which is kind of a rarity with me. The book is The Dirty Life – On Farming, Food, and Love.
It follows along on the real life adventure of Kristin Kimball who was a writer working in NYC. She took an assignment in PA interviewing a young farmer who was running a CSA, local food operation. The interview was quite hard to get because she was put to work as soon as she walked onto the farm but she ended up being smitten by the gentleman farmer (Mark) and by his vision. Fast forward a little while later and they are engaged and moving to a ramshackle farm in upper New York. Mark’s vision is to create a farm where they provide everything their members need… milk, eggs, cheese, grains, maple syrup, honey, beans, herbs, flours, fruits, veggies, and meat (beef, pork, chicken). It was to be a very ambitious “whole diet” CSA. The price tag per person would $2900. Oh and instead of tractors and machinery they would use draft horses only.
Their journey was so engrossing and my goodness if anyone has romantic ideas about farming this book will put that to rest. It is VERY HARD work and while there were numerous moments of elation and satisfaction there were also numerous mishaps and sad moments. I felt exhausted emotionally just reading all of it!
The book really gave me a lot to think about. I have always wanted to start or be part of an eco village where we raised all of our own food. My husband always looked at me like I was nuts but in the past year he has been bringing up “his” idea of a commune where a small group of folks all live on the same large property, work together, share bio vehicles, grow food, raise livestock, etc. Uh..huh.. passing off my dream as his idea, LOL. He should read this book to get an idea of what is involved.
I really felt as though I was a part of a grand journey while reading and was deeply invested in getting the rat problem under control for instance. I was also devastated when an injury and old age claimed their original two draft horses. I was bawling my eyes out. It also made me face up to my discomfort with the idea of raising animals to eat. I am all over the place with that one. I always said I might eat meat again if I had a hand in caring for it because my aversion to meat is more related to health and my disdain for factory farming. After reading this I am confused again because it was a very graphic and candid look at what that entails. But on the flip side the way author describes the luxurious taste of liver makes it sounds almost orgasmic.
I was also less than thrilled with the hard work their draft horses had to do. It got me thinking that maybe I am a big weanie who just doesn’t understand the life of work animals. While growing up my grandfather had cattle dogs but no cattle and he had cutting horses but again no cattle with which to work these animals unless he was at a horse show. The work animals rarely had to work. I was literally biting my nails off when I read along as the draft horses got spooked and tore off down the road and Kimball was anticipating finding them dead or badly injured. Oh yes, I am a HUGE weanie. This type of stuff makes me ill to think about… animals hurting.
Anyway I LOVED the book and the way I got to take a peek inside the life of another and come to feel as though I knew them. This book has some great writing. The only thing I felt it needed was pictures. LOTS of pictures of their home, their farm, and all the people they spoke of in the book.
Below is a video put out by the publisher and gives us a peek at the author and a day in her life. Enjoy!
The level of toxic chemicals in baby furniture is shocking. Sadly, most cribs on the market today are made of engineered woods like MDF and particleboard that contain formaldehyde and VOC-laden finishes. With newborns typically spending up to 16 hours a day sleeping, shopping for a safe crib is essential.
What Should You Look For?
Eco-friendly cribs can be found online and in major stores. When shopping for a crib, look for one that’s:
Made of solid hardwood like maple
Finished with non-toxic finishes
Held together with non-toxic glues
Styles to Meet Every Taste
Green doesn’t have to mean ugly unfinished wood swimming in beige. Today’s eco-friendly cribs come in a wide variety of styles to suit every taste and budget. Here are some of my favorites:
I love the sleek lines and ultra-bold color choices of the Caravan Crib from Kalon Studios. It’s available in 100% raw maple with black, red, yellow, blue or green rails.
OK, I have to say that it looks a little like a fish tank to me, but it’s still cool. The durable half-inch, BPA-free, phthalate free, 100% recyclable clear acrylic front on the Roh crib from Spot On Square gives your baby a true “room with a view.”
Love the Muu panel system! Customize the crib to suit your taste and easily change the panel out if you decide to update your décor. A magnet system securely holds each MuuPanel in place but allows it to be easily replaced in seconds; no tools necessary. First child a boy and second one a girl? Switch the panel instead of buying a new piece of furniture—another eco-friendly feature!
The podcot is a cozy cocoon-shaped crib that’s thoroughly modern and easily converts into a toddler bed. I love the unique rounded appearance.
The Duc Duc Cabana Crib. I remember dreaming of having my very own canopy bed when I was a little girl. Why not start your little one off right with this dreamy canopy crib?
The Dakota collection is the first Graco baby furniture to be eco friendly. Selling at stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, it’s also one of the first green cribs that’s truly affordable.
Celery’s Lullaboo line of furniture includes this crib made from bamboo and low-VOC paint and finishes. It has adjustable supports that extend the sleeping platform as your baby grow. You can even swap out one of the end panels for a chalkboard. How clever is that?
The Solare crib from Q Collection is made of 100% locally-sourced solid ash and bentwood construction. Handmade in the USA, it was selected by treehugger.com as their “dark green” selection for new parents. My favorite part—the built in mobiles at each end.