The City Girl Farmer


Brewing Beer for the Incurably Lazy
June 25, 2014, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Food & Drink | Tags: , ,

Not long ago I read a rant by someone who was (rightly) complaining about the poor quality of the ingredients you find in store-bought beer. I thought I would post how I brew my beer so that people could see how simple it really is. It’s also cheaper!

The beer I brew, which is about as complicated as baking bread or a batch of cookies, easily rivals the more expensive beers you can buy in the store. So here we go!

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Start with fresh water

I got my recipe from the people at the store where I buy my ingredients. I start with fresh water.  I add 4 cups of rolled barley (I buy organic barley in bulk) to a sock that acts like a tea bag. Then I steep the barley in water that is almost boiling for 30 minutes. Once I have this started, I get out the yeast so that I can bring it to room temperature and I clean and disinfect the primary fermenter.

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Barley “tea”

Brewing beer is similar to making cheese. You must make sure your utensils are extremely clean so that you don’t introduce unwanted yeast or bacteria to your product. Just so you know, the worst that can happen is that you spend money brewing a batch of bad beer. To my knowledge, no one has suffered from food poisoning from a bad batch of beer. You do suffer a financial loss, though, something I think we all want to avoid.

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Ingredients for beer

In addition to water, these are the only ingredients you need to successfully brew a good batch of beer:  yeast, grains (in this case, barley), a malt extract, corn sugar that you will use later, right before you bottle your beer, and hops.

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Cleaning & disinfecting the primary fermenter

After you have cleaned and disinfected your primary fermenter and steeped  the barley, the next step is to add the malt extract and hops to the barley “tea” and boil your wort. Depending on the recipe, different types of hops are added at different points during the period where your wort is boiling.

When this is finished, you need to cool your wort to room temperature by putting it in an ice water bath so that you can add the yeast without killing it. Just so you know, I have added yeast to wort that was as warm as 95° Fahrenheit and the beer did not suffer. I was just too impatient to wait for it to come down to the prescribed 70° Fahrenheit.

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Primary fermentation has begun

After the wort is cooled, I add more cold water so that the batch comes up to 5 gallons. I then add the yeast, give it a good stir and put the fermentation lock on top of the lid of the primary fermenter. This allows gas to escape without letting wild yeast into your brew. Now I just sit back and wait for it to ferment a little while. In about week, I will move the beer into the secondary fermenter. It will ferment for about a week longer before I bottle it. I’ll post another article on the racking and bottling process.

For those of you who are interested in getting started brewing your own beer, you can purchase everything you need for around $150. Each successive batch costs me between $30 and $50 for a five gallon batch, roughly equal to the amount of beer in two cases.

Brewing beer can be much more complicated than the process I have outlined here. A real food purist might want to grow his own hops. He might want to make his own malt extract instead of having it done for him, sort of like baking a cake from scratch instead of using a mix. He might want to experiment with different grains, different yeasts, different brewing processes.  But if you are incurably lazy like I am, you can brew really tasty beer with very little effort.

And for my Catholic friends who prefer to drink blessed beer, here is a link to a blessing for beer.😀



Gardening for the Incurably Lazy
June 10, 2014, 11:49 am
Filed under: Garden | Tags: , , ,
Strawberries in the east garden

Strawberries in the east garden

I am writing this post with the intent to give hope to other amateur gardeners.  This is probably the worst gardening year I have ever had.  I have completely lacked enthusiasm, the weather hasn’t been too cooperative, weeds are starting to get out of control and whatever I have planted has gone in late.

A couple of years ago, a fellow gardener donated some extra strawberries from his garden to me.  I received them in a 5 gallon bucket and dutifully put them in the ground in the garden on the east side of our property near the house.  I love fresh strawberries and I hate weeds and I thought this would be the perfect way to have my cake and eat it too.  They are thriving despite the rather brutal weather conditions we’ve had here:  wind and frigid temperatures in the winter and drought in the summer.

At the time I planted these, there were  five scraggly plants at the bottom of the bucket that I didn’t have the heart to throw away, so I threw them into our south garden in an empty spot without much hope they would survive.  Out of the five, only one made it, but here is what it looked like this morning.

Strawberries and weeds

Strawberries and weeds

 

Look at what that one pathetic plant has turned into!  It is now a force the weeds must reckon with!  I must confess that I share this picture with shame.  This garden has been seriously neglected.  On the other hand, it has been interesting to observe just how productive it is with absolutely no help from me.  This is the second year that we have had volunteer lettuce and chives.  I think I’ve put about an hour’s worth of weeding in this year, just to give the lettuce a little room.

Volunteer lettuce and chives

Volunteer lettuce and chives

 

So, I have discovered that with almost no effort, I will have lettuce and chives from my garden this year, that because the strawberries are taking over, I won’t need to weed as much, and that the weeds which used to be the bane of my garden have now yielded to a new ground cover yielding delicious surprises.  Moral of the story?  You may give up on your garden, but it may not give up on you!

Hidden surprise

Hidden surprise



Chick Season
May 21, 2014, 10:47 am
Filed under: Chickens
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Partridge Cochin chick

It’s hard to feel bad when you’re holding a chick.



Cow Shares Available Now!
February 8, 2013, 2:57 pm
Filed under: Cows, Raw milk | Tags: , , , ,
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Heifer calf born November 3rd

Well, we have decided to take the dive and do a cow share program at City Girl Farm.  I have been hesitant because we only have Tiddles, our family cow, not a herd of dairy cattle.  That makes the risk for the shareholders a little higher since if something were to go wrong and her lactation ended, there aren’t other cows there to take over.  On the other hand she produces what a herd of 5 or 6 goats produce so there is plenty of milk!  Plus, nothing beats fresh Jersey milk.  It’s the best!  But my children are getting older (one is gone half the time) and we just can’t drink enough milk, make enough cheese, butter and yogurt to keep up with what she produces after having calved in November.

I also see I owe an apology to the people who followed me for having fallen of the planet the last year.  For those of you who care, here are my (pathetic) excuses:

  • lost one farm hand to school and then to work
  • lost another farm hand to a European vacation last summer
  • attended sacred music training last summer
  • became the choir director at my church

Ah!  I fear I will always be torn between the city and the farm.  Glad to be back, though.🙂



We Want Results!

My last two posts have been about my quest for health and the latest crazy ideas I have come across in that quest.  Well, I thought you’d like to have the nitty-gritty on how it has worked for me.  So here are the details.  I began the T-Tapp More 10-Day boot camp on January 13, 2012.  On that day, I weighed 172.6 lbs according to my very high-tech scale.  Measurements were as follows:

  • Bust: 41″
  • Pecs (around chest above bust, under armpits): 40″
  • Ribs (under bust):  36 1/2″
  • Waist:  36″
  • Abdomen (fattest part of belly above hips):  42 1/2″
  • Hips:  45 1/2″
  • Upper thighs:  28″
  • Lower thighs (2″ above kneecap):  18 1/2″
  • Calves:  15″
  • Upper arms:  13″

Just so you know, I did not execute this plan perfectly.  Life happens and there were a couple of days where I only did the abdomen toning routine for about….uh….5 minutes.  I never made up any exercise I missed.  Early in the second week of February I caught some sort of intestinal virus that had me in bed, close to a toilet.  I did not exercise at all for the two days I was in bed and for about 3 days afterwards I took it very easy and did not finish the 20 minute workout.  After the 10 day boot camp, I followed the plan and with a few exceptions did the 20 minute workout every other day.  Five weeks later I weighed 173.8 lbs. (gasp! I gained a pound!) and here are my measurements:

  • Bust:  41 1/2 (Woohoo!  Gained a half-inch!)
  • Pecs:  37″  (Happy dance!  Back fat going away)
  • Ribs: 36″
  • Waist:  35 1/2″
  • Abdomen:  40″ (Another happy dance!  Belly fat going away!)
  • Hips:  44″
  • Upper thighs:  27 1/2″
  • Lower thighs:  17 1/2″
  • Calves:  15″
  • Upper arms:  12″

So while I am not yet ready to be seen in a swimsuit, I find these results amazing.  But it doesn’t end there.  While I was in bed with the flu, I was reading Matt Stone’s 180 Degree Metabolism and decided that as soon as I was ready to eat anything again, I was going to start his Rehabilitative Rest and Re-Feeding program (affectionately known as RRARF).   It took me three days to be able to really start over feeding myself, but since then I have been eating 2 to 2 1/2 times what I normally eat and drinking things like this coconut cream concoction, which is essentially a fat bomb sweetened with about a half teaspoon of honey to make it taste like a dessert.

Rachel drinking coconut cream

Now I have never had anything against fat and have always considered butter, cream, cheese and a big juicy rib eye steak proof of the existence of a loving God.  But this has been just the most fun experiment, challenging myself to eat as many of the forbidden foods as I can!   I figured I was so fat that I really didn’t have anything to lose (no, the irony of that statement was not lost on me) so I went all out.  I was absolutely convinced that I had finally found the cause of my weight problem.  It was caused by a slow metabolism as the graph below will attest.

Basal temperatures from 2/7 to 2/19

(I am realizing as I check the preview on my blog that the numbers are so small you can’t see them, so the bottom number is 95.0 F. and the top number is 98.0 F, the goal.)  So I have been eating as much as I can of proteins, carbohydrates and fat and I feel great.  As you can see, my body responded immediately and there is a steady upward trend.  Digestion is great and energy is better.  I have been resting a lot.  Naps are an almost every day occurrence.  I’m doing the T-Tapp More DVD for 20 minutes every other day and finding that it fits in very well with RRARF.  Exercising too vigorously while your metabolism is low is counter-productive.  I’m treating myself as if I were my own patient or as if my body were my child.  The challenge has been letting go other things to find the time to make LOTS of good food and to rest but I really couldn’t be happier with the results.  (Well, actually I could but this is real life.)



Dieting Steals Your Life

continued from A Little Bunny Trail

One of the people who was on the T-Tapp forums had found a site called 180 Degree Health. I recognized the name as one of my Twitter followers and decided to explore since I had been so pleased with my T-Tapp results. What I discovered there has totally blown my mind and I believe has brought me to the answer to my weight issues. (Pardon the drama!)

I ordered Matt Stone’s ebook, 180 Degree Metabolism, and couldn’t put it down. He exposed the diet syndrome that so many of us are familiar with: we eat less, exercise more, lose weight to a point, find the diet unsustainable for any number of reasons, go off the diet and regain the weight and then some. The thesis of this book is that we have abused our bodies by dieting and exercising to the point where we are literally starving at the cellular level. We have killed our metabolism. Our bodies are constantly trying to cope with various types of deprivation. Maybe we don’t eat enough. Maybe we don’t eat the right things. Maybe we decide it’s a good idea to be a vegan and train for a marathon. Maybe we decide carbs are bad and stop eating them. Maybe we decide fat is bad and stop eating it. Maybe we eat too much junk. Maybe we don’t sleep enough. It really doesn’t matter what the abuse is. Eventually our bodies just can’t take it any more and they go into serious conservation mode. Body temperature drops, lean muscle is gladly sacrificed as it requires more energy to maintain and fat is added/retained to accomodate the erratic supply of nutrients.

The solution? FEED YOUR BODY! Really feed it. Three times a day with the best food you can find that contains ALL the macronutrients. There are no “bad” food groups. Eat just past where you are full. Get rest (don’t exercise too much) too, and spend time doing the things you love. By doing this until your basal temperature rises to between 97.8 and 98.2 first thing in the morning, you are reassuring your body that you will give it everything it needs to survive. Theoretically, your body believes you eventually and voluntarily builds lean muscle and lets the fat go, all while eating all the healthy food you want. Isn’t that good news??

That was great news and made total sense to me. What really got me, though, was some of his observations about the dieting mentality. We believe that our lives will be better if we are thin and beautiful and so we fall into the trap of chasing that at the expense of so many more important things. We visit our friends and all we talk about is what we can and can’t eat based on the latest new idea about how we can achieve that elusive goal. We deprive ourselves of the joy of eating good food and in the process starve ourselves not just of food, but of joy. Additionally, we manage to serve ourselves up a long list of maladies such as a lack of energy, cold hands and feet, hair that falls out, skin that dries out, digestive problems, depressed immune systems, degenerative diseases and the list goes on and on.

This got me to thinking about a series of discussions I had had with my teenage daughter. I warned her about how there was a grave evil in the world, this impossible beauty that we chase so desperately that drives us to do the most self-destructive things. I told her that our culture would do everything it could to make her think there was something wrong with how she looked and to beware. We watched this video together. I apologized to her for setting a bad example in the past by a vain obsession with my weight and looks. By the time we watched that video I had already sworn off dieting for three years but what I didn’t realize was that the dieting mentality is like a stubborn weed. It is very hard to root out once it has taken hold.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, I was never a skinny kid. My mother put me on my first diet when I was nine years old. I dieted in my teens, twenties, thirties and forties. My training began early and I spent the vast majority of my life involved in chasing a very dangerous dream. In case you don’t know, here are the statistics on Eating Disorders:

Over one person’s lifetime, at least 50,000 individuals will die as a direct result of their eating disorder. Without treatment, up to twenty percent (20%) of people with serious eating disorders die. With treatment, that number falls to two to three percent (2-3%). Eating Disorders affect a large number of people in the United States.

The statistics state that:

* Approximately 7 million girls and women struggle with eating disorders
* Approximately 1 million boys and men struggle with eating disorders

Amount of people affected by specific eating disorders:

* 0.5% – 3.7% of females suffer from Anorexia Nervosa in their lifetime
* 1.1% – 4.2% of females suffer from Bulimia Nervosa in their lifetime
* 2% – 5% of the American population experience Binge Eating Disorder
* 10%-25% of all those battling anorexia will die as a direct result of the eating disorder
* Up to 19% of college aged women in America are bulimic Age at onset of an eating disorder:
* 10% report onset at 10 years or younger
* 33% report onset between ages of 11-15
* 43% report onset between ages of 16-20
* 86% report onset of illness by the age of 20

College
* As many as 10% of college women suffer from a clinical or nearly clinical eating disorder, including 5.1% who suffer from bulimia nervosa
* Studies indicate that by their first year of college, 4.5 to 18% of women and 0.4% of men have a history of bulimia and that as many as 1% of females between the ages of 12 and 18 have anorexia

With treatment, about sixty percent (60%) of people with eating disorders recover. In spite of treatment, about twenty percent (20%) of people with eating disorders make only partial recoveries. The remaining twenty percent (20%) do not improve, even with treatment.

Source: The National Institute of Mental Health, National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Matt Stone identifies the dieting mentality as a “gateway drug” to eating disorders. Interesting. I started thinking about how I was a chronic meal skipper. And worse, often a barely perceptible sense of pride accompanied the skipping as if I were doing something noble and heroic by not feeding myself. If I happened to do anything physically demanding AND skipped a meal (or meals), the sense of pride was magnified. And do you know what’s really interesting? When I saw doctors and other health care practitioners they always asked if I ate a good diet. Since 2005 I could always answer with a proud “yes”. But no one ever asked me if I was eating enough good food.

So I am beginning to realize that even though I had the wisdom to warn my daughter about our evil culture, I still suffer from a distorted mentality about food, weight and beauty myself. I am angry about that and I intend to fight it for the sake of my health, for all the women out there who never feel beautiful and for all the beautiful people out there who happen to be trapped in fat bodies.

Matt Stone ended his book with a plea to consider a life free from obsession about weight. He cited the case of IZ (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole). For those of you who may not know, IZ was a Hawaiian muscician. He died in 1997 from complications resulting from his obesity. At one point he was up to 757 lbs. As of this writing his official Youtube of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” has received 64,245,681 hits. (That last one was me. I watched it again. :)) Matt observed what a waste IZ’ life would have been had he obsessed about his weight instead of music. IZ has been dead for 15 years. YouTube didn’t even exist while he was alive. Now that’s a legacy!

So I guess the question beyond diet and exercise is what am I going to do to pursue a meaningful life, instead of chasing an illusion to satisfy my vanity and destroying myself and wasting my life in the process?

Answer?  For starters, I’m going to eat lots and lots of really good food and forget about it. Hopefully for good this time.



A Little Bunny Trail
February 11, 2012, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Health & Nutrition | Tags: , , , , , ,

We originally decided that we wanted a little bit of land so that I could raise cashmere goats and pursue my spinning hobby. In the four years that we have been here that vision has changed. I saw this beautiful barn and all those acres and ideas of what we could do began to just pour into my mind. We still have goats and I still enjoy spinning but when we got here we realized we could do so much more and so began City Girl Farm.

I have always enjoyed gardening, cooking and eating and I always found the idea of self-sufficiency very intriguing. So we expanded. We added chickens, a dairy cow and an organic garden. But there was a secret motive behind all this that I want to share with you in this little bunny trail.

I had a health challenge that began in the fall of 2005 when I had a miscarriage. I have never been thin and before that I had dieted periodically in an attempt to maintain a reasonable weight with a reasonable amount of success. After that happened, I found myself unable to lose the weight I had gained during the few months I had been pregnant. At the time, I had a membership at Curves and I was on their diet and religiously working out for 45 minutes four days a week. To my horror, not only was I not losing weight, but I was continuing to gain weight despite my heroic efforts. I went from a pre-pregnancy weight of 145 lbs. to a whopping 182 lbs. in a year. I was miserable.

A friend of mine referred me to her chiropractor and he told me I was suffering from adrenal fatigue and that I needed to stop exercising immediately and take a nap for an hour each day—not sit and knit for an hour, not read for an hour—close my eyes and take a nap. If I couldn’t sleep, I was to just lie there with my eyes closed for an hour. I could walk for a half hour each day or do some yoga if I felt I needed to exercise. This was not an easy discipline to maintain as I was home schooling and trying to run a busy household at the time. And since I didn’t get immediate, dramatic results I quit going to the chiropractor and kept looking for what could possibly be causing this intractable weight gain.

During this time I discovered the Weston A. Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola and I learned about how important it was to eat organically grown, nutrient dense, “real” food. People reported that making these changes in their diets had resulted in dramatic health improvements, including effortless weight loss. So I made the change, hoping that it would do something for me. I found a source for raw milk and started buying organic produce and my weight didn’t budge. I went to the doctor thinking that maybe I was yet another victim of peri-menopausal hormone imbalance. All my test results were normal, but after having me record my axillary temperature first thing in the morning for 10 days, he determined that I was hypothyroid. He put me on thyroid medication which I took for about 6 months before I felt my thyroid kick back in and I went off of it. During all that time I lost less than 10 lbs.

After that, I decided to give acupuncture a try and it worked. I began going once a week early in 2008 and at the end of the year I was down 25 lbs. I continued into 2009 and got down to 150 lbs. before I stopped going. I felt I was just too busy and I was happy to be back in a size 10. But in the fall of 2010, the weight started to come back again and by the end of last year I was wearing a size 16.

Now I am a woman of a “certain age” and not as vain as I was when I was younger. I had made peace with the idea that I might just be a plump grandmother when the time came. But the real problem, aside from the plain discomfort of carrying around all that extra weight, was that I was losing my joie de vivre. I didn’t care about anything anymore. The smallest task seemed like a huge chore and my son remarked that I didn’t seem like the happy, passionate-about-everything mother he had known and loved.

I decided he was right and in the back of my mind something whispered that I might be hypothyroid again. I determined that what was missing in my health plan was exercise and I started to discuss this with a friend of mine who is a nurse. She agreed with me that I had several symptoms of hypothyroidism and that I should see my doctor and get tested. As I was procrastinating doing just that, I came across a book called The Menopause Thyroid Solution by Mary J. Shomon and I thought, “That’s it!” I bought the book and started to read. It had a lot of great information (although there were some things with which I disagreed or felt didn’t pertain to me) and a particularly intriguing part about exercise, which is where I felt I was deficient.

I have a theory about health. I believe that if you give the human body what it needs, good food, rest and exercise, that it will naturally heal itself and function well until the day it dies. I determined that of those three pillars of health, exercise was where I needed to focus. So I ordered the program recommended in Shomon’s book, T-Tapp More. It arrived on January 9th this year and I got started. Within the first 10 days, I had lost 3″ off my lower abdomen and could get into some size 14 jeans. (I lost inches everywhere else, too, but nothing quite as dramatic as that measurement.) Those are the kind of results that speak to me. After the first 10 days of what Theresa Tapp refers to as “boot camp”, you do the exercises every other day for 20 minutes for five weeks and then back down to 2-3 times a week. Fearing that wasn’t a sufficient amount of exercise, I went on to her forums and started snooping around and that was when my eyes were REALLY opened.

To be continued….