Thursday, April 6, 2017

Make Your Own Ginger Ale

Recently I have learned to make my own SCOBY so I have an endless supply of kombucha around the house. But even more recently, I've opted for home brewed ginger ale made from ginger bug. One of our goals in our plan to move off grid, build a small home and homestead is to learn to be more self-reliant. So this is just another step towards our dream; a tasty step.

And I'm not talking about the sugar loaded ginger ale you buy at the grocery store, I'm talking about the real stuff. The probiotic, wild yeast, fermented soda that actually has health benefits, ya'll! It even tastes better than the stuff that comes in green tinted bottles.

Health Benefits of Ginger!


Ginger has many health benefits when it isn't even fermented! It can reduce nausea, gas and inflammation, fight bad breath bacteria, aids in weight loss, clears skin, improves circulation, fights infections, and can relax muscle cramps! And, when ginger is fermented into a probiotic ginger bug, the health benefits just get better!

How Make Ginger Ale!


Before you get started, you'll need a healthy ginger bug. Don't fret, here is a link to make your own! You can also check out #thepetiteplantationgingerbug on Instagram if you need additional help or tips! Once it is bubbly and active, you are all set to make your own ginger ale!

I make my ginger ale in two parts, hot and cold, so I don't kill the ginger bug's bacteria. Otherwise, you could end up with a ginger.... juice! 

Measure out 8 cups of water and let it sit on the counter for an hour to de-chlorinate. If you don't have chlorine in your water, skip this step! 

Now let's get started! Place 3 cups of water, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of minced ginger into a small pot and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. 

In another bowl, combine 5 cups of water, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour in your boiled mixture and combine well. Ensure it is not hot and add 1/2 cup of ginger bug (include some original ginger and juice) and gently combine. 

Your ginger ale is ready to bottle! I leave my bottles on the counter for about three days, burping the first and second day. I don't burp it the third day when I place it in the refrigerator so it is nice and fizzy when I am ready to drink it!

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All About Ginger Bug

You know how we all hear homesteaders say "Chickens are the gateway drug to more livestock"? Well, I kind of feel the same way about Kombucha because once I was able to grow my own SCOBY and a few batches of 'buch, I knew I wanted to try more fermented drinks!

After watching a Julia Dreads video on YouTube, I knew next on my evolving list of things to try was home brewed ginger ale! But first, I needed to make a ginger bug.


What is a Ginger Bug?


A ginger bug is a culture of good bacteria created from wild yeast found on the peel of ginger root. It is similar to a SCOBY, or a sourdough starter. We used ginger bug to beverages to create naturally fermented sodas that are rich in good bacteria and probiotics.


Health Benefits of Ginger!


Ginger has many health benefits when it isn't even fermented! It can reduce nausea, gas and inflammation, fight bad breath bacteria, aids in weight loss, clears skin, improves circulation, fights infections, and can relax muscle cramps! And, when ginger is fermented into a probiotic ginger bug, the health benefits just get better!

How do I make a Ginger Bug?


Making your own ginger bug is really easy. Simply place 2 tablespoons of grated, minced or shredded ginger root, peel included, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 cups of de-chlorinated cool water into a quart sized jar. Add a piece of cheesecloth or coffee filter secured with a rubber band to keep unwanted dust from entering.

Feed your ginger bug everyday with a spoonful of fresh ginger and sugar, occasionally swirling it throughout the day to ensure mold doesn't grow on the surface. Be sure to never use a metal spoon to stir your ginger bug!

In about a week, you will begin to see lots of bubbles and carbonation in your ginger bug. This means you've successfully captured and cultured the wild yeast on the ginger and you are ready to use your ginger bug to make ginger ale, root beer or other fermented sodas!

Want to see our Ginger Bug?

{Check out #thepetiteplantationgingerbug on Instagram!}


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Monday, April 3, 2017

Hibiscus Sweet Tea

We recently hosted a Zero Waste party for our son's seventh birthday. We used recyclable decorations, refused gifts, made our own beverages and snacks! One of the favorites was the Hibiscus Sweet Tea and everyone either asked for an batch or the recipe.
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him until he gets distracted, or something like that.

You asked and I am delivering! Here is my very own recipe for Hibiscus Sweet Tea. This recipe makes a large batch, 4 liters or a gallon. We have a large 5.6 liter jar with a spigot I normally use for brewing Kombucha, which I poured into bottles for a second ferment, and put my SCOBY away until after the party.

Hibiscus is a flowering bush and the tea is made from dried flowers from the plant. It has amazing health benefits and is something you can grow in your backyard! However, in our climate, AKA Canada, choose a hardy variety. Hibiscus is something we will be adding to our medicinal garden this spring because it is useful and beautiful!

A flowering Hibiscus Rosehip

Health Benefits of Hibiscus


Lowers bad cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and helps reduce the risk of heart disease and is full of antioxidants. It prevents colds and flu becuase it is loaded with Vitamin C and other minerals, it acts as a diuretic and aids in weight loss. It also reduces anxiety and depression, protects the liver, can prevent pre-cancerous cells from growing.

Hibiscus Sweet Tea


Ingredients:

4 liters of water
1.5 cup of hibiscus rosehips
1.5 cup of sugar
Ice

Method:

Boil 4 liters of water. Add hibiscus rosehips and let steep for 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let cool until room temperature.

Strain tea with a fine mesh strainer to remove the little bits and place in your pitcher. Add lots of ice and enjoy!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How To Throw A Zero Waste Party

Ditch the disposables!

If you are living a zero waste lifestyle, this should be a 'well duh!' moment. If you are new to it, well I don't blame you for not knowing because it seems every party calls for trip to the local party supplies store where we purchase matching or themed disposable napkins, paper plate, balloons and paper streamers! Resist, friends; it all ends up in the landfill!

Instead, use your own plates, bowls, glasses, linens and cutlery. Don't have enough? Then borrow it! Or stock up for all your future parties with a visit to your local thrift shop.
Use mason jars to hold your cutlery, or for extra drinking glasses!
There are several DIY party decorations out there in the world of Pinterest to make once, and keep using again and again!

Send an E-invite!

Today everyone has their email or Facebook account at their side at all times. Sending an electronic invitation rather than a physical paper invite is the easiest way to reduce waste from your party.

Still think it's trashy? Try using a free program like Canva to create your perfect personalized invitation and save it as .png or .pdf and email that!

Refuse gifts, request memories!

Refusing gifts at a birthday party, wedding or other congratulatory party will help keep the trash, unwanted items, and clutter away from your home, life and party.

This is becoming more and more popular with children's parties where parents are requesting each child only bring a toonie. The child gets to go shopping with their birthday cash and choose the perfect gift they want, and will use! 

Another request could be for each person who attends to choose a date to take the child on an adventure to the zoo, movies, picnic or a day at the beach! This doesn't have to cost your attendees money either, just their quality time! 

Make your own beverages and snacks!

When planning your party, opt for snacks that can be purchased bulk like nuts, chocolates and party mixes. Offering bowls and spoons for your guests to scoop exactly what they want to snack is a great zero waste way to entertain. Also consider making your own sweet tea or lemonade served in mason jars!

Have FUN!

Throwing a party isn't about the food or drinks you serve or how they are served. If your friends and family are coming to your party, they are there to celebrate! Play lawn games, throw a ball around, play cards or other board games! Put together an atmosphere which allows good times and memories to be made!

Before you leave, check this out!

  

Going Without Wheels

We sold our family car!

And everyone flipped out..

Relax, friends, it's only temporary! It's an experiment, a savings plan and an adventure all wrapped up in one big mystery bag. And if you know us, you know we like a good adventure!

We all know how convenient having a car is, everyone does. A vehicle is usually the first big ticket item everyone buys for themselves as teenagers. We get our first job, work hard to save and when we have a enough cash saved up, we blow it all on a car for the freedom to travel where we want and when we want. 

My first car opened my life to a great deal of independence and freedom. With it I traveled halfway across the country, fell in love with a man who I traveled all over the country with before growing our family and this beautiful life we live. If it wasn't for that itty bitty Hyundai my life would look starkly different.

But, our lives have changed. We've settled down with our family and have some pretty big goals we want to achieve in our plan. Right now, we just don't need it.

Our home is located right next to the shopping mall. Within 500 feet, we have grocery stores, pharmacies, (yes, plural!), big box stores, hardware stores, dozens of restaurants, a liquor store (should the desire strike!), library, banks, bulk food, playgrounds, splash pads, a nature park stretching the length of the city and most convenient, the city's bus terminal. It takes us just as much time to walk to the hardware store as it would to wrangle the kidlets into the car and buckle them.

For a few months, we have the opportunity to save on insurance and gasoline, explore the city with the kidlets with new perspective, drastically reduce our footprint on the environment, and once summer cools down and the leaves turn into a living rainbow, we will have enough cash saved up to purchase a new vehicle debt-free, which is a huge priority of ours!

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Monday, March 27, 2017

5 Gardening Mistakes

As a child, I remember spending slow afternoons in the field and in the garden with my grandparents, pulling weeds and picking cucumbers under the hot sun with the sound of bugs and beetles around me. Maybe this is where my desire to grow my own vegetables comes from, or maybe this is the childhood is wish my children could experience.

This is my first year vegetable gardening, with an actual piece of ground and my hands and knees in the dirt. I've planted many things before, tulips, hostas, sunflowers and have tried my hand at a couple different herbs with much success. The only vegetable I have actually been able to grow to harvest is green beans.

Anyone can grow green beans.

This blog isn't meant to be filled with how-to's and full of 'know it all' knowledge. I intend to share stories of why we want to be homesteaders and our plan to go off the grid and living in a small home, our experiences, successes and failures along the way. So today, I'm going to share all my hilarious screw ups when it comes to gardening.

Labels, ya'll.. Labels.

One of our homeschool nature study experiences was to visit the forest and many gardens in the community and gather seeds to examine; I also wanted these seeds to grow medicinal flowers and herbs at home. We gathered lavender and echinacea seeds, among many others to examine, popped them into envelopes, finished our study and put them away for the fall. 

Spring has sprung and I have no idea which, is which! They all ended up in the trash and we had to pick some up at the local greenhouse. If you want to practice vintage gardening skills like seed-saving, label them!

Labels, yep! Again with the Labels!

You would think after having several different kinds of un-labelled seeds, I would have learned my lesson. Nope! Once I planted the seeds I had to pick up from the greenhouse, I should have labelled the pots, cause once everything started sprouting, I had no clue which, was which! Label your seedlings, too!

Too eager!

I still struggle with this one. Once February rolls around I am thrilled for spring, I shop for my seeds and start them way to early. A month too early. Once they are big enough to plant outside it isn't warm enough. Last year, I lots several pickling cucumber plants because I was too eager. This year, with a little self restraint, and this free seed planting schedule I've created, I am only two weeks early! Not bad, eh? Click on the here or on the picture below to get your free seed planting schedule!


Keeping my plants in the dark!

I thought to myself as I dropped the tiny helpless seeds into the soil, "How did they grow seeds before we had grow lights? They probably just planted them and they did fine..." My plants grew thin and long leggy stems before falling over to their death.. So sad. We now have grow lights to prevent future seedling massacres. 

Now, I realize before we had grow lights, they probably direct sowed those seeds when their climate permitted but our society today promotes the 'bigger, better and faster' logic which is why we want to start our seeds sooner and need artificial light. 

Abandoning my seedling babies!?

It should be a crime. Now that we have those toasty and bright grow lights, I have to remember to turn them on. AND OFF! I also take two week long hiatus vacations from the province and cross my fingers they'll survive. 

I know seedlings need attention, love and care. But life happens, a lot. And, if all fails, just throw them right in the garden and let mother nature decide your fate.

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DIY Rocket Stove


A few weeks ago, a terrible ice storm hit the maritime provinces leaving thousands of people without power for over a week. Today, the affects of that storm are still visible, with trees permanently bowing to mother nature and tree limbs snapped from the weight of the ice. For our family, the storm only affected us for 18 bearable hours where we were left without power and our basement flooded.

We thought we were prepared for disaster; we had candles, batteries, flashlights, first aid, food and even a solar charger. What we didn't realize, is that we would have to COOK said food. Yea, that was a pretty dumb oversight. We didn't have a barbecue either.


Instead of a BBQ, we decided to make our own rocket stove for a few reasons. First, my husband named Rene, has a slight obsession over these rocket stoves. Don't leave empty cans unattended in this house, I tell ya! 

Two, I wanted our cooking solution to be off grid, like completely "I don't need to run to the store with the rest of the city to get propane when the power goes out" off grid.

Three, I like being able to see the fire, so when desire strikes, we could have a fire and roast marshmallows and sit around the rocket stove.

And lastly, we wanted to make something to cook food without a conventional stove anyway! It's all part of our plan to become homesteaders!

What is a rocket stove?

A rocket stove is a particular design of stove which allows a fire to be very efficient and hot burning using only small branches and twigs as fuel. Fuel is inserted in a small insulated opening at the bottom of the stove while flames reach through the top and cooking surface, allowing most of the fuel to completely burn.


What is a Rocket Stove made out of?

A rocket stove can be made out of all kinds of materials! A quick google and Pinterest search will bring up rocket stoves made from tin cans, cinderblocks, paving stoves, cob or concrete. We chose to make ours out of concrete.


How do I make a Rocket Stove?


1. Gather your materials
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • A bag of quick setting concrete
  • 3 feet of 4 inch pipe
  • pen and paper
  • mixing utensil or a fancy drill mixer bit.
  • tape
2. Trace the circumference of the pipe onto a piece of paper to accurately cut a hole in your bucket. Then trace the circle of paper onto your bucket about 2 inches from the bottom.

3. Cut out the hole. This can be done using a drill and jigsaw or a dremel multi-tool, we opted for the dremel as if gave us more control.



4. Cut the sewage pipe at a 45 degree angle at about 12 inches long, for the feeder hole of the rocket stove. The remaining piece will be the chimney of the stove, Using tape, secure the two pieces together so they made a 90 degree angle again.


5. Mix the quick setting concrete using the directions on the bag and quickly fill the bucket around the pipe with concrete, pushing it down and around the bottom of the feeder pipe. This stuff sets within 20 minutes, so it goes more smoothly if you have a friend to help you out. When the bucket is full, smooth the top so there aren't any sharp edges or bumps and a pot could easily sit on top.

6. Let sit inside for three weeks while the concrete cures and when it is ready, slide out the pipe and bucket. We found a metal grill while thrifting which conveniently fits right on top so we can place our cast iron pan on it to cook!

Want to see our rocket stove in action? 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Free Canning Inventory Printable


Last year was my first year canning and I was so excited to see my tiny pantry fill up with homemade jam, pickles and salsa. We are nearly to the end of February and we are almost out of everything, so disappointing! I should have made so much more; lesson learned.

I have created another free printable! This handy sheet helps you keep track of how much you have canned or preserved in a season. Which is super handy if you are trying to become more self reliant and one day, grow all your own food. All part of our plan!

Free Harvest Tracker Printable


One of our many goals of our plan is try and grow all our own food. Crazy? Maybe... Ambitious? Certainly! One of the ways we are going to successfully check this of our list is by keeping track of how much food we purchase from the grocery store and how much we are going to make or grow ourselves.

This is our first year with a homestead journal. Inside we are keeping a tally of how many jars we use of jam, salsa, tomato sauce and so many other things! Although, I love my little journal, I just don't think it's going to cut it when it comes to keeping track of the amount of food we harvest from our garden! So, I've created a little something!

Free Seed Schedule Printable


It's the end of February and we're buried in snow, literally. Our third snowstorm this week has arrived so naturally, my mind is on my vegetable garden. It will probably be June before the snow has melted and the ground is ready to sow seeds but that won't stop us from working on our plan to become homesteaders!

While browsing my seed collection this morning, dreaming of green leafy vegetables, I decided to organize my seeds by planting date and even made a free printable! I've already filled mine out for the coming season and plan to keep my seed schedules from each year so I can back and see our garden history!