Stupid. Jerkface. Mice.

Here I am being all nice and providing a habitat for some wintering cold mice, food and all, completely willingly. I mean, I took my pantry items and put what I wanted in the freezer or refrigerator, and actually scattered some grains in the empty pantry for them to nibble on. We get mice here occasionally in the winter, but I figured when the weather warmed up in spring I could clean out the pantry really well and put some peppermint oil in an aromatherapy diffuser. It’s worked to chase them out in the past, they hate mint. I can’t bring myself to kill them (even now they’ve turned on me, the bastards).

They’ve been a relatively low annoyance. They keep getting into my sprouts, so I’ve put that off until I shoo them out of here. Other than that, it hasn’t been so bad (though the pantry is pretty gross and will need a good cleaning but that’s doable). Until now.

Stupid jerk mice ate my dandelions.

Not only did someone break my flower and it wasn’t me, there are a lot of nibbled leaves all throughout my pot. See the scattered blooms on the plants below the broken flower?

Stupid jerk mice ate my dandelions.

The same two plants with the scattered blooms the next morning. And the whole pot looks much smaller and very grazed. Some glutton mouse brought a friend I think.

I was looking forward to those dandelions. I bought plant lights this year. I was working on actually starting to grow food indoors, and really wanted a constant supply of dandelions because I love them. I think they are very tasty and I think people who say they are bitter are insane. I wanted a nice, easy to harvest, not dog-peed on or neighbor stepped on, lofty soil so easy to pull up the roots, big leaves that are well fertilized, big fat tasty crop of indoor pampered as shit dandelions. I mean, I’ll still get them, I’m sure the plants will regrow. But they’ve been damaged and I’m pissed.

In some small way it’s kind of fitting. I mean, you want to start an indoor garden where you farm on a tiny scale? Here’s some tiny equivalent of a deer to frustrate you like a proper gardener. But this next bit? This next bit takes the cake.

Stupid mice KILLED my milkweed.

The one on the left is the only surviving seedling from the ravenous invasion. If you look, you can see it has a seed head where the leaves will emerge. The one on the right looks like all my other milkweed seedlings. A mutilated stalk that will wither and die very shortly. Hopefully I’ll have some slow to germinate seedlings come up, but as it stands, it looks like my plans to do my small part of feeding the monarchs has been slapped in the face. Sigh. I’ll try again next spring I suppose, unless I get a few more plants. I can plant the one survivor outside by my porch, maybe I’ll get super lucky and it will go to seed.

At least my mint will survive the onslaught. It hasn’t been touched, they really do seem to dislike it. My ginger isn’t damaged so far either, and is growing more quickly than I thought it would (I posted a pic of it about ten days ago at the bottom of this post). Here’s the full window (taken yesterday when I noticed my flower was broken):

Zone 0

So I’m lucky enough to have a nice, deep windowsill (it’s so appropriate for a pagan to garden on their altar too). Maybe if I put a cardboard box under the dandelions it will be hard for the mice to climb. Then I can grow them some sprouts at the base that they can feel free to nibble until the snow melts and I kick their thieving grimy asses outside. I’m trying to use permaculture principles inside my home, this would be the part where I grow plants for the wild critters to keep them away from my crops.

Sigh. Double sigh. This was such a cranky start to my day. Well, as long as I’m here maybe I can get some blog work done. I’ve been sick, stressed, and distracted so perhaps I can get more done on the dandelion page that I was hoping to have out at the beginning of the month. Unless I nap. Up for debate at this point.

Advertisements

Yeah, I think I have a winner.

I'm totally in love with my new kitchen pet.

Okay, so I haven’t established a routine with my new kefir yet, but I’m having a lot of fun playing around and trying new things. I already learned that a second fermentation on the counter will result in curds and whey, but that was awesome because it made it easier to strain and tomorrow we will have a cream cheese fruit dip with apples for a great snack :). I’m loving how flexible this is, that I can pretty much make any dairy product with it (I’m going to get an ice-cream maker for it before Summer comes), and there’s such a wide range of smoothie flavors to play around with.

I have a neighbor who was born in the Ukraine, he’s pretty much American but his family still talks longingly of rye kvass and kefir, I’ve had to learn to pronounce it “kee-fear” even though my local health food store calls it “kee-fur” or he gets all angry stalwart Ukrainian on me.

I liked making sauerkraut, but after two batches of it I was so sick of it that I couldn’t bring myself to eat it anymore. It seems that may be an occasional treat, I really would like to try it on a burger. If I get a jar to make a smaller batch in that will refrigerate, that might be best. The ginger bug for sodas is out of my budget for something to keep up each day, though I do find that it’s so easy to start up that I can enjoy it occasionally. I hated dilly carrots, and I’ll find out soon about pickled onions.

Kvass burger.

I did like the beet kvass though. So, that might end up being a regular thing, especially since the pulp was great in meatloaf patties. It looks like my kvass routine will end with juicing the veggies after fermentation and using the pulp in meatloaf, crackers, and breads. With some tweaking, I hope to bring the red meat part of my patties to as low as possible while still including it in our diet for variety. I’ll share when I do figure out, but it might be a couple of months as my kvass factory won’t be nearly as full blown as my kefir factory. For now I’ll tell you that above was about half pulp (beets, carrots, and ginger), half meat, with one egg and a handful of quick oats (because I had no stale sourdough but I would have preferred that).

Anyway, so as far as probiotics go, it looks like I’ll be focusing on kefir with the occasional kvass and even more occasional experiment with a new vegetable pickle. Also my grains need a name. It’s something I’m chewing on.

By the way, check this out. Remember those tiny plants I posted pictures of on my birthday just a couple of weeks ago?

Gettin' my spring in my step.

Growing right along. Next to them is a bit of mint and dill, cuttings from some rather wilted herbs at the store that may not root well (being so far past their prime) but hopefully one or two will make it. I bet the mint does, that stuff is seriously hardy. I’ll tell you more about this little window some other time. Right now I need to go wail and whine and lament that my ink pen is throwing a tantrum when I want to draw.

Yay, it’s mah birthday. I’m buyin’ myself kefir :).

My birthday is always a special day for me. Although I don’t actually care about the birthday part of it. I care about the groundhog part of it. Mostly because asking a groundhog if spring is coming reminds me of the other day it is.

It’s Imbolc, a Pagan holiday that celebrates the coming of spring, the time of year that we honor that cows begin lactating and seedlings germinate. I like playing with my houseplants, I like foraging, I like warmer weather and longer days, I like spring being near and the season of hope and joy and youth that it represents, love, frolicking, all that. So, it’s one of my favorite holidays. Sure, the actual spring solstice is nice too, but Imbolc means its soon to be here, and I love having something to look forward to :). Festival meals usually include dairy and sprouts.

This means two things for me:

1) Time to plant my seeds, and I get to do it in a way to honor my religion! Oh. Dang. This year I already planted my seeds, because they had to be in the refrigerator for a month, and I wanted them in the ground by April (after I let them get started here). Usually I don’t have seeds, but I can at least propagate my houseplants. This year I’ve already planted some ginger root already and some dandelion roots to grow those as houseplants (we’ll see how that goes), so that part all came early this year. So far the dandelions are growing like weeds ;). I only planted them a couple of days ago. I planted the ginger about a month ago.

 

Spring is settin' forth to spring

2) In my area, the dandelions are starting to become visible out on the lawns as well. Foraging season begins :). No blooms yet, but I’ve already added the greens to some soup (obviously where I got the roots for planting). This year I’m gonna ferment the flowers too, maybe not the traditional dandelion wine way, but in a ginger bug soda. I also have a small sample of the roots pickling, so I get to try those in a couple of weeks. More foraging is peeking out, chickweed and henbit are both very prolific in my apartments and I’m starting to see signs of them. Since I didn’t get to forage (here at least) last year because I thought they were spraying, I will really enjoy the fact that they actually aren’t, and all because of my weird ass.

Anyway, this year I’m going to celebrate the dairy part as well (the purchase of it anyway). My son and I are lactose intolerant, but I can eat cheese and yogurt. So I risked drinking a quart of kefir to see what would happen, and since I didn’t explode that widens my possibilities some.

After much deliberation (between yogurt, kefir, and kombucha), I shall add kefir to my kitchen pets. There’s going to be so many things I can make now.  Dips and cream cheese will pair well with Bob’s children. Sourdough Bob has given me more flatbreads lately, and crackers (kind of tired of bread for a bit). I’ve been thinking about trying pitas, or returning to pretzels. All of those (and bread itself) will go great with dips and spreads made from my kefir :). It will be nice to have dairy in the house that won’t um, make my home less hospitable to company.

Bonus, my super picky kid loved the kefir. He actually doesn’t remember reacting to milk and keeps “correcting” me saying he’s not lactose intolerant, he just hates milk. He is though, and I’m looking forward to us both being able to consume more calcium and b12 on a regular basis.

Only I get to buy the kefir culture with my birthday money from Grandma (thanks Grandma!) which means I won’t have it in my hands for a bit. Sigh. The planting came early and the dairy comes late. I’ll be at a loss for what to do today. Well, I might splurge on more store-bought kefir, and put some sprouts in with dinner. I wish I knew some Pagans to go run around in the damp grass all barefoot with. Oh well.

How have my kitchen experiments been going you ask? So far, still experiments. I think I’ve made some serious progress with how to handle my ginger bug (I’ve had a problem with too much sweetness, fermenting too fast or too slowly, how to handle spent wort, stuff like that). Still working on that too though, but I’ll let you know more soon I’m sure. Anne-Marie of The Zero-Waste Chef pointed me at an Alton Brown recipe for candied ginger for my wort, and that turned out fantastic. In a few weeks I should know more of what I’m doing here, so I’ll let my tiny corner of the world know about it then.

 

Candied ginger from ginger left over from making ginger ale. Waste not!

Remember the kvass?

Pretty just never really lasts, does it?

I really did enjoy those pretty stars for a day or two, but I hoped I’d end up with a pink monochromatic watercolor with little light stars on a dark beet background. You can’t even see the stars! Anyway, most of the recipes I saw said a day or two for kvass, so after about three or four days I still wasn’t getting a hint of tang or bubbles. I juiced it and it was way too salty, and very inactive. So, I went ahead and put it back in the jug, minus the fiber from the veggies, and watched it for a week. Nothing, really.

I tossed a pinch of Bob the sourdough king in there (poured out a cup of kvass, whisked him in, and added it back to the mix) and the next day it was really active. The day after that it was very pleasantly tangy (made me smile with delight at the tang) but still way too salty. Next time I’ll try 1% brine instead of 2%. Also, the recipes said a day or two, but then I ran across other recipes that had a much longer time frame. So, I’ll still play with this one for a bit and see how it goes. I might even do stars to make me happy for a couple of days :).

Or flowers. I totally wasted some money on vegetable cutters back when I did bento, and I hardly used them because I had to get a wide enough carrot to use the cutters on, and all that slicing into rounds and punching out flowers wasn’t worth the effort. I was hoping that if i put flowers in my son’s soup, he might eat the carrots. He didn’t. We’re still working on getting beta-carotene into him, though he does like the purée in soup.

Anyway, I ran across a YouTube video that made the pretty carrots so much easier. Check her out at about 1:03. The rest of the video is cool too :).

By the way, the pulp from the juice after I ran the kvass through the juicer? Excellent in sourdough crackers. The crackers weren’t quite perfect in texture just yet, but the flavor was great and I see a lot of potential here.

Oh, and one more thing about fermentation that I’ve learned: I hate Rejuvelac. No matter how I flavor it. That is all.