Homesteading is a Learning Process

It’s been a while since I gave you an update on my progress. It’s had its ups and downs, I gotta say. I made some more jam of my own, and also went over to a friend’s house to make a batch together. She had a recipe that used just a little agave syrup, and chia seeds to thicken it up, and that actually worked surprisingly well. So that was cool. And I bottled up my first batch of honey mead, and it’s delicious!

honey mead finished

But then I almost killed my SCOBY. Jury’s still out on that one, really; I won’t know for another week or so if it’s OK. You’ve probably picked up on how I was just hurtling headlong at all these various homesteading and food preservation things. I guess you could say it caught up with me.

 “To prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’other” – MacBeth

Since about July, I feel like I’ve been enjoying successes and learning something new almost every week. The kombucha’s been going awesome, and I even seem to have gotten the hang of lacto-fermenting, a skill that has long eluded me. I used Alton Brown’s directive of 5.5 ounces of pickling salt to 1 gallon of water, which left me a good amount of extra salt water in case I wanted to do up a batch of pickled green beans or something.

And I kept that in the “fermentation station” where my big continuous brew jar was. We’ve been less enthusiastic about drinking the stuff lately, I think we’ll have to be careful not to burn out on it. But I’d still been doing half a dozen second ferment jars every week or so.

On this particular evening, I popped open a jar of peach kombucha, took a big swig, and immediately spit it out into the sink. You experienced homesteaders know where this is going, I’m sure. Yeah. I’d used the salt water to refill the kombucha jar. I was drinking peach-flavored saltwater.

I went to one of the kombucha groups and asked if this was it for my SCOBY. I know they’re sensitive, and figured this couldn’t be good. They said to try taking the SCOBY out, making a new batch with some new starter, and seeing how it went. Thank GOODNESS I had one jar in the fridge that was not fruited, because I do know you can’t use second ferment as starter, and I’d completely ruined the only jug I had.

Two lessons learned here:

  1. Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket; I should have had another brew jar, at least a hotel where I could have a backup supply of SCOBY and starter.
  2. LABEL water jugs if any of them are salt water!

I really hope I don’t have to start all over, although I know I can get another SCOBY from the community if I need to. Stay tuned, film at 11.

“It’s only homicide if the SCOBY kicks the bucket…”

And then of course there’s the fall garden. I learned some things from that, too:

  1. Starting a fall garden in zone 5 on the last possible day the seed catalog recommends it is ill advised.
  2. The sun is lower at this time of year, so the area where I was trying to grow peas is mostly shaded now instead of fully sunny as it was in the summer. So the peas grew a lot slower.

There were a couple mild frosts about a week ago, and that didn’t seem to bother the peas. But I woke up to a much harder frost this morning, and the peas were goners. Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I guess. Learning that bit about the hedge next to the garden casting too much shade on it in the fall was a good bit of knowledge at least. And now I can just focus on mulching the garden in preparation for its long winter’s nap, and next spring.

Maybe the season has something to do with it, but my mad dash to learn everything has slowed down a bit. I do still have plans to make bread, and I’m on my second batch of honey mead right now. I’m looking forward to doing a bunch of homemade Christmas gifts of jam, cookies, and so forth, too. In a way it’s nice to not have to sit here feeling like I should be doing more than that. Time to slow down a bit and catch my breath!

2 Replies to “Homesteading is a Learning Process”

    1. I would say, get yourself a backup. Even if it’s a mini hotel the size of a quart jar. I’m definitely doing that if mine turn out to have survived this (and I think they did, but we’ll see). 🙂

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