In the Living Kitchen

Musings, memories, meals in the making.


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All About the Kombucha

The Masked Fermenter

This is for all the kombucha lovers out there.  The recipe is at the end of the post.

The scenery out the window is a solid white block.  After months of a relatively mild, sunny winter, February is bringing in the snow.  I might be in the minority here (big surprise) but I am thankful to have snow.  I feel in my gut that something is awry when it doesn’t snow in the winter, or when it is rains all summer log and never gets above 80 degrees.  Even though I feel trapped in my own home today due to the snow, am scared to drive due to the snow, and will likely take a nap and eat too much homemade bread with homemade jam due to the snow, I feel at ease.

What better task to give myself on a snow day than making kombucha?  Actually, making kombucha is not a time consuming project, however, it is the most interesting thing I will do today.  Kombucha is, for some, an acquired taste.  As for me, I have always liked it.  I did drink vinegar as a child, so I suppose it is no surprise.  (I have always enjoyed acidic foods, much to the chagrin of my tongue.)  I finally received a kombucha mother last month after the one I had was forgotten in the refrigerator.  Instead of buying ridiculously expensive kombucha from the store, I can now make my own at a fraction of the cost.

Kombucha is a fermented food.  Sugars are digested by a yeast and bacterial colony known as the kombucha mother.  When I first got my hands on a mother, I wanted to make the delicious fruity drinks that I bought at the store, so my kombucha was always quite experimental.  I would make lightly sweetened fruit beverages and put the mother in them.  I have heard that flavors can inhibit the mother and they actually prefer a much more consistent environment.  This time around, I am actually making kombucha “by the book” by adding all flavoring after the kombucha has finished the fermentation process.

Internet searches bring up the controversy surrounding the consumption of kombucha.  The one issue I take seriously is the lead poisoning issue caused by making kombucha in old earthen ware crocks.  Many old crocks contain lead in the glaze and acidic kombucha corrodes the glaze, allowing the lead to leach into the drink.  As for the health benefits, well, I have no idea what are true as far as cancer, weight loss and so forth.  Kombucha contains B vitamins, live yeast and bacteria and other acids that supposedly boost the immune system and help out the digestive system.  Many people drink kombucha as an energy drink because it is full of vitamins and minerals, and caffeine from the tea.  I drink more kombucha in the summer, when it ferments faster.  This is also the time when I eat lots of raw, fresh vegetables, am constantly working outside, do yoga three times a week and am pretty darn happy.  Therefore, I am thinner, more alert, have lots of energy, and so forth.  I am a bit hesitant to attribute all the benefits I feel in the summer to kombucha alone.  But I do love it on a hot summer day during my lunch break.

I make kombucha from sugar and tea.  For a while I was making it from honey, because I can purchase responsibly and locally produced honey.  However, having read that the kombucha mother needs consistency in order to thrive, and actually thrives better in a sugar sweetened tea over a honey sweetened tea, I will attempt to ween one of my mothers on honey slowly, by using an ever-increasing ratio on honey to sugar, and see how tastes along the way.

I make the strong tea in a one quart ball jar, add the sugar to the hot tea and dilute it with 3 quarts of water. The tea is then the perfect temperature for the kombucha mother.

Since the kombucha will produce a new, fresh colony with each fermentation, kombucha brewers are usually pretty generous with their extra mothers.  Every kombucha mother I have acquired has been given to me by an acquaintance.

The "old mother" on the left, the bright, "new mother" on the right. I compost the old mother and use the new mother, if I have no one to give one to.

Kombucha

This method makes one quart of strong sweet tea diluted with 3 quarts of cold water.  This ensures that the temperature of the tea is cool enough for the kombucha mother.  Do not place the kombucha mother into hot water.  The ideal temperature for kombucha is 75-80 degrees.  Excessive heat will kill the colony.

Makes about 1 gallon.

You will need:

1-2 gallon capacity glass container with a large opening or lead free crock (do not use metal)

1 strainer

bottles with air-tight lids (for the finished kombucha)

2 TBS loose tea, I use 1 TBS Assam black tea, 1 TBS Sencha green tea

1 cup (fair-trade, organic, vegan) sugar

1 kombucha mother plus 1/2 cup finished kombucha

Optional: juice, I enjoy juiced ginger

Directions:

Brew loose tea in one quart of boiling hot water for 5-10 minutes.  Strain.  Add sugar and stir into the hot tea until dissolved.  Place sweet tea into the brew container and add 3-4 quarts of water.  Place the kombucha mother in the sweet tea and cover tightly with several layers of cheesecloth or a towel.  Let it ferment for several days before tasting it.  The ideal fermenting temperature is 75-80 degrees.  In this temperature range, the kombucha will take 10-14 days to ferment the sugars in the tea.  In the winter, since it is cooler, the kombucha takes much longer, about 3 weeks.  Taste the kombucha.  if it is still very sweet, it is not done.  When the kombucha is at the end of the process, it will taste acidic and slightly sweet.  If you enjoy carbonated kombucha, you may strain the kombucha and place it in a jars fitted with air-tight lids, along with juice, if using.  Leave the jars at room temperature for a few more days and then place them in the refrigerator until ready to drink.  Once the jar is opened, the kombucha will start to lose its carbonation.

To keep the mother: The kombucha mother needs to have access to unfermented sugars at all times.  Either store it in some of the slightly sweet kombucha in the refrigerator until the next batch, or start the next batch immediately.

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A New Season Begins

A bin of screened finished compost. The screen is leaning against the side of the greenhouse.

Wednesday marked the first official day of farm work for the Second Wind CSA in 2010.  We have long passed the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  This means the days are rapidly getting longer (4 extra minutes of daylight yesterday!).  These conditions signify the season of starting seeds.

The first seeds to start in the farming season are always onions.  “Starting seeds” refers to the process of putting the seeds in to a growing medium, watering them, and placing them into a heated area where the seeds will germinate.  At the Four Winds Farm, we use homemade potting soil, which consists of screened compost, peat moss and soil amendments.  (The compost is actually screened from the greenhouse itself.  The greenhouse at the Four Winds Farm is heated during March and April from the heat produced by the composting process, but more on that next week when we actually move a hot, composting mass into the greenhouse.)  The potting soil is placed into “flats” and the seeds are placed in thin rows and covered with the soil.  The seeds are watered, left to drain and then placed in the refridga-germinater (see below) to germinate.  Once the seeds start to sprout, we place the flats in the unheated greenhouse.  The onions will grow in the flats until April, when it is time to transplant them outside.

The refriga-germinater filled with flats of onions seeds. The refriga-germinater is simply an old refrigerator with a light that is controlled by a thermostat. The light produces enough heat to keep the closed space at the perfect temperature for germinating seeds.

Onions  are the first vegetable seeds we start because they require very particular temperatures and day lengths in order to grow good size bulbs.  In the north, we grow long day onions because we have much longer days in the summer than in the warm south.  Long-day onions put on green growth, or grow tops, in the beginning of the season (April and May) when the weather is mild.  They start to increase bulb size when the day lengths are very long, between 14-16 hours.  A July harvest is ideal.  The onions will stop putting on mass as the days start to shorten.  A July harvest also means we have plenty of time to plant a different fall crop where the onions once were.

Other seeds are started based on the last frost date for our region.  Our frost date is usually around May 15, which means we can expect the last Spring frost around that day.


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SOBArley Pale Ale

Erin has mentioned a few times that she has a burgeoning interest in beer.  I (Sam) have to say that most of this interest is a direct result of my talking her ear off about the various aspects of beer making that I am taken with on a near daily basis.  She told me that I could write a post about beer making, and today, since she is off in Albany at a USDA education program for beginning women farmers and I am home making beer, I thought I ought to give it a try.

SOBArley Pale Ale.

This beer is very exciting for two reasons, (a) it is the first beer that I am making from a recipe of my own creation and (b) it is the first time that I am making something using ingredients that I have never tasted before in beer.  It is also the riskiest beer I have ever brewed.  It could end up being terrible!

In case you were not able to decode the pun in the name of this beer, it is an IPA style beer that is brewed with a heavy dose of kasha, aka soba, aka toasted buckwheat groats.  Kasha has a delicious nutty, smokey flavor that I have thought would do well in beer since the first time I brewed anything.  To make the recipe I looked through my beer recipe books and then looked in my box of beer ingredients and then improvised.  Here is the recipe:

Combine 3# of pale malted barley, 2# of Soba and .25# Crystal malt.

bring 2 gallons of water up to 150 degrees.  Add grains and maintain temperature for 90 minutes.

Strain grains through a mesh strainer, collecting the fluid (now called Wort) in a large vessel.

Add another 2 gallons of 150 degree water to the grains and let sit for 15 minutes.  Then strain again, allowing time for as much of the wort to drip out as out have the patience for.

Add 4 1/2#’s of extra light malt extract to the wort that you have collected.  (This should be about 3 gallons since much of the liquid was absorbed by the grain.)  Bring to a boil carefully.  It is difficult to get the malt extract to dissolve fully, as it has a tendency to clump.  Watch the pot closely, perhaps even use a thermometer, because when it comes to a boil it will foam up powerfully, spilling all over your stove and making a sticky mess.  It may foam up several times before it settles into a comfortable boil.

Add your bittering hops.  I used 1/2 oz  Spalt and 1/2 oz Amarillo hops but you could probably do better with a full ounce of something like Cascade.  Boil for 45-50 minutes then add flavor hops.  I used 1/4 oz Spalt and 3/4 oz Cascade.  Boil for another 10 minutes then add aroma hops.  I used 1/4 oz Spalt, 1/2 oz Amarillo and 1/4 oz Cascade.  (I used these hops because I had them in my fridge and needed to use them.  The Spalt hops are really not the best for this beer because they are not that bitter, that flavorful or that aromatic.)

Combine the hot wort with enough cold water to raise the total volume to 5 gallons.  Allow the wort to cool until it is about 80 degrees.  If you have some fancy wort cooling device, use it.  I don’t, so I either set it outside in the cold, set it outside in the pond (this is fun because it floats) or bury it in snow.  no matter how you shake it, however, if you want this to go quickly you need a fancy wort cooler.

Add the yeast, here an American ale yeast.  Seal the fermenting vessel with an airlock and let it sit at a constant indoor temperature for about 5-7 days.  It should start to bubble pretty aggressively within 24 hours, then gradually slow down.  Siphon into a secondary fermentation vessel after fermentation has slowed.  Let it all settle for another week to 10 days before bottling with 1 1/4 cup malt extract.

I have to wait another 6 weeks until I get to taste this stuff.  I hope that it will have a not too subtle toasty, nutty flavor, medium bitterness, full hop flavor and a nice big aroma.  The big question for me is how well the toasty Soba will go with the IPA style, and will it do anything weird to the overall flavor?

A few notes about what is happening during the process of brewing for those readers who may be uninitiated.  These bits of information should help you to appreciate any beer you drink.  I know these bits have made Erin willing to drink beer from time to time.

1.  Beer is made from grains that have been sprouted – in beer parlance, malted.  Malting changes the biochemical makeup of the grains.  A wide variety of enzymes are produced in the malting process.  These enzymes, when heated to various temperatures (all hovering around 150 degrees), convert the complex carbohydrates in the grain into various sugars and proteins.  Some of these sugars ferment into Alcohol, some do not.  The sugars that do not convert help to give beer a thicker, fuller feel in the mouth.  Those that do, help give the beer a higher alcohol content.  They also leave some residual sweetness to the beer.  The protein is necessary in order for the yeast to stay healthy while they do the work of converting the fermentable sugars into alcohol.

2.  The process of heating the malted grains so that the various enzymes can convert the starches in the grains is called “mashing.”  In the beginning of the SOBArley Pale Ale recipe, malted grains are mashed with unmalted Soba.  In most malted grain there is more enzyme than is necessary to convert the starches in the malted grain.  This extra enzyme can be harnessed to convert the carbohydrates in unmalted grains.  This is what I was hoping to achieve.  In this recipe there is not enough enzyme to convert all the carbohydrates so there will be some extra carbohydrates that should make the beer thicker.

3.  Hops will do different things to beer depending on how long they are allowed to boil in the wort.  The longer the hops are allowed to boil in the wort, the greater the amount of bitterness they will lend to the final product.  The less time the hops spend in the boiling wort the greater the amount of aroma they will lend to the final product.  Bitterness is totally in the mouth, aroma totally in the nose, flavor is somewhere in between.  When thinking about hops and how they affect the taste of beer, it is helpful for me to imagine a line that runs from the back of the tongue where we experience bitterness, through the tip of the tongue, all the way to the nose.  In this metaphor the amount of time the hops spend in the boil is analagous to the line and it is the variable that is manipulated to achieve more or less of the different characteristics of hops.  There are some beers on the market that exploit the full range of this spectrum, most notably Dogfish Head Brewery’s 60, 90 and 120 minute IPA’s.  These beers have hops added to them continuously throughout the boiling process.  I sometimes like to imitate this process in miniature during the last ten minutes of so of the boil, adding my flavor and aroma hops in small doses every minute or so.

4.  Like all the other fermented foods that Erin has discussed here, homebrewed beer is a living food.  Most store bought beer is pasteurized before bottling.  This allows for more shelf stability and less flavor variability over time.  Homebrewed beer is not pasterurized.  There are living yeasts, albeit mostly dormant, in the bottle that continue to ferment any sugars that are available.  The yeast, and the CO2 they produce while metabolizing, are what cause homebrewed beer to carbonate.  They are also a big part of the reason why homebrewed beer is sensitive to temperature and light in storage.  Homebrewed beer, because it is unfiltered, is also rich in B complex vitamins.  These help our bodies metabollize alcohol and stay hydrated while drinking.


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Kitchen Tools

I have been thinking a lot about kitchen gadgets lately.  I had a conversation with an elderly kitchen supply store owner in Nashville, TN, while Sam and I were visiting my sister.  He pointed out that there was a time when many people just wanted to buy the cheapest kitchen gadgets possible, and when those gadgets broke they just went out and bought another one.  (Sound familiar?) He said he has noticed a movement among younger people, mainly in a lower income bracket, to purchase the best kitchen tools possible.  This movement reminded him of growing up during and after the Depression, when every single item for the household was purchased out of necessity, and quality savored.  This conversation reminded me of my grandmother’s mantra, “I don’t need that.” While I don’t want to advocate buying the nicest possible kitchen anything, I do believe there are a few essential items to be had.   Most of the time, a discerning person can purchase items that will last a very long time.

I also believe that hand powered tools can last longer and have considerable benefits over the speediness of electric tools.  I left the electric ones for last.

Here’s my list of kitchen tools that I can’t live without.

A Few Good Knives and Cutting Boards. First and foremost a chopping knife is absolutely necessary, then a good, sharp pairing knife and then a bread knife.  (By good chopping knife, I mean you are going to shell out a hundred dollars or more.)  After that comes the fancy extras.  I still have not purchased the perfect knife for me, but we received have a pretty nice one as a gift, and it has really turned our kitchen around.

I use a few different cutting boards because who want to slice banana bread on a cutting board smelling of garlic?

Mortar and Pestle. The word pesto comes from the Latin root for pestle, meaning “pounder.”  A food processor chops, a pestle pounds.  I believe there is a huge difference in the way the flavors are released by these two methods.  When I read about pesto coming from pestle years ago, pre-food processor, I was so excited that I could make pesto with my own elbow grease.  I wouldn’t want to make pesto for a party with my mortar and pestle, but it is quite delicious and rustic when made this way.  If you have a small mortar and pestle, like I do, there is an art to the grinding for pesto.  First, the garlic, ground to a pulp.  Remove to a bowl.  Then the walnuts, into almost a paste.  Place in same bowl as the garlic.   Then the basil, after you have sliced or cut it into pieces, with the addition of flaked salt.  The salt allows a bit of grit, before it gets grounds by the pestle, to assist in breaking apart the basil.  Place the basil in the same bowl as the walnuts and the garlic, add olive oil and stir.

I usually use my mortar and pestle for grinding dried herbs and freshly toasted spices.  For this use, my mortar and pestle is utterly indispensable.

I have a pretty turquoise mortar and pestle, but I think a granite one would be good for serious mortar and pestle aficionados.

Cast Iron and Enamel Cast Iron and A Big Stock Pot. I am sure the fancy All-Clad cookware is quite nice, but I wouldn’t know because I don’t own any.  I don’t need to.  I own three well seasoned (by me, of course) cast iron skillets and one lovely Le Cruset 5-quart enamel cast iron pot.  We also own a large stainless steel stock pot.  The only thing we are missing, in my opinion, is a large enamel cast iron pot, for large pots of, well, anything.  Whatever you do, don’t purchase inexpensive enamel cast iron.  There is a reason why Le Cruset cookware costs so much.  The enamel of the better brands is much higher quality and won’t chip off into your food if you treat it properly.  Never use metal utensils in your enamel cast iron.  The ideal, for me, would be to find a great used set of enamel cookery.  Seriously, this stuff lasts generations.

A well-tooled kitchen would not be complete with out a large, stainless steel stock pot.  We use ours for making beer, sterilizing jars and bottles, blanching big batches of vegetables when we are freezing them, making insane amounts of pasta, and more. A large stock pot can also be used for canning tomatoes, jams and fruits, if it is large enough to hold several jars.  You only need to purchase an insert for the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from breaking.

A Grater, A Juicer. I have a cheap box grater.  I hate it, I love it.  I think I would be better off with one of these and one of these, because all I use my box grater for is ginger and nutmeg.  Well, that’s a lie.  When I don’t feel like getting out the food processor, I also use it for grating all kinds of vegetables.  In spite of memories of grated knuckles, I keep coming back to my box grater time after time.  Why purchase something new when you don’t have to?   (That’s becoming my mantra.)

I also use my glass juicer quite a bit for lemons, limes and oranges.  Tart citrus is a welcome addition to many dressings, sauces and marinates, so I use them quite a bit.  I used to own a wooden hand held juicer, but I had to remove the seeds by hand as well.  With a juicer that sits on the counter, the seeds can easily be strained out with a fingertip while pouring the juice out.  A glass juicer is something I see often at thrift stores, and i highly recommend going that route.

Rolling Pin. A rolling pin is most often used for pie crusts and cookies, but I also use mine for making pasta.  While I do have a very fine antique cast iron pasta machine, handed down to me by my grandmother from my great-grandmother, I use the rolling pin more.  I have read that no self respecting Italian woman would ever use a machine, because rolling by hand is an art.  (No offense Nonna.)  In order to roll pasta, one needs a flat rolling pin, not one with handles.  In fact, the flat rolling pins are the best for everything because you really have control of where your strength gets applied on the dough.  I use a French tapered rolling pin, but for pasta, a cylindrical rolling pin is best.

Stoneware Crocks. New to me just in the past two years, stoneware crocks are now a necessary part of my daily existence.  We ferment vegetables at the farm and at our home.  As a thrifty spender and buyer, I bought a couple a stoneware crocks from an antique store.  We use them for Kombucha, fermenting kimchee, sauerkraut and all sorts of pickles, I am planning on using a small one for homemade miso and one for the beginning stages of making sake.  Recently, during one of my insomniac internet searches for Kombucha making tips, I learned that these old stoneware crocks could be chalk full of lead, and that using them with high acid foods allows the lead to leach out of the glaze quite well.  The threat isn’t imminent for adults, but I eat these fermented products everyday, and once I get back into the swing of Kombucha making, I drink Kombucha everyday.  To make it worse, all these fermented foods are highly acidic.  This news was quite heart breaking to me, especially when confirmed with a little word of mouth research.  I believe in reusing items from the past, decreasing new manufacture and production of items and lessening the human clutter of the Earth.  But some things can’t be avoided.  These are certified lead-free crocks, that I intend on purchasing for all my fermenting needs.  Really, if I take care of these crocks they will last more than my lifetime, without leaching harmful toxins into the bodies that consume my homemade goods.

You can also use food-grade plastic to ferment foods and beverages in.  Indeed, we use five gallon tubs to make loads of pickles with our CSA members, and Sam uses them to make beer.  I prefer using non-plastic items in general, but often food grade buckets land on our door step, so to speak, so we might as well use them.  They do, however, have a tendency to absorb flavors over time.

A Baking Stone and Baking Sheets. Aside from building and using a wood fired oven, which would be ideal, and which I hope to do someday, the best tool you can own for baking crusty loaves of bread is a baking stone.  I would really love to purchase a nice baking stone, because mine isn’t exactly ideal, but it does the job, so I won’t get a new one.  I have read that granite is nice, but I own a stoneware version and know that there are much higher quality stoneware ones that exists.  (A testament to the idea that we should only buy things that are of truly high quality and that will last a lifetime.)

I own two-commercial quality half-sheet baking sheets.  They are the type the bakeries I have worked in have had, and so I bought a couple for myself.  They are a heavier weight than the run of the mill household baking sheet, and therefore prevent burning and conduct heat better.

These two baking items are used most in our household.  The other lesser necessitated, much appreciated items are cake pans, tart pans, muffin pans, glass pie pans, a spring form pan, and bread loaf pans.  We also use our cast iron skillets for broiling and baking casseroles and such.

A Mixer, A Food Processor, and A Blender. Let me just say, I lived a very long time without these items, and I do feel like I can live without them.  Which is why they come last on the list.  At first, I lived for long time with a blender and no mixer or food processor.  This lead me to the conclusion that blenders are worthless, because I couldn’t use my blender for certain foods that I wanted to make all the time, such as pesto, humus, bread dough, pie crust, the list goes on.  Now that I have a standing mixer and a food processor and my blender died (I got it for free), I want my blender back.  The food processor is best for drier ingredients, the blender is best for liquid (read: pureed soup!).  The food processor really comes in handy for fermenting large crocks of vegetables and sauerkraut, due to the 2mm slicing blade.  There are some really great products out there many of them well more than what I can spend.  I own a standing Kitchen Aid Mixer, a 14-cup capacity Cuisinart food processor (with the manual switches) and as long as I am not too rough with them, they should last a while.


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Body Consciousness

I feel a need to exercise.  If I do not exercise on a regular basis, I become very displeased with myself.  For at least 15 years now, I have pressured myself to exercise on a regular basis, with periods of non-exercise here and there.  Which is why the past two winters have been very trying for me.  I have gone into pretty dark slumps, mainly due to a lack of exercise and the resulting winter weight gain.

It is true that I enjoy, to a great degree, the benefits of physical activity.  Let me be clear here, the word “exercise” signifies something I feel I am obligated to do, whereas the phrase “physical activity” signifies something I love to do.  I make this distinction for many reasons, but the main one is that I feel people, mainly women, are pressured to exercise on a regular basis in our society in order to become or to maintain the thin physical appearance the media constantly and overwhelmingly displays.  I duly acknowledge that obesity and the modern American diet are awful, but I am not obese.  The problem is that I think of myself as if I were.

Along with that mentality, i.e. “I am fat,” comes a lifestyle that always seems to be working against our bodies.  Everything we strive to do ends up being an action to change our bodies, to work against ourselves.  I will eat to change, I will exercise to change.  On the other hand, we have our heritage, which overwhelmingly medicates every single emotion with food.  So, we’ve got the message to be thin, but we’ve also got the message to eat eat eat.  I believe I am not alone as a woman who, very uncomfortably, straddles both realms.  For me, these two seemingly opposed worlds are in my bones, in my blood.  Sometimes the thought of being at ease seems impossible.

Yet, I know that my life is moving towards truly addressing these issues.  There really isn’t much room for my obsession about my appearance in a life where I strive to build a better world than the one I find all around.  I also admit that I am learning a lot about my body-conscious issues from paying attention to the messages that farming can teach me.  Respect, kindness, harmony, submission and strength, just to name a few.  When I truly listen to myself, the message I hear is that I should eat respectfully and responsibly toward myself, others and the Earth, and that I need regular physical activity.

I want to take care of the Earth, why not my body?  Regular physical activity keeps my metabolism going, wards off depression, brings out mental clarity, evens out my hormones, encourages healthy sleeping patterns, keeps the blood flowing, increases libido, and so on.  And those are actual, physical results of physical activity.

During the growing season, I must say, I hardly need much more activity than what is necessary to keep the vegetables coming out of the ground.  I am so incredibly happy farming, and a lot of that well-being comes from the physical activity.  However, I do often become sore during the summer, and I actually, for the first time in my life, experienced some real pain last year due to being on my knees a lot.  I found that a regular yoga practice was a welcome addition to my life.  Sure, yoga is very trendy, everybody is doing it.  But there is a good reason why so many people love yoga.  Yoga, if practiced properly, teaches proper alignment and breathing techniques that actually come in handy while farming.  If farming makes me feel stiff, yoga stretches me out.  And, if I can return to the whole body issue again, there were many moments in my yoga practice where I felt strong, graceful and beautiful, feelings I rarely ever feel throughout my day to day life.  Yoga helps me feel at peace with my body.

I’ve got two more months before the work season begins in full swing again, and have made a promise to myself to try to really take care of myself until then.  So aside from adjusting my eating habits, I have been at a loss as to what kind of physical activity to engage in.  I kind of have a “thing” against gyms.  Florescent lights, equipment, electricity, locker rooms, no thanks.  As someone once pointed out, it would be really cool if we could harness the energy produced by working out at the gym to power our homes, but since that is not the case, I would rather just use my body to get a good work out.  I understand gyms, they are warm, easy, but I just can’t.  Recently, and I mean really recently, I have taken to hiking daily.  I got a hiking pass to the Mohonk Preserve, and honestly, hiking makes me happy.  Seriously giddy.  Although it is cold outside, I find the brisk air brings a kind of clarity to my thoughts that doesn’t quite happen when it is hot and humid.  I also bought some spikes to go on my hiking shoes for the treacherously icy terrain that’s going on on the mountain these days.  Now all I have to do is stick with it.  My intuition tell me that if I do, I’ll be better for it.  Not in order to become thin, but just because I want to and it makes me happy.

A little bit of pressure on myself is actually a good thing, as long as it is really coming from me, and not some twisted regurgitation of everything else.