Stand Upon Grace

Homesteading with heart~Cultivating the art of intentional living

LoveMade Christmas

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As darkness slowly gives way to gradual light this morning, the second kettle of the day sends it’s shrill whistle near bursting at the seams, steam and holler permeates the quiet stillness that surrounds.  Snow gently floats from sky above to touch the receiving earth waiting below.  The hens are playing it safe, staying within the confines of the cozy coop, all is calm as peace envelops us in our little snow globe world.

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I love this time of year.

The darkness, quiet, candles, and light brightening our evenings, it is a respite from such an abundantly full fall harvest season.  With meat, fruit, vegetables, and dry goods laid by, my heart can now fully open to the winter solstice season.  Welcoming Advent in with heart and hands allows me time and space to open and receive the gifts of the coming Christmas.  Darkness deepens around us so we can prepare for the coming of light again.  This season opens me in ways I never expect.  My heart expands full for those around me, I choose quiet moments, I create peace and light purposefully with thoughtful intention.

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Part of that creation for me, is Making.  I have always been a maker, perhaps encouraged and stirred by the women who raised and supported me, creativity is a strong force within my soul.  My mom taught me to knit when I was a child, although my skills haven’t progressed much in 35 years, I still love to knit.  Simple, homey, rustic woolen creations speak love to me.  So I have learned to crochet as a young mama, wanting some instant gratification, slowly, gradually, I improved my skills so I can make lovely things for the loves in my life.

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Sewing my own clothes, and those of my babies, has always carried excitement and creative energy, I love the process; from the blossoming of idea, to the gathering and collecting of the perfect fabric, cutting, piecing, and sewing something to lovingly nurture someone, makes my heart sing.  My Ant Pat recognized my need for creativity as a child, she guided me in the making of my first quilts.  There were from scrap and doll-sized, but I loved every minute of the making of them.  Those precious little quilts gave me the courage I needed to make blankets for my babies, wrapping them in love while they slept.  Needlework has also been calling me back to her gentle bosom.  I cannot count the many embroidery and needle projects I did growing up.  The attention to detail, and the amount of care it takes to garnish a little love onto a daily use item warms my heart.  Hello hand embroidered dish towels.

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As you can tell, Making is a part of who I am.  A way to love and nurture those around me who wish to receive a little love, a piece of my heart.  This I want to share with my children, a giving heart, a maker’s, creator’s soul, always looking for a creative way to show love to others.  Whether a handmade creation, a home-baked treat, a meal for those who have not,  something to nurture and warm hearts and souls, that is the idea of a LoveMade Christmas.  A giving of yourself to others in simple, authentic, honest ways.  A devotion of time and energy, simply giving what you have grows an appreciative heart.

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It is with love and gratitude that we open ourselves to a LoveMade Christmas this year, returning to the roots of giving away our hearts, one piece at a time.  Choosing simple, honest ways of giving that uplift both giver and receiver.  I want Christmas to be a precious time of family togetherness, and giving of oneself to others for my children as they grow up and choose their own traditions for themselves and their future families.   I want to encourage and support their creativity, their own maker’s hearts as the women in my life supported and encouraged me.  It is not about what you have, but how you give that speaks the language of hearts.

 

Making Medicine: Preparing Wild Chaga

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Our full moon gathering of wild chaga yielded abundance that we are now processing into useable forms of chaga, for tea, for tincture/extraction, as well as skin preparations.  Wild chaga is very dense, hard, and much like the wood it grows upon, and does not break down easily.  This is how we chose to work with our  own beautiful forest gold.

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The first thing we did was clean and sort the extra bits of the woods that came indoors with our wild chaga.  The balsam and pine needles, leaves, dried bits of grass, spider webs and such all brush off easily with an unused toothbrush, or a vegetable brush.  The toothbrush helps get into the smaller cracks and crevices.

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After brushing thoroughly we now had the task of breaking the large pieces of wild chaga down into smaller pieces, working our way toward a powdered form of chaga.  This was done in a series of different steps, trying to find a way that worked most efficiently for us.

It worked well to wrap the smaller pieces of chaga in a kitchen towel, and working outside on a hard surface with a hammer, pound the wild chaga through the towel with plenty of force, much like driving a nail, until pieces break down to one inch or smaller.  You may also powder your chaga in this way, however, be sure to know that the chaga is very hard and shreds your dish towels.  So use some old ones, and be sure to stock up on new ones for the next season!

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For the larger pieces of wild chaga, we found that breaking them down on a chopping block with a sharp hatchet first, yielded pieces that were easier to pulverize with the hammer and towel method.  Use caution if you choose to use a hatchet, be sure your fingers are clear, or you won’t have them when you are finished with your chaga.

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After chaga has been broken down into more manageable one inch pieces or smaller, lay out on baking sheets to dry.  This part of the process may take a few days, dependent upon the temperature and humidity of your home.  Stir them around occasionally with your hands or a large wooden spoon, helping the wild chaga pieces to dry evenly.

Once dried, you may now store the large chunks of wild chaga as they are, or turn them into powder form to take up less storage room.  Dependent upon what your needs are, and how you plan to use your chaga, you may choose to store them now and grind into a powdered form as needed. Whether in powder  form or chunks, store chaga in an air-tight glass container in a dark, cool cabinet or cupboard.

Full Moon Rising: Gathering Medicine

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Damp fall air.  Cool and moist a mist falling quietly on and off as the morning stretched herself into day.  I tied on my moccasins, the ones I was gifted for Christmas from my loving man and boys, who knew how much I loved them and how they spoke to my soul.  Fringed, supple, bold, I wear them as a token of their love on my feet, reminded to walk my path with love in my heart.  I love these moccasins because they remind me of how well my tribe knows and loves me, even when I forget who I am, or am blinded by my own shortsightedness.  Isn’t that what family is for, loving and knowing you deeply, always?

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Gathering up tools, kiddos, and a harvesting bag we head out to the woods with the intention of gathering wild chaga in the full moon energy of the day.  There is sanctity in gathering medicine in the woods to nourish and sustain you and those you love.  Gratitude  flows deep with each step, with each find of forest gold.  A reverence for all of creation and it’s unfolding gifts blossom in the hearts of those who gather together.

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I am honored and grateful that I get to share these gifts with those I love.  To teach healing medicine from the forest, from the earth, to my children is one of the things that we chose to focus on when we started homeschooling.  Teaching, learning, growing together, caring for one another, passing on legacy, essential skills, and ancient wisdom become more and more important with each year that goes by.

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Embracing our knowledge and sharing with others with the intention to heal ourselves, our hearts, and our land, allows us to expand into the cyclic rhythm of nature.  Her dying back, her hibernation, her rebirth with each season conjoins our paths together.  Intertwined, beginning and ending as one continuous flow.  Gathering certain plants, herbs, and medicines in the time of the full moon allows access to the full potential of the energy contained therein. As the moon draws close to the earth it raises the life force or the sap/nutrients of the plant from deep within the roots to rise up into the upper parts of the plant making them available to harvest at this time. Different times of the moon are best for other plants, for example, root plants should be harvested in the dark times or waning of the moon to be able to fully utilize the nutrients mined from the roots and contained within.  Honoring these cycles deepens the healing nutrients available and also strengthens the plant/tree/organism from which you are gathering. It allows us to join our symbiotic part of the flow of creation, of nature itself.

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Wild chaga is a potent healing life force energy revered by ancient cultures in promoting good health, mental clarity, wellbeing, and longevity.  It is a mushroom or fungi that grows mostly on birch trees.  Wild chaga has the highest concentration of superoxide dismutase (SOD), than any other plant or naturally occurring substance on earth.  It is divinely synthesized to heal both internally and externally with unmatched biological power.  Truly a potent and unparalleled healer.

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Gathering wild chaga consciously with sustainability in mind and heart is a must so that we respect and revere this amazing natural healing organism.  We must not overharvest, or take all the wild chaga from the tree, as the tree also needs the healing power of the chaga,  that is why it is there.  The tree and the chaga have a symbiotic relationship, one of healing and concentrating the nutrients contained within each.  One will not survive without the other.  It is also important to note that wild chaga is very slow growing.  Take only what you need, leave the rest to continue growth for future harvesting.  If you are buying wild chaga be sure to ask about sustainability practices, as wild chaga demands high prices, many will be sure to jump on the bandwagon to exploit and sell it.  Know your medicine man/woman, understand their practices, or gather your own to be assured that you are continuing a cycle of renewal and growth.

When One Woman Heals

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“Every woman who heals herself helps heal all the women who came before her and all those who will come after.”

-DR. CHRISTIANE NORTHRUP

Wood smoke puffs thick gray from the chimney stack outside the window on the homestead this morning.  Frost gently graces ground as roosters crow their morning song in the first glow of dawn, a new day rising.  I find peaceful comfort today as I embrace this healing journey I am on.  I find that the quest to heal my physical body, has brought me deep within my own soul.  Down into the roots of my heart, where I have not chosen to look, or felt the awareness of need to pay attention.  But from roots grow the fruit of our lives, and when the roots buried deep in the darkness are not thriving, then neither is the fruit.

I never expected a revolution in my own soul to take place when I devoted to uncovering why I wasn’t feeling well physically.  This gentle journey into love, healing, nurturing my own self has awakened in me the fact that when one woman heals, she heals the collective souls that she loves, and that love continues to flow freely out into every corner and aspect of life, into wholeness.  Bringing myself back into balance, into alignment, has allowed me to bring my family back into wholeness, into love.  The love I so desperately could feel mingling around edges, with the depth constantly slipping away into ether.  Wisps of love whispering, I am here, I am waiting for you.

Open to me, heal, love yourself dear one.

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The comfort, the deep peace that has come to me from learning to love and nurture myself in new ways has opened rivers of depth to gently cleanse my soul from old pain, trauma, and scars.

Radical love will do that.

Looking deep within, journeying courageously into the cave of the soul, lovingly navigating with care to explore the inner landscape of one’s heart takes faith.

Takes courage.

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 It requires you to ask for help, to allow yourself to be supported, encouraged, encircled by the loving guidance of the universe.  Opening yourself to divine love, the love that surrounds and supports us, that never leaves us, that is the source of all wellness, all wholeness, all balance, brings us deep healing on every level.  Inviting God’s love to flow freely within the depths of your soul, with the intention of healing, allows space for miracles. When we let go of the past, of the pain, of what is no longer working, and embrace love, radical self-love, miracles happen.

Deep healing happens.

Learning to care for myself, to nurture deeply both my physical body and my soul have lead me into a place I never knew I needed to go, but allowing myself to, has brought the depth of healing that has been waiting for me there, for this moment, for this time.

Removing gluten from my diet was a beginning, a new day dawning, both physically and emotionally.  For me, choosing this path means choosing wellness, choosing healing, choosing love, choosing joy.

Choosing Me.

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On this healing expedition, I have learned, and continue to learn, to stand strong in my devotion to caring for myself, teaching my own self and others that I am worthy of wellness, wholeness, balance, love.

Bringing myself back into alignment with love by nurturing my physical body has also brought balance and alignment into our lives.  When you make love a priority it shows up in every aspect of your life.  Love becomes a natural flow, interwoven into the fiber of your being, the purpose of your heart and hands, expanding and opening to blossom into each breath, each corner, each moment of each day.

Today, I choose to nurture, to love myself deeply, with beautifully made gluten-free sourdough bread.  Slow, loving food made from the heart.

My Favorite Green Drink Recipe

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Morning dawned bright and crisp, a day promising to blossom into a beautiful gift.  I woke, like several other mornings this week, craving my favorite green drink.  Listening to the wisdom of my body, I rose to get out the blender and greens to prepare the smooth and tangy breakfast beverage.  Nurturing one’s self with a green drink is a gift that gives back dividends in energy, vibrancy, smooth, clear skin, and a balanced sense of wellbeing.

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Green drinks are robust and satisfying and a fabulous addition to the rhythms of your day.  I like to make a blender full, so I have one drink for morning and one for the afternoon.  This keeps me on the level as the day progresses, and keeps me from making any hasty, hangry decisions throughout my day.

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The allure of the sun drew me outside, as we haven’t been blessed with it’s presence much of late.  The cold, wet dew on the grass was at once invigorating and numbing to my toes.  The wet leaves clung to my damp feet, but it felt so good to be barefoot again, feet devoid of wool, if only for a few minutes.  I lingered as long as I could, but eventually went back for a pair of clogs to slip on my bare feet.

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The woods were calling to me, whispering sweet nothings of sunshine and green moss, so I took my breakfast along for a walk.  The leaves on the wooded trails danced in the sunlight, although thoroughly browned, they were still vibrant in the light.  The moss completely electric in the sunlight filled my senses with awestruck wonder at the beauty of the moment.  The vivid contrast between the greens and browns did not leave one for wanting more.  The birds were busy working on the pinecones of the wooded floor.

Chick a dee dee dee

One call after another, working in pairs, a lively raucous bunch, they would call back and forth to each other.  I can only imagine what a glorious conversation they were having in the morning light.

 

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My Favorite Green Drink Recipe

1 unripe banana, sliced

1 green apple cored, and quartered

1 cup packed spinach

1 cup packed romaine, chopped

1 cup celery, cut into one inch pieces

juice of two lemons

1 cup cold water

1 Tablespoon maple syrup, optional

Add all to blender jar, blend on high for 2 minutes, pour and enjoy!

 

Surrendering All

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Morning dawns long and slow these days of deep fall.  Overcast skies have kept us quiet in the early morning hours longer than usual.  The bustling energy of the season is shifting to one of drawing in, drawing close, layers of quiet blanketing our old farmhouse enveloping us all in a gentle embrace.

Mornings are my time for quiet, welcoming stillness both within my own heart, and in the space that surrounds.  My predawn rhythms include time for me to do my own inner work, self-care, for my mama’s heart.  Devoting to ritual for prayer, meditation, yoga, and journaling, I begin my day aligned, connected, peaceful, and inspired.  I am a better mama for it.  I am a better human being for it.

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Journaling has become a sacred part of my morning routine.  Writing it out helps me gain perspective, and being a writer, it’s always been about the words and how they flow through me.  My creative process becomes cyclical when I pray, meditate, and write down inspiration, as I open my heart and mind to what really needs to come through, rather than the rattle-trap noise that overtakes my brain when daily stress takes her toll.  It keeps me grounded, when fears, or the day, spiral out of control, I can return to that place of peace that I have cultivated, the written word that brings me back to center, the connection to divine love that I experience as a result of opening to receive.

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It is an added bonus when another mop-top bed head joins me on the mat in the early waking hours, connecting our heart, mind, body, and soul together through gentle touch, deep rhythmic breath, and a collective mindset of peace and love, opening the way to  share a few beautiful moments that belong only to us, mama and child.

Surrendering all in the early morning light.

 

Deep Fall + Garden Minestrone Soup

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Rain intermittently spatters on window panes, as fat drops cling desperate to branches only to be snatched away by gusts of icy wind.  Gratitude fills and warms from within for the deep fall garden.  Roots and kept summer squash mingle with darkly vibrant cruciferous vegetables creating a rainbow of color that is the deep fall garden.

Each day I stand on the dark, cold earth, and wonder at the abundance of the season.  Wide-eyed with awe I notice that it looks different than the summer garden–it feels different.  Good, yet different.  Frozen fingers quickly and numbly cut kale, broccoli, purple cauliflower, as shovel, feet, and sometimes hands unearth the treasures that lie below the earth.  The damp soil clumping cold holds the bounty that lies stored, while frosts and icy rains penetrate from above.  Carrots in jewel tones, beets blood red, potatoes with all seeing eyes wait quietly for their eminent emerging.

The deep tastes of earthy vegetables call for the making of soup to nourish body and soul as seasons march diligently into each other.  Colorful minestrone laced with late fall vegetables mingling with handmade spicy italian sausage bubbles and brews a deeply nurturing bowl.

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Garden Minestrone Soup

 1 1/2 lbs. spicy italian sausage

1/4c. extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, (1/2c.)

3-4 large cloves garlic, crushed and minced

2c. carrots, sliced thin

2c. summer squash– zucchini, yellow summer squash, patty pan, etc.

1c. broccoli florets

1c. cauliflower florets

2c. kale, stems removed, and chopped

1 1/2c. cabbage, sliced thin

1 quart prepared chicken stock

2 quarts water

1 small can tomato paste (6oz)

2 c. soaked and cooked white beans- navy, great northern, cannellini, etc.

1 T. dried basil

salt + pepper to taste

In a heavy cast iron skillet, brown sausage until well cooked.  Set aside.

In large stockpot (6-8 quart size), pour in extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium high heat until fragrant.  Add onion, and garlic, sauté until translucent, 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn’t brown.

Add carrots, summer squash, broccoli and cauliflower florets, continue to sauté along with the onions and garlic, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender,  5-6 min.

Pour prepared chicken stock over vegetable sauté, add water and tomato paste.

 Stir in cooked sausage, white beans, basil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-medium low, add prepared kale and cabbage, stir and simmer until wilted, 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, ladle hot soup into bowls, and enjoy the bounty!

Gather

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Deep fall when leaves have left their precarious perches high above heads, making their journey back to the earth, after the color, the vibrancy, the autumnal glow is fading, is the time to gather wild rosehips.  The hard frost has been upon the homestead steadily for over a week now.

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Breaking through ice that freezes thick on water troughs has become routine during our feeding and frolicking with the critters.  Soon we will have to turn over our collection of water tanks that hold rainwater for both garden and animals.  I hold off as long as I can, as we carry water from the kitchen sink during the frozen months. Soon it will be time.

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Today is the time to gather the wild rosehips that grow alongside the wooded edges of our homestead.  Sunshine sparkles diamonds across the frozen landscape this morning as it makes it’s welcome, warming presence known.  We gather to prepare for the coming winter.  The wood, the food, the herbs and medicines that will be needed for the frozen, dormant, hibernating season.

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Wild Rosehips offer nature’s glory in a fire-red orb.  They are the fruit of the wild rose, whose heady perfume in early summer elevates the senses as you walk by.  Wild rosehips are a potent, reliable source for vitamin C in a frozen climate.  The taste is sweet-tart with a noticeable tang.  My favorite way to keep these valuable globes of nourishment for the winter months is to dry them and use in tea to boost immunity, maintain nutrition, and for infusing oils to make healing balms for cold, dry, chapped winter skin.

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It should be said that the seeds of wild rosehip should not be consumed.  They are covered in tiny hair-like fibers that prickle and stick in mouth and throat.  This is why I like to dry our winter hoard of wild rosehips.  I do not need to de-seed them, I use them whole in tea and infusion, then discard what is left.  I have found this to be the most efficient way for us to utilize them on our homestead.

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Sourdough: My Nemesis

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I have discovered my elusive homesteading unicorn–sourdough.

Embarrassingly enough, I have thrown countless jars of sourdough starter to the chickens, and some that I didn’t even dare throw to them, went back to the earth in the compost pile.

For years, quite literally, to my great distress, I have tried without success, for one reason or another, to create a fabulous sourdough starter. Sure, there has been promise, even an ordered starter, which I promptly killed after several weeks of babying it along with my absent-minded neglect. Just when I thought I was almost there….

Sourdough is my nemesis.

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Well folks, I am persevering.  I am convinced that a fabulously rich and tangy sourdough is worth it in the end.  This time I’m serious.  This time it’s gonna work out.  I am giving it another go this week, gluten-free, for me.

I am living on the wild side.  Yes, I know that.

Sourdough and gluten-free don’t exactly seem the likely couple.  However, I have been intrigued by the idea, sparked by an article in Taproot Magazine, Issue 12: BREAD.  Excellently written by Tara Barker, a pastry chef with a celiac diagnosis, the unlikely union of sourdough and gluten-free, really caught my eye.  I even tried a starter, with substitute ingredients–white rice flour, instead of brown, but did not achieve an active culture, for various reasons, albeit my cold kitchen, or the over-processed flour being absent in good flora.  Whatever the reason, my sourdough hopes were dashed again.

Like I said, sourdough is my nemesis.

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Fast forward almost exactly one year later, after my failed gluten-free sourdough starter, I found myself struggling with feeling fabulous.  I understood my body’s need to detox, and immediately started eliminating things from my diet that were not elevating my health and wellbeing.  Processed dairy went first, then the gluten.  I began noticing that I was starting to feel well again, much more like my former self, whose vitality had been slowly slipping away, until it became un-ignorable.  I came to a place where I realized I really needed to stop and relearn how to nurture myself.

That was 9 months ago.  I have been gluten, processed dairy, and sugar free since January, since the new year.  My gut and my body has slowly been healing itself, with my attention directed at restoring my vitality.  I feel vibrant again.  I have energy in reserve, and the pain and inflammation that had taken up residence within my cells has vanished.  The hell I experienced monthly is gone, and the lifetime of severe migraines has come to a near disappearance, I feel more fully awake, fully alive, more fully myself.

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I am committed once again to the healing benefits of sourdough.  It’s beautiful, tang, and healing cultures are more appealing to me now than ever.  On this healing journey, sourdough seems to be the next step on the path to wellness.   I have let go of the old belief, that glutinous whole wheat bread is a health food.  Perhaps not for all.  Even when it is properly prepared and fermented.  I am ok with that.  I have made my peace.

I am embracing the new belief that whole grains, minus the gluten, when properly prepared and fermented, are the next level health food.  There is a whole diverse universe of whole grains out there that are gluten-free, and prime for the making of fabulous sourdough bread, I am so excited to explore.

So in great homesteader/pioneer spirit and courage, I begin again.

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My sourdough culture has been blessed, prayed over, and named, quite appropriately I might add, Violet.  I know she won’t let me down.  We are both all in, in this sourdough venture, Violet and I.  With my best intention, I lovingly ground the brown rice flour in my grain mill.  The extra boost of lactic acid the recipe called for was fulfilled by the last of my beautiful Coco’s keifer.  Her spirit lives on through the sourdough starter, which has the most beautiful sweet, tangy smell I have ever observed in all my sourdough experience.

Perhaps this is the culture that will cross oceans, generations, and live on timelessly as a living tribute to health and wellbeing in my family.  Perhaps, this is the sourdough that ceases to be my nemesis.

 

Link to back issues of Taproot Magazine, here.

Eat Well. Be Well.

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There is a connection with how we choose to nourish our bodies to both our energy levels and vibrancy.  When we eat beautiful whole foods, we have more energy to live and enjoy life and do the work we are called to do.  We radiate health and wellbeing both inwardly and outwardly.  In contrast when we eat prepackaged, industry made, processed food, our energy levels wane and we have less to share with ourselves, our families, and community.

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If we want to be well, we must eat well.

For many of us this can be confusing with all the mixed messages from the media and government.  The act of demonizing certain foods in order to make monetary gain from another has become commonplace in modern society, with certain “science” to back it up.

However, what is now being discovered by doctors, health, wellness, and nutrition pioneers who are invested and investing in, privately-funded, independent research is this:  We are much healthier and vibrant beings when we eat an organic, plant-based and naturally pastured diet.

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Processed food has got to go to feel amazingly vibrant, holistically energetic, and live our best, healthiest lives.

So let’s keep it simple.

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Eat Well.  Be Well.

Nothing crazy here.  No fads, no gimmicks, just pure, simple, honest food.  Food in it’s most natural form, as it was intended to be.  Not laboratory created.  God created.  Grown in dirt, raised on grass.  Simple glory.  Farm to table.  No stops in between.

Whole food, traditional food, prepared by hands and hearts.

This is what it means to Eat Well.  Be Well.

 

 

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