I have a habit of gawking at plants as I drive. It’s probably not super safe, but this time it was beneficial.
I was driving along a major road when all of a sudden I saw an elderberry bush just dripping with berries in someone’s front yard. I had a quick debate with myself:
Turn around and go ask those people if you can have the berries.
No, that sounds scary and I need to get home for nap time.
Come on. You never do stuff like this and you regret you have lost a lot of cool opportunities.
OK. I guess the worst they can say is no…
So I turned the car around and bumped down the driveway. Come to find out, it was a elderly lady who was happy to let me have them. She just asked that I leave her a few bunches because she liked them for flower arrangements. I felt like I had won the lottery.
I picked about 25 lbs of elderberries. This picture shows my stash after I had frozen and given away some:
I was able to give lots away and dry some for coming years. I’m not sure we’ll have access to a bush next summer as we move, so it will be nice to have a stash for that coming winter.
As you can see below, they were in huge bunches. Lucia can hardly hold that bundle up!
This week we installed the wood floor in the tiny house. It felt very satisfying to see the floor transformed so fast. There are a lot of projects in the tiny house build that require a lot of work but don’t really make the place look pretty (like electrical), but this was not one of those projects. Thank goodness.
We were able to get solid hickory floor from Home Depot for about $1.25 per square foot. It was on sale about 75% off. It was such a blessing!
Trent has worked tirelessly on this house and I really admire him for it. But we are both feeling tired. It’s been about 2 years since we ordered our trailer. We are trying hard to not lose heart because we are nearly done now. We estimate he still has about 9 months of work to do.
Above is looking into the kitchen, which is where Trent is going to work next. Time for kitchen cabinets!
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I remember when I got my Costco membership. It was a cold and rainy winter day when they snapped that notoriously grainy picture and printed it on a card for me. The kids and I needed something to do that day and I couldn’t wait to walk all over their wonderland and be wooed by their bright lights and flashy packaging.
So, month after month, I filled my cart with food fortressed in plastic. It was even healthy food. Spinach, avocados, frozen fruit, bananas, peanut butter, and whole chickens.
Opening my eyes to ethical buying
My friend Laura told me one evening over wine, “The clothing industry is killing people on the other side of the world. The dyes on our fabrics are polluting their waters and the sprays for the cotton crops are ruining their health.”
I watched the documentary.
My friend had just opened my eyes to the world of ethical buying. It blew my mind that you would care about where your stuff was coming from. She made me wonder what else was broken in our commercial world. I was on a mission.
I bought some fair trade clothes* and started going to the thrift store more.
Then I had my vegan phase. I realized how most commercially raised meat animals are treated: Cages, feedlots, crappy grain food, and antibiotics. Not only did I not want to be consuming them for my health, but also for the principle of the thing. We are here to take care of the earth, not abuse the earth and and animals created alongside us. I considered becoming a vegan, but settled on deciding to consume mostly grass fed, locally raised, humanely killed meat.
Then I realized plastic doesn’t decompose for 1,000 years. And that sea turtles get straws stuck up their noses*. The last thing that tipped me over the edge was that my county stopped accepting most plastic recycling. It was time to use less plastic.
Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash
It was about this point in my journey I was doing my monthly shopping at Costco and realized just how much freaking plastic packaging they use. It is so excessive. I had already stopped buying meat there because all I could think of when I looked at the beef section was cows cramped in a feed lot shitting on each other.
I decided it was time to talk to Costco and make them stop using so much plastic, gosh darn it. The customer service employee looked like he had practiced a compassionate, understanding look for people like me. But he didn’t seem to care about my mission, nor could he really do anything because after all, he was just an employee, not Cotsco itself.
As he suggested, I called “Corporate”. The guyot the phone cared even less. “I’ll pass this message on,” he told me.
“How can I know this is going to actually get seen? Will I get a call back or anything?” I asked.
He sputtered around a bit before telling me I wouldn’t get a call back and all he could do was pass my message on.
“Is this something Costco is thinking about changing? Do they realize this is an issue that matters to many people?” I asked in a burst of courage.
Again he sputtered around saying he didn’t know and all he could do was pass my message on.
But you know, I can’t feel mad at these employees, they really have no power over the larger machine. Costco won’t stop their excessive plastic packaging just because of my request.
In fact, Costco doesn’t need to change. They are who they are because they have sturdy 2-packs that you can lift with one hand. That’s the charm of Costco.
So I cancelled my Costco membership.
The cashier on my last visit told me, “You’ll miss it!” … and she’s right. I will miss the samples, the clean store, and the huge bags of Pirates Booty.
But I am doing what I believe is right. The best way to make your voice heard is to vote with your dollar. I’m going to give my dollar to more deserving businesses this year, like the local health food store and a CSA.
If we are going to bring rightness and justice to this world, the first place to start is with our shopping cart.
This is an overview of the GAPS diet. I am not an authority on this subject and I don’t know every single detail of the diet. However, I have spent a lot of time reading about this diet and implementing it for my family. If you want to know more, visit the GAPS website and read the book. I hope this at least piques your interest and will be a springboard for you doing your own research!
Our family has found a lot of health and healing from the GAPS diet (I lost 30 pounds in 6 months on the GAPS diet!) and I think it has the ability to heal a variety of health issues.
This post contains affiliate links that earn me a commission at no cost to you. Read my disclosure policy HERE.
Who is the GAPS diet for?
This diet was developed by Dr. Natasha McBride to help with a range of psychiatric, psychological, immune, and digestive problems, including:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Widespread inflammation
- ADHD and ADD
GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome because of the link between the gut health and brain health. Your gut wall acts as a fortress that processes everything in your gut, making sure it is in a correct form that your body can use. When your gut loses its health, your whole body begins to suffer. A damaged gut’s can’t produce enzymes that help your body break down food particles. You can begin to have what is called “leaky gut”, which means that, over time, your gut wall has been damaged with poor eating and has developed holes which allow particles to enter your bloodstream that wouldn’t be able to fit through a healthy gut wall. Your body doesn’t know what to do with these partially undigested food particles and can develop allergies to these foods.
The way to heal the brain is to heal the gut wall. The GAPS diet does this by taking out difficult-to-digest foods and replacing them with easy to digest, nutrient dense foods that allow your gut wall to heal. By eating probiotic foods, you will also re-colonize your gut with good bacteria, which help you to get the most nutrition out of your food.
How do I follow the GAPS diet?
There are two sections to the diet:
- Full GAPS– This is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet consisting of mostly meat, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. It is recommended to follow the Full GAPS for 1 1/2 -2 years for full healing.
- Intro Diet– a short-term cleansing and healing for the gut wall that takes 3-6 weeks to complete.
Let’s look at these two parts of the diet in more detail:
This is how I get my kids to eat GAPS Intro soups- I blend them and serve them with a straw!
This part of the diet consists of six stages and takes 3-6 weeks to complete. Fairly healthy people might be able to complete it in 2 weeks. For people with more severe digestive issues, such as IBS, Crohn’s, Autism, and depression, this diet will take more like 6 weeks. Each stage builds on the one before.
Stage 1– Homemade meat stock, boiled meat, boiled vegetables, and sauerkraut juice
Stage 2– Continue with soups, add egg yolks
Stage 3– Add scrambled eggs, avocado, and fermented veggies
Stage 4– Add baked meats, fresh juices, and nut flour bread
Stage 5– Add cooked fruits and raw veggies
Stage 6– Add raw fruit
This is a very difficult diet to follow, but It is worth every bit of work. It is hard to make broth constantly, and after a few days of soup, you get pretty ready to sink your teeth into something crunchy. But it does an amazing job cleaning your system and healing.
You will spend the majority of your time on this part of the diet. Visit this page for the Full GAPS food list, but here are the basics of what you eat:
- Raw dairy
- Grass-fed meat
- Homemade bone broth
- Nuts and nut butter
- Lots of oil (good fats such as animal fats or coconut oil or avocado oil)
- Honey (small amounts)
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and water kefir.
- Low starch legumes such as lima beans, white beans, and lentils
It is recommended that you supplement Full GAPS with:
- Essential Fatty Acids such as Cod Liver Oil, Nut/Seed blend oil, and Fish Oil
- Vitamin A which is found in Cod Liver Oil
- Digestive enzymes
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
For us personally, we have only taken Cod Liver Oil, which supplies vitamins A and D, Omega 3 fatty acids and DHA. We also supplement with a magnesium foot soak. We also eat fermented food almost every day (sauerkraut and kombucha) instead of taking probiotics. We just don’t feel like we have the money to spend on probiotics. This is my cheap “hack” on probiotics, and although I doubt we get as many strains, it’s better than nothing.
Detoxifying the Home
Make sure you quit using chemical cleaners, soaps, shampoos, candles, air fresheners, laundry detergents, and lotions. Dr. McBride also suggests not getting new carpets, furniture, or paints since they off-gas chemicals. Don’t get any new mercury (amalgam) fillings and decrease your exposure to lead and other heavy metals. You are cleansing your body, so make sure you aren’t burdening your body with things that will make it difficult to completely heal.
You really can’t go wrong by trying this diet. It is full of whole, real foods that will nourish your body.
Explanation of the GAPS diet by Dr. Natasha McBride-
A GAPS cookbook with great recipes and encouragement-
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Everyone knows how wonderful apple cider vinegar is, and the hype is very founded. It improves health and can have several household uses. I use it a variety of ways, from conditioner to salad dressing!
Here are some benefits of apple cider vinegar:
- Maintains a healthy blood sugar
- Lowers cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps with acid reflux
- Has active cultures
If you buy raw apple cider vinegar with the “mother”, it is about $6-$10 per quart. That’s not really a bad price, but I’m always up for doing something myself and saving a little money!
- Apple juice or apple cider. Some people say you can’t use pasteurized apple juice, but I have made it with pasteurized juice several times and it works just as well as the raw stuff. Sometimes you can get organic apple juice in a handy glass jug, then you can just ferment it right there in the jug!
- Raw, unpasteurized apple cider with the “mother”. This is your starter, which has good bacteria hungry for apple juice!
- Pour your cider into a glass jar or jug. Make as much or as little as you like!
- Add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar starter’s good bacteria will begin to eat the sugars and convert them into vinegar.
- Cover with a cloth and a rubber band.
- Let it sit for 2-3 months.
After a week of fermenting, it will become bubbly and taste like sparkling cider. You can stop there and enjoy the best sparkling cider you’ve ever had. But you’ll probably feel guilty about that decision when you’re back at the store buying a bottle of ACV.
Then comes what I call the “nail polish remover phase”. I have never drunk nail polish remover, but I can imagine it would taste like this. You will think your project has failed. You will want to give up. But trust me, if you let it go a little while more, you will have vinegar.
It is ready to use when it is super sour and has lost the nail polish remover taste. It does take a long time to ferment, but it requires very little of your time and effort. Gotta love projects like that!
We have been blessed to be able to forage windfall apples near our house, so we went the extra mile on this apple cider vinegar batch and made our own apple cider. We juiced our free apples to make completely free apple cider vinegar.
Turning our fresh cider into vinegar is a good way to make the cider shelf-stable and enjoyable all year long. I am thankful for my freezer and refrigerator, but I am always interested in finding ways to use them less and less.
It looked like apples pooped all over my table but let me tell you, that was the best cider I have ever had.
It was a fun Sunday afternoon activity for us to all do together. It almost felt like an apple party. I have really enjoyed preserving seasonal food more and more every year. It makes me thankful that I don’t have to completely rely on my preservation skills for our all of our wintertime food, and it also makes me admire the women who didn’t have grocery stores or refrigerators.
Once the cider was made, we poured it into various jugs and jars.
Instead of using a starter, I’m using the “mother” that has formed most generously from a previous batch. It is similar to a Kombucha SCOBY in that it is made of bacteria and yeast. It has a similar texture and feel as a SCOBY.
Lastly, I set the jugs on top of my fridge where they will live for several months! (As you can see, I don’t clean the top of my fridge.)
The foam on top is because the juice is unfiltered. I will filter it after it becomes vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar is a great project to kick off your fermenting journey with– it is simple and rewarding.
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It is now December 13th, and the vinegar is totally done. It took about 3 months to lose its “nail polish remover” taste. It is the most sour thing I have ever tasted in my life! It has a great flavor and is pretty concentrated. I only ended up with a little more than a gallon. I think some of it evaporated as it fermented. This stuff loves to make big freaky white mothers though!