Turkey Tracks: Quilting Projects Update

Turkey Tracks:  October 15, 2013

Quilting Projects Update

I have really enjoyed making the Wheel of Mystery/Winding Ways blocks–many of which I did by hand.  Here’s a picture to remind you what these blocks look like:

Wheels of Mystery 2

The line-up of lights and darks makes the “wheels of mystery.”

Anyway, after sewing while watching all of the tv series “Suits” and “Falling Skies,” I started making some blocks by machine to speed up the process.  And, then, started wanting to get the top finished.  (There is a quilt to make for granddaughter AIley’s third birthday in late November.)

When I get focused on finishing a top–it gets finished.  All the blocks are done–so I will start sewing rows together–which will require patience as there are lots of joins that need to be perfect.

i’m going to do two borders that will finish at 3 inches–and come out to a border of 6-inch nine patches in the fabrics of the quilt–with the dark fabrics predominant.  I hope the math works.  It does on paper.  These blocks are kind of stretchy and wonky–what with all the bias edges.  It could be a disaster.  It could be ok.  Time will tell.  It will be what it will be.

Anyway–handsewing blocks is a big thing in quilting now.  “Hexies” are all the rage.  And other shapes are showing up.  Micky Dupre and Bonnie Hunter have a new book out that mixes hand-sewn blocks with machine patchwork.  I can’t wait to see it.

I love hand-sewing.  For the moment I’ve given up on knitting and am hand sewing some clam shell blocks.  I walk around with the ingredients in a bag in my purse–such as at the airport last week to pick up sister Susan. Here are some of these blocks sitting on my knees:

Clam shells

Here area  few sewn together against the blue arm of the chair in the airport waiting room:

Clam Shells 2

Here’s what the top looks like as of today:

Clam Shells 3

It has not been ironed–but it’s going to lay down nicely.  I’m not sure it’s wide enough.  I’ll trim up and put on multiple borders and will hand quilt the clam shells at the very least.

This fabric came from a collection Susan Barry, who died of cancer a few years back now but who is still remembered, put together.  It came to me in a nice plastic box–all matched up and ready to go.  I wanted to do something with it to remember her by.  The clam shell block seemed to be perfect for these fabrics–which are sweet and soft.

Can I tell you that clam shells are hard to sew?  There is a lot of fabric that has to be eased into a small curve.  Heres’ a TINY clam shell block done by a dear friend who is leery of internet so she will remain nameless.  It’s not a great picture.  I’ll try to retake it.


Each of these tiny clam shells is perfect.  The quilt is called “Shore Dinner” as I recall.

I can tell you that I have grave reservations about my clam shells being this perfect.  BUT, I am enjoying making them.

Turkey Tracks: How to Feed Your Gut

Turkey Tracks:  October 15, 2013

How to Feed Your Gut


More and more information is appearing daily about the importance of keeping your gut healthy.

You may recall from other postings on this blog that I compromised my gut health over the years–and have paid a pretty hefty price for doing so.  It turns out that I have a genetic sensitivity to gluten–tested by a reputable lab sanctioned by the government with a fecal test.  (Blood tests don’t often catch these kinds of food allergies.)  The hefty price is that when I harmed my gut by eating gluten and other foods that let the opportunistic gut flora and fauna we all carry get out of control–read sugars and too many carbs here–they perforated the walls of my gut and food particles began to escape into my bloodstream–which, in turn, created conditions where my body thinks it is being attacked and produces a classic histamine reaction.  My blood pressure drops, I lose all muscle control, and I pass out and have to be hauled off to the hospital where I recover in time.  It takes days to get my brain fully functioning again.

This falling domino sequence did not happen overnight.  It took years.  And I ignored all the warning signs:  reactions to red wine, allergic runny nose and sneezing after eating a food my body did not like, irritable bowel reactions that could strike without warning, the yo-yo effect of constipation followed by diarrhea, weight gain, and on and on.  I didn’t stop until I started passing out and my list of foods that would set off the reaction began to grow and grow until I was afraid to eat anything for fear of setting off an attack.

You can’t take a pill to “fix” this kind of thing.  The only way out is to heal your gut.  And to do that, you have to stop eating any kind of processed food and to start eating nutrient dense whole clean foods that nourish your body.

So, guess what is one of the very best things you can do?  Eat lots of lacto-fermented foods EVERY DAY at EVERY MEAL.  This food has more probiotics and enzymes than any probiotic product you can buy in a store.  Lacto-fermented foods are changed in ways that make them even better than they were when raw.  It’s how people used to store foods before canning and freezing came along.  And, note that canning kills foods and freezing is an energy drain.  I reserve freezing real estate for things like meat, local fruit, and roasted tomatoes, where it takes many tomatoes roasted down to fill a pint jar.

But, first, let me explain that “lacto” is from the wild ingredient that lives in the air, lactobacillus.  Cultured milk products also contain lactobacillus, so that’s where you might have first heard that term.  And I learned all that and how to make sauerkraut first from The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Mary Enig’s book NOURISHING TRADITIONS (a must have in your library).  Then, I built on that knowledge after a few  years with Sandor Ellis Katz’s book WILD FERMENTATION.

Katz was the Maine Organic Farmers’ and Gardners’ Association keynote speaker at the Common Ground Fair this past September.  He has a new book out that is more comprehensive than WILD FERMENTATION.  The new book, I think it’s called THE ART OF FERMENTATION, includes fermenting meats–like corning beef, for instance–which is something I really want to try.

Thus, Katz was in our region, and that sparked other programs on lacto-fermentation.  One such was given by Ana M. Antaki at the Belfast Library–and Margaret Rauenhorst and I went.

Here’s Margaret outside the library–we got to the program a bit early.  Belfast had all sorts of clever benches done by various local artists and placed all over town.

lacto-ferm, Margaret, Belfast library

Margaret is important here because her recipes differ a little from mine–and it’s important to realize that there are different ways to lacto-ferment foods.  For instance, I first learned to lacto-ferment cabbage into something we call sauerkraut (which bears little resemblance to cooked cabbage that’s fermented) from NOURISHING TRADITIONS–the excellent book from Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Mary Enig of The Weston A. Price Foundation.  That recipe uses some whey drained from yogurt along with a bit of salt, whereas Katz does not use whey.  And Margaret, who does not refrigerate her sauerkraut at all, says the whey makes it go softer quicker.

And Ana Antaki uses glass jars with a bailer and rubber seal (Fido jars) to lacto-ferment, whereas Katz uses mostly crocks.  Ana likes the bialers and seals as she says they let out gasses that form but do not let in outside air.  I use, in addition to jars with rubber seals and bailers (FIDO jars) and crocks, half-gallon Mason jars because that’s what I have on hand and because I have the refrigerator room to store them so they stay cool.  The crocks require a bit more attention to keeping liquid levels high enough.  The Mason jars maybe need to have the gases inside let out from time to time if the jars are in places that are not cool enough.   I do have questions about the glass Fido jars not letting in enough “wild” organisms not so much to help ferment the foods, but to let even more of the “wild” of nature do even more work.

Ana and her husband Roy put up ALL of their produce from their Weeping Duck Farm every year using methods like lacto-fermentation and dehydration.  They do not buy any fresh produce all winter.  And it’s important to realize that the food inside the jars/crocks stays as fresh and bright as the day you put it into the container.  Ana has kept lacto-fermented jars for as long as five years before eating the contents.

Lacto-fermentation takes only two ingredients:  salt (real sea salt please) and water (no added fluoride or chlorine).  How simple is that?

And there are two methods:  one for foods you want to cut or grate into small pieces and one for foods you can preserve in larger chunks.

Both methods could not be simpler to make and are delicious.

Sauerkraut and Sauerruben (a mixture of grated root veggies) put grated veggies into a bowl.  One then adds salt and whatever spices or herbs one wants.  (Ana adds less salt than Katz, but Katz says to use salt to your own taste.  Ana adds 3 tablespoons of sea salt to about 5 pounds of veggies.)  NOURISHING TRADITIONS adds 4 tablespoons of whey dripped out from yogurt and 1 tablespoon of salt.  (I don’t know if the whey from commercial, processed yogurt would work–it is a dead food.)

Here’s a bowl of grated cabbage with bits of carrot–you could also fine-cut the cabbage with a knife.

Lacto fermented cabbage started

I started using a pestle to bruise the cabbage enough until it started rendering its liquid–until I saw a 6-minute video Katz put on utube that showed him using his hands to squeeze the cabbage.  That seemed to work a bit better.

Once the cabbage renders enough liquid, one just packs it into a jar and lets it sit.  I turn mine upside down a few times a day and refrigerate it after a few days as that slows down the fermenting action.  I still use 4 tablespoons of whey and maybe only one tablespoon of salt, but I don’t stress about it.  I add things like some caraway seeds.  Garlic is good in anything.  You could add some herbs from the garden.  Use what sounds good to YOU.

You can start to eat any of these foods after a few days.  But the longer they ferment, the more they “develop” interesting flavors that are richer and deeper.  Refrigeration slows the reactions.

Here’s the sauerkraut packed into a jar:

Lacto fermented cabbage

After after a few days, I was able to put the contents of the half-filled jar into the full one…

If you use a crock, you need a plate you can push down over the top of the veggies  to make the liquid rise and cover them–and a weight to keep it pushed down–like a Mason jar filled with water–and a clean dish towel or cheesecloth over the top–tied around so fruit flies that are very present this time of year don’t get inside.  You want this food to be able to breathe.

The other method involves cutting up veggies, adding spices and or herbs (I put whole garlic cloves into everything as it is a great immune builder–and I eat them as I go along) and pouring some brine over the mixture until the jar is full.  Ana uses wooden popsicle sticks pushed down into the neck of her jars to keep the liquid covering the food–and that works really well.

The brine is simple–you can mix in 3 tablespoons of sea salt to one liter of water.  Katz uses about 6 tablespoons for about 8 cups and replenishes evaporated liquid with a mixture of 1 tablespoon salt to one cup of water.  You just put the salt into cold water, stir it around, and pour it over the veggies.

Here are my mixed veggies:

lacto-fermented mixed veggies 2

This batch has eggplant cut into chunks, carrots, beans, salad turnips, green peppers, red peppers, and so forth.  Green beans are delicious done this way.  And, of course, Katz has a recipe for New York garlicky pickles that is delicious!  I can’t get enough of them.

It’s wise to always put a fresh jar/crock into a pan or a container so that if there is overflow, it won’t ruin anything.  Especially with the crocks and especially if they are fullish.  With the jars, you will see bubbles rise to the neck of the jar and when you see a ring of bubbles–or bubbles rising if you pick up the jar and shake it–you know all is well.  Again, putting a jar into a cool place slows the reactions.

Remember that the veggies are in an acid environment–so will not go bad.  And remember if using a crock, it’s entirely normal for the top of the liquid to “bloom” with white bits and blue bits.  Just skim those off.  They don’t hurt anything any more than the white and blue bits in blue cheese.  It’s normal.  It’s WILD.

I just tasted a crock I did two weeks ago of grated turnips (about 4 pounds) and carrots (1 pound)–with added sage from the garden.  It is DELICIOUS!  It has no “turnipy” taste at all–is just clear and fresh and lovely.  I’m going to transfer it to a glass jar and think about doing it again and adding in some parsnips…  And, maybe, rutabega as I have some.  I might have grated in some Daikon radish and I did add garlic…   How healthy is that?

So, here’s a picture of the New York garlicky pickles this summer–lots of garlic, grape leaves to keep the pickles crisp, some peppercorns, and fresh dill:

Sour Pickes in crock

And a summer favorite–a bacon, lettuce, tomato (from your garden), slivered onion sandwich with homemade mayo and with a pickle on the side:

Sour Pickles

Turkey Tracks: Fall Update

Turkey Tracks:  October 15, 2013

Fall Update

Well, I’ve neglected the blog for the past few weeks.  It’s just been too pretty outside, and I have been too busy being outside, to sit down and write. I’ve been saving pictures, though. And thinking about what I would post eventually… So, here’s a group of pictures I took on September 29th–a week or so after Bryan, Corinne, and the girls were here visiting.

It was definitely time to switch the mailbox covers!

Although the Indian Summer weather is what brings out the ladybugs in droves.  It’s not unusual to see them clustered on the sides of the house in a warm, sunny spot.

Sept. 29, ladybuy mailbox cover

Still, the leaves are turning now, so it’s time to honor that:

Sept 29, fall leaf mailbox cover

I think this picture would make a good card, actually.  So I printed some extra prints to try out that idea.

Remember the post on the robin mother that went wild this summer and build 14 nests across the front porch–then settled on two good ones and raised three babies in one?  When I went up on a ladder to clean out the nests for the winter, here’s what I found:

Sept. 29, Robin's Eggs

It’s way too late to raise more babies…   But the eggs showed no signs of decay…

Sean Floyd came and helped me store all the outside furniture, pots, lawn ornaments, and so forth.  He also put down the winter boardwalk–which is a heavy-duty job to do.

Sept 29, boardwalk down

That’s NO NO Penny who at ten is still going strong.

There’s something about the boardwalk that I really love.

I’m leaving the garden fence up for the winter–though I have not had the nerve to call Tom Jackson, who does the winter plowing to say so.  I’ve loved having the garden fenced all summer–not one chicken got in there–which was great as those escape artists got out of their fence whenever they wanted to get out.

Miss Reynolds Georgia, at 11, has had a hard few years.  She may have Lyme.  She has the markers.  She does not do well with the rabies shot.  So our wonderful vet has stopped those.  And I thought she would die several times this summer and last after giving her the heartworm pill–for only one time each summer.  (I spread Penny’s out to no more than every 45 to 50 days, which has to do with the mosquito life cycle.)  Anyway, Rey stopped eating, and I’ve had to gently force feed her by putting bits of food into her mouth and holding her head up.  It’s like neurologically she just can’t get everything together to eat.  She’s a bag of bones and skin.  Yet, just lately, she’s been perky and playful and seems happier.  AND, she’s eating again.  Not much, but some, all on her own.  Maybe she’ll get through another winter.  And, no more meds!!!  Ever!!!!

Sept. 29, Miss Reynolds Georgia at 11

The cold frame is FULL of lettuce and delicious French Breakfast radishes.  What a treat!

Sept 29, cold frame

The garden is still very productive.  The kale and chard are going strong.  the pole beans are putting out another crop.  The haricot verte bush beans will produce until killed by a frost.  The cucumber vine is spewing out cukes way faster than I can eat them.  I found six big ones in there just yesterday.  They will likely go into cucumber water as they are too big to eat or pickle.  Maybe with the seeds removed, they would be good quick pickled in a little white vinegar, water, some slivers of onion, and salt and pepper.  That only takes about an hour to be ready to eat.  The Sungold cherry tomatoes ares till producing.  If I feel we are going to get a killing frost, I will pull the remaining green ones and lacto ferment them.  And I’m still getting the odd zucchini or two off and on.

Sean Floyd helped me dump out the inside vermiculture worm bin.  I let this smelly black gold dry out a bit and staged it in the garden where I will plant next year’s garlic–once we have a freeze and I have removed the frost-killed tomatoes, etc.

Sept 29, worm black gold

All these Brandywine tomatoes ripened on the window ledges in the kitchen.  This may be the first year of my life where I felt that I’ve truly had enough tomatoes–to eat, to dry, to roast, to store up for the winter.

Sept. 29, Green Tomatoes

I think my dehydrator ran for most of August and September:  wild mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, and tomatillos.

Sept. 29, drying tomatoes

Drying whole tomatoes cut into wedges went surprisingly well.  I have enough jars of dried cherry tomatoes to offer a taste of sunshine in winter salads.