Saturday, August 4, 2012

a few experiments: medicinal herbs, homemade dog food and kombucha

Experiment #1: Growing Medicinal Herbs
I took an herbal class a few weeks ago and loved it. It inspired me to plant a few of the basic medicinal herbs in my own backyard. To plan this herbal garden I borrowed Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide from the library and thought it was so good and informative I went to the book store and bought my own copy. As luck would have it, I received an email from the herb farm where I took the class and they were having a sale on all of their plants....40% off! I went the next morning and purchased lemon balm, calendula, self heal, lemon catnip (by accident...not sure how I did that...ah well), echinacea, comfrey and St. John's wort. It will be a while before I have enough herbs to harvest for oil infusions...but you have to start somewhere!

Experiment #2: Making Homemade Dog Food
So our dog Reggie has had a skin issue since last summer. It improved over the winter but then came back this summer. I haven't been able to pinpoint, for sure, what the problem allergy? environmental allergy? poor immunity due to diet? I don't really know for sure. What I do know is that his skin is icky, he is constantly scratching and he stinks. Poor guy.

Well...the same way I don't want to run to the doctor every time some little something happens to us, I feel the same way about the vet for the animals. I am grateful for vets and for modern medicine. But I believe that just like we can help ourselves, we can help our pets holistically, as well. It's worth a shot anyway...and if nothing works at home, then off to the doc we go. (Unless it is an emergency situation or there is a lot of blood involved. I know my limits.)

After some poking around on the Internet and reading lots of information on foods dogs can and can't have, what's beneficial for what, etc. I decided to make a food supplement to go along with the mid-priced lamb and rice kibble that we feed him. This is what I came up with....

Homemade Dog Food Supplement
5 cups brown rice - cooked
one large sweet potato - cubed/skin on
4 medium carrots - cut in chunks/skin on
chicken broth or water
1/2 cup lentils
2 cloves garlic*
4 T Flax meal
2-3 T olive oil

Cook rice and set aside to cool. Prepare vegetables, lentils and garlic and place in a large saucepan. Cover with chicken broth or water and bring to a boil. Once mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes or until lentils are tender. When the mixture is done mash with a potato masher. Add in olive oil and Flax meal and stir to combine thoroughly. In a large bowl (or the pot if it's large enough) add the brown rice to the potato carrot mixture and stir to combine. I placed a week's worth of the mixture** in a container to keep in the fridge. Then I placed the rest in freezer containers to store for later use. The mixture should last a week in the fridge so store accordingly.

*Dogs and garlic...from my research garlic is not good for dogs in large quantities. But if used in moderation garlic can provide the same healthful qualities for dogs that it does for humans. Of course, if I see any adverse reactions I will not continue to feed Reggie this supplement.
**I will be feeding Reggie 1/2-1 cup of the supplement along with his kibble. You can decide what works best for you and your dog.
*edit* Estimated cost: $3 for approx. 14-1 cup servings. Serving it once a day with the dinner kibble it should last two weeks. Not bad, eh?

Along with this supplement I am giving him a glucosamine tablet for his achy, old man joints and fish oil capsules that are also good for his skin. I did read that fish oil could be added directly to supplements but I chose to keep doing the capsules for now.

Experiment #3: Kombucha
So I mentioned the herbal class, right? I think I also mentioned that I was able to squeak into the fermentation class that was being held later that same afternoon, didn't I? Well...if not, I'll tell you now...I took the fermentation class, as well. And it was cool. We made sauerkraut that was delicious and kim chi. Sadly, my kim chi didn't turn out. Some of the cabbage browned slightly so I tossed it. But I will definitely try it again...I do love me some kim chi.

Along with the kraut and kim chi we were also taught how to care for a know, the blobby thing used to make kombucha tea. I have to admit...I was not real sure how I felt about scoby's and kombucha and fermented drinks. But I kept an open mind...which wasn't hard to do sitting in the middle of a beautiful herb farm under a giant oak tree learning about nature's goodness...and I brought home a scoby. Then I made it some strong black tea as I was told to do. I put it all in a big jar, covered with cheesecloth and a rubber band and set it in a dark cabinet for 7 days. Actually...that was weeks ago and it's still sitting in my cabinet...scoby is growing away and happy as a clam (and just about as slimy). I haven't made any kombucha because I am so intimidated by it all!

Do any of you make kombucha? Do you have any tips? Any flavor additives to suggest? I need all the help I can get!


Denise said...

you are so awesome! I think Brooklyn would love that dog food and I can't help but wonder if it would also be less expensive.

I have yet to do any of the things you mentioned - I think I would start with the herbs :)

Lisa said...

Love this entry! Think I will definately try that dog food. Funny...I have a Reggie as well. He is a welsch Corgi and my love! Other than DH of course. Anyhow, the Kombucha...I also was very intimidated at first. Now love it and make a gallon a week. I seem to do it a bit differently though. I boil a half a gallon of water and before boiling add a handful of dried fruit. Turn off heat and simmer with four green tea bags for 30 minutes. Strain and add to gallon jar the tea and a cup of sucanant. Fill with water. When room temp add the scooby. Cheesecloth and rubberband and set in dark for 7 days. LOVE!! Good luck!
Be well,