Living near the beautiful old English biodynamic dairy farm, I grew very fond of drinking kefir. Like yogurt, kefir is a cultured milk, fermented using kefir grains. Like kombucha the culture is a symbiosis of yeasts and bacteria, and an ancient drink. It is a probiotic, and thoroughly excellent for digestion.


To my delight I received milk kefir grains from a dear friend in Canada this summer. My tall girl thinks they look like a cup of rice pudding. They were resting in water when I received them waiting for me to get started. I set some whole goat’s milk out to come to room temperature, so as not to shock the grains. Then I set the strained kefir grains in a clean glass jar, poured the milk over, and covered it. Some people say to cover kefir with cloth, like a fermenting vinegar, others use a glass lid.


After a few months of messing about with timing and proportions, I’m happy with my kefir process. I like to leave the kefir fermenting on the counter in a warm spot away from light, until I can see the whey separating, as it acquires a sparkling tingle like buttermilk or mild ginger beer. My children aren’t so fond of the stuff, so I just make about a pint at a time. So far my grains seem happy with that, but I’ll give some away when they outgrow those proportions – the grains will multiply, like kombucha mushrooms and sourdough cultures. I set a steel strainer (best to avoid other metals!) over another clean jar, stir my kefir, and strain it through.


The grains remain, ready to place in a jar for the next batch of milk. I use three glass canning jars in rotation – one to set the milk in to come to room temperature, waiting for the grains to be added; one to hold the fermenting kefir; and one to catch the finished kefir. I put the finished kefir in the fridge to drink later, often first thing in the morning. It is the sort of habit the steadies me, and at the same time, works best if I’m being consistent with this and other rituals and routines in my life. One feeds the other, just as caring for my kefir means that it cares for my health. Quite nice.


Before I lived with my sweetheart, I lived with a dear friend from art school, in the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver. Years of beautiful meals and conversations around the built-in table. It had a pipe running through it, we painted it silver. I went to visit Jen in another gorgeous old flat across the city, and we fell into our familiar habit of talking about art and ideas around a very similar table. Over kombucha!

making kombucha

Sparkly, fermented sweet tea, good for digestion and detoxification and full of nutrients and probiotics. Otherwise known as the immortal elixir. Kombucha originated two thousand years ago somewhere in the Far East, spreading throughout Russia and all over the world, and arriving, belatedly, in my own kitchen. Jen sent me home with a bit of the zoogleat mat, the symbiotic bacteria and yeast, the scoby. Like my homemade vinegar, it has a mother culture.

making kombucha

So I’ve begun. I brewed strong black tea, and let it cool.

making kombucha

Perhaps next time I’ll stir the sugar in while it is hotter, oops.

making kombucha

This part is very real. Pull the mother out of the kombucha and add it to the fresh, cooled tea. Science project!

I’ve been thinking that there’s something steadying in nurturing these kinds of fermentations, sourdough culture, cream cheese, yogurt, such that even if one’s life isn’t particularly full of routine and ritual, order and awareness, it becomes more so by taking this up. Almost as if an older way of being is intrinsic to the slow food, and the slow food influences my life towards a little more peacefulness, rather than requiring a peaceful life before beginning to make the food.

making kombucha

Not that I haven’t forgotten yogurt for a few unintentional hours in the airing cupboard on more than one occasion.


p>Cover with a clean cloth to allow it to breathe while staying clean, put it in a dark place for about a week, and then taste it. When its ready, begin again, nurturing the new relationship, like the ones you might have feeding the sourdough starter and the yogurt culture. Devoted. I’m so excited. I’ve got the last batch of kombucha in the fridge, to drink, and live forever. If not, Jen’s given me another route to immortality, or at least better digestion, which do seem to be intimately connected.

traditional cold remedies

Despite glorious weather in the south of England, the lot of us came down with a springtime cold. Unlike the dreaded lurgy we fought over the winter holidays, this was an ordinary cold, so I used just a few tried & true, traditional cold remedies from the kitchen and the garden.


Fresh ginger root, with lemon juice and honey, to calm the throat. I pour boiling water over the ginger slices, allow it to cool a little, then stir in honey and lemon. Sometimes I’ll let this cool further and shake in some vitamin C, which I sweeten with stevia in water and give my family at regular intervals. A daily dose of cod liver oil with naturally occurring vit D, is a good idea for us too, in my opinion!


Nettle infusions, these are from foraged
and dried wild nettles, or I can get them in the health food store. Extraordinarily rich in minerals and vitamins to strengthen the immune system and clear out toxins.


Garlic, crushed and soaked in olive oil. My ears began to ache, so I prepared this and dropped it into them. Later on I had an epsom salt bath, and brought the garlic oil in with me, rubbed my feet with it, as well as the below my jaw where glands can get swollen. Luckily none of us had a sense of smell, as I’m quite sure it was pungent. But effective. I was better the next morning. We like to eat lots of garlic too, of course! We stayed in bed listening to my sweetheart reading aloud, and let the wind blow itself out. Today we’re all well and ready for some fun.

bath salts

Sweet girls of ours are very ill with the flu. I rarely see them sleep so much, it is awfully quiet around here. I was very pleased to receive a delivery of epsom salts today, this is just what they need. My understanding is that epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) draw out toxins from the body. I always feel infinitely better for a long soak in this kind of bath salt, with some kind of essential oil to relieve whatever is ailing me. I will use lavender tonight to bathe the children and help them breath clearly and settle easily to sleep. When I was awfully sick with a chest infection I used epsom with tea tree (in small amounts, mix it in well to dilute or you might burn yourself!), lavender and peppermint to clear my breathing. The salts don’t dry out your skin but leave it soft and smooth. On a cold, dark rainy evening, I think it is just the thing.


I keep the bath salts in a jar by the old tub, with a scoop left inside. Towels warm on the radiator beside, and my old fashioned razor, olive oil soap, a natural sponge, a loofah, and a beeswax candle are within reach. I like to bring in a little stool for my writing book and fountain pen to sit upon, and then this is my idea of heaven.

nettle infusions

Our little one has a cold. I’m pleased to have the rosehip cordial around for her, and some homeopathic pulsatilla, and it’s excellent timing for some very cosy organic cotton pajamas to have shown up in the post for her today. Tomorrow I hope to pick up a whole chicken to make a broth, but for now, I’m making nettle infusions. Luckily our children like them. This is a great way to get vitamins and minerals, and very inexpensive – free if you harvest the nettles yourself. I tend toward the anemic side, so nettles are an excellent herb for me.

We put on heavy gloves in the spring or early autumn to gather the fresh new leaves of the stinging nettle. I lay them out on a tray and pop them in a low oven after we’ve finished baking something else. They dry quickly and lose their sting. Then we crush them into a jar to keep for infusing later. I put a cupful of dry nettles in a jar, and pour a few cups of boiling water over them, cover with glass or ceramic, and leave to infuse at least twelve hours, usually twenty-four. The infusion should be a very dark green. I love how blood-strengthening foods announce themselves with their dark colours.


Strain and drink it cool, or heat it up on a chilly day like this frosty one we’re having. It’s nice with lemon and a bit of sweetener, we use stevia. I sometimes use a french press for these kinds of infusions. My grandmother used to make nettle soup, and friends make nettle tortellini. Do you use nettles?