Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cheese presses

Howdy!  This is just a quick check-in to let you know about two things, which you might not be interested in yourself, but maybe have a friend who is.  (So I would love, love, love if you could quickly pass this on to them via the "Share" buttons below this post - Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc!).

1) I made a little video tutorial on how to make a cheese press for under $10.  It's super easy to make a cheese press inexpensively but very effectively, instead of spending hundreds of dollars buying one.

2) If you don't want to make it yourself, you can now buy a cheese press from us!  Steve makes 'em himself, and only charges $29.99 for them.  Wow!

I have made hard cheese for over a decade and have taught hundreds of people how to make cheese.  It's really tricky to find a proper cheese press, especially if you don't want to spend a lot of money.  I can attest to how amazing our cheese presses are.  They work great, are inexpensive, and easy to clean!

Click here to watch my movie tutorial for a DIY cheese press on Youtube.

Click here to buy a cheese press from us.

Remember, if you know anyone who might be interested, share this post!  Thanks for supporting our little family business!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Raka, our new puppy

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might groan "Not ANOTHER puppy picture!"  I know, I know.  I am a tiny little bit in love with our new puppy girl.  Not only is she cute, but she might also be with us through some major life changes.  Just think: She might still be alive when my now 13-year-old son Kai makes me a grandma, or my now 11-year-old son Luke graduates from college, or my now six-year-old daughter Eva gets married.  Oh man!  All I'm saying is, this dog will hopefully be with us throughout my kids' coming of age lives.  That's a big deal!  You know what I'm saying?

Meet Raka, which means "Grandmother moon" in Sanskrit and "Wolf" in Elven language.  I wanted to name her "Luna", since my beloved Pluto dog (RIP) was named after a celestial body as well, but her majesty Eva hated that name.  So Raka it is.

She's a Labrador-Chesapeake mix, two months old, with razor sharp teeth and claws, silky soft fur and a lovely, calm temperament.

Too bad the poor thing is so neglected and unloved at our house.  Ahem.

She is getting socialized with plenty of kid activity, other people, goats and neighbor dogs.  I think she will be a great dog.  Raka has an incredible role model to live up to, since Pluto was the perfect dog.

This definitely was the week of the dog.  Before we picked up Raka, we kidnapped a neighbor's dog who loves to come with whenever we walk by.  We spent a lovely couple of hours wandering to the creek, throwing sticks and enjoying a break in the non-stop rainy weather.

Just showing some of the handspun, handknit woollens that keep us warm and dry in winter

What are you in love with these days?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A rare treat

In our rainy neck of the woods, winter days revolve indoors by the wood stove.  In the past months, I have spent countless hours writing, writing, and writing some more by the crackling fire.  I'm in the process of finishing the last touches on my book (more on that in another post), and I'm creating a new online workshop on fermenting foods and drinks.

Although I love writing and using my brain, some days I am bummed out that we are trapped inside most of the day.

So when the rain stopped once last week, I bundled up Eva and headed outside for a walk.  Except she got side tracked by the trampoline in the yard, and while she "jumped" (if you can call bouncing on a soggy trampoline jumping) I noticed that the bamboo that had been bent over and covered by snow was freed once again, but leaning unattractively.  So I grabbed the loppers and cut off half of our bamboo grove, which made me happy because it looks so much better, and it made the goats happy because they got to eat it - a welcome treat in culinaryly-boring-for-goats winter.

When I walked back and forth between trampoline and goats shed I noticed the eye sore of a fallen-over trellis in front of the vegetable garden.  We had built this trellis from cedar poles, and after supporting gorgeous climbing roses and clematis for over a decade, it succumbed to a heavy windstorm a couple of months ago and annoyed me ever since, because I had to look at it every time I glanced out the kitchen window.

So I enlisted the help of the boys.  Kai and Luke dug three-foot deep holes, and Steve did the heavy lifting with bigger and better cedar poles.  While they were digging and sweating, I pruned the heck out of the overgrown climbing rose next to it.  I am so excited about our new arbor!  Just wait when the roses and clematis bloom - it's gonna be Martha Stewart-worthy!

After this task was done I moved on to the insanely overgrown jasmine vine by the kitchen window.  It is heavenly in summer, when its creamy white blossoms waft a gorgeous aroma around the house.  I've never pruned it in ten years, and it had halfway taken over two windows by the kitchen, thus blocking valuable light in the winter.  It took me two hours to get it tamed.  I hope I didn't kill it by this radical treatment...

Ohhh, how I loved being outside for a few hours and using my body instead of just my brain!

Talking of outside: the boys get together with their friends every Friday to engage in a sport called "boffing" where they beat the crap out of each other with homemade foam swords and weapons.  It's totally a boy thing, but at least it gets them outside and is great exercise.  If you are local, come join them!

Even when it's not sunny outside, my middle kid Lukas doesn't mind sitting on a lawn chair in the woods, flintknapping obsidian, with rain pouring down around him.  He's committed to learning wilderness skills, that one.  In fact, last week at the Eagle Festival, Lukas demonstrated flint knapping in front of a group of people.  I was proud of him, sitting up there in a shirt he made himself with a buck skin hide his Dad tanned.

At the same event, Steve demonstrated how to make a friction fire with a bow drill.  That one is always a favorite with people, because it's so dramatic.  Steve teaches this stuff, by the way.

More happenings this week: smoking all the salmon the boys caught this year.  It was a terrible fishing season, but they managed to catch enough salmon to last us a while.
Also: with all that focus on the boys, I'll mention that little Eva is becoming quite the helper around the house.  Barely six, she does all the sweeping, cleans up her toys amazingly well, and helps with the baking (it's been a loooooong time coming, that newfound helpfulness)...

Let me leave you with images from our recent family road trip to Oregon.  First, we went to Breitenbush Hotsprings, which is one of the most amazing places in the world to relax and recuperate.  I'm sorry I don't have pictures, but everyone walks around naked and wouldn't appreciate a photographer in their midst, I'm sure.
After enjoying the hotsprings, we drove to the coast for a couple of days.  It was wet, rainy and windy, and so, so, so much fun!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Healing hearts - a short story about Kawasaki disease, and how my son overcame it

Usually, my blog posts are rich in pictures, and not so rich on text.
But today, I would like to share with you a short story I wrote about my middle son Lukas, who almost died six years ago.  I am sharing this to give hope to the people who are dealing with similar challenges, and to celebrate Lukas.
Here we go.

Healing Hearts

by Corina Sahlin

My husband and I sat on the hospital bed where our five-year-old son Luke lay very still, his face as white as the sheets on the bed.  My newborn daughter started fussing, just as the team of doctors walked in to give the results of my son's echo cardiogram.  I put the baby on my breast to start nursing, so I could give my full attention to the experts, and without any preambles, they told us that Luke had three coronary aneurysms.  What I remember most about the seconds after this verdict is that my milk would not let down, and that my little daughter started wailing.  I didn't wail then, but cried later in the bathroom with a wash cloth stuffed in my mouth,  so my son wouldn't hear me cry and get scared. 

I had never heard of Kawasaki Disease before.  It's a disease that causes inflammation in the tissues of a child's body, and for some reason, the coronary arteries are particularly vulnerable. 20 percent of children have some coronary complications with this disease. 
My son was one of the unlucky ones.  When the doctors told us the test results, we didn't know exactly what it meant, but we knew it was bad.  Luke was a very active kid, raised and homeschooled with a two-year-older brother on our homestead in the wilderness.  Heart aneurysms seemed like a death sentence to me.  

A week after the diagnosis and treatment, my son came home from the hospital.  We were armed with more knowledge about the disease and its consequences and felt like war veterans, PTSD included.  As we drove home on the interstate, with our son still weak and uncharacteristically quiet in the backseat, I caught a glimpse of Mount Baker to the East, a 10,800 feet glacier-covered icon in our region.  It has tremendous significance to me – not only because of its beauty, but because I have spent many hours admiring it from different angles on many hikes.  Some of my most treasured memories come from camping on its slopes.

When I saw this mountain on our drive home from the hospital, something shifted inside of me.  For the first time in a week, I felt hope.  A vision of Luke came over me: I saw him climbing Mount Baker, with a strong body and a healthy heart. I saw his calf muscles contracting and expanding, contracting and expanding, as he scaled the mountain, and I saw his heart muscle doing the same, strong and rhythmically.  It was then that I felt in my bones that he would be fine.  I turned my head to look at his pale face and smiled.

In the next three years, we became intimately acquainted with hospitals, blood labs and medical procedures.  Luke had to have his blood drawn once a week to measure his blood thickness and had to take the blood thinner Coumadin and one baby Aspirin every day to ensure his blood stayed thin.  His blood needed to be thin so it wouldn't pool around his aneurysms, like an eddy in a river.  If it pooled, it could produce a clot and heart attack.  He had regular echo cardiograms, angiograms and EKG's.
The medication made him a bleeder.  I worried about him falling off a bike or tree and dying of internal bleeding.  I worried about him not being allowed to play contact sports because I didn't want him to be different in his friends' eyes, worried about his older brother being too rough with him, worried about the medication and all the x-rays and MRI's being bad for him.

My husband and I made a choice: We wanted to continue our lives as usual.  We homestead in the wilderness, with lots of exercise, fresh air, clean water and healthy food.  Our kids were used to mucking out the goat barn, weeding the garden, picking apples and blueberries.  They were strong bicyclists and hikers and could outrun all their friends.  We decided not to coddle Luke.  We figured that a strong heart needed lots of exercise, fresh air, clean water and healthy food.
I took my boys on mother-and-sons-only backpacking trips in the Cascade Mountains where we lugged heavy packs up steep passes to camp on windswept ridges and watched the sun set in the West while the full moon rose in the East on top of Skyline Divide, a ridge close enough to touch Mount Baker.

The real victory took place on a volcanic peak in Southern Arizona.  Since we are a home schooling family, we are not bound by vacation schedules.  So in January 2013, we packed our small RV and fled our rainforest home in search of sun, nature and adventure.  We hiked in the Redwood Forest and walked wild beaches at Big Sur.  We struggled through snowy trails in Yosemite.  We got pricked by Cholla Cactus in Joshua Tree National park.  We trekked half way down the Grand Canyon and up again in one day.   We mountain biked on massive red rocks in Sedona.  

One day, while my other two kids stayed at the campsite with their Dad, Luke and I hiked up Picacho Peak, a 22- million-year old volcanic mountain.  A sign at the beginning of the trailhead warned about the difficulty of this hike: Only children older than 12 were advised to hike there, and only when accompanied by an adult.  My eight-year-old son winked at me and told me he could do it.  We labored up the steep trail, exposed by the Arizona sun.  After two hours of Luke charging up the mountain while I sweated and cursed behind him, the trail changed.  It now involved climbing up an exposed cliff while hanging on to a steel cable.  My heart dropped.  I looked at my excited son.  
“I think we should turn around now,” I said.
“Mom.  We can do this.”
I watched a vein on his sweaty forehead, pulsing with the beat of his heart.  My brave son.  Who was I to cheat him out of this experience?
Carefully, he led the way, climbing up a steel rope ladder.  Right behind him, I watched his calf muscles contract and expand, contract and expand, as my heart beat to the same rhythm.

Later, when we both stood on top of the peak, triumphant, the wind rushing in our ears, letting out screams of joy, I realized that this had been my vision years earlier: My son leading the way up a mountain, healthy, strong, fearless.  As we mothers know, being a mother is like having your own heart walking around in another body.  But on that day, on that mountain top, I realized that being a mother is also feeling your child's heart beat in your own heart as you let him follow his own courage and healing.

Four years after his bout with Kawasaki disease, the doctors took Luke off the Coumadin.  And if you were to spend a day with him, you would never believe that this active, vibrant, energetic kid ever stood at the brink of death.

Here is the blog entry I wrote about this hike.
And here's the one where I announce a miracle.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Playing in the snow whilst trying to avoid getting speared by deadly icicles

We live close to the North Cascades Highway, a scenic little road that winds over a couple of high mountain passes to the East side of Washington state. The road closes in winter, since snow, ice, avalanches or flooding make it treacherous. What is usually a busy summer tourist route becomes dead for about five months of the year, which is great for us residents but sucks for local businesses.

Last week we drove to the gate where the road closes so we could play in the winter wonderland up there. I think it's pretty busy with snow mobiles on the weekend, but when we were there during the week, we had it all to ourselves. The snow mobiles had done a nice job of packing down the snow, so we hiked on the deserted road to find some decent sledding.

On the way up the Highway we passed countless frozen waterfalls, spiked with sharp icicles.  Of course the kids had to get out of the car to admire them, break some off and lick them, and throw ice balls at them to try and break them, while I anxiously monitored their activity, lest one of my children get speared by one of these deadly things.

Besides playing in the snow, this week was dominated by visiting a litter of puppies, one of which will come home with us by the end of this month.  Can you believe we are getting a puppy???  Are we really ready for the chaos this will entail, on top of our usual day-to-day chaos?  You bet we are ready!

Snow, puppies... what else can I tell you about?  As usual, lots and lots of food prep is going on at our house.  Here is twice fermented ginger Kombucha, which creates so much fuzz that it will explode all over the house if you are not careful when opening the bottles.
Also: sprouts.  If winter doesn't let you grow greens in the garden, you grow 'em inside.

Other goings-on: reading and writing.  Lots of it.  I haven't told you this, but I am finishing the last touches of writing a book.  (Can you hear me jumping up and down over here?)  More about it later!

The kids spent hours reading or being read to.  I'm so glad Steve is home a lot right now.  Come spring, he will be super busy again, but for now, he gets to rest a spell, surrounded by a mess of books and a little daughter who is learning her letters right now, but is not ready to read by herself.  We are relishing this phase of her wanting to snuggle up to us while we read to her.  Soon enough, she'll barricade herself in her room, wanting to be alone, or asking for the car keys to get away from her boring parents...

I will leave you with a picture of the hill in our backyard, with clouds shaped like hearts, or angels if you look hard enough.  We are being watched over by something good, I think.

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