The first thing I did when I got out of bed was to go check the kombucha (fermented teas beverage). It is now week four after finding a scoby growing in the bottom of one of the large store bought bottles I had left sitting with my empty, ready to re-use glass jars. (scoby, a mushroomy-looking thing, is an acronym for “symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast” looking much like a floating slab of blubber, and what makes kombucha’s fermentation magic happen). I had washed the bottle out, but clearly there must have been some trace of scoby, combined with leftover moisture trapped inside and well, nature took its course.
Twenty-five years ago, I was one of many ‘in the know’ who experimented with brewing my own after being gifted with one of the rather gross looking mushrooms. It wasn’t the craze it is now, but something that got passed word of mouth amongst nutritionists and healers. It didn’t last long for me. My passion for making food from homegrown healthy bacteria got channeled into sourdough bread-baking instead. Now, with a newly developed market for kombucha and a wide variety of store bought options out there, I have started drinking kombucha again, enjoying the nourishing addition of the lightly fermented tonic to my diet and digestive health. It is expensive to buy however, and the thought was there that I could start making my own. I have no idea how long the scoby had been living at the bottom of the bottle though, months I think, and you would have thought my discovery was like finding gold. I immediately researched the plethora of articles available on line, made a half gallon of sweetened black tea and slid the scoby and its vinegary home into the tea, covered with a porous woven cloth, and was in business a week later.**
There is something about watching something grow, being present for the changes, and enjoying the benefits of waiting for an outcome, known or unknown. It is this something that gets me out of bed each morning, both the anticipation and the love for what it is I am being present for. Even the awareness of this ‘something’ has been a growing thing.
Seven years ago I started writing this blog, dedicated to the awareness of where connections get made in the making of something beautiful and nourishing. It is something at once tangible and fleeting at the same time. Love of a thing that lasts only as long as I am present with it on the path I choose to follow. Is it that simple? Now seven years later, I am called to consider where I have grown, what has been completed or healed, and what this next cycle might reveal.
After a summer of significant rain, of watching frogs jump out of the path of the oncoming lawn mower, of grief over the loss of another significant male presence in my life, my father, of looking out my kitchen window each day at the magnificent hawthorn tree that lives there and the magnificent bounty of berries forming this year, I am feeling overwhelmed by how significantly I seem to have veered of my path these past months. It has been a cleansing kind of summer if I want to be generous. After the most recent storm (the tail of Florence), I finally ventured down into my woods. even the path was running water, and the sight of the surging water in the brook below triggered a surging in me, of a longing for being here that I have ignored for too many months.
There are days I think it is the rain that has kept me out of my beloved walks in the woods. But the fact is, life has changed. I have grown. And the resulting change in a day to day routine that seemed so perfect just nine months ago has eventually brought me face to face with how deeply heartbreak can live when faced with a change you are not ready for. That even with nourishing beauty and spontaneous accomplishment, I still feel that heartbreak deeply and can still question my motivation for getting out of bed each day. There is no blame or person I can reliably pin this to. Heartbreak just is, and it has always co-existed with the joy and fun of life I have had the privilege to experience at the same time.
Like the copious amount of raindrops, there are so many hawthorn berries. I watch after each rain as they become a little fuller, more red, now ready to harvest. I have begun collecting them, a little bit each day, putting some in a jar to make tincture, spreading some out to dry, all in preparation for making hawthorn cordial to honor this time, to offer myself and my loved ones a tonic to heal bloody heartfelt wounds of the spirit that might be there.
The something right now is healing through growth. The something is always growth, but I don’t always see. I think I will add some hawthorn berries to my next batch of kombucha.
I recently came across this saying (from wildwomansisterhood’s Instagram page), and the invitation to reflect on this something called growth….
You’re so hard on yourself.
Take a moment.
Marvel at your life:
at the grief that softened you
at the heartache that widened you,
at the suffering that strengthened you.
you still grow.
for 1 gallon (or halve recipe for smaller quantity)
Boil 14 cups water. Turn off heat, add (1) cup sugar and stir to dissolve, then and add (8) tea bags, or equiv. (I have been using Trader Joe’s Irish breakfast tea bags). Let cool to room temperature (lower the pot into a bath of cold water in the sink to aid the cooling). Pour cooled tea in gallon size glass container, add scoby and (2) cups kombucha. (you can grown your own scoby, get one from a friend, or purchase one, lots of info online for this.) Cover jar with a porous something (I use a cloth vegetable bag or a coffee filter) and secure with rubber band. Let sit at room temperature for at least seven days. Taste. It should be slightly effervescent and slightly tart. If the scoby isn’t developed enough the kombucha may also taste weak, so just brew longer and keep tasting every few days or so. You can drink right away if you like the straight taste, or bottle for second fermentation.
Have clean bottles ready for second fermentation. (I use two half gallon size bottles). At this point you can get very creative. I add a couple pieces of fresh ginger and some pineapple bits to each bottle. Any fruit will do. It gives additional sweet/flavor to the brew and aids in a quick second fermentation for stronger fizz. Cap tightly and let sit at room temperature for up to two days. Best to uncap release the gas every (12) hours or so. (I have heard of kombucha explosions happening in a friend’s kitchen…not a pretty thought). Two days is enough for me, it tastes delicious and has a good fizz. I then keep the bottles refrigerated. Yum!