Sunday, January 13, 2019


Let's make our own kombucha! 

First... a little history.

Many years ago, while visiting a Seattle shopping mall, I wandered into a health food store. My gaze fell upon a little bottle of KOMBUCHA WONDER DRINK.

I had never heard of kombucha.

"EXPERIENCE A SENSE OF WELL-BEING" was the message on the back of the bottle. Was I interested in experiencing a sense of well-being? Sure.

But, in truth, the flavor was the reason I bought this expensive little drink. I had eaten my very first asian pear in the recent past and loved the flavor! I simply had to buy this asian pear drink. I am so glad I did. It really was a treat.

My purchase was followed by some research about kombucha. Here is a little summary I came across:

Kombucha has gradually become a popular drink available in most grocery and health food stores throughout our country. Kombucha drinks are delicious, naturally low in calories and  available in a wide range of natural flavors. Here is one of the first brands available in Sitka grocery and health food stores: 

Even though my interest had been sparked about kombucha, I pretty much forgot about it for a few years. 

Fortunately, I saw Ruthie (Baird) Dearborn selling kombucha starter kits at one of the earliest Sitka Farmers' Markets. I did not hesitate to make a purchase. Ruthie provided a sheet with excellent information and instructions.

With a little practice, I succeeded at making my own kombucha in a variety of flavors!

What we need to get started:

a kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). It looks like a slimy, brown mushroom cap. Quite a few people make their own kombucha here in Sitka. Every time kombucha is made, a new SCOBY forms. And, the old one is still usable. Ask around to find out from whom or where to acquire a SCOBY. You will want your SCOBY to be accompanied by two cups of starter tea.

a clean container

tea bags



The kombucha guide below will help you determine how much you will need of the things listed above:

There are several different teas compatible with kombucha. Here is some excellent information to help you choose:

Below is an explanation of how I made my own kombucha step by step...

NOTE: Because Sitka is located in a moist rainforest, it can easily be described as a somewhat "moldy" place to live. So, I encourage you to wash your hands well whenever preparing your kombucha to prevent introducing any mold. 
Not a bad idea to do this wherever you live.
Mold will ruin your kombucha.
And then, just to be on the safe side, rinse your hands, jars and utensils with distilled white, mold-defying vinegar. I leave a little in a cup to dip my fingers into throughout the process:


(This will be a one gallon demonstration).

I stored SCOBIES and starter tea together in a large jar at room temperature out of sunlight. It was saved from previously made batches of kombucha. 


Which tea bags you use and the number of bags is a matter of taste. I experimented quite a bit and personally prefer four green tea bags and two black tea for a one gallon preparation.

One cup per gallon jar works well.

Distilled water is recommended more often than not. I like to use boiled river water. Some people I know prefer water from the artesian well. Others simply use Sitka tap water. Whatever the water source you choose, you will need 14 cups. In a pot or kettle, bring the 14 cups of water to a boil.
I use a large stainless steel pot with a lid.

Once the water comes to a boil, shut off the heat and add the tea bags and sugar. Stir it all gently and cover it with the lid. 
Let it sit there for about 30 minutes before removing the tea bags with a clean utensil. Discard the tea bags and put the lid on.

After removing the tea bags, cover the liquid again and let it cool down to room temperature.

Once it has reached room temperature, pour this tea mixture into your gallon container. 
Now add the two cups of starter tea and stir with a clean utensil. 
Finally, drop in the SCOBY.

To keep out bugs, mold and dust, cover the container with a clean cloth, paper towel or coffee filter. Hold it in place with something like a string or rubber band.

Choose an out of the way location in your home... out of direct sunlight where the air temperature is around 65 to 80 degrees. It needs to brew (ferment) for around 7 to 14 days.The cooler it is where you set it, the longer it takes. You will determine when it is ready to drink by doing taste tests. I like the jars with the little spigot on the bottom so I can easily taste a sample. 

 When you like how it tastes, you have made your own unflavored kombucha! Some people prefer unflavored kombucha. If you prefer unflavored, you are finished! Simply remove two cups of the kombucha and the 2 SCOBIES (mom and baby) and store it all in a container in the refrigerator to use when you are ready to make more kombucha.  The rest can be stored for your enjoyment in your gallon jar, with a lid, in the refrigerator. Or, you can pour your remaining kombucha into smaller containers, seal and store in the refrigerator. A cool location, such as a refrigerator, will prevent any further fermenting. If it ferments too long, it gets progressively more and more sour and tastes like vinegar.

However, if you want to add flavor... now is the time to accomplish this. It requires one more step before sealing and cold storage. 

If you only want to use one flavor for the entire batch you just made, you can continue to use that gallon jar of kombucha after you remove the two cups and the mom and baby SCOBIES. If simply continuing to use your gallon container, add about a cup of berries or fruit...fresh, frozen or dried. Adding two cups of your favorite juice works well, too. Put a lid on the gallon jar. If you want fizzy carbonation, let it sit 2 or 3 more days at room temperature. If not, place it in the refrigerator with a lid right away.

If you decide you want to store your flavored kombucha in several smaller containers or use more than one flavor, start by putting a small amount of fruit, berries or juice of your choice into the bottom of your smaller containers. Then fill the remaining space with kombucha. Screw on the lids. (I use 8 ounce or pint size canning jars). As suggested above, let these smaller containers sit out two or three days at room temperature if you want your kombucha fizzy. Then store them in the refrigerator. If you do not want your kombucha fizzy, then seal and store in the refrigerator immediately after adding flavor.

Over the years, lots of information has become available for improving home made kombucha. My most recent kombucha insights are thanks to:
  • the post named "The Benefits of Kombucha" on the blog named WELLNESS MAMA 
  • CONNIE OEN, a lovely local lady who added my name to the above Facebook group! Connie has posted some inspirational photos of her own successful brewing of powerfully flavorful kombucha. She graciously agreed to share a few photos with us. Look at that carbonation!                                                            

And, here are some inspirational bottles of kombucha Connie made with luscious flavors and colors:


Saturday, April 28, 2018


Oh, the fragrance! 
Hand someone a rose 
It goes right to the nose. 

Fragrance is the number one requirement of roses planted in our gardens.

Surprisingly, there are quite a few roses tolerant of our climate. They survive, unprotected, in year round wind and rain. They survive our winters plagued by multiple freezes and thaws. Let's begin with the tough guys.

There are at least three kinds of fragrant, wild roses growing in these parts.  
Rosa rugosa also known as Sitka Rose
Rosa acicularis also known as Wild Prickly Rose
Rosa nutkana also known as Nootka Rose

Wild roses are not only tough, but are typically low maintenance. They are pretty much trouble free and often resistant to pests and disease.
It is not always easy to identify one wild rose from another. 
So, I don't often try.

Thank you to Cheryl Stromme for the little start she dug up for me under her rose bush named Rosa rugosa 'Yankee Lady.' 

That little start grew into the beautiful bush below.
The thorns and stems of 'Yankee Lady' do not make the flowers inviting to include in a bouquet. But, whenever I pass by or reach beneath to cut some spearmint, I stick my nose into a bloom and enjoy the incomparable fragrance. On a warm day, the fragrance drifts around the gardens.

The photo below is of the first wild rose planted in our gardens. So long ago, I do not remember where or how we acquired this fragrant beauty with 3 to 4 inch flowers.

That first wild rose bush grew larger each year until it stabilized at about 6 feet tall by 8 feet wide. It sends out lots of starts around its' base.

Thank you to my stepdaughter, Karin, for this next wild rose. It eagerly spreads its' roots wherever planted. The sweet little flowers have a rosy, mild fragrance. The bush rises to a height of 3 to 5 feet.

Similar in size and habits to the wild pink rose above is the fragrant, pale yellow beauty in the photo below.

The yellow wild rose keeps a slightly lower profile at 3 to 4 feet tall.

We have had several different climbing roses in our gardens over the years. Although it looks so soft and fragile, this outstanding, tough climber is 
Rosa 'New Dawn.'

'New Dawn' is usually covered with clusters of very fragrant blooms from midsummer through fall. The blooms are a welcome addition to a bouquet. But, beware the large and plentiful thorns.

'New Dawn' climbs up over a trellis

and hangs down over a rock wall.

As with the climbing roses, we have only hosted one shrub rose in our gardens able to survive for the long haul without some overhead protection. 

Rosa 'Bonica'

'Rosa Bonica' grows unprotected, bushy and full to about 6 feet. It is covered with clusters of small, bright pink flowers from midsummer through fall. The fragrance is strong and fruity. Whether a sunny or cloudy day, 'Bonica' roses capture attention.                                                                                

And, 'Bonica' roses make a sweet little bouquet.

I could not resist taking a photo of my husband modeling this bridal bouquet filled with 'Bonica' roses.

The remaining three shrub roses in this review would probably survive well enough without protection. But, they all seem much happier and attractive when partially protected under an overhang of some sort. Our excessive rain can simply be more than some rose petals can endure.

Rosa 'Fred Bahovec'

I don't know the real name of this rose, but decided to give it the name 'Fred Bahovec.' It was Fred who planted this shrub rose long, long ago in front of the old Sitka Community Hospital.
Before the hospital was demolished, I took several cuttings from the very old rose bush and started new plants. All were given away except the two I planted at the edge of our covered garden. They have grown 8 feet tall and showy with many lightly fragrant pink bundles of medium sized blooms.

'Fred Bahovec' roses add a special touch of beauty to any bouquet of roses.

Rosa 'Honey Perfume'

What a welcome surprise this shrub rose turned out to be! It grew quickly, spilling out from our covered garden after only a few short years. It is about 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide. The bush is covered with very fragrant, medium sized, honey yellow roses from mid-summer through fall. Ouch! Watch out for those painfully large thorns.

'Honey Perfume' roses make up quite the bouquet. If I remember correctly, yellow roses represent friendship and joy in the language of flowers.

Rosa 'Madame Louis Leveque'
A cloudy day long ago. 
Lost in thought while weeding a garden, I heard a voice call my name. Out of the gray, Judy Johnstone and Jamie Chevalier smiled their way over to me and my bucket of weeds. "We have a gift for you." 
They and their gift were as welcome as sunshine.

I had never seen or heard of Moss Rose.
Up close, it is fascinating!

The tiny, intricately wrapped bud transforms into a bloom with an unusually large number of petals.

The petals of each flower are so compact and plentiful that they don't handle excessive moisture very well. This is why protection is recommended. The 5 foot bush blooms profusely beginning mid-summer.

The Moss Rose was bred by French father and son (both named Louis Leveque) in 1898 in honor of wife/mother Madame Leveque.

The Moss Rose fragrance is strong and intoxicating. I know that the Moss Rose is not the mother of all roses, but it sure smells like it is!  
And, good news for gardeners bordering the forest. Moss Rose is said to be deer resistant.

Grandiflora is a type of rose bush with large, long-stemmed, multi-petaled blooms growing in clusters.
Our one grandiflora bush was planted with protection from a nearby trellis and under the eaves.
Rosa 'Twilight Zone'

Here is 'twilight zone' filling a vase along with other fragrant roses.

Lucky for us, we have  an unusual space to grow roses and other plants that are not well suited for our climate. We have a large covered garden attached to our greenhouse. I love it.
It is dry and warm enough in the covered garden to host lots of beautiful flowers and vegetables without taking up the limited space in our greenhouse. 
The remaining roses in this post are all protected and growing happily in our covered garden.

Floribunda roses are defined as rose bushes growing clusters of blooms throughout the season.

Rosa 'Julia Child'

Wow! This rose has such a fruity fragrance! And, 'Julia Child' truly does stay in full bloom for a very long time. The flowers are so inviting in bouquets, that they are regularly picked as soon as the blooms open.

Rosa 'Moondance'

'Moondance' clusters are a reliable addition to bouquets. There are so many blooms all season long! The fragrance is a very light raspberry.

Typically, hybrid tea rose bushes have one large flower on each long stem. These are the roses seen so often in bouquets from florists. Their beauty is breathtaking. The challenge and thrill is to grow a hybrid tea rose bush with flowers that are not only beautiful, but also fragrant.
Such is the case with several of the hybrid tea roses we grew in our covered garden.

Rosa 'Perfume Delight'

Rosa 'Sheer Bliss'

Rosa 'Peace'

Rosa 'John Paul II'

Wishing you all lots of smiles and lots of roses!