My Super-duper Hand Powered Grain Mill

The GrainMaker® grain mill

I want you to meet my new friend…a wonderful hand-powered GrainMaker® grain mill!  In our quest to be self-reliant I started searching about two years ago for the perfect hand powered grain mill to meet the needs of a family our size. 

After a few months researching, comparing, and praying for wisdom, the search narrowed to about three possibilities.  I made phone calls and did more comparing.

It couldn’t be just any hand powered mill.  We often need 10 cups of flour at once, so it had to be efficient and able to grind wheat berries, corn, rice and other grains in a relatively short period of time.  I knew that if only adults could handle it, it wouldn’t work for us.  Our children had to be able to operate it.

We needed a mill that would stand the test of time and hard use, and be designed to grind animal feed when necessary.  I also wanted it to produce very fine flour, like my Whisper Mill does. 

Our five-year old has to struggle on fine settings, but he loves the challenge

The mill that best fit the bill was the GrainMaker®, hand-crafted from welded steel with life-time guaranteed machined alloy steel (vs. cast) 5” burrs.  It has a rotating handle on an extended bar with a fly wheel that can be used with a gas motor or bicycle power.  Included is a second auger designed to break large or hard grains (animal feed!) and coffee or nuts (peanut butter!).   It is produced by a home-educating, believing family in Montana.

I had looked hard at the Diamant for a few years, but the price was out of sight.  The GrainMaker® is much more affordable and has full life-time warranty.  The Country Living mill is a little cheaper than the GrainMaker®, but its burrs are smaller and slower with only a one year warranty, and it was uncertain whether children could operate it.  Lehmans’ best mill grinds very fine flour, but the burrs are not as superior and it is difficult for children to handle.

For a year I saved pennies and was finally able to order my GrainMaker® right before the price was raised because of increased steel prices.  It arrived just before we moved, so we only recently unpacked it.

I must say I am quite tickled so far.  We have ground very fine flour and the children love taking turns grinding.  After about 60 seconds of intense grinding we trade off.  Great exercise!  Even our youngest who is five enjoys a turn, although he fights the handle all the way around on a fine setting (the most difficult).

Just so you know, I do NOT get anything for sales, but I hope to become an affiliate when they make that an option.  I’m happy my search is over, and I now have a valuable heirloom quality hand powered mill to pass on to our children.

It's hard work for our 10 year old, but she can do it!

Second Leg of the Trailer’s Journey

P.S. Great news!!  Yesterday we closed on a 20 acre property out in the boonies!  Lord willing, it will become our new homestead!  Later I’ll be posting more on that  and how God worked it all out.

Linked with Homestead Revival

Homemade Probiotics, Part Two

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Homemade Probiotics, Part Two

Kefir grains

To us, being prepared is much more than just having a stash of stuff put away for an emergency.  It is a lifestyle independent of modern systems.  Our goal is to be self-sustaining, and providing our own nutritional supplements is part of that.  If you didn’t read my first post about Homemade Probiotics, go here.

Kefir is a normal part of our family’s breakfast routine as many mornings as possible.  We stir in raw sugar or maple syrup, as it is quite sour alone.  It is great over cooked oatmeal, cold cereal, or fresh fruit.  Often our children request it alone in a glass.  We know families who make smoothies with it, but to me it’s simpler to not use the blender every day.

True kefir is only made using a mother-culture, which consists of little white kernels called grains which look like large curd cottage cheese.  The grains are chewy and sour tasting, and can only be obtained from someone with grains that have propagated in the kefir-making process.  You can purchase them inexpensively from Dominic N Anfiteatro, an authority on the subject.

Straining the grains out the kefir (fermented milk)

I received 1½ ts (7.4 ml) of grains several years ago from a fellow home-educator.  They grew, and now I use ½ cup (118 ml) to ferment two quarts of raw goat milk about every two days.  As the grains multiply I remove extras to share or to treat illness or infections.

Making kefir is simple but takes discipline, which is not a bad trait to develop.  We start by placing the grains in a glass jar and adding milk, stirring so they are completely immersed in fresh milk.  The jar is left on the counter (away from extreme temperatures) with a loose lid to allow for air expansion.

We used to process it every day, but it got to be a burden, so now we do it about every two days.  We like the flavor and texture created by placing the jar into the fridge on the second day (makes it creamy rather than fizzy).  At the end of the second day we use a plastic colander (stainless works fine, but not reactive metals) and strain the fermented milk (now called kefir) into a bowl.  It’s placed into a glass jar and sweetener is added, then it’s placed back into the fridge (it would be OK left out, but it gets fizzier and we like it better not fizzy).

A fresh brew ferments on the counter

Next the grains go back into the original jar (or a clean one) and fresh milk is poured over them once again to start the process for the next batch of kefir.  Meanwhile the strained kefir in the fridge is left for two days to “ripen.”  This wait greatly increases the vitamin content.  After it has ripened for two days, it is ready to devour, and it usually does not last long around our house.

Hope this is inspiring to you.

Second Leg of the Trailer’s Journey

Linked with Homestead Revival

Homemade Probiotics

Raw goat milk kefir

For years I purchased probiotics, such as those with well-known acidophilus, as a nutritional supplement.  When there were yeast or fungus issues, or an infection, these supplements with active cultures effectively helped the healing process.  In fact, since we’re married (19 years) we have only used prescription medications in our family three or four times, and it’s at least partly due to this fact.

What would we do in a situation where these supplements were not available?  With the good quality supplements being rather costly, is there a better way to make them available for our family?

The answer lies with homemade cultured or fermented foods that were traditionally used before modern industrialization, and are still used in less industrialized nations.  Before refrigeration it was necessary to ferment and culture many foods including grains, vegetables, dairy products, and raw meats.  The health benefits of the enhanced live enzyme and probiotic activity were great, and they are largely missing from our modern diet.

Some health experts focus on eating large amounts of raw foods, which is great but cannot equal the high levels of enzymes and health-giving micro-organisms in fermented or cultured foods (we’re not talking alcoholic, but fermented using live cultures).  Many raw foods contain enzyme inhibitors, so the enzymes cannot be utilized by our bodies unless the inhibitors are deactivated by fermenting or culturing.

In the past six years we’ve spent two summers in Kazakhstan adopting our two Kazakh daughters.  While there we learned interesting facts about diet in a traditionally nomadic culture.  A cultured food in their diet was Kefir (properly pronounced Keh-FEER per Wikipedia and expert Dominic Anfiteatro).  Kefir was credited for the longevity and health of the nomad peoples.

Milk Kefir is a creamy cultured milk drink which tastes similar to yogurt, but can be a bit fizzy depending on how it’s cultured.  Yogurt is also a cultured dairy product, but the number of health-giving micro-organisms found in kefir far surpasses that found in yogurt.  Like yogurt, it is delicious when mixed with raw fruit and/or a natural sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, or raw sugar.

Check back next time for more about life-giving kefir and how we make it at home.  If we can do it, so can you!

Second Leg of the Trailer’s Journey