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I recently got a new kombucha SCOBY and, after a hiatus, got back into brewing. I always start with a quart, move up to a half-gallon and then jump into our two-gallon vessels.

We drink it straight after it has a good tang to it but we also really enjoy bottling it in airtight bottles to create a bit of carbonation. More often than not I just throw a few pieces of fruit into the bottles to flavor it but sometimes we’ll splurge and throw in some juice instead.

Airtight fermentation can be dangerous, and not for health reasons. Anything you make or ferment at home is going to be far less dangerous than what you can purchase from a large food system. The danger in airtight fermentation – usually beverages, but also vegetable ferments in jars – is that carbon dioxide gas builds up as a by-product of fermentation.

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This is great in that it provides the carbonation in water kefir, kombucha, and other delicious fermented beverages. The danger is that if you do not use the correct vessel, it can literally explode. We’ve had this happen in the middle of the night with fermented pickles that I’d forgotten to burp. The ensuing baseball bat, find the intruder scenario made for a funny, if heart-pounding, scenario.

That is why I highly recommend checking your vegetable ferments and quickly burping them a couple of times a day in the first week or two when the majority of the carbon dioxide is produced.

Kombucha can be bottled into canning jars, but keep in mind that these jars are not designed for such a task. I was reminded of this the other day when, standing near the counter, Stewart ended up with kombucha all of over his legs. Our floor and cabinets received a similar fate. Thankfully it was a clean break and no one got hurt, but this may not always be the case.

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The day I bottled this kombucha the baby was fussing in the sling and I reached swiftly for a quart jar, seeing as it was the nearest available vessel. We generally bottle kombucha in old store-bought kombucha bottles we’ve collected or flip-top bottles designed specifically to withstand the pressure of carbonated beverages. And now I am reminded of why.

So never, ever be afraid of homemade anything but always, always use the appropriate vessel.

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The red dirt road was cool under my bare feet and it felt good on that warm January day. I walked as I usually walk these days – arms filled with a fifth baby we call Joshua, mind still in awe of all we’ve been given.

I could hear the iron T-post pounder as I walked so I followed its melody. Stewart is building fence these days – when he’s not working nearly full-time – making him easy to find when he’s out on the land. As I moved down the dirt road, a shadow cast by cedar trees reminded me that it is still very much January, though I can’t bring myself to call it winter. So I moved back into the warmth of the sun and looked down into the face of the smallest of men.

I had planned to go talk to Stewart – he usually tells me how things are going and we bounce around homestead and work ideas. But something kept my bare feet on the dirt road and I just stood and watched. I saw him pound T-posts with unimaginable ease. I heard him talking to Elijah and Abram – nine and seven – as they worked together to clear fence line with their daddy. I saw it all through cedar trees the deepest shade of green and they never even knew I was there.

I remembered then what my biggest fear was when I was a very young adult, not long before becoming a wife and young mother. I feared I would become that female cliche they lie to you about in the movies, the one who woke up in her thirties and realized that motherhood and marriage had stolen a piece of her. In this nightmare she stared into the mirror at a woman she could no longer find, empty from the giving, robbed of her identity.

Ten years, five babies, and far fewer appliances later I stood on that dirt road as a different cliche – barefoot with a baby in my arms, about to return to the kitchen. The girls would be awake soon and we would make dinner and wash dishes. The boys would run into the house and tell me all about their adventures while retrieving the milk pail. I would look around at these five and wish not for their lives to be easier than mine, but for them to have fewer lies to wade through on their way to truth.

Because they were wrong and so was I; I am neither empty nor robbed. Quite the opposite, actually.

Quite the opposite.

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