‘Kefir Sutherland’ – Is it Just Milk That’s Gone a Little Off?



As my mother once asked me, what is the difference between kefir and milk that has simply gone bad? Prior to taking the permaculture course on Linnaea Farm, I was never able to give her an acceptable response. I tried to explain that the amazing kefir grains had the ability to magically turn your average glass of milk into a healthy probiotic drink! However, I’m not the most persuasive of debaters and was unable to convince my audience into keeping their own magnificent Kefir-making grains and my family remained convinced that I was religiously drinking chunky milk.

Since having the opportunity to take a cheese-making course with the very hip Davide, I feel certain that those Kefir grains are doing more than my mother believes. Contrary to popular belief, Kefir (which looks like milk that has ‘gone a little off’) may not be bad for you. In fact, studies have shown that it might actually be very good for your gut’s happiness. However, Kefir’s mysterious history, originating somewhere around the Caucasian Mountains, has made it difficult to know exactly where the grains originated and came to be the source of a very popular fermented milk drink all over the world.

How do I know that Kefir isn’t just chunky milk?

1) Simply put, if you leave milk out on the counter it will NOT produce kefir. It will produce a smelly, chunky, milky substance that is not a source of probiotics. You need the kefir grains to produce the true drink and I can personally promise that you will notice the difference between bad milk and fermented kefir.
2) Hospitals in the former USSR used kefir to treat many different illnesses such as gastrointestinal disorders, allergic diseases, digestive disorders, etc. (Scott, 2012). I highly doubt that a hospital would think it suitable to use bad milk for such purposes.
3) Recent studies have proved that kefir can be used as an immune system stimulator, to help enhance lactose digestion, and inhibit tumors and pathogens such as those that cause ulcers (Scott, 2012).
4) Fermented foods are simply good for your health. Whether sauerkraut, sourdough, pickled foods, kombucha, or kefir, fermented foods have the ability to add beneficial bacteria to your gut that can help you maintain good health and body functioning.

In conclusion, if you are still unconvinced about getting your own kefir grains then maybe it is best that you leave this nutritious drink for the rest of us.



Works Cited

Scott, G. (2012). Kefir: The History of the Magical Grains. Retrieved from https://lingualift.com/blog/kefir-history-recipe/


Invasive Species; to pull or not to pull?

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A patch of Scotch Broom on Mount Sutil, Galiano Island


Unlike many restoration ecologists or conservation biologists, Oliver Kelhammer believes that invasive species may not be as bad as his colleagues imagine. At first, I was surprised by Oliver’s opinions, which opposed my own. After having some time to dissect and reflect upon his words however, I’ve realized that he is perhaps just as brilliant as the character portrayed in Ruth Ozeki’s ‘A Tale for the Time Being’. Among other things, his opinions made me question my own thoughts and beliefs regarding invasive species and the ecosystems they form.

Prior to arriving on Cortes Island, I thought that invasive species were horrible and that we should do our best to remove them from the environments they’re disturbing. Novel Ecosystems can be described as communities of species we have never seen living together before. Intrigued by this concept, I wasn’t sure where the line should be drawn. What characterizes an ecosystem considered novel?

While learning about this concept, I had been unsure how this would play out in the real world and questioned if this was the best way to think of such systems. What if a group has put much effort into restoring a particular area for many years, just to realize it is considered a novel system and may not actually be worth the time and effort? Should they simply give up? For example, the Galiano Conservancy Association has conducted annual Broom pulls within the Mount Sutil conservation area for over ten years now (seen above). Although still covered in invasive species, the majority being Scotch Broom, the area has drastically changed over the years, with less and less Broom showing up every year. However, depending on one’s interpretation of the novel ecosystem concept, would this area be worth the continued restoration attempt, considering there is still much work to be done?

I’m unsure when will we reach the point of accepting these novel ecosystems for what they are. Is it best to admire our monsters and accept the damage that humanity has done? Perhaps we should do as Oliver suggests and allow the invasive species to thrive without much resistance on our end, while preserving certain historically significant sites for reference. What worries me is the possibility that we look back on history and think that we should have fought just a little bit harder. However, I suppose this is a risk that society takes everyday. Whether we decide to pull the invasive species or to leave them be, our surrounding environment will be greatly affected in ways that we cannot quite comprehend. It is up to us to choose which path to take.

The Anointment


It was the last day of our Permaculture course and we were convoying our way over to the beautiful Smelt Bay on Cortes Island. The sun was shining and people were laughing as we arrived. We were told that we would be holding a ‘closing circle’ to discuss the past week, to give feedback, and to receive our Permaculture Design Certificates. The feedback and reflections went somewhat as I had suspected, although the wiggling of toes was an additional bonus. What got me, however, was the ‘anointment’ period. Mike and Hannah kept using this word as if we all knew exactly what it meant. I for one had no idea and began to cook up all sorts of weird, permie-esque situations in my mind. Maybe they’ll make us do a little dance before granting us our PDC, I thought. Or maybe they’ll make us stick out our tongues, hop on one foot and wiggle our bodies at the same time (oh wait, that happened on the first day). I imagined many things, but I did not imagine what was about to come. Mike finally explained how

the anointment would go down: we would pass each certificate all the way around the circle until it would reach the owner who’s name was written on the certificate. We would then share space for that person by basically telling them why they were appreciated individuals. As the certificates were being passed around the circle, I got very nervous. Although everyone in that circle inspired me in so many ways, I had no idea what I would say to any of them in this setting! Let alone what they would say to me. Never, in my twenty-three years of life, had I experienced something of this sort and I felt completely unprepared.

As the first certificate began to circulate, I found myself hoping and praying that it was not mine. I sighed a breath of relief as it stopped at Krystal. Then the anointment began, and it was wonderful. The out pour of love and affection that occurred in that circle will be forever embedded in my mind and I found myself wishing that I could record what each and every individual had shared. Every time someone spoke about another, I found myself thinking ‘that’s exactly how I feel!’ And then when it came to my own certificate, I was at a loss for words. People often see themselves very different from how those around them do and it’s a magical feeling to be lifted outside of your mind and be reminded that you have the ability to inspire and connect with others on a deeper level. So much of our lives as students are spent analyzing, overthinking, and developing somewhat superficial relationships. To be told that people understand and appreciate your presence, your skills, and your character is an altogether blissful feeling. The anointment was so much more than I had ever expected and I hope to carry that feeling with me long into the future.

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Phenology – The Importance of Learning from the Land

As the world’s climate becomes increasingly exacerbated, the dates that growers formerly depended on to know when to start different crops have become less and less reliable. These changes in phenology are common responses to climate change. As a society, we have begun to understand that it is integral to consider the use of natural thermometers in farming practices, as well as in our everyday lives. While completing our Permaculture Design certificates at Linnaea Farm, our class had the opportunity to hear from Linnaea’s Market Gardener, Adam. While I listened to Adam discuss his views on this phenomenon, I reflected on how important it is to pay attention to and learn from our surrounding environment. Adam discussed how he is no longer able to depend on calendar dates for plant starts, but how he has to use indicators within the environment around him instead, which he described as natural thermometers. For example, if he noticed that some lettuce had re-seeded itself and popped up on the side of a garden bed then he would take this is a signal to skip the greenhouse starts and sow directly into the ground. Or if a certain plant were in bloom earlier than normal, he would know that he should be starting certain species earlier as well. Linnaea has kept impressive phenology records that date back several years to keep track of a variety of dates including: first blooms of the year, dates of frogs singing, berries ripening, and the first appearance of multiple species (seen below). From such records, we’re able to see that the dates really are changing from year to year. Although planting guides and calendars can still be helpful tools, had Adam not been aware of his surrounding environment and paid close attention to those natural thermometers, it’s difficult to say whether the market garden would have produced as much as it has over the past several years. If Adam had continued sowing according to the suggested calendar dates, Linnaea could have easily missed out on a number of crops, which provides them with substantial income and helps to fund the farm. In other words, it is important to pay attention to our surrounding environment. Who knows what will change in the coming years and what we will be able to do about it, but if we pay attention to what is occurring now, we will be better prepared for whatever the future might hold.