The performance of the kefir has been causing some concern since we came home from the hospital. Up until yesterday, I didn't think the prognosis was good. This is what happened.
While Frank was in the hospital, the plan was for me to come home everyday and do the chores - feed the animals, milk the goats, etc. One of those chores was to strain and feed the kefir. On more than one occasion, I did not come home for at least 36 hours, and once for 48 hours. This impacted the animals as well as the kefir. The two does I am milking were thrown off their routine as well as their feeding schedule. They did not get milked regularly, but they did not get fed either, so they produced less milk. Was this ideal? No. But, there are times we have to prioritize and choose what we will do with our time. Frank easily won, hands down. It was fairly easy to get the goats back on track, even though they are not producing quite as much milk as before. I expected that.
My standard practice is to strain and feed the kefir every 24 hours. During the 48 hour period I was away, the kefir had fed on all available nutrients in the milk and the jar was half whey and half fairly solid curd, kind of like cottage cheese. I strained it and gave it a full quart of milk to 'eat' and headed back to the hospital. Two days later, it sat for around 36 hours. It was kind of thick again, but not near as much as I expected. I could tell it wasn't happy. A few days later, we were home and I started feeding it regularly again. The first milk I had to feed it after we got home was getting a little older, and I don't think it liked that either. You could say Frank's stay in the hospital made the kefir sick.
It still thickened the milk somewhat the first day or two we were home, then appeared to quit. When I strained the milk after 24 hours it was still very thin, like milk, and had a semi soured smell. The chickens got this milk. After a second day of staying very thin, I briefly rinsed the grains with tap water when I strained them, before feeding them again. I had read or been told that somewhere and had tried it before when the kefir interacted with the sourdough starter I had out on the counter for a number of days. I thought I had killed the kefir then, too. For the most part, it seems to be a very healthy, sturdy culture. Then you find out that there are some things it just doesn't tolerate well.
After I rinsed the grains, I waited two more days to see if they would perk back up and they did not. I didn't take any pictures, but the grains were not round and plump looking like they usually are, they were smaller and more grainy looking. Finally, on about day eight when I was convinced they were dead, about half way through the 24 hour period, I scooped the grains out of the milk and squeezed them with my fingers, just kind of smashing them flat. They still had the sticky, tacky consistency that is supposed to be there, so I that gave me a little hope. Then, surprise, surprise, at the end of the day when it was time to strain them, the milk had thickened some. Not quite as much as normal, but I could tell they were on their way back to health, and that's good.
We were looking forward to drinking the kefir when we got home, especially Frank. Well, I can't say that. He never looks forward to drinking it because the taste just isn't quite in his top ten list. But he is looking forward to drinking it because of it's health benefits, especially now that we are working on healing his body.
This is just one more example of don't give up. Try everything you can think of and then some. Does it always work? No. But you never know. You might just be pleasantly surprised. We were.
Until next time - Fern