By: Tina C. Davidson
My pets are shut up in a dark cupboard 24/7. They don’t get a bathroom break or go for walks. Before you report me to the local animal shelter, don’t worry—these “pets” aren’t cuddly furballs named Gizmo or Chewie, they are a conglomerate of bacteria and yeast referred to as a SCOBY. I like to pronounce SCOBY like the dog’s name from Scooby-Doo.
My mom freaked out when I showed her my pets living in my cupboard.
“Are those slices of goat embryos?”
“No, mom, that’s my SCOBY motel.”
Slices of goat embryos in my cupboards?! Is that the next superfood craze? I’d never store goat embryos in my cupboards—unless I was getting paid A LOT of money to.
Some people pay a lot of money for shock-and-awe pets, like tigers or pythons, and smuggle them into the country. Not me. I bought a colony of bizarre microorganisms (one SCOBY) on the internet as part of a kombucha brewing kit for around thirty bucks. It showed up in the mail in a plastic bag with the other kombucha ingredients. The SCOBY, about the size of a pancake, looked a lot less appetizing than an actual pancake and more alienish. Picture a cream-colored disc floating in an amber liquid called kombucha starter. Ten months later, I’d two containers full of SCOBYs. That’s quite a return on my investment and packs a whole lot of shock-and-awe.
If There is Room in the Heart, There is Room in the Glass Container
My paternal grandfather had six sons. His mantra on having lots of children was “if there is room in the heart, there is room in the home.” I have lots of room in my heart and my home for SCOBYs (I only have two human children).
My SCOBY motels are an ecosystem, yet they are the lowest maintenance of any pets. SCOBYs don’t “defecate” in the traditional sense—one of the reasons I don’t have large mammals as pets or more children. SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Since they are symbiotic, they all play together nicely. No one fights over the scraps under the table. In a SCOBY, the microorganisms of yeast and bacteria are suspended in layers of cellulose that the bacteria produce, hence the pancake look.
To the untrained eye, like my mother’s, my SCOBY motels resemble slices of goat embryos floating in formaldehyde. I prefer to see them as jars full of friendly creatures, although I can’t technically see the yeast or bacteria— just the cellulose the bacteria produce. That’s the part that creeps people out.
Look Ma, No Fleas
I like “normal” pets too, but they require more attention than a SCOBY. My childhood pets included: a blue parakeet named Luigi, five bunnies, goldfish, two kittens, and two dogs. I did not have them all at the same time or in that order.
They were benefits that came with my pets but there were also issues to deal with. I remember our dog, Chester (I really loved him!), had a particularly bad flea problem. One summer I couldn’t play outside in our yard because the fleas were so bad. Although I’m bummed I can’t play outside with my SCOBYs, I don’t have to worry about a flea infestation ruining my summer again.
Another bonus to having SCOBYs is that they don’t trigger my pet dander allergies. My parents were kind enough to get me two kittens, Natasha and Ziggy, even though I was highly allergic to them. The kittens were kept in the garage and I played with them outside, but never in the house. The neighborhood heard me sneeze whenever I was around those feisty felines. I’ve never sneezed once after handling a SCOBY. They really are the perfect hypoallergenic pet for me. There was a lot of running (mostly my nose) involved with the cats: one ran away and the other got run over…no neighbors sharing heartbreaking news so far with my SCOBYs.
SCOBY with Benefits
Some people have pets because they like having a live-in exercise partner to help motivate them to get healthy. The research is still new and some of the results are mixed from studies on the health benefits of pets. Typically, dogs, cats, fish, hamsters, bunnies, birds, and horses are viewed as having the most positive impact on people—decreasing stress, improving blood pressure, and helping with emotional and social skills.
Obviously, a SCOBY is not a traditional pet, but they can provide health benefits. SCOBY benefits aren’t as evident as the benefits of spending time with an adorable puppy. I originally purchased a SCOBY for the sake of brewing my own kombucha. This fermented tea is associated with gut-health benefits. I never thought I’d enjoy having SCOBYs around to make tea and so much more. They don’t take up too much space and never complain about my singing.
When Bad Things Happen to Good SCOBYs
I’ve only had two batches of kombucha go bad. In both cases, I left the kombucha to ferment more than 10 days and mold started to grow on top. It may have gotten too cold. The mother SCOBY, the newly formed “daughter,” and all the newly brewed kombucha had to be tossed. Not quite as traumatic as flushing your goldfish down the toilet, but the loss was real.
100 Bottles of SCOBY on the Wall
If you are looking for a low maintenance pet, I highly recommend a SCOBY, especially if you like to drink kombucha.
Ready to get started brewing your own kombucha? You’ll need to collect the following supplies, or you can buy them all in a first-timer kit:
1 clean glass container (big enough to hold 7-8 cups of liquid)
¾ cup of starter kombucha (find a friend or buy from a reputable source)
1 SCOBY (aka mother) from a reputable source
½ cup of organic sugar
1 rubber band
1 piece of organic cotton fabric (big enough to cover the top of your glass container)
3 tea bags (use black tea for best results. A combination of black and green tea also works)
6 cups of filtered water
Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a medium-sized pan on the stove.
Once the water has reached a boil, turn off the stove. Add three bags of black tea to the water to steep for twenty minutes. Remove the tea bags from the water.
Add ½ cup of organic sugar to the tea in the pan and stir until dissolved.
Add 4 more cups of water to the pan. Pour all the liquids from the pan into the glass container.
Add the SCOBY and ¾ cup of the kombucha starter to the glass container. Place fabric over the top of the glass container and secure the fabric with a rubber band.
Store the glass container in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Try to keep your kombucha brew temperature between 65-80 degrees for five days. A thermometer strip can be attached to the side of the container to monitor the temperature.
SCOBY Do or SCOBY Don’t?
Remember home-brew kombucha is a raw, unpasteurized fermented tea that introduces new organisms into your gut biome. Please do your research before consuming this beverage and take precautions. Consult a physician with any health concerns or questions. This article is not meant as medical advice.
Check out the following sources/products for further investigation and exploration of SCOBYs and all things kombucha.
The Big Book of Kombucha
https://www.kombuchakamp.com/ *this site can help you purchase a SCOBY
“Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond” by Alex Lewin
“Kombucha Revolution: 75 recipes for homemade brew, fixers, elixirs, and mixers” by Stephen Lee
Supplies I recommend:
Newman’s Own Organic Black Tea
Newman’s Own Organic Green Tea
Woodstock Organic Pure Cane Sugar
Kombucha brands I’ve tried and enjoyed:
High Country Kombucha
Articles about the health benefits of pets:
The Artist’s Way of Cooking is all about improvisation.
Need help assembling your weekly meals? Check out Dream Dinners in SLO.
By: Tina C. Davidson
By: Tina C. Davidson
Last night, I was back at college and a DJ saved my life…
Ok, not really, but that line got your attention, right?
What really happened last night, is that I met in a physical room at the Cal Poly PAC with a bunch of people (in person!) and learned some stuff about branding a business in a digital world. All thanks to the event, “Entrepreneurship in the Rise of New Media,” sponsored by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).
As an informed citizen (who has never attended a CIE event before), I’m sure you are well aware that people are really good at being able to call out other people’s “bull-sh*t” (or “cow dung” as I’ll refer to it from now on) on social media.
So, if you wanna get the “likes” and the “followers,” you’re gonna need to be authentic.
Your success in marketing all boils down to your brand’s “authenticity.”
What is authenticity? How do you define it?
Well, one person dared to ask this question to the CIE’s two panelists and media experts, Sandy Grushow and Jason Neubauer. These guys were tasked with tackling questions from the audience for an hour regarding “new media.”
Until yesterday, I had never heard of or paid much attention to these gentlemen (Sorry, guys! Let’s be friends, ok?). They were not my “influencers”… until now.
Since I’m old school, I took notes with a pen on the back of the play-script I’m performing in a couple of weeks (
insert shameless plug for Small Town Players Spring Drama Night).
Below is my take-away from this CIE event in concise Tina-filtered fashion:
(Yeah, I’ll have a brand of tennis shoes to sell you later that will compete with Bobby Flay’s some day… just look for my ad on Facebook… or not).
- Beware of FANG!! No, FANG is not some new Beowulf-like graphic novel. FANG is an acronym that stands for the key players in marketing:
- Amazon (Some folks may throw in another A for Apple… Sorry, Microsoft- you are out!)
- The age of the 30 second commercial spot is over (and possibly the blog post over 30 words). Everyone’s got super-short attention spans… OH NO! I’M BEING EATEN BY WORMS… (not really, but stay with me as we trudge through this). Content creators should be aware of where people are spending their time and it isn’t on the couch watching TV (old media). Now people are on their phones (new media)–all the time. (Yo, put down the cell and listen to me!! If only I could promise you some crypto-currency… the future is watching/reading stuff and getting paid to do it. One word- TRON.)
- INCENTIVIZE recommends Neubauer. Make consumers feel like they are getting something. Create relationships.
- The audience still awaits an exact definition of authenticity from the panelists, but according to Grushow, you’ll know it when you see it, like corn (or that other thing that rhymes with it).
- The quality of content is important. The world still likes “low brow” dungy stuff but value-based content is starting to win out. We all just wanna be “friends.”
Not all of today’s “stars” have talent and we are living in a Kardashian world.
- The new American dream is to be a social media star.
- Digital media has “democratized” communication. It is available to anybody. Grushow plugged TubiTV– movies on demand.
- In regards to a question on peak content, it seems there is no shared experience any more and the water cooler effect is gone. The world. is. fragmented. It is challenging to create big hits.
- SOMETHING BIG IS COMING… but we don’t know what it is (it is not on our radar) and it is probably five years out. (Amazon is still taking over the world, despite whatever this big something is…)
- There is resistance to ads on Facebook. Facebook is cutting down on the amount of ads and seems to be listening to feedback, but someone in the audience asked, “Can a platform walk that back?” (What do you think?)
- Let’s not leave artificial intelligence (AI) out of the equation. In the future it might be possible to find out what “Greg” is interested in. (Hi, Greg!).
- There is no single music platform. It is now about driving the streaming of music. People want more than a music video, so create all kinds of content. It is all about story-telling and connecting with the audience. Grushow plugged Winston House. Apparently Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran played there? (Once again, not on my influencer radar. I’m more of a Van Halen not Van Hagar, girl).
- Some lengthy discussion occurred about fitness influencers. It is tougher to convince people about a nutrition product working as compared to an outfit looking good on someone. You can see the picture of the outfit and judge for yourself. You don’t know whether to believe if the nutrition product changed a person’s body to look that way. Successful marketing can be done in terms of brand recognition for nutritional products. Neubauer plugged bpi Sports (never heard of them before. Apparently their goal is to break the internet with protein? What the what? Who’d want the internet broken? Now that I’ve googled them I’m sure I’ll be seeing more ads about them. At least they post pictures of bacon).
- We are living in scary times. Our country has a lot to grapple with in terms of social media.
- A brand can be created from your personal story.
- We are better off when our nose is out of our phone… sentiments by Grushow (not Dr. Seuss, but maybe a new children’s book in the works here? Are you seeing the potential?).
- Grushow hopes there will always be an element of magic in creating content and was unsure if that can be reproduced by AI.
Thanks, Cal Poly, and thanks to Grushow and Neubauer for keeping it real.
My mind is out for now (I’ve been checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and ordering pizza on Amazon all while watching Netflix—The future is now). Stay tuned for the next installment of SLO Happy Innovative Brains and the CIE.
Until then, never underestimate the power of the DJ or other authentic creatives.
About the author:
Tina drives a seventeen year old mini-van with a cracked windshield. Her unique driving perspective allows her to write about the world from a first and third person viewpoint. Unfortunately for her gas budget, her car’s wheels work overtime as she transports her sons around SLO County. Fortunately, this gives Tina time to spin the wheels of her mind. As a Cal Poly alum, she’s still learning by doing and, occasionally, you’ll find her mini-van parked at the Grand Ave. parking structure on Level 2 as she attends events at the PAC that stimulate thought and creativity. She thanks God for creativity and this keeps her rockin’ in a free world to the tunes of Neil Young and others. Tina does her best to avoid cow dung, unlike her mother.
Would you be mine this Valentine’s Day?
Your biggest fan
Bubblegum Alley, Higuera St., San Luis Obispo, CA
Downtown clock, Monterey & Osos St., San Luis Obispo
Hey Diddle, Diddle (SLO Public Art), Marsh & Chorro St., San Luis Obispo
Rocket Fizz, 669 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo
Black Sheep Bar and Grill, 1117 Chorro St., San Luis Obispo
Chinese Garden (Cheng Park), Between Santa Rosa & Marsh St., San Luis Obispo
Fremont Theater, 1035 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo
Mission Plaza, 989 Chorro St., San Luis Obispo
Show SLO love this Valentine’s Day!
Special thanks to my models and collaborators (Hollie B., Miss B., and Jill Hewston Photography) on this creative project!
Tina Davidson Photography, Jill Hewston Photography, & Hollie B.
Conceptual design by: Tina Davidson
Need SLO Happy photos? Contact Tina Davidson Photography or Jill Hewston Photography on Facebook.
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