Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Old time remedy for a head cold

Since both of our boys have head colds, I would like to share a great recipe for clearing up sinus, cough and stuffed up head kind of cold symptoms.
  1. Boil some water.
  2. Put about 4-6 drops of Eucalyptus Oil into a bowl.
  3. Add fresh lavender and rosemary (crush in your hand first).
  4. You can use essential oil for the lavender and rosemary if you don't have fresh herbs.
  5. Pour the boiling water over the oil and herbs.
  6. Put a towel over the head of the person coughing, hacking, sniffling and generally being miserable.
  7. Have them breathe in the aroma for as long as possible.  They might have to come up for air every so often.
  8. Switch to a hankie to save on tissues - hankies work fine.
  9. Tune out all complaining.
  10. Sick person enjoys a couple of hours of easier breathing.
  11. Repeat as necessary.
  12. We also use the Olbas line of products - Olbas Oil, Olbas bath, Olbas Inhaler and Olbas sports cream are staples in our household (kind of like Vicks without the petroleum).  I get them from Vitacost - fast and cheap. 
  13. You might also take a high quality beta glucan - we use one called Immunition.  I know they are expensive - we only use them when necessary.
  14. Both of these are really what we use - I'm not endorsing anything.... this is just what we do along with links to where we get them.

Winter and Spring weaving together

One of the best things about living in California is the way you have beautiful spring days when everything is blooming, the sky is intense blue, the air is warm and it appears that Spring is here.  Sunday was just such a day.

Monday was also gorgeous, and the guys had time to disk the orchard.  We want to grow better greens... the plan is to turn grass into protein - chicken and milk.  We need to improve our grass and the beautiful day allowed us to continue that process.
It rained on Tuesday and by Tuesday night, we had snow.  We woke up to a beautiful blanket of soft snow.  Probably enough to freeze the plums and peaches and cherries.  Every year I remind myself I need to replace those trees with later blooming trees.  They are quite beautiful, though.... a cheerful wave in the beginning of spring.  It is just the rare year we actually get fruit from them.
Spring continues inside, though.  We have our tomato and peppers coming along nicely, the daffodils we picked the other day looking cheerful and the calendula brightens up everything.

In honor of our granddaughter, ETA: early June, we have violets to plant.  Grammie intends to have a big bunch of violets for the baby.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Non Toxic Cleaning Solutions

In our continuing effort to get plastics, toxins and industrialized things out of our life, we are moving rapidly to non-toxic cleaning supplies.  You can purchase these, but it is really easy and inexpensive to make them.  If you have some basic supplies, some knowledge of the chemistry involved and a desire to save a lot of money, here are some recipes that will be tried out here:

This is a somewhat new step for me.  We switched to "green" cleaners, but really need to switch to homemade.  The green are just a little pricy, and the plastic and trash issue bothers me.  I'll let you know how it goes as I try to implement these cleaning products, one at a time.  I think laundry soap is going to be first - my friend Sherri makes hers regularly and has offered to help me.  She has been doing this for quite a while and has some good practical suggestions.  I would recommend you go read through her suggestions.

This page here is going to have to be a work in progress as I stumble and bumble through this process.  I have now tried a couple of these, and love the dishwasher soap, the general cleaning soap, the vinegar rinse for the laundry and the toilet bowl cleaner (my friend Lynette flushes before she puts her stuff in, then turns off the tank valve under the toilet while she cleans it.)

Now.... if I could JUST find that magic cleaning solution that does the work by itself..... still looking.  Guess I still have to do it myself.  Drat!

  • Baking Soda
  • Washing Soda
  • White distilled vinegar
  • A good liquid soap or detergent
  • Tea tree oil
  • Fresh Lemon

Baking Soda:  Cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours
Washing Soda:  Stain remover, non-staining solvent, descales of mineral deposits,  tough cleaning jobs (use baking soda to neutralize if you get burned by it - this stuff is soda ash and is caustic - use gloves)
Soap or detergent:  unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything.  Avoid using soaps that contain petroleum distillates, synthetic scents, colors or other additives..  Grate bars to dissolve more easily in hot water.
White Vinegar or lemon juice: Cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
Borax:  (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.

The Solutions:
Make them up and LABEL them
Store properly

General Household cleaner:
1 tsp. liquid soap
1 tsp. borax
Squeeze of lemon
1 qt. warm water
1/4 cup baking soda
1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup vinegar
1 gallon water

For surfaces that need scoured, try moist salt or baking soda and a green scouring pad.

Soft Scrubber:
Put 1/2 cup baking soda into a bowl and add enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting.  Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerine and store in a glass jar.  You don't need the glycerine if you just make up as much as you need each time.

Window Cleaner:
Mix together:
2 tsp. vinegar
1 qt. warm water
2 tbsp borax
3 cups water
rub dry with newspaper to avoid streaking

Mix together:
1/4 cup borax
1/2 gallon hot water
spray straight 5 percent vinegar at night.  You can leave it or wipe in the morning.

Liquid Soap for washing your hands with:
In a pot, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil.  While it is coming to a boil, shave a bar of Ivory or Fels Naptha soap into the pot.  Stir the soap into the water until the soap dissolves.  Once it cools, pour it into your old soap dispenser.  It is not as thick as the store bought stuff, but it works great.  You can use a little less water if you would like a thicker soap.

Laundry Soap:
1 approximately 3 oz bar of either Fels Naptha or Ivory Soap
1 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda
5 Gallon Container
Pot large enough to hold 5 cups of water
Long stirring stick/spoon for the 5 gallon container
Shave the soap into small strips and place in the pot with 5 cups of water.  Heat to a simmer - not a boil and stir until the soap is completely melted.  When it is almost melted, add 3 gallons of hot water to the 5 gallon container.  When the soap on the stove is is totally melted, add it to the hot water in the 5 gallon container and stir.

Add the 1/2 cup of washing soda and stir until dissolved.  Once it has dissolved add the borax and stir until that is dissolved.  You may add a few drops of essential oils for fragrance if you would like.

Let it sit until it cools - it will gel.  It might be lumpy and watery - not pretty, but it works.  Use 1/2 cup per laundry load

Fabric Softener:
1 Quart White Vinegar
1 Cup dried lavendar
Steep together for one week - strain and store.

Spot Remover:
1/4 cup liquid dish detergent
1/4 cup glycerin
1 - 1/2 cups water
Pour all into a bottle and rub a little onto the spot at least 5 minutes before washing items.  For tougher or set in stains you might try using a toothbrush to work the spot remover into the stain.

Dishwasher Soap:
Put into the dispenser:
1 Tablespoon Washing Soda
1 Tablespoon Borax
Into the rinsing gel section add:
Distilled white vinegar
If your water is hard add a little more washing soda

Oven Cleaner:
Mix together:
1/4 cup baking soda
2 Tbsp salt
Hot water as needed to make a paste.
Let the paste sit for 5 minutes - KEEP OFF WIRES/HEATING ELEMENTS!
2 Tbsp. liquid soap
2 tsp. borax
1 quart warm water
Spray on oven and wait 20 minutes, then clean.  For tough stains, scrub with very fine steel wool and baking soda.

Drain Cleaner:
1/4 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup vinegar
Cover and drain and let sit for 15 minutes.  Follow with 2 quarts boiling water.

Toilet Bowls:
Pour:  1/4 cup baking soda into bowl and drizzle with vinegar.
Let sit for 1/2 hour.  Scrub and flush.
Use borax for stains

Mildew Remover:
Dissolve together:
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup borax in warm water.
Apply with sponge or spray bottle.
2 teaspoons tea tree oil
2 cups water
Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, spray on problem area.  Do not rinse.

Lime Deposits:
Squeeze lemon juice onto affected area and let sit for several minutes before wiping clean with a wet cloth.

Marks on walls and painted surfaces.oil and grease spots:
Use baking soda on a damp sponge.  Rub gently and wipe, then rinse.  This is an abrasive.  If you are trying to clean oil off of concrete, try the baking soda and a scrub brush.  You can also do this on a stove or fridge.

Cutting Board Cleaner:
Rub a slice of lemon across the chopping block to disinfect the surface.  For tough stains, squeeze some of the juice onto the spot and leave for 10 minutes, then wipe.

Coffee or tea stains:
Use vinegar and a sponge.
To clean a coffee pot use 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar and run through the cycle.

Dish Soap:
If you are using a non toxic dish soap and it doesn't work very well, add 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar to your water.

Furniture Polish:
1/2 teaspoon olive oil (or jojoba)
1/4 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
mix and store in a glass jar.  Use a soft rag to wipe onto wood surfaces.

Floor Cleaners and Polishes:
Most floors can be cleaned with vinegar and water.  You can add a few drops of essential oils for scent if desired.  The following formulas can also be used.
vinyl and lineoleum -Mix 1 cup vinegar and a few drops of baby oil in 1 gallon warm water.  Add 1/4 cup borax for tough jobs.  Use sparingly on lineoleum.
wood: -1:1 vegetable oil and vinegar.  Rub in well
painted wood: - 1 tsp washing soda into 1 gallon hot water
brick and stone tiles - 1 cup white vinegar into 1 gallon water.  Rinse with clear water.

Rust Remover:
Sprinkle a little salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked.  Leave the mixture for 2-3 hours.  Use leftover rind to scrub residue.

Sticker residue remover:
Sponge vinegar over the spot several times and wait 15 minutes, then rub off the stickers.  This should also work for price tags on hard things (tools, toys, etc.)

To be continued........

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Old Mill

My grandfather started a sawmill shortly after WWII to keep his kids in work.  It was located in the draw below our house.  Even though there is nothing left to mark the spot but a redwood tree that was planted near that time, we still call it The Old Mill.

My sweet aunt and uncle from Canada are visiting and we played hookey today and took a drive down to The Old Mill.  The wildflowers are spectacular, the waterfalls gorgeous and we had a wonderful time floating sticks down the creek.

Hope you enjoy some of the scenes from our day.


Watching the creek is a good way to spend some time.
The color of the shooting star against the moss was intense.

I don't know the names of either the delicate white flowers or these bright yellow ones.

These little blue ones might be "forget me nots" and the red might be a crab apple.

We picked and ate manzanita blossoms and admired again the sturdy, sharp color and smooth bark of the branches.  My friend Sherri told me about a manzanita (berry) cider the Indians of this area made in the fall.  I can't wait to try this.
The ferns were lush and thick.  I wanted to take some time and find some of the little curled hearts for our salad tonight, but we were a little late for baseball practice.  The draw continues down the valley - such a beautiful day.

The Extra Step - A little more on Grass Fed Protein

We have a friend who raises grass fed cattle.  Last spring my hubby helped him build a pole barn.

There is so much good information on the grass/grain issue that I just wanted to list some other good references.  This  highlights a couple of studies that are relevant to the debate.  Again, it is my personal belief that an unnatural, grain-based diet changes the pH level of the cow’s digestive tract - it makes it much more acidic.  It is probable that this allows nasty things to grow and adapt to a higher acidity level in the cow's gut - probably similar to a human gut.  I wonder if you cultured the grain if it would change that dynamic.  hmm.  something to ponder. 

Your own cattle, in your own pasture, are probably much less susceptible to the e Coli problem.  Cleaner, more humane conditions would suggest that the chance of infection would be mitigated, especially if they have access to fresh grass at all times.   I am just guessing on this - I could be wrong.  The main complaint people have with the grass-fed beef is that it is not as tender as beef from animals finished on grain.  If you are doing your own and want to try to finish them with grass, ask the butcher to age the meat.  This is done by hanging the carcass for a period of time in a cooler, the aging process will tenderize it. This would probably work for wild game as well.

Anyway, when we eat grain-fed beef (especially those "fattened up" in a feedlot), those resistant E. coli and other nasties are consumed and better able to survive the acidic contents of our own stomach and end up making us really sick. There is a good article on this acidic situation here.

So, a couple of studies:

A study done in 2000 by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln suggests  grass-fed beef may have a lower risk of E. coli contamination. The theory is that a grain-based diet alters the pH balance of the cow’s stomach such that it becomes abnormally acidic. Evidence suggests over time E. coli bacteria gradually adapt to this high acidity, then passes it along to consumers of the beef.  You can read this entire report on line.

A study done in 2008 by German and Canadian researchers analyzed four different types of cattle that were grass-fed or grain-fed, and concluded that grass-fed meat is “clearly superior”.   The link takes you to the abstract, not the study.  You have to buy the study.

A study done in 2009 by the USDA and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina compared the two feeding methods and concluded that grass-fed beef provides the following benefits:  (you have to subscribe to the magazine to get this full report)
  1. Leaner - less total fat means fewer calories. Grass-fed beef reportedly contains about 1/3 of the fat of a similar cut of meat from a grain-fed steer.
  2. Lower in the saturated fats - the “unhealthy” fats that are strongly linked with high cholesterol and heart disease.
  3. Higher in multiple nutrients and antioxidants- including beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the B-vitamins thiamine and riboflavin. Grass-fed beef is also higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium.
  4. Higher in total omega-3 - more than half of the total fatty acids in grass are omega-3’s, which form in chloroplasts of green leaves. Grass-fed meat may be 2-4 times higher in these good fats. Omega-3’s protect our cardiovascular systems and support optimal brain function.
  5. Contains a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (1.65 vs. 4.84) - a lower ratio is believed to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  6. Higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) - which research suggests may have cancer-fighting benefits.
  7. Higher in vaccenic acid (which the body converts to CLA) - which may reduce cancer risk and improve cholesterol levels.
 Dr. Mercola did a good article here regarding the use of antibiotics in cattle to deal with the acidosis issue.  From the article:
When cows primarily eat grains for long periods of time, they develop acidosis in their stomachs, which causes the walls to become ulcerated. These damaged walls allow bacteria to migrate into the body cavity where they cause abscesses. In fact, 13 percent of conventional animals' livers are so abscessed that they aren't fit for human consumption. If antibiotics weren't given, this number would increase to about 75%. Of all the antibiotics and baking soda produced in the US, half is fed to cows in order to counter the problems created when they are fed grain.
He also did a good "bullet point" article which has a lot of information.  

Other range animals:

I think it will take an entire article or even two to cover the benefits of genuine, free range chickens, turkeys, pigs and others so, stay tuned :) 

(time for me to get the kiddo to his schoolwork)

Best of Health

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Extra Step - Grass Fed Protein

So, we are on to Step Three in Phase Two of the "Steps"  - Grass Fed Protein.  There is a very interesting and technical discussion to have on the enormous benefits of grass fed meat.  I would like to start with a couple of questions and random thoughts today and then list several web sites which break down the grass/grain difference.  Read a little, study a little, think a little, learn a little.  Apply principals that you know to be true. 

The first link I have is a wonderfully concise article from Eat Wild

So, to start today - my thoughts: 
  • Is this how meat was raised hundreds of years ago?  
  • Where did "graining" meat at the end come in to our lives?  
  • Who profits from grain fed meat rather than grass fed meat?
  • How is grain fed meat different than grass fed meat?

I would say that, just on the surface, if you were someone raising a cow, a couple of chickens and maybe a sheep or goat say.... 300 years ago.... these animals would have been raised on grass, bugs and a little grain that comes in naturally with grasses.  You, the farmer, would have made a lot of effort to provide the best grasses and herbs for your animals.  You would have moved your animals around quite a bit or you wouldn't have enough available grass for them to survive and thrive.  If you are interested in this type of eating, here are a couple of great pages for you.

From "American Grassfed Beef"  
The health benefits of grass farming.
From "Eat Wild - the #1 site for grass fed Food and Facts

I would suggest that "graining" meat is a process of industrialization.   If you are a large corporation it is probably in your best interests to just feed your cows whatever gets them to market the quickest.  Corn, Soy, Oats and hormones come to mind.  I should note that at least three of these entities are heavily subsidized - I don't know about the oats.  I'm just saying, do the math.

There might also be the idea that the Wall Street business model, taking controlling interest in farm after farm - either willingly or forced - might not be the best way to bring food to the table.  The bottom line is the King and God in this business model and whatever you have to do to get that bottom line up - you do..... or you are out.  So, inhumane treatment of animals, hormones, antibiotics, unnatural feed, foul, filthy conditions, horrible chemicals... all are acceptable, probably quite legal and encouraged.

Also, lest you think political parties, regulations and laws make a difference, they really don't.  The power brokers are the same - administration after administration.  The regulatory agencies that are intertwined with the corporations - the same.  What changes is that it gets harder and harder to legally have a small, local farm.

For a couple of book suggestions, you might try  Jo Robinson's Why Grassfed is Best!  or Tender Grassfed Meat by Stanley FishmanAlso, here is an article by Stanley Fishman and another article by Jo Robinson.

As for the fats,  it is important to understand that once cows and other grass-eating animals are fed grains, they stop producing CLA (conjugated linoleic acid - a fat that reduces the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and a number of immune disorders.) The best source of natural CLA is from 100 percent, exclusively grass-fed animals.

Omega 3s and 6s are essential polyunsaturated fats.  We have to get these from food, our bodies cannot manufacture them from other fats.  Some of the most crucial fats are the compounds that make up the cell walls for the body's cells.  If the ratio of Omega 6 fats to Omega 3 fats exceeds 4:1... more health problems tend to occur.  Grain fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1 whereby grass-fed beef is about 3:1.

It is important to have sufficient amounts of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats, and they need to be balanced for normal development.  Because of the rapid change in our diet, Omega 3 fats are diminished.  Our culture switched to modern vegetable oils which are based on oil from seeds rich in Omega 6 fats.  Industrialized agriculture of the meat industry forced production by focusing on aggressive agricultural management techniques.  This is based heavily on an emphasis of grain feeding for livestock.  

As a side issue, green leafy vegetables raised with heavily industrialized techniques tend to have drastically lower Omega 3 levels.  So, it is estimated that generations ago the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio was 1:1 from both meat and vegetable sources.  Today vegetable sources have an estimated omega ratio of 10:1 and a modern diet of factory farmed meat, fish, chicken and vegetable oils has a ratio estimated to be about 20:1

Many scientists believe that a major reason for the high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some forms of cancer is the profound imbalance between our intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Making a switch from grain fed to grass fed meat returns you to a diet of long ago.  This type of diet helps our body systems function a lot better.  Consider purchasing your grass fed products from a local small farmer or raising it yourself.  Learn how to cook these meats - they do taste different and have a different texture.... not bad, just different.

That is all the thoughts I have today.  I am headed out to the garden.  Hopefully we can get some great recipes and cooking tips over the next several days.  Here are some other links for further study.

(He does tend to go off track somewhat, but again, apply what you know to be true.)

Be blessed today

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who caused the problem?

Personal note from me.  I am in a deeply cynical mood this morning and might be a little too depressing and harsh for you.  My apologies ahead of time.  Tomorrow I will be in the garden all day and my normal sunny disposition and optimistic view will return.

I started out writing about properly fed (grass fed) protein, but am in the wrong frame of mind to do it justice.  It is too important of an issue to not give it my best.  Later this week I will finish and post it.   

The picture is of my hubby and youngest son a couple of years ago.  We had a great vacation down by Death Valley.  It was really a wonderful place.

One of the big "hot button" issues of our day is a reclamation of our health.  Who has blessed us as a country with lousy health, obesity, disease beyond imagination, an enormous increase in "special needs" children and pregnancy and delivery problems, autoimmune diseases, allergies, digestion problems and other wretched industrial based health issues?
  • The Government - whatever country you live in?
  • Industrial pharmaceutical companies?
  • Unhelpful medical practices?
  • A legal system that destroys common sense?
  • Regulations that support evil and destroy good?
  • Massive and unhealthy agribusiness?
  • Corrupt educational system?
  • Lobbyists and subsidized business?
Guess what.  The answer is "none of the above".  Although personally I have massive issues with ALL of the above, the reason these entities (lets call them "the conglomerate") have enormous power over our personal lives is that we have given it to them.  We purchased the lie that we could live a life without consequence with our health.  The above entities have exploited our ignorance.  So the answer is.... look in the mirror.  It is you.  It is me.  We have given away a heritage of abundant health, healthy children and a simple, wholesome lifestyle.

Why?  Well, there appears to be two different answers depending on your world view.  If you are a Christian, there is a deeply entrenched river which says I want the grace of the New Testament and not the law of the Old Testament..... especially with food and lifestyle.  Under grace, if I am sick, I can ask for healing and if I have enough faith.....  and remember that Peter had that vision!  I am with Peter.  I have no desire to live by the law and besides, God has not called me to that!  (reference Leviticus 11 and Acts 10). 
(note from me... If you are a Christian you might contemplate reading through Leviticus a couple of times a year - it is a part of the Bible and it is the direction manual from God to us.  Ignoring the directions... not a great idea)
If you are not a Christian, there are no moral imperatives in your life. Food rules don't apply to you unless you choose to live your life in a way that brings you health. Any boundaries are self imposed, government imposed, society imposed or family imposed.  You can use your reason and sense to figure out what type of lifestyle gives you the best health.

If this is you, you might contemplate who makes a profit out of bringing you and your family to a place of addiction to evil food, who makes a profit off of telling you what you can and cannot eat and drink.  You might consider thinking about the monopoly of government, regulatory agencies, educational agencies, insurance agencies and last, but certainly not least, the business of law.  Don't kid yourself that law is anything but another massive business.
Note, this is currently clearly seen in the raw milk issue.  At every step, "the conglomerate" tries to outlaw raw milk.  Since they have been unsuccessful in a couple of states and are getting a big push back from a knowledgeable population, they now are using the liability insurance portion of their business to bring them into line.  Check out the Whole Foods/raw milk controversy.
So, what are health consequences?  This is a mindset that says... go ahead and feed your family that overly processed, nutritionally dead food regularly.  It won't hurt them.... You have a low level inflammation?  Take antibiotics.  Now you have another (fill in the blank) problem.  Oh, there is a drug to fix any problem that crops up.  Oh... that drug caused a whole set of other problems?  Well... we have another drug for that.... That might kill you?  Oh, we have a procedure for that.   That procedure won't work?  Well, dope yourself to the gills and live a 10% life and be thankful.  You don't want to live that way?  Well, have some more drugs.

This is, of course, just a brief synopses.  So, on to the good news.  YOU DON'T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY!  You can change your family's future.  You can bring robust health, peace and joy to your life.  Once you figure out that you are in charge, you don't need to change the whole system, you don't need to be dependent on the whole system.... YOUR FAMILY CAN BE FREE!

If you are sick or have a family member with a health issue, consider viewing all of those big controlling interests with a healthy dose of cynicism.  Believe me, it is good.  Does that mean never going to the doctor?  Absolutely not.  Does that mean never taking prescriptive medication?  Nope.  How about faith healing?  Can God heal your disease?  Absolutely - I was personally healed by God from a long-term problem as an act of grace.  Does that mean never eating out, never getting together with friends over a meal, never enjoying some yummy thing?  Again, NOPE!

What it means is that you need to figure out better choices for your family.  You be the advocate for health.  In the primitive societies that Dr. Price visited, tested and recorded, food wisdom was considered a personal and societal imperative.  It was important that you ate what you needed for your stage of life and that you followed well laid out guidelines for where you lived.

These were the ultimate "local" eaters.... but spent considerable resource and energy making sure that anyone bearing a child ate right - male and female.  They also used wisdom from their elders and the generations before them to grow their crops in such a way that they didn't ruin the soil.  They didn't have access to the "addictions" that cause a cascade of profit right down the corporate trail.  They had beautiful, healthy teeth.  They bore healthy children easily.

Make it a priority in your life to figure out what your body needs for the optimal health that you can come to... no matter the situation.  Be reasonable in your choices.  If you have a healthy gut and immune system, occasional lapses shouldn't bring much harm (although the GMO thing might very well change that dynamic).

Here are some suggestions on ways you can change the health dynamic in your family.

Read a book:  Nourishing Traditions, The Maker's Diet and Food Rules are three good ones, but there are a lot out there.
Watch a movie:  Food, Inc.  is great.  There is another one called "Fresh" that I have not seen yet, but it might be good.
Find a good, holistic doctor
Eat at home
Plant a garden
Make it a priority to figure out what "healthy" is and how to get there
Give your body what it needs
Buy locally grown food when possible

If you can make the necessary changes one at a time, with understanding at each phase, you will probably be more successful.  To change without understanding usually means that change cannot be permanent.

This blog is my personal journey through this process.  The "steps" are listed out on this page .  Our own family is learning and changing.  The process is hard sometimes, but worth it.  We want abundant health and good choices for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and anyone else who wants to join us.

Thanks for letting me unload.  Hope I haven't offended anyone or broken any laws.

Be healthy, blessed and well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Perfect Spring Day

Today was one of those wonderful days that come along every so often.  Because of a schedule conflict, my hubby was home.  The day was gorgeous, the ground drying out and the garden called out our names.  School, office and housework was happily abandoned for a busy, productive day in the garden.

Early this morning the dining room became seed central.  Tomatoes and sweet peppers jostle with seeds, soil, plans and diagrams.  Thankfully, my hubby is patient and understanding and doesn't seem to mind not being able to use the dining room table for a month or so.  Also, it is a good thing I didn't order any more seeds.... this is what I have going already.  There are a few holes in my seeds.... but 10 packages of peas, 9 packages of radishes, 8 packages of carrots, 7 of beets.... I could go on, but you can see someone needs reined in on the seed acquiring situation.  I guess I could have worse habits :)

To be clear on my priority list for seeds:

  1. Must be non-gmo if it is a common gmo type.
  2. I ask the seed company if they test for gmo's.  It is not enough for them to say "we do not knowingly sell gmo seed"  The stuff cross pollinates like the poison it is and the seed companies need to be responsible for testing all batches.
  3. Heirloom, if at all possible, but this is lower priority than non-gmo.
  4. Organic seed is below this on the priority list.  Your soil as the plant is growing and producing is more important than how it starts out.
  5. Plant more than one variety of each type of food.  This makes your garden "well-rounded" and healthier!
Most common GMO plants:

  • Grains - Corn, soy, canola (rapeseed) and cotton
  • Other - Papaya, squash, cantalope, sugar cane, golden rice
For the home garden, corn, squash and cantaloupe would be the most important.  Ask the seed company if they test for non-gmo.  It is not a difficult test.  They have an antibiotic marker on the gene of the plant.  My favorite seed company is Baker Creek Seeds.  They test all of their seed.

Additional note:  While I was ordering a couple of packets of missing seeds, I came across this extensive list of where you can purchase heirloom seeds on line.  It looks like a great site.  I plan to spend some time there.  You can find The Heirloom Gardner's Assistant here.

I did find a good site on GMO's.  I didn't spend much time on it (cause I was in the garden til it was dark and now I want to go to bed) but here it is:  Say No to GMO's

I am sure that my personal opinion for GMO's is somewhere on this blog.

In the garden, we started out in the cold frame.  In this picture there is some companion planting and the first strawberries blooming and setting.  Strawberries, lettuce and some nasturtiums that came back from last year jostle around in this box.  They all seem pretty happy.  The nasturtiums flowers are used in green salads and have a spicy, pleasant flavor and some really nice color.  The pea shoots, also a salad green, and the radishes needed a bit of weeding.  That didn't take long.

 We pruned the raspberries and blueberries, then mulched them.  My faithful little helper worked so hard today.  I was so proud of him!  He is almost 9 now, and a good, hard worker.

Last year we had a melon patch under black plastic.  We left the black plastic (under hay) out for the winter.  Since then two big changes have happened... 1)  we are trying to get plastic out of every part of our lives and 2) we are trying to grow as much chicken food as possible... weeds are good chicken food.  Anyway, we pulled the plastic off today and folded it up for the last time.  The chickens went nuts with the slugs, worms and pill bugs.  We had to leave it for tomorrow to till, but this is where the spring garden is going in.  My little guy helped the chickens out by turning over dirt for bug finding!

Finally, we laid out what will be our repurposed worm bins.  With the idea of growing as much protein as possible, we are planning to do larger scale worm bins using some wooden boxes that used to be a part of a work truck, but have been replaced with a work bed.  The worms will be primarily for chicken food and for "worm tea" to water the garden with.  The compost is also amazing.

All in all, it was a picture perfect day.  Tomorrow we should be able to till the spring garden and work on the outside strawberry beds.  There are onions, garlic, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, carrots and a few other things to get into the ground.  This will be a small planting of these... the weather might very well turn cold, but I am willing to take a small risk on it.

Tonight we go to bed a little sore, sunburned (put coconut oil on!) and content with the world.  It is a good way to sleep hard.

Best of health to you

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Low Temperature Yogurt Success!

So.... yesterday was my fourth attempt at low temperature yogurt from raw milk.  The previous attempts (here)  were not bad, just runny.  This batch had pectin added to it.  SUCCESS!  I am going to try gelatin next time, but am happy with this batch.  It was not exactly the same texture as cooked yogurt, but has a nice texture and you can eat it with a spoon... kind of.  I drained some of it to further thicken it.

Here were the steps:

Assemble the ingredients:  Raw milk, pectin, a little boiling water, low temperature yogurt starter, crock pot half full of water at 110 degrees, thermometer, bath towel, jars and lids, scrubbed clean, that fit into the crock pot, a blender and a nice cup of hot tea (for me)
Per the directions on the pectin package, make up the calcium water.  Then, for four cups of raw milk, I used 4 tsp. of pectin.  This went into the blender, then add boiling water and blend (I tried to cheat this step and ended up with nasty clumps) until it is smooth.  Then add the four cups of raw milk and the starter while the blender is running.  Add a couple of tsp. of calcium water and pour this mixture into the jars and lid them tightly.
 Get the water temperature  to 110 degrees.
Calcium Water.  You make it up and leave the rest in the fridge for next time.
The mess from trying to cheat the pectin... I tried to hand mix it.

After everything is lidded up, add it to the water bath and cover it with a heavy bath towel.  Make sure the crock pot is off, unless you are trying to bring the temperature up a little bit.  I did turn it on when I first put it in... the cold milk mixture dropped my temperature by about 10 degrees.
Check the temperature every couple of hours.  I had to turn mine on warm for 20 minutes about every 2-1/2 hours.  The temperature held at 104 for most of the time.  When it got down to 100 I turned the crock pot on warm.

After chilling, it was half way between runny and thick.  I mixed some up with lemon curd and a pinch each of salt and cinnamon for my hubby's lunch today.  He does have some soaked granola  to mix in it if it is too thin.

I am currently making one batch a little thicker by draining it.  My friend made me a bag for draining and it is working really well.  She sells them on her Etsy store.
 Here is her list of how long to drain.  I plan to drain my half runny yogurt for 2 hours for regular yogurt.
  • Drain plain yogurt and in 1-2 hours you have Greek Yogurt
  • Drain plain yogurt and in 18 hours you have Cream Cheese
  • Drain plain yogurt for 1-18 hours for whey to use in other recipes
  • Cottage Cheese and Ricotta Cheese both need to be drained

The final yogurt turned out beautiful, tangy and with a lovely texture.  The lemon curd gave it a nice flavor and my son and I shared this very small bowl with some soaked granola for breakfast.  It was plenty.  Always remember to use smaller servings with nutrient dense foods.... you don't need as much!

Be blessed and well today

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why I Garden

One of the great passions in my life is gardening.  Everything about the process reminds me of the rhythm of life that was placed in us by God.  From the beginning of time, planning, planting, harvesting and resting ebb and flow in a sweet cycle.  Genesis 2: 5-7 begins this story: 
before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground;  but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.  And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 
 A little further in this chapter, man is charged with his task.  We tend to get sidetracked by verse 16 - the warning about not eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - but the task is what is so interesting to me personally:
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  
Perfect submission means we continue the task first assigned.  Genesis 3:17-19 gives direction for farming after sin was committed:

“ Cursed is the ground for your sake;
      In toil you shall eat
of it
      All the days of your life.
  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
      And you shall eat the herb of the field.
 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
      Till you return to the ground,
      For out of it you were taken;
      For dust you
      And to dust you shall return.”

I just don't see this as a bad thing.  It is what it is.  We were directed to garden... then to keep gardening.... just a little harder.  Personally, I love gardening and much of it is connected to my love of Christ.  I do my part and He does his.  
So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  1 Cor 3:7
This year two other compelling reasons are driving me to step it up in the garden.  One is my general cynical world view.  Financially, our country appears to be headed off of a cliff... full speed ahead.. throttle wide open.... the abyss signs ignored.  Here in California... well, do I really need to list out the issues that California has?  Anyway, inflation appears to be in our future and it is the desire of our family to produce more than we consume this year... and set some aside for high food prices (inflation).

Second is my absolute revulsion of genetically modified foods.  They are evil beyond belief.  Genetically Modified Organism's (GMO's) are in almost all processed foods.  They are also in much produce in the grocery store.  If it is labeled "organic" you should be OK, but we are just going to go with heirloom seeds.  The process then will continue; grow and harvest and prepare and eat as much as we can from our own little piece of ground that we are stewards of.

Isiah 17:9-11  reminds me of GMO's and where we are today as a nation.  Personally, I would rather be an observer and not a participant.  I have been wondering if God, who can see the beginning and the end of all things, was warning us about these evil seeds, which look perfect on the outside.... but bring terrible destruction in the end.  Many times you do not even know where the evil came from.

In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough
      And an uppermost branch,
      Which they left because of the children of Israel;
      And there will be desolation.
       10 Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation,
      And have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold,
      Therefore you will plant pleasant plants
      And set out foreign seedlings;
       11 In the day you will make your plant to grow,
      And in the morning you will make your seed to flourish;
But the harvest will be a heap of ruins
      In the day of grief and desperate sorrow.   

So... I am compelled this year to be a good steward.  I would like to list out what I am doing, but wanted to get my philosophy out there.  Specifics can then follow.  Some of the things I like to talk about:

  • Organic Gardening
  • Making a raised bed garden
  • What type of seed and plants for what type of garden
  • Fertilizer
  • Weeding, watering, planting, harvesting and preparing
  • Milk Cows
  • Meat Cows
  • Chickens for meat and eggs
  • Pasture and fencing
  • Kids in the garden
Anyway, today I am continuing to work on seed starting, planning and hunting for a small milk cow.

Be blessed today!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kombucha Tea - Benefits and Recipe

Our little guy enjoys about 1/3 cup of kombucha tea mixed with a different kind of brewed tea.  Today it is mixed with a pomegranate/peach tea and honey.

We are always working on planting and growing around here.  Gut health is nothing different.  Any time we can add healthy, live, different cultures, we do.  I like whole foods, natural, complete and nutrient dense.  Just think of your gut as a garden that needs fed, nurtured, tended and replanted on a regular basis.... then you are good to go.

Kombucha Tea is just another way to add a light, refreshing drink full of beneficial bacteria.  This is the "seed" that you want to add in.  It is full of enzymes and live cultures.  I will go ahead and list all of the reported benefits.... but my personal belief is that most health begins in your gut and if you tend to your gut.... your health will improve.

Don't get too tangled up in your particular health "issue".  Just begin a nutrient dense diet (this is the Phase One program) and eliminate processed foods.  Simple, right?  (OK, I'm joking.... if it was simple we would all be bursting with outrageous health).  So, back to the real world.

Step by step, day by day, choice by choice..... add health wherever you can.   This will allow you to "step" your way out of health problems.   Wherever you are on the health scale, give your body what it needs to function, help digest everything, eliminate the stuff that is either not helpful or downright evil and walk up the ladder of abundant health.

Unless you are independently wealthy, you are going to need to make most of your food.  It is better that way anyway.  You can then have life and energy in what you feed your family.  Kombucha Tea is one way to make that happen.  So.....

What is Kombucha Tea?

Kombucha Tea is a cultured tea.  The culture contains a symbiosis of acetic acid bacteria and yeast that are bound together by a surrounding thin membrane.  The culture itself looks somewhat like a large pancake, and is often called a mushroom, a mother or a SCOVY  (for "Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast"), it is scientifically classified as a zoogleal mat.

Kombucha contains quite a few different cultures along with several organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols. For the home brewer, there is no way to know the amounts of the components.   Your version of the brew may contain some of the following components depending on the source of the culture:  

  • Lactic Acid found in Kombucha in its most potent form L-lactic(+). Lactic acid is essential for the digestive system.
  • Acetic Acid's main function is to inhibit harmful bacteria. Acetic acid is used as a preservative because of this action. It is also what gives Kombucha that 'kick' to its smell and taste.
  • Malic Acid is also used in the body's detoxification process.
  • Oxalic Acid encourages the cellular production of energy and is a natural preservative.
  • Gluconic Acid is effective against many yeast infections such as candidiasis and thrush.
  • Butyric Acid is produced by the yeasts and when working with gluconic acid. Might help combat yeast infections such as candida.
  • Nucleic Acid,  Work with the body aiding healthy cell regeneration.
  • Amino Acid,  A group of acids which are the building blocks of protein. Your muscular system is made of proteins.
  • Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts, speeding the rate at which biochemical reactions proceed.
  • Kombucha also contains Vitamin Groups B and C, Beneficial Yeasts and live bacteria.

Where did it come from?

It is probable that this drink originated in Russia.  It was used in various forms throughout Asia though, so it is doubtful if anyone knows exactly where this started.

What health benefits can you expect?

Since I already covered my personal opinion, here are a couple of others.  Kombucha Tea appears to assist the liver in processing toxic stuff out of your body instead of "recycling" it to be processed over and over again.  It also appears to be somewhat helpful as an assistant to help your gut recover from the common assault of antibiotics or chemotherapy or to help with human immunodeficiency virus...  Probably because of the beneficial liver properties and the live culture, but that is just a guess on my part.

How do you make it?

Because of the acidity of Kombucha tea, it should not be prepared or stored in containers made from materials such as ceramic or lead crystal, which both contain toxic elements than can leach into the tea. Needless to say, I am not a fan of making it in plastic either.  I just use a glass gallon or 1/2 gallon jar with a unpaper towel towel on the top.

The first step is to obtain a healthy Kombucha. In some parts of old China and Japan, it was often the custom for families to give a new bride a Kombucha as a wedding gift. This was nurtured throughout her marriage and then passed on to her own daughter.  So, once you have your first Kombucha, now you can share!   Because it is a living organism, it grows to fit the shape of its container. New layers grow on top of the old and can be peeled off to start new cultures.
NOTE: The first thing you should do is to clean everything that you are going to use to make your organic Kombucha tea.  When you are making live foods, it is a good idea to use soap and hot water liberally to keeping everyone healthy.

Start with 1 gallon of non-chlorinated water, bring the water to a boil and tear the tags off of 8 teabags.  Either green or black tea can be used.   Place the tea bags in the boiling water and shut off. Set timer for 12 minutes. Take the teabags out of water and stir in 1 cup of sugar. Let stand until cool. Pour into gallon glass jug and add Kombucha Culture with the tea it was stored in. Place cloth over the top and secure with rubber bands. 

Let sit for undisturbed for 7 days in cool dark area of your kitchen. You will see the original mother (culture) on the bottom and a new baby culture floating on top. Carefully remove both cultures without touching with fingers. (I use a wooden spoon and wooden chopsticks). You can give one culture away to family and friends or store cultures in separate glass jars.  Make sure you add a cup of tea to each container.  Keep one Kombucha Culture for yourself (label it) to keep a healthy supply of this tea. Cultures can be stored up to a year when refrigerated. Strain the remaining fermented tea through cheesecloth into a glass container and cover with lid or cloth.  

Never allow tea to come into contact with metal after it is fermented. To make a new batch just follow directions over again. 

Kid in a Crock

I was blessed beyond measure by the gift of a GREAT BIG crock this weekend from my very sweet cousin.  I am looking forward to filling it to the rim with sauerkraut as soon as possible, and this summer some pickles from Mexican Sour Gherkin's from my all time favorite seed company...  Baker Creek Seeds!

Does it get any better than that?  A little red headed grandson playing in Grammie's new crock.... Now that is good.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sally Fallon's Wisdom - Nourishing Traditional Diets

Sally Fallon is the author of Nourishing Traditions.  Her life story is worth reading and she has inspired our family in so many ways.  (link to a biography of her)  She is not afraid to tackle every sacred cow in our world... the FDA, the USDA, the Federal Government, large agribusiness, big pharmaceutical business, the medical profession.... She does what I wish I had the courage, knowledge and skill to do.  But since I don't and she has already tackled it then why don't we all just be on her team.  As a community, we can effect change.

Since understanding is what brings about change in your heart and mind, I want to post some youtube clips from Sally Fallon.  There are three 10 minute clips available.  It is from a DVD set she has done.  I have not watched the DVD's (I didn't even know about them) but probably will eventually.  Just these three clips are really informative.

At another time I will do a post listing out some of her "short" clips.  She has several about 1-2 minutes long, each covering a topic in a short, clear, understandable way.  They are really good.  I'll list one on here in case you want to follow this thread yourself.

My personal belief, as always.... YOU need to be educated and responsible for the health and well being of your family.  Make decisions based on knowledge, not based on what you are told by some government official.  Use common sense and fight back against the nonstop pressure of what some regulator says is healthy.... remember that most of those regulators are controlled by the large business' they are supposed to be regulating.  It is not much of a system for the average person.  It is a great marketing tool for corporations.

One example is raw milk:  every day is a challenge for us.  My hubby and I are both 50 (picture at right from vacation last year) and were raised in the TV age that taught on EVERY level that raw milk is bad.... schools, TV, stores, advertising, governments...... then to find out that raw milk is the ONLY type of milk you should give yourself and your family has been something of a shock.  This decision came after we really focused on the milk debate.  (my conclusion on milk blog here) Then, based on study, reason and common sense, we switched and will never go back.  Emotionally, it is still a challenge for both of us..... but one that will be overcome.

Anyway, enjoy the video clips.  The first three are about 10 minutes each.  The last one is one of the short clips - 1:24.  They are all really good.

Be blessed and healthy