Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eye Openers

Breakfast used to be for me a haphazard affair. Rushing around to get out the door on time for work and still getting my early internet fix was often a challenge. When the boys were at home, they craved sweet stuff in the morning. If I had known then, what I know now, they would have gotten a much healthier meal before heading off to school. I'm not surprised, looking back, that they hated school.

Based on what they ate in the morning, they arrived hopped up on sugar and carbs and crashed around 10 a.m. At lunch they got whatever the cafeteria was serving. My boys refused to carry their lunches to school. I could never figure this out as they could have had anything they wanted. I did not learn until recently that kids who carried their lunches were abused by bullies who wanted anything but what was being served in the cafeteria.It was safer to just eat what the cafeteria offered and at least eat; than it was to risk bringing something the bully coveted and eat nothing and risk a beating. Yes, I'm disgusted that this happened to my kids and sad that they did not tell me.

The reason they didn't tell me was because they knew I would raise an unholy war against those bullies and they feared that life would become even rougher for them if I lost.

But, if I knew then what I know now; there would have been other changes (including homeschooling no matter what). But one change would have been a better breakfast.

So, what do I eat today? It varies but one thing I always consume every morning is high vitamin cod liver oil. Then I have either a pint of bone broth with a teaspoon of coconut oil, a couple of eggs with bacon, or a smoothy made with full fat yogurt, a raw egg, raw milk, and carrot or tart cherry juice. If fruit is in season, I'll add a peach or blueberries or blackberries. If I have some frozen, I'll add them when I'm out of my carrot juice. Any of these choices keeps me hard at work and filled with energy until just before or just after noon.

Monday, December 26, 2011


In additional to raising my little sheep for wool, I hope someday to add chickens back to our yard. With luck, that will be this Spring.

According to my parents, Ken and I will take over their property when they either no longer can manage the place or they pass on. I'm hoping they will let us start expanding our efforts to be more self-sustaining over the next couple of years. One thing I want to do this Spring is be the orchard back on track and plant some asparagus plants over there. I'm tempted to install other vegetables over there, but I'm concerned about the time commitment at this point with my job.

My mom has a lovely flower garden surrounding her pool and told me today her goal is to get the shady part in the wooded area near there, to become beautifully filled with woodland type flowers and plants.

I am going to attempt a strawbale garden here at my current home this Spring. If I can figure out how to grow potatoes successfully, I will feel confident that we can grow enough food to survive should something terrible happen to our world. I do plan to order seeds for a homesteading garden this winter.

I hope eventually to take over the three open acres where my parents live and raise a a milk cow along with a few dual purpose sheep. And someday I really, really want to get my own dairy cow. I may go with a Jersey for milk to start and hope that her first calf is a male so we can eat him. There are enough woods there, I can probably tuck a pig into a pen back there and get all the pork we could ever use.

Ultimately (and this is a big dream as I'm not a spring chicken anymore), I would like to get my hands on a section of land around the corner from Mom & Dad's that has about 5 acres open and 23 acres in woodland. The biggest challenge with this piece of land is the steep hills in the woods running down the backside of it and the lack of potable water on the property now. Fortunately, I do know someone who has a tractor and the ability to run it who could install a pond for me.

And perhaps, should things go very, very bad out in the world; my boys could come home and be sustained by the farm. But that, of course, would be up to them.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Late to the Party

I want to know how I failed to hear about the Locavore Movement in 2006? I was here.

But here it is six years later, and I'm only really just discovering this. Weston A. Price Foundation has helped by talking about seasonal eating. I've been making serious moves into raising my own beef, lamb, eggs, chickens and salad for about a year now. I still have a way to go on this, but at least I'm moving in the right direction.

But I only just found this  in Time Magazine today. And it's from 2006!

Okay, so I'm late. But let's see where I am. I found a website called Free Map Tools that lets me run a radius around my home. At 100 miles, my limit for food sourcing runs right to Dale City, Virginia; right through the heart of Richmond City; and right up to Newport News. My circle does include the Chesapeake Bay and most of the Potomac River and the Eastern Shore. If you want to see where I am, (or play with this and see where you are), click on this website and then type in my zip code: 22473.

Now, what I get to keep in my food list is significant: Seafood! The Chesapeake Bay provides an abundance of local seafood including Blue Crab, oysters, mussels, clams, croakers, seabass, bluefish, and an occasional shark and ray along with interesting local fish like eel. There are fresh water tributaries which host fish like blue catfish, channel catfish and sunfish. Sometimes you can pull a nice bass out of a local, stocked pond; but you gotta know someone to get there.

What is not on my list is a place to get coffee, molasses, sugar or black tea. I can get herbal teas, honey, and I can probably score some sorgum if I look hard enough. I will have to figure out how to source the basics for the kombucha, however.

I can get all of my meat, eggs, and milk locally, but butter in any quantity might be a problem, depending on where the butter I had been getting in two pound rolls is sourced. Pecans and peanuts are not a problem and I can probably get walnuts from time to time. I can grow sunflower for seed and I can get plenty of pumpkin seeds when they are in season. I'm not worried about vegetables and most fruits either as our local farm markets and farmer's markets are well stocked.

Of course, this project assumes I don't start this today but wait until Spring when I can start stocking up on veggies I passed by last time they were in season. This go round, I would need to preserve as much of the bounty as I can while it's in bounty. If I ddn't do that, we would go many months without green veggies. I would need to find a good source for paste tomatoes or grow a mess of them myself successfully. Not as easy as it should be considering I work full time away from home. I can grow lettuces in a sunny window through the winter, along with bean sprouts, but would need to get those seeds brought in from outside of the area.

But looking at my pantry now, I have things on there that I know I will miss: anchovies both dried and canned, sardines, olive oil, capers, tapioca and salt, fresh oranges, lemon and lime juice and cous cous are among the things I would miss. I think I could find a local farmer who raises wheat and rye for bread, but I'm not sure I could find one who is doing it organically or even GMO free. I can get corn meal and grits from George Washington's Birthplace and it's really good stuff.

100-mile buying would probably eliminate rice and most pasta from our diet and while I might make pasta from scratch for special occasions if I can get the flour, coconut meal and coconut oil would be out.

From what I've read, fair trade commodities are permitted. I'm thinking that a 50 pound bag of organic flour purchased once, uses up less petroleum resources than a 5 pound bag purchased once every month or so. If I put all those bulk purchases into a one-time UPS delivery, then I might be doing better to get a 5 gallon bucket of coconut oil, a large order of tea, sea salt,and flour all at one time. Olive oil can be ordered by the gallon and I imagine the sardines, lime juice and capers could be ordered by the case.

I know folks in the Northern Neck have been making do on the local scene for literally centuries. George Washington's birthplace, while heavily dependent on slave labor, did manage to be; for the most part, self sufficient. Their cash crop of tobacco, allowed them to order silk and other other fabric from England. But they even able to produce much of their own basic fabric made from hemp, linen and wool. They did import some sugar, rum, wine, and lemons and other hard to produce local items. But they had an amazing assortment of goods that were produced locally.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dreams and Dirt Clods

I want to get back to where I was about 10 years ago when I had an outstanding herb garden and also was able to grow some of my own vegetables and did some wild harvesting.

I would like to do at least two things this Spring -- put in an asparagas bed here and at my parent's home and plant blue berry bushes in both locations. I guess that is four things, but it is two types of plants. The reason I want to include the property at Mom and Dad's it will eventually become my home. If I can get a long term, perennial program going at this location with the pecan trees already in place, that will give me enough extra produce, that I might have something worthwhile to sell locally in years to come.

I also want to get back to the herb gardening. And I would love to get us going again on raising our own vegetables.

We did raise a couple of things each year with sugar snap peas, spinach and a tomato plant; but that's not enough to put food by for the winter. I've been relying on local farm stands to purchase large quantities (like tomatoes, so I can make sauces and kraut. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does get expensive and I'd rather spend my money on locally produced meat.

I would also like to get our chickens back. I do believe I can run them in with the sheep and build them a little coop where they can sleep at night and lay their eggs.

And I am going to talk to our new neighbors about leasing some land where I can plant it with pasture and either expand my sheep operation or get a milking cow (or both).

Friday, December 16, 2011


Oysters are a delicacy almost everywhere in this country, I think. But they are native to the Chesapeake Bay region. My dad has floaters full of oysters tied off of his dock, so if I really have a terrible craving for these shellfish, I can drive over, walk down to the dock, pull out a dozen and put them in a bucket of clean water overnight then shuck them out the next day. Or, I can do what most folks around here do, and go down to the fish market and buy a jar (pint or quart) for about the cost of labor someone was paid to shuck 12 to 15 of them, plus a bit for the shop.

Now, I'm not over fond of raw oysters but I love them most any other way you can prepare them. I am very fond of them roasted in the shell and dribbled with a bit of melted butter,  lemon and sea salt. I love oyster stew. But my most favorite is fried and served up in a Po-Boy sandwich.

Now, to make a Po-Boy in the past, I would have just breaded them up with any old egg and some House of Autry seasoned corn flour and fried them in a bit of canola oil and served them on white bread toast with some mayonnaise and hot sauce. I might even have topped it off with some onion slices and a bit of tomato and some lettuce if I was feeling like I wanted a healthy thing to eat.

But now, I know better.

So, how do I convert this old favorite to WAP standards?

First thing is to make a batch of sourdough bread rolls. This requires a couple of days preparation but because I now keep a sourdough starter and sprouted flour on hand, it's not quite as discouraging as it might have been. With just the two of us in the house, I've taken to making a batch of rolls (which are really just small loaves of bread) and freezing extras. This makes for quick sandwich meals when we need it.

Oyster season, runs from late October if the water gets cold enough, until late March. You want the water from which your oysters are harvested to be as cold as possible and, frankly, I think right around Winter Solstice until late February is best. If ice is forming in the morning in the animal's watering bowls, it's cold enough.

I make my own bread and butter pickles in the summer at the height of cucumber season, so I have jars and jars of them in my pantry. I grow spinach on a windowsill throughout most of the winter to add a leaf or two to soups, salads or sandwiches. . 

I make my own mayonnaise from olive oil, flax oil whey, and pastured eggs with a little mustard and salt. I also make fermented catsup. From this I make a lovely little pink dressing with two tablespoons of mayo, a tablespoon of pickle juice, a little hot sauce and a teaspoon of catsup and a tiny dab of fermented horseradish sauce.

Okay, so, this very convoluted, but once you have all of the above together, you want to soak some non-GMO organic corn meal in a little water and yogurt or kefir. It will make a bit of a paste. Let this sit for several hours or overnight. Season the cornmeal paste with some paprika, sea salt and black pepper. I also like to add a touch of Cayenne Pepper but it's not necessary unless you like it hot.  In a separate bowl, whisk a large pastured egg (you will need two to do a whole dozen oysters, but use them one at a time). Drag an oyster through the cornmeal, then dip it in the egg. Yes, I know that seems backwards, but the egg makes a coating that holds it together somehow. Let it rest for a bit while your lard heats up. Yes, I said lard. Nothing else makes this work right, in my opinion. You want your fat to be about an inch deep in a fairly deep pan to keep the spattering to a minimum. Don't turn the heat up to high or you risk a fire. Just over medium is usually just right. When you hear it crackle, put in your first oyster and cook on one side for about 3 minutes until just turning brown. Roll it over in the fat to cook the other side. This side will only take about 2 minutes (if that). Cook them about 4 or 5 at a time. Don't crowd them. Hold in warm oven when done until the whole batch is cooked.

To assemble your sandwiches: Slice open your roll. Dig out a little bread top and bottom. Spread your sauce on top and bottom (inside). Put a few spinach leaves with stems removed. Add a layer of bread and butter pickles or pickled onions or both. Top that with thin slices of tomato if you can find a nice one in December, if not, add some fermented purple cabbage. Then put a layer of 3 large or 4 small fried oysters. Sprinkle with fermented hot sauce Eat while hot.

Even my husband, who does not like oysters, loves these and will eat two helpings.

Serve with a slightly sweeter wine or a good dark beer to off set the spice. 

Cod Liver Oil

I was introduced to the wonders of Cod Liver Oil at the Weston A. Price Foundation Conference last year. Yes, I was introduced to a lot of stuff while there... it's taken me over a year to process it all, in fact.

I was able to sample the High Vitamin Butter Cod Liver Oil in various flavors from Radiant Life. Frankly, I wasn't overly impressed with any of them, but did purchase a bottle of the chocolate flavor anyway and brought it home. I took it home and took it only sporadically for the next several months.Then I ran out. I figured my diet was moving onto the high side with liver dishes weekly, real butter, real milk and weekly fish meals. We eat real eggs and fresh salads and lots of other healthy stuff. But after about six months without CLO, I was experiencing bouts of constipation and lower energy levels. Not much, but enough to make me go back and figure out what I was missing from the first few months. It was the CLO.

So, I went on line and looked at the prices. I balked. I really did. I held off for another three months when my friends went to the conference in Texas and I had them order me some more. Unfortunately, the shipping took the large order of CLO to my friend's place in Washington, D.C. and while it arrived there safely a couple of weeks ago, she is off traveling again and won't be home for a weekend until February when I can go pick it up.

I decided that I wanted my HVCLO now and so I put an order in directly to Radiant Life for one bottle of the chocolate HVCLO and some dried anchovies and some more bovine gelatin. The package arrived on Monday. I've been taking a teaspoonful every morning and wow! I feel much, much better. I don't know if it is directly connected, but I slept through the night last night for the first time in months. I'll have to monitor this more closely and see if there is a direct connection. Since then, I've discovered the source for the CLO: Green Pastures. You can order directly from them as well.

I think it's important to note that the best cod liver oil is fermented. I suspect there are other manufacturers out there with fermented cod liver oil, but I haven't found them yet. 

By the way, the little anchovies are the best little salad toppers! I like freaking out one of my co-workers by eating them straight out of the bag. He noted that they look like tiny snakes and since he is terrified of snakes, the idea that I'm eating them is completely horrifying to him.

I'm not sure I can convince husband to get on the CLO bandwagon. Even refrigerated with flavor, it still has a cod liver oil flavor coming through. To me, this is the taste of health, but to him it's pretty nasty. I can't even get it past his nose. So, I'm thinking of making another Radiant Life order and get him a bottle of the capsules. It sure won't hurt his cholesterol numbers and I really do want to get him off the statins. Maybe that will be the kicker.

Monday, December 12, 2011

When Spouses Come On Board

My husband got his blood work back from the doctor's office today. The first year they had him on the statins after a stent was installed in one of the arteries near his heart, his numbers were going upwards. They advised him to become even stricter with his diet and avoid all fats. They also advised him gently to quit smoking.

During the second year I went to the Weston A. Price Foundation Conference in Philadelphia and came home to start cooking with lard, pastured meats, real butter and whole, raw milk and pastured eggs. He worried. He said his doctor was going to have a fit. I told him he needed to quit smoking and it was the poisons he was eating and breathing that was causing the problems and if he would at least give real food a try, he might see some improvement.

He did try to quit smoking. In fact, he put them down for a couple of months. But this addiction is very difficult to overcome. I believe that as he gets healthier in other ways, and fewer and fewer of his friends smoke (or they die off), he will eventually find a way to quit.

In the meantime, I've been feeding him real food. It's a battle sometimes to get ferments into him. He has always liked sauerkraut, he just had never eaten it raw before. He doesn't flinch when I put fermented purple cabbage in his salads and he's come to love fermented turnip topping his mashed potatoes along with a dollop of butter and real sour cream.

Getting him to eat the pastured meat was a little tricky because I had to teach him how to cook it. He does the cooking Monday through Thursday at our house because I work and he is retired.

But we are now eating liver weekly and he's decided that liver pate is even better than liverwurst as a sandwich spread, so leftovers for him extend further into the week.

I've been cutting down on the carbs as I'm trying to lose weight. I'm sort of one of those folks who move into a new concept slowly, cut down, and cut down and will finally quit. I'm close to quitting carbs now but he still loves his potatoes and bread with his meat. We will get there.

In October he has been eating WAP food for year. Not with complete faith. But his consumption of junk food has gone almost to zero. He still cheats and eats a candybar a couple of times a month, but that's way down from all the crap he used to eat.

Guess what? He got his quarterly blood work back yesterday. His LDL is 66, his Triglycerides are 89 and his HDL is 85!. This is way better than a year ago. The doctor is impressed and told him to keep doing whatever he is doing.

I asked him if he told the doctor what we are doing and he confessed he did not. Poor doctor thinks he's following some highly restrictive, no fat, cardboard diet. At some point, he will have to tell him the truth.

In any case, I'm thinking his body is starting to heal. Now to get him off the statins.

If he could quit smoking, I think a lot of the inflammation that is causing the arterial blockages would eventually heal as well, but he's just not ready. 

He admits that he likes the "new" traditional food. Much of the food we eat reminds him of the food his grandmother in the UK used to make. He said it also reminds him of pub lunches. He talks up the real foods whenever we are with friends, so I think he is eventually going to become a real advocate.

I wonder when I will get him to drink Kombucha?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Soy Free Party Food

Tis the season for parties. And my husband and I have actually been invited to a small gathering at the home of one of my co-workers. It's a bit of a potluck with each guest bringing an hors d'oeuvre, dip or some other nibble. He has warned me that when they were purchasing their party foods, they forgot about The Soy Thing."You might want to bring something that you know is safe for you," he said, "I don't know what others are bringing."

Now, I'm not a completely unreasonable person most of the time. At least, I hope not. With family and very close friends, I do expect a modicum of respect and caring and thus my rant over the Thanksgiving meal; but I do understand that The Soy Thing can be overwhelming and downright annoying for regular people. Our office luncheon this year is being catered at $12 a plate. I did inquire as to what was being served and just told my boss and the co-worker coordinating it that while my husband (who is a volunteer at my office) will have no problem with this meal, I'll pack my own. I even offered to pay for my plate to make the budget come out right. I think they were surprised, but did not argue with me over much about it. And they did not accept my offer to pay for something I can't eat.

But here is a co-worker I actually like and who actually likes me, inviting my husband and I over for a cup of cheer and a few nibbles. He was concerned enough to warn me and that is good enough for me.

So, what shall I bring?

I'm inclined to keep it simple and go for a tray of peeled shrimp with a cocktail sauce made from fermented catsup (see page 104 in Nurturing Traditions). Note: I think she spells catsup incorrectly, but I could be the one incorrect on this.

I have some thinly sliced Wild Alaskan Salmon in my freezer. I hope to try this recipe in the future to make my own lox. I'm going to pull out a package of that and let it thaw. Then I'll take some of my yogurt cream cheese (ironically, the stuff left over from making whey) (page 87 in Nurturing Traditions), mix it with some capers, minced organic green onion and a little garlic and cumin, salt and paper. This mix will be smeared over the salmon. The salmon gets rolled up and then sliced into "wafers" or "pin wheels" and served with a little chopped parsley from my garden sprinkled over it. Red, green and white: I can't get more into the holiday spirit than that!

If I can get a good deal when I go to the fish market for the shrimp, I may also pick up a pint of fresh, local oysters and then swing by the store and get some Smithfield Bacon. Now, I do know that Smithfield is generally associated with the very evil people of big ag, and bacon with nitrates is not something I normally consume. But bacon wrapped oysters baked and sprinkled with a tiny bit of Old Bay, is just a stunningly decadent treat once a year.

It's kind of like Christmas cookies. I'm still trying to get my brain wrapped about how I will handle that dietary disaster. The Chocolate Cherry Truffles I shared here, are one idea. And I like the Sugar Plum recipe I snagged from Nourished Kitchen. I'm pretty sure I can adapt Snickerdoodles to a sprouted wheat and real butter and use organic sugars. But what is the NT answer to the white flour, white sugar, rolled and cookie cutter with colored icing? I mean, these things are memory makers for our family and my boys still talk about decorating cookies with me every year. I want a couple of cookies that I will be able to make with my future grand children that will hold the same magic for them.

Any ideas?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Better Butter

I have a new found respect for butter.

I have been purchasing wonderful, delicious salted butter in two pound rolls wrapped in waxed paper from this place for just over a year. The butter I purchase from Quail Cove Farms is from Minerva Dairy in Ohio. It's not local, but it's really good butter at a pretty good price.

I've been getting real, whole, fresh from the cow milk for a few months now. It's milk from a Jersey cow and it's wonderfully rich and the cream rises very nicely to the top. I keep the milk in 1/2 gallon jars. I've gotten in the habit of letting the milk sit in the refrigerator and wait for the cream. The next day I pour off the cream into a pint jar, and usually get about a half a pint. Then I shake the milk jar to reincorporate any cream I missed and top off my pint. This pint becomes my coffee cream (real half and half) for next several days until I use it up and attack my second half gallon. .

Well, earlier this week, I took my coffee cream with me to training. Long story short, the little lunch box cooler did not stay very cool and my cream got to room temperatures overnight. I like clabbered milk but did not really want to put it in my coffee. But I'm loath to waste such precious stuff.

So, when I got home, I poured off the clabbered cream  and fed the cats with the other bit of slightly aged milk.

The cream went into my food processor yesterday morning where it whirled for a good 20 minutes while I got dressed for work and low and behold, I got butter! There wasn't much. Just about 2 tablespoons came out of that 1/2 pint of cream. But it was real butter. And I made it myself.

Here it is in a little dish with a teaspoon next to it for size.

I was very excited and proud and shared my newest discovery with my husband who, of course, was amused by his crazy wife and paid out the required homages.

But if 1/2 pint of cream only makes two tablespoons of butter, how much cream does it take to make two pounds? I'm thinking it's a lot.