Where Does Your Food Come From?


Have you ever stopped to think about where your food comes from? If you are trying to eat healthier, but have not considered the origins of those "healthier" foods, you have missed an important element of nutrition.

A post by Kelly the Kitchen Kop entitled "How We Treat the Animals We Eat" inspired me to share my own opinions on what the typical American consumers are putting in their bodies. In her post, Kelly shares information provided in a recent episode of Oprah about how livestock is treated in the meat industry. I never saw the episode because 1) I don't watch tv anymore, and 2) I rarely watched Oprah anyway, she had become way too preachy and liberal, and she (in my opinion) is the one principally responsible for foisting the lame-duck Obama upon us. He never would have gotten this far without her. Clinton would have mopped the floor with him if it weren't for Oprah and other celebrities "advertising" for him (not that I like Hillary Clinton, but--I hate to say it--she's better than that guy). But I digress...

It sounds like the show wasn't anti-meat, but rather anti-mistreatment of meat animals. However, the real push for the show seems to have been to get California voters to support some legislation that requires more room and better treatment of these animals. Now, I am all for humane treatment of animals. For one, God did give us animals to eat, but ALSO to care for. They are NOT equal to humans, but should still be treated with kindness. They should be allowed to live happy, healthy lives until their time is up, and then killed in the most painless and humane way possible. Second, a happy, well-cared for animal is a healthy animal...which means it is also healthier for US, to eat. I wonder if the owners of these commercial "factories" eat the meat or eggs they produce. I can't imagine it. If they do, they must be dirty, disgusting people with very low standards.

Left: Multiple laying hens crammed into tiny cages. You don't want eggs from these hens. Support local farmers who sell free-range, happy-hen eggs!

Granted, not all are as bad as the worst. But I've talked to too many people who worked or visited commercial dairies, poultry houses, and pig farms to not know there are SERIOUS problems with the way most animals are raised. One woman I know (NOT a vegetarian or PETA member) said she visited a dairy, and saw a worker drop one of the suction hose things that they hook to the cows' teats, that delivers the milk straight into the pipes that lead to the bulk tanks. The hose sucked up some cow feces. Upon seeing her horrified face, the worker said "don't worry, the pasteurization will take care of it." EEEWWW!!! That is what we are drinking, folks, when we buy milk at the store! I think if I worked in one of these places, I would become a vegetarian!!

So, is becoming a vegetarian the answer? No. I mean, if you want to, go ahead...although I recommend you become a raw vegan instead of eating that tofu crud. (See my raw blog for more info on eating raw. I think eating all or at least part raw is the best thing you can do for your body.) Since most people aren't going to become vegetarians no matter what you tell them, the real answer is for people to start finding out about where our food is coming from, and more importantly, where we can find better sources for our food.

8 Ways to Promote Healthy and Humane Food Production

1) Educate yourself. Find out what the typical (not worst-case scenario) life is for a meat or dairy animal, how meat animals are killed or dairy products are collected, and how all these meat and dairy products are handled, processed, packaged, etc. before they get to your table. You don't need to watch videos of animals being horrendously treated, but you should be more aware of the realities these animals face, and how unhealthy the final product is for you. If you're going to continue to support the industrial meat and dairy markets, the least you can do is know what you're supporting.

2) Look for sources of healthier food. Organic is best, but it's not necessarily enough. Organic milk is still homogenized and pasteurized--or worse, ultra-pasteurized. I strongly recommend finding a source for raw (unhomogenized, unpasteurized) milk. Educate yourself on its benefits. It should come from cows/goats that are pastured, not given hormones or antibiotics (unless gravely needed) and are preferably grass fed, and not fed anything treated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Check out realmilk.org, ask around at farmers markets and chiropractors offices for sources of raw milk, organically raised produce and meat, and free range eggs.

3) Prioritize your needs. If you can't afford to go all-organic, familiarize yourself with which food products are most notoriously unhealthy, and buy just those foods in the organic variety. Bananas and apples, for example, are some of the most highly-sprayed produce out there. Commercial beef is known for treating cows horribly, loading the cows hormones and antibiotics, and for cows being so sick at slaughter time that they have to be fork-lifted into the slaughterhouse. If you can't find a source for raw milk, settle for unhomogenized organic milk at the health food store, but add in more organic probiotic foods, like yogurt and kefir.

4) Support local small-scale farmers whenever possible. If they have natural meat/dairy/produce, then they may charge more than conventional, but often it isn't as expensive as buying certified organic. Visit the farm, if possible, especially when buying meat and dairy. Check out craigslist in the farm & garden section, to find local sources. Visit farmers markets. Don't be afraid to ask farmers there how their food is grown. You deserve the healthiest food possible, so support the people who grow/raise the healthiest!

5) Call or write to your local government officials, and let them know you want easier access to natural food. Urge them to support the little guys, instead of farming conglomerates. Make them aware of any unfair treatment of local farmers, or unfair laws that need to be changed. For example, in many states, it is completely illegal to buy or sell raw milk. Some states allow it, but with heavy restrictions.
6) Vote with your wallet. Don't just buy from local farmers...tell the managers of local stores what you're doing! Write to the mega-stores' headquarters and tell them to carry more local produce, especially organic or chemical-free. Organize online petitions and send them to these large corporate companies, so they know which way the wind is blowing. All these tactics have worked in getting organic food into more and more stores...now ask for more local food, naturally and/or humanely raised.

7) Educate others! You don't want to become a food nazi, but find ways to let others know (when they are interested--no one listens to someone who is pushy) that there are a lot of myths out there created and sustained by people who have a stake in the perpetuation of food propaganda.
8) Do it yourself! If you have some land, get a cow, even just a miniature cow. Only one acre? Get a goat, or plant a large garden. In the suburbs? Plant a small garden, and raise a couple of chickens in a chicken tractor (a small, moveable pen). Someone on a small city lot can plant a few veggies and have a couple of chickens or some meat rabbits. People in apartments with balconies can grow some veggies in containers if they pick the right varieties. Even someone in a cramped New York City studio can grow little pots of herbs or sprouts in a jar. Every bit of food you raise yourself is a virtual snubbing of your nose at companies who pass off processed chemical garbage as food, mega-farms who mistreat animals to make a quick buck, local governments who enforce and sometimes invent rules that make it impossible to buy or sell locally grown healthy food, and politicians who cave in to lobbyists and create or protect laws that make it impossible for small-time farmers to sell products at a living wage...or even at all. Not to mention, growing your own food is good for you!

Making Bread - Mixer & Oven vs. Bread Machine


Two years ago I posted about my experiences baking bread in a bread machine. I liked the convenience, but I've found over the years that when I make bread in the bread machine, it is too dense and dry. Maybe there is a way to mess with the settings more, but I don't care much for it. I don't think it kneads well enough, or lets it rise well. Plus, if you're not setting it up the night before, for the morning, it takes 5.5 hours for it to make the whole cycle.

Now, I make bread using a Kitchen Aid mixer. I tried it by hand, I'm terrible at it. I can't get the dough to stop sticking to everything without adding a bunch of flour, which makes the dough stiff. I mix the yeast and warm water with the first two cups of whole wheat flour in the mixer until mixed just enough (using the paddle). Then I let rise in a slightly warmed oven for fifteen minutes in the mixer bowl, then put it back on the mixer and mix it on low as I slowly add in the rest of the flour, stopping when it just starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Then I take out the dough and place it on an oiled suface. I scrape out the sides of the bowl and the paddle, then exchange the paddle for the dough hook. I oil the mixer's bowl and the dough hook, put the dough back in, and mix it for 7 minutes. After that, I put it in a pan to rise in a slightly warmed oven, then take it out and preheat the oven, and proceed to bake as directed. This produces a much more satisfactory loaf, to me, than the bread machine variety. Of course, I'm still new to this, having only made bread a handful of times.

The recipe I've been using is Marilyn's Famous Whole Wheat Bread Recipe. It's okay, but I'm on the lookout for a better one. I don't use the "dough enhancer" it calls for, which is sold on her site, and which I suspect is probably just vital wheat gluten. Some people like a lighter loaf, more sandwich-like. When making whole wheat bread, I like it to be truly 100% whole wheat, no added white flour or gluten. I like it dense and filling, making it a nutritious way to stretch your grocery dollar. My children eat 50% less for dinner when given a slice of this bread. It's good for them, and for our budget.

That recipe also calls for oil. I don't know what most whole foods bread makers use for oil. I tried olive oil...eeew. Mine was good, raw olive oil too, not the rancid processed stuff. Yuck. I don't use most oils that others would use, as most of them are processed and rancid, too. I'd use melted coconut oil, but that would give a slight coconut flavor. I did try melted butter. That batch didn't come out right, as I used the wrong grain accidentally, so I don't know if the problem was just the grain, or the butter too. I'm open to suggestions from more experienced bakers! I'm also open to new recipes, if they are using NT-friendly, whole food ingredients.

Next time I may replace the honey with raw agave nectar. Can't say enough good stuff about agave!!

Are You Ready for a New Depression?


Am I the only one that is seriously concerned about recent events in our economy? It was already going steadily downhill, largely due to gas prices. If you've been tracking food prices, they are rising rapidly. Processed foods have not gone up as much (less trucking involved, when you're just creating chemical ingredients, virtually out of thin air) but staples have risen dramatically.

A year or two ago, I could get a pound of organic whole wheat flour or wheatberries from the bulk section of any health food store for around 69 cents per pound. I bought the same things last week, and paid $1.09. Even worse, I saw the same product in other health food stores going for as high as $2.39 per pound!! Milk had gone up quite a bit, although for some reason the prices have dropped a bit. But I saw large increases in price for bulk oats, spelt, nuts, eggs, and vegetables.

Oh, and did I mention the foreclosure rates and swan-diving property values?

Now comes this whole bailout situation. Wait a minute--you mean I can start a business, grow it really big, make a lot of bonehead, risky decisions in order to line my own pocket, then go crying to the government to bail me out? Where do I sign up?!

And where is this trillion dollars supposed to come from to bail out these corporations? They keep saying that it's necessary to save the stock market and people's retirement accounts, etc. Guess what? Our stock market is still heading into the toilet, with other country's economies not far behind. As to people's retirement accounts and other savings...do we really think this will save them? And even if it does, won't it be counterbalanced by the amount of taxes, fees and any other penalties the government can come up with to cover the trillion dollars they promised to use in the bailout?

Make no mistake, regardless of the outcome of this November's election, we are going to be in deep dog doo-doo, my friends. McCain is certain to kowtow to liberals in an attempt to appease them and become "non-partisan". Hmmm. Reminds me of the "New Ecumenism" that has been rapidly eroding the faith of Catholics everywhere in a politically-correct attempt to "find common ground" with other religions. But I digress...Our only hope of McCain is elected is that Sarah Palin can find a way to temper his liberal-loving enthusiasm.

And if Obama is elected?...oh, please, don't get me started. Remember a little thing called Nazism? Hitler took over Germany at a time when it was weak. He was divisive and controlling. First went their rights...then their guns...then went the Jews...and the Catholic religious...and the gypsies. Obama cries for change...but his manipulative speeches and repetitive mantras aren't so new. You know the phrase..."everything old is new again."

Left: A 1930 Nazi propaganda poster promoting the slogan "Freedom and Bread"

Am I exaggerating? Well, I guess we'll see, if he ends up winning. But I can tell you, that man is dangerous. Any man that wants to take away all our guns, or who advocates the killing of babies who have been born alive after a botched abortion, or the myriad of other disturbing ideas this man has planned for our poor country...that is a dangerous man. And for anyone who thinks I'm racist...get a life. I would vote for Alan Keyes TODAY if he were running. And there was a lady, I'm forgetting her name now, but I met her a few years back at a lecture. She had been a teacher in Watts, and was extremely bright and was right on the money as far as what she thought this country needed. I'd vote for that woman in a heartbeat, too. No, my dread of an Obama-run United States is solely based on his completely divisive, amoral, dangerous views on how this country should be run. A vote for Obama is a vote for oppression.

A vote for McCain is...well, it's the best we can do, for now. Is there any way to elect just Sarah Palin?

My point (after my long political diatribe, lol) is, again, that we are in deep doo-doo, my friends. Where will this country be in a year? In four years? What will food prices be? Gas prices? Unemployment rate?

If your husband lost his job right now, or he hurt himself off the job (no worker's comp) and you had no income for three months, how would you fare? Would you lose your house? Your car? Could you feed your kids? What if this were to happen a year from now, when the economy is worse, and jobs were more scarce, and prices higher? How many months would it be until you were homeless?

I'm not making this argument to scare anyone. But I do want to get your attention. Because it has come to my attention quite often lately. If my husband lost his job and didn't find one instantly, we'd be up a creek. Virtually no pantry, no emergency supplies. Not a good thing. If it should happen in the future, in a worse economy? I dread even thinking about it.

How would you survive a depression? Our generation has grown up so pampered, that the idea of a depression happening to us, in this day and age, seems preposterous. But it's not. It could happen to anyone, anytime. We are no better than those who have gone before us.

It might be wise for us to behave as our ancestors did for generations upon generations, and prepare for hard times. Prepare for hard times, while you enjoy the good times. It's not about paranoia, extremism, or an end-of-the-world religious belief. It's about good old common sense. The kind our grandparents had...and passed on to our parents...who didn't think, in their era of comfort and plenty, that it was important enough to pass on to us.

Even if you never need a pantry full of food all at once...you will need food. Buy a bunch of what you normally use whenever you see it on sale. Rotate it (use oldest first) and use it as needed. If you never have an emergency, you'll still be using it up, and you'll have saved a ton of money by buying it in bulk, when prices are low.

Maybe there won't be a depression, or even a recession. Maybe everything will be fine for our country. But what about you? Will your family experience unemployment, serious illness, a blizzard, a two-week power outage? People experience such things in this country every day. Why couldn't you? How would you feed your family, keep them warm, provide lighting, take care of toilet needs, feed or diaper an infant, get to work, buy what you need, get needed medication? All I'm talking about here is common sense--basic preparedness, so you'll be ready for whatever comes your way.

Think about it.

Truly Trusting God--Being "Quiverfull"

I just re-read the post before last, where I first mentioned the aneurysm and the fact that it was caught in time to get it fixed--if I wasn't pregnant. Then in my last post, I mentioned the baby was a girl. LOL! Guess there should have been an "announcement" post in between!

So...what was my reaction to this news, and what does this mean for my health? Well, I already knew from my research at that point that getting pregnant with an aneurysm at all was a risky proposition, since pregnancy hormones make your connective tissue (including arteries) stretchier. When you have an aneurysm (which is a weakened, bulged or stretched-out section of a blood vessel), making your blood vessels even stretchier with pregnancy hormones isn't the greatest idea. Not to mention, I don't just have an aneurysm and a bicuspid valve--both those conditions are symptoms of a greater problem...Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease. This is a type of connective tissue disorder, which means that my connective tissue (including arteries) has a tendency to weaken, which is why aneurysms can happen. So adding pregnancy to the mix wouldn't have been my first choice.

I have found out since my diagnosis that my aneurysm was NOTED in the results of at least THREE prior tests, but for some reason my old cardiologists and/or radiologists didn't seem to think that it was important to tell me I had an aneurysm in a bad place that was already big enough to dissect or rupture. Rupture--as in, KILL me! No big deal, right? Sheesh! Had I known, I could have had the aneurysm repaired before baby number 4 OR baby number 5!!! Which is what I would have chosen to do. Now I can't get it repaired without seriously endangering the life of my baby. So now I wait. I know some of you would say that if I really cared about my other children, I would take the risk and have the surgery, rather than leave them motherless. There are worse things than being motherless...like having a mother that passes on a legacy of treating a new life with disdain, and shows you that she values her life over that of your unborn sibling...which implies that she values her life over yours. That's not a message I want to send to my children. Just my view point on the subject.

That's not to say that I think having the surgery is necessarily a mortal sin or anything. It is not equivalent to an abortion if I had the aneurysm repair surgery and the baby died as a result. That would not be doing anything directly to the baby. In fact, should my aorta was to start to dissect, I would have the surgery. In such a case, I would be in immediate and extremely high risk of death, and I would feel justified in getting the surgery, even though I'd feel awful if the baby died. In such a case, having the surgery may be the baby's only chance to live. I know I could get the surgery now, and it wouldn't necessarily be a sin if the baby should die. But for me that would be a morally "gray" area. The doctors say I could die any time. But I might not. There's no real statistics on this kind of thing, because it depends on the person and the circumstances.

So how did I feel when I found out I was pregnant? Not thrilled. It seemed like bad timing to me. I was really worried about dying. I was worried about my other kids. I spent a few days kind of freaking out, and worrying. I saw a surgeon to ask his opinion on getting surgery right away. My reasoning was if I was going to need surgery during the pregnancy, I'd rather do it soon, as it would be easier on me if I lost the baby early on, rather than later. He said if I chose to get surgery, I should go into it assuming the baby will die. That really struck home. I went home and prayed about it, and knew what I had to do.

God gave me this baby at this time for some reason. Even if this baby doesn't survive, she still has a purpose. Every life has a purpose. The only reason I was afraid was because my faith was weak. Many people have asked me online how I would feel if having another baby would jeopardize my life. It was easy then to say that I would feel the same. It was harder, once actually faced with that decision...especially because it was a dark time, faith-wise, for me. Now that I have passed through that valley, I can honestly say I still feel the same way.

At left: a beautiful life at 21 weeks gestation (stock photo, not my baby)

My time to die has been pre-ordained by God. On that day, I will die, whether I am carrying a child and die from a ruptured aneurysm, or if I am hit by a bus crossing the street. Personally, I'd rather go the first way. It seems, to me, to be a more "worthy" way to die. I'm not sure if "worthy" is the word I'm looking for...but you get the idea. Not that getting hit by a bus is "unworthy"...but if I get hit by a bus only because I didn't cooperate with the will of God and accept the gift of a child, thereby accepting the death He originally chose for me, then perhaps it is a less worthy death.

Once I made the decision to accept the will of God, I felt a tremendous peace. I have had a renewal of my faith, although I still feel I have a ways to go to get back to where I had been. I truly see this baby, and the aneurysm, as a gift from God. Even the aneurysm? Yes. Had I not been diagnosed with it, perhaps my waning faith would have been extinguished completely, and that would have left me and my family in dire spiritual straights. I truly feel that I will be okay, at least until the baby is born. I get a sense that God will reward me for accepting His plan. If I am wrong in having that feeling...if I did die from having this baby or the aneurysm, I would not regret my decision one bit. I'd rather die following the will of God than live while fleeing from it. There are worse things than physical death.

At right: Polyptych, "Life and Death of the Virgin"...who better than the mother of Our Lord to exemplify obedience and a good death?

All this does not mean I don't have compassion for those struggling with similar circumstances, or those who have made a different decision. While I may not agree with what others have chosen, I still sympathize with their plight. But if I were to make this post more politically or socially correct in order to avoid offending others, than I wouldn't be me. And it wouldn't be honest, either. If others find my opinions offensive, there are millions of politically and socially "correct" blogs out there to read. There are pitifully few blogs that tell things like they are, and say the things that need to be said. But if this post upsets many, yet helps a few, I'm more concerned about the few I may have helped. The others can always hit the "back" button. ;-) I do it all the time when I read something I think is idiotic! I don't even waste my time commenting.

Fortunately as time goes on, my options are increasing. My cardiologist is watching the aneurysm, doing monthly echocardiograms to make sure it's not growing. So far so good. If it does start to show growth, he will want to do surgery. Since I am getting close to the time that the baby is viable (24 weeks), that will give us the option of delivering the baby premature, if necessary. I hope to avoid that, but it is good to know it's an option soon. It would be far better for the baby to be delivered than remain in utero for a deep hypothermic open heart surgery.

So keep us in your prayers, please!

New Posts Soon!...And an Update.


Hello! I've been AWOL for quite some time. It seems having five children isn't conducive to blogging. Well, for me, anyway! I plan to start blogging a lot more. I have some interesting stuff I'm planning to do, and I thought I should share.

What's in the works? This spring I plan to start my very first garden. I will be picking out heirloom organic seeds and learning a lot. In preparation for that, and to off-set the high price of organic winter vegetable cost, I may be trying my hand at indoor veggie growing. Just a few plants to get some practice in.

Also, I am ramping up our preparedness supplies. This economy is very troubling, and I'm not the only one out there freaking out about the "what ifs", should a serious recession or depression come about. So I will be re-stocking our pantry. I'll also be re-organizing our new home, and redecorating on a budget. Nothing fancy, but repainting, and repurposing "junk" furniture into something beautiful. Our goal is to become more self-sufficient.

In order to achieve that goal, we will be adding animals to our mini-homestead. We plan to add chickens soon. I'm trying to talk my husband into a goat or mini-cow, but he wants nothing to do with it right now. (He knows he'll be doing the milking, lol.) Right now we're buying raw milk (soooo good, and good for you), but I'd like a better source...preferably me! I plan on starting to make homemade raw yogurt, buttermilk, piima, creme fraiche, cheese, etc. I need a milk with higher cream content to do that. We'll see what happens.

I'd like to add some meat animals to our homestead, but I think we'll have to make do with chickens. We're just going to buy a few fully grown laying hens for now, and probably get a mix of meat and layer chicks in the spring.

Now for the updates: so far, my aorta is still in one piece! My symptoms are getting a little worse, but the cardiologist isn't sure exactly what is causing them, as neither the aneurysm nor my bicuspid valve should be bad enough to cause these symptoms. But he's modest enough to admit that we are still learning new stuff every year about these conditions, so there's no way to be sure. His plan is for me to have the surgery right after my c-section. The surgeon he sent me to disagrees, and wants to wait three months. I'm going to another hospital to see a doctor who specializes in pregnant patients with heart problems, so we are waiting until after that consultation to make any plans.

My pregnancy is going fine. Except that I am HORRENDOUSLY congested, especially at night. Since I use a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea, I have to breathe through my nose, which doesn't help....since I can't breathe! I'm almost wondering if I've developed allergies. We got cats two months ago, and it seems that shortly after that is when I developed some symptoms. I've never had allergies before, but developing allergies as an adult can happen.

At right: "Prayer of the Expectant Mother"

Oh, and I'm hovering near the dreaded 300-pound mark. I can't seem to stay raw this time around. So I'm focusing on trying to do a Nourishing Traditions style diet, and at least do raw green smoothies every day. But it seems inevitable that I will hit the 300 mark, which I swore I'd never do. It's really depressing.

Well, folks (if I have any readers left, lol...I never stick around when someone stops posting) tune in soon, I should have something interesting to read

One more update....it's a girl! She is due mid-February.