Monday, February 24, 2014

Finding the balance between a Remineralizing diet and a Homesteaders diet

For a short time this winter, on the darkest, coldest days when my children moaned and groaned about coming outside for farm chores, I began to fantasize about taking a break from raising goats. I flirted with the notion of purchasing both a goat and cow share from the same farm. I could pick up a gallon of goat milk weekly for drinking and a gallon of cow milk for cream and yogurt making. I went on with my planning thinking that maybe we'd take this summer off raising meat birds or getting new layer chicks and let our chicken population drop so that we have just enough eggs for ourselves but not have to buy, haul, move and make so much chicken feed. I thought to myself how nice it would be to not HAVE to get out each day. Instead of spending our outside time doing chores, the kids and I could spend our time taking peaceful walks (I would not describe goat walks as very peaceful) together and going skiing.

When you've had a steady supply of your own eggs and milk for years and haven't had to buy any, you forget how much of a pain that is. Usually there is a month each year where we are only milking one goat that we were milking through without re breeding, or some years we have had a month or two where we stopped milking completely to let the does rest before kidding. As much as I think it will be nice to take a break from milking, it only takes till we use up the last jar of milk in the fridge before I realize how much I already miss it. Yes you can freeze milk, but for me it generally involves lots of frozen cracked jars and thawed milk that was once frozen never seems to be quite the same as fresh milk.

My fantasies about downsizing lasted less than a month and came to an abrupt halt the night I realized I had a mouth full of cavities. As soon as I started reading about the tooth re-mineralizing diet I realized how unique our position was. Instead of trying to find a source for grass fed organic milk or for grass fed liver, I just changed my habits and began drinking more milk and saving the livers from the chickens we butcher. Obviously they aren't grass fed this time of year. But the goats eat dried grass in the form of hay (not at all the same thing but better than primarily grain fed). I've started making changes to the goats and chickens diet. The chickens are getting wheat grass almost daily. I've started reducing the goat's grain ration and have increased the dried herbs and fresh vegetables they are getting. Thanks to my kale chip addiction (I average a bunch of kale in two days) and our every other day carrot and vegetable juicing schedule, we have a steady supply of kale ribs and carrot vegetable pulp coming out of the kitchen. We've also been feeding some of the small garden carrots and some of the withering cabbages to the goats as well. My goal has been to make sure the milkers get a couple big handfuls of fresh vegetables on top of their grain daily.

When we first started reading about eating liver, instead of getting online and ordering it, we butchered four roosters and saved all the organs to eat. In the past we have gone back and forth on what organs we save. I always save the feet, heart and neck for chicken bone broth. Sometimes we take the time to clean the gizzards for stock and sometimes not. From now on we will be consuming the livers as well, although I have to say I have a hard time with the texture still - it is just different and I'm hoping to get more accustomed to it.

So I've been thinking about the tooth remineralizing diet (which if you don't know what I'm talking about just scroll back a few posts), and how that coincides with a homesteading diet. The remineralizing diet recommends lots of seafood. However, we live in an Arctic Desert, hundreds of miles from the sea. AND seafood is expensive.... and as each year goes by I am beginning to think that our seafood has higher levels of mercury and other pollutants that at some point may outweigh the benefits. We do have our own Copper River Red Salmon that Dustin hauls out of the Copper River each summer. We have upped our Salmon consumption to Salmon dinner once a week and have started incorporating our canned smoked salmon into our lunches and snacks multiple times a week.

Thankfully we have our own raw goat milk that we drink daily. I make a half gallon of yogurt weekly as well as chevre that we eat daily - all highly recommended foods. We have our own chicken eggs and hope to have some goose eggs this spring. Thankfully we can supplement and play with our animals diets to make our own diets more healthy. Our freezer is still fairly full of goat, moose and chickens. We make bone broths every time we have leftover bones and I have been consuming it in soups almost daily. As far as vegetables go I roasted our last squash today. We are still enjoying our own fresh carrots, beets, cabbages and potatoes. In the freezer we still have stewed tomatoes, frozen thyme, zucchini, scallions, basil concentrate and greens. We still have our own honey on the shelf as well as flats of raspberry and blueberry jam as well as crabapple sauce, all sweetened only with our own honey.

As thankful as I am for our own produce, meat and eggs, I am also thankful that we have access to fresh produce from thousands of miles away. D went to the store today and his list looked like this: bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, kale, cilantro, scallions, spinach, lettuce, avocados, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, sour cream, nutritional yeast and pickled ginger. He added cauliflower, ham and sausages to the list and forgot the pickled ginger. We are consuming significantly less fruit than usual but way more vegetables. The kids use to eat fruit in the morning and in the afternoon and now we are down to about a fruit a day. I went most of the last two months without fruit with the exception of the occasional grapefruit, but it has all caught up to me and I am really craving fruit right now. I caved when I passed the Minneola oranges at the store last week and decided I've got to enjoy some fresh citrus while it is at it's best.

The more I look at our "old" diet, the more wheat and grains are really seeming more and more out of place. I do adore baking and eating bread. However, after my mini grain growing experiment this summer I am realizing that there is no way we could grow anywhere near enough wheat or other grains to meet our needs. Or if we did grow enough, I'd never have the patience to clean and process it. If it was up to me to grow and clean our own grains, we would hardly eat any because I do not make the time for tedious tasks such as that. How is it that whole grains have become such a big part of our diet? Mass machinery me thinks... Does grain have a place in the homesteaders diet?

In case you have any doubts, I am no longer fantasizing about downsizing. We are currently budgeting for bees, turkey poults and drip irrigation supplies. We are planning on hatching a small number of our own layer chicks and hoping that the Geese will hatch some goslings as well. I am hoping that all six of my does are bred but having a feeling that we got four out of six. Which will still give us plenty of milk, but will make it harder to sell the dry goats. My Fedco order is in and I pulled out the seedling rack this weekend to begin dusting off.

I know that a lot of you are homesteaders as we are. We think of ourselves as having common sense and not being easily swayed by the current diet trends. We eat real food. Food that we've grown, harvested, canned, dried, frozen, butchered, cured and smoked ourselves. We enjoy the challenge of seeing how much of our diet we can grow ourselves and how long we can get that food to last us through till the next growing season. The good news is that most homesteaders are already eating a diet high in raw milk products, healthy eggs, vegetables and self harvested fruit. It is gratifying to find compromise in what initially appears to be a very strict diet. I realize that I have a limited view of the homesteaders diet as I am thinking of our lives here in Interior Alaska and what we can grow and harvest ourselves. So feel free to jump in and share the foods that you consider to be your homesteading staples.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mother Intuition and tackling colds

Avery started coming down with a cold mid week. We cancelled our play visit for Wednesday afternoon. Then on Thursday we stayed home from a special Imbolc celebration that our home-school cooperative organized. That was a pretty big disappointment, especially for Noah who was not sick. Then today the kids were invited to spend the night at their Grandma and Grandpas with their cousins and mom and dad were going to have date night. So we are all disappointed that we've cancelled that as well. I told the kids today that their is an invisible cord that links me to them that allows me insight into what is best for them. I told them that while their umbilical cord is severed at birth, there is still a connection, and if I listen very carefully I can hear and see what each of them need. I told them this invisible cord is called Mama's Intuition. After this they asked if I could hear their thoughts and of course I didn't really want them to think that I could always hear their thoughts. But I did tell them that sometimes this connection allowed me a pretty good idea of what they were thinking. Then they each wanted me to say what they were thinking and how they were thinking and from the expressions on their faces, they were pretty impressed with my accuracy. Of course it wasn't difficult because we'd just been weighing the pros and cons of leaving the house to spend the night elsewhere while having a cold, and I knew how they each felt about it. Avery was disappointed because she was really looking forward to socializing with family. Noah was relieved because he'd rather spend the night in his own bed, especially if he is sick.

This has been one of our best winters as far as not being sick very often and when we do get a cold it is very short in duration. We've had a couple colds that we started to feel better by the second day and felt back to normal by the third, never having symptoms stronger than light headedness and a mild sore throat. We managed to make it through cold season without any colds and I thought it was because we were taking so much Colloidal Silver and Echinacea at the start of any sign of cold. We've been out of both for quite a while now. I decided that since I'd made my own Spilanthes tincture and glycerine that I'd try and use that instead of buying Echinacea tincture and glycerine. So I have been and it seems to work just as well which I'm excited about. This was our first January that I can remember where none of us had a cold.  I've started thinking that the reason we have not had any big colds is because we are all taking such high doses of High vitamin butter oil and fermented cod liver oil which has high really high amounts of the best source of fat soluble vitamin D and A.

My mothering intuition is strong and when I listen and follow through accordingly I am almost always thankful.  Sometimes I second guess myself, but I'm learning to trust myself more. Staying home and babying ourselves at the first sign of sickness really helps our colds not turn into monster colds, and we also recover quicker. Neither the kids or I have had any sinus infections or chest colds in at least a year or more like two. Not only that, but I was thinking how uncommon it is for children their age to never have had antibiotics for anything. Neither Avery nor Noah have never had a cold that was bad enough that I took them to the doctors and were prescribed antibiotics. Now I'll confess that part of this is my mistrust of western doctors and a stubbornness that if a cold is properly taken care of there should be no need for a doctor's interference.

When we feel a cold coming on we take immune supporting tinctures or glycerines of Echinacea or Spilanthes. We take extra vitamins and garlic supplements which prevents colds from going to our chests. We juice carrots and other vegetables, and drink herbal teas. We eat light meals, lots of bone broth, vegetable or miso soups. We limit sweets, dairy and grains even more than usual. We have easy, lazy days spent reading on the couch, but still get out for fresh air and movement, and we go to bed early. I use the netti pot multiple times a day if I feel off. I also drink fresh ginger root tea all throughout the day and eat spicy kimchi which helps with any congestion.

 If anyone has some more cold care tips leave a comment. Since we've had a battling cold sort of week, I realized that I've never written about what we do. I know that people get colds for a reason. There are theories about them helping our bodies detox or for those who never rest without encouragement, they force rest. I really hate being sick. Mostly it's because I don't get to take a break when I'm sick. Sometimes I do fantasize about being sick and getting to bury myself in my bed for a day or two without interruption. But farm chores, and two kids and wood stoves and meals and being sick all combined at the same time? No thanks. So, we'll keep looking for the most efficient and effective ways to battle our colds...while making the most of our forced home weeks.

Our homeschool week in pictures

 Avery, coloring in her main lesson book. This week we worked with letter R.

We are hitting that late winter hump, where my son says he doesn't feel like doing some of those things that we just have to do, like math lessons. I count myself lucky in that up until this point I have had two mostly willing and eager students. Last week Noah said he wasn't in the mood for our morning circle time, so we scrapped it. The next morning I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea; I thought we'd take the week off our normal circle activities and all three do yoga together. Yoga followed by our Mr McGregor/Bunny chase game lasted one morning, and then the next day was met with we scrapped that and just got to the meat of the matter which was probably also met with groans.

This week went a little smoother. I abbreviated our circle time which usually includes an assortment of movement verses, finger plays, songs while running and skipping, alphabet and counting verses, bean bag games, string games, clapping games,  copper rod games and a Yup'ik language call and response segment. This week I made sure to plan out our math so that I squeezed two lessons into the first three days of the week; busting out six lessons and still getting the end of the week off math.

 Noah worked with subtraction facts this week. Here he is playing a subtraction chain game.

 Yesterday Avery asked if she could do some needle felting. She ended up making herself a slice of cheese, a slice of tomato, a lettuce leaf, a blob of ketchup and a white plate.

While I had computer time and while Avery needle felted, Noah set out several game boards that he combined to make his own strategy game. He spent hours playing it. I am ignorant of the rules, but it seemed pretty creative and clever of him.
 Here is Noah drawing Stars in his form drawing journal. He worked on drawing them all week at the chalkboard and at the end of the week he draws them into his book.

 This morning Avery sat down with her potholder loom, and then Noah went and got his and they both spent an hour on the couch crafting.

Over the past few weeks Noah and I have been reading the Enki Sage story of Harriet Tubman. Next week will be our last week working with this material and then I think we will expand it and take a deeper step into African American culture through dance, music and maybe a southern meal. Each day after Noah's circle time he reads word family flash card or spits out memorized sight words. Then he reads me a first reader or two. As long as we stick to this schedule I notice weekly improvement. I'm so ready for him to be able to entertain himself by reading what he wants when he wants.

We got outside each day this week for at least an hour and usually more. The kids spent my milking time rolling and sledding down a small hill outside the milk room door. We got the does out most days for a walk to the chicken coop and back. Today was about ten degrees, the coldest day this week.

Avery came down with a cold this week that had us cancelling multiple engagements that we were looking forward to. Despite battling colds and overcoming disappointments, we have had an enjoyable week around the house.The kids just took a long bubble bath together with their playmobile pirate ship. Now I've promised to do some special design painting on Avery's finger nails. Then I'll be blending some green soup and frying sourdough bread croutons. That's right, I'm counting tonight as the weekend, so some diet cheating is about to begin. Then something tells me it may be a well deserved movie night for all.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Grain Free, low sugar Breakfast Ideas

This has been my week for taking action. I've been googling primal recipes as that is the closest I can get to our remineralizing teeth diet. I've been flagging primal and paleo recipes on Pinterest and taking lots of notes. We cheated yesterday for the Super Bowl. Dustin is an avid football watcher, so while I did not grow up watching sports, we now have a tradition where we make certain dishes and sit on the couch together for the big game. Yesterday we had chips and a veggie tray with various dips and homemade pizza. 

I'm spending way too much time in the kitchen and not enough time knitting or reading with the kids or lesson planning or socializing, but I'm hoping that I'll start getting the hang of cooking without grains or much legumes here soon. The main things we are doing differently is getting more creative with eggs in the morning - which does take more time than a soaked pot of breakfast oatmeal. I'm trying to eliminate lunch sandwiches and stick with soups, stews and salads. But the kids are use to eating their tuna salad on bread - and aren't as inclined as I am to eat it with veggie sticks or on a bed of greens but we are working on it. Dinners haven't changed too much. The most noticeable being a lack of tortillas replaced with taco salads, and I'm really missing toasted bread with my soup, cornbread with my chili, biscuits with my stew and garlicky buttery croutons on my salads. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit. Here are some of the things we are eating now. I would REALLY LOVE to hear more menu ideas from those of you who eat a reduced grain/ legume diet.

Our old breakfasts consisted mostly of oatmeal, sourdough muffins, sprouted flour raw sugar zucchini or carrot bread (which I really miss!) oatmeal pancakes or sourdough pancakes on the weekends and one or two days of eggs  - usually on the weekend for D.

Now for breakfast D and I are eating eggs pretty much daily, the kids are eating eggs every other day and getting a sweet breakfast, sourdough muffins, sourdough pancakes or cheese pancakes in between. 

What we've been eating for our grain free breakfasts:
Scrambled eggs with raw milk cheese and scallions or sauteed veggies 
Veggie cheese Omelettes
Veggie skillet: lots of variations but I've been heating up a couple tb. of butter in our 10 inch cast iron skillet, and sauteing a quarter to a half an onion and some bell pepper then adding in several handfuls of spinach and stirring just to coat with butter, then cracking 4- 5 eggs in indentations made by spinach. Sprinkle with raw goat cheese and other shredded cheese. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and scallions. Place a cookie sheet over the top and cook for 3-6 minutes. scoop out onto plates and serve with sour cream, salsa or avacados.
Ham cups; butter muffin pan, lay ham inside to cover, drop in egg and sprinkle with cheese and sliced chives or scallions. Bake at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes. 
Egg muffins; butter muffin pans, whisk eggs as for scrambled with salt and pepper, milk or water, add cheese - I use a half cup of goat cheese to six eggs - ish. chop some scallions and pour mixture into muffin cups - top with shredded cheese and bake at 350 15-20 min. Makes about 6-8 muffins depending on muffin tin size. Lots of variations for these include adding more veggies or meat.
Deviled eggs, egg salad
Miso soup with veggies and eggs dropped in and poached
Home fries seasoned or simply fried in butter with salt and pepper.
Hash browns; I've only made these once using Sally Fallon's recipe where they sit overnight with whey. I want to start making these more often and using sweet potatoes, and making sweet potato hash crust for quiche and egg cups. 
Ricotta pancakes: I'll have to keep track of what I do for these. I take a cup or more of ricotta, add a couple eggs, a couple Tb. of butter, a little vanilla extract, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of salt. I add a small amount of organic all purpose flour. So these aren't technically grain free. Depending on your ricotta, mine is usually pretty dry, I don't always need flour and not usually more than a few Tablespoons. Fry over medium low heat in butter or coconut oil. I thaw our own berries with a small amount of honey to serve along with butter when these are done. KID FAVORITE.
Raw egg Raw milk smoothie: 2 raw eggs, one frozen or fresh banana, wild berries, coconut butter/spread optional, raw milk yogurt/buttermilk/kefir/ raw milk assortment for liquid. We find that this doesn't need any added sugar. Another KID FAVORITE. If I have any leftover I dehydrate it to make a high protein fruit leather.

That is the extent of our breakfast menu. I'm looking forward to asparagus this spring with eggs and Hollondaise sauce. I am already missing the idea of homemade granola this summer. I think I am going to try and make a nut dried fruit granola with soaked, sprouted, dehydrated and toasted nuts, coarsely ground with toasted coconut, coconut oil or butter and our own dehydrated cranberries and wild blueberries - which I think will not be as sweet or unhealthy as store bought dried fruit.

 I would love more suggestions for breakfast, lunch and snacks. I've been missing crunchy things. I made a savory squash dip that was pretty good, but couldn't think of what to eat it with other than veggie slices. But now I have an idea. Today I'm making spinach chips because I'm out of kale - they aren't going to be strong enough to scoop a dip. However, I'm planning on making sweet potato chips next and I think they will be able to scoop some dip. I need a mandolin slicer but I'm going to try and make do without one for now. I saw zucchini chips as well. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Kids, geese and summer dreaming

 A couple weeks ago, during our warm spell I was going about my chores and looked up to see the kids sitting side by side watching the geese play in their pool of fresh water. I grabbed the camera quick here are three of the resulting pictures. I thought to myself, what a great form of entertainment - so much healthier than the television. We had at least seven days where the roof dripped into baby pools and there was no ice on the top in the mornings. It was a mini vacation in the middle of what is usually our coldest month of the year. Of course the roads were terrible, but I almost always enjoy an excuse to stay home for several days straight.

Each morning we hauled buckets of fresh cold water that had melted off the roof the night before. The geese were in mid winter heaven. We are pretty certain we have a pair of Geese. For the longest time we thought we had two females because they were so much friendlier than our Toulouse geese. We've heard that the males are more vocal and have a higher pitched voice. Our smaller goose is much more vocal and higher pitched. He also puts himself between us and the other goose, who is bigger, much quieter with a deeper voice. I am already envisioning Daisy and Dilly leading a troupe of goslings around the property this summer!

I placed my seed order with Fedco last night. As usual I really didn't NEED much. I needed carrot, cucumber and kale seed and that's about it. I ate six bunches of kale this week in the form of kale chips. I am sooo addicted to kale chips that I'm beginning to think I need a garden of kale - way more than the six plants I usually grow. I'm excited about a couple new hot pepper varieties, and more of a diversity of heirloom flowers that I have never grown. We are going to attempt musk melons this year, as I've heard farmers say that they have much better luck with musk melons here than watermelons.

Yesterday I sat and looked at old issues of Backwoods Home, and other various homesteading/Hobby Farming magazines. I was mostly interested in the articles about Heritage Turkey and Chicken varieties. We are thinking about turning one of our two chicken coops into a place for some Bourbon Red or other Heritage Turkeys to winter over. Certainly not as productive as chickens - but we really don't need thirty some layers. I'm interested in diversity. I like turkey personalities. Dustin is able to butcher them easier than ducks and geese. We like the darker meat and having a variety of poultry meat. I'm also looking for a chicken breed that is a decent layer and has a meatier carcass. Anyone have some recommendations? I think we usually keep the higher egg layers which is nice until we hatch our own eggs and end up with 70% roosters.

We are gaining light daily and it is noticeable. We've been having clear sunny weather. The kids and I are skating with friend weekly on a local outdoor skating rink. This week it was sunny out whereas the last couple times we'd been it had been so dim even in the middle of the day. The house is not filled with sunlight yet, but soon. For now we are reveling in the the change of light. The humidity is higher than usual as well, which makes for frosty everything, frost covered hillside, frost covered trees and shrubs; making for a picture perfect Winter Wonderland.