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… to a new url!

Hi everyone. The time has come. I finally got around to moving this blog over to fishinthewater.net. It is the exact same blog- and just about everything seems to have transferred nicely- so never fear! You will continue to get the same jumbled up mix of rants, thoughts, and pictures of food over on the new site. Now I just have an easier url to type. Alas, fishinthewater.com was already taken by some kind of weird research site, so I got stuck with .net, but what are you going to do? This is the way of the world. The new site has some exciting features, and allows me to actually put money making things on the blog (no ads, just paypal and amazon). So all around pretty exciting.

I don’t have the subscribe button working yet on the new site, so I hope the subscribers will bear with me as I get it figured out, and will follow me over to the new digs!

All the best,
fishinthewater

OMG.
Farm Hack

Since I deprived you of any rants or thoughtful thoughts today, here’s a link to a site that looks to be rife with them. Give it some time to develop, as its a new site created by the National Young Farmer’s Coalition. The concept is to share DIY farm projects from young farmers all over the country, who are struggling to get by and often come up with creative ways to turn trash to treasure to get by on the farm. Its kind of like a farm version of the how-to portion of the Etsy blog, or one of my other favorites, Offbeat Bride. Ms. clickclack is also famous for her DIY projects. We came by it honestly, as everyone in our family is crafty, not to mention that our parents used to take us dumpster diving when we were kids. DIY, if you aren’t familiar with the concept, stands for Do-It-Yourself, and is kind of a popular movement that those of us who love making things, being creative, and shopping at cheap-o vintage stores subscribe to. DIY is also the love of dumpster divers everywhere. People throw out so much usable, amazing stuff, that can be totally turned into something usable: with just a little DIY love.

Check it out, get some ideas, post some of your own!

And that means I’m drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies with the neighbors, not writing exciting blog posts to keep you all entertained. Today (Thursday) was a banner day for hits, and I appreciate all those who have stopped by to read. Welcome! If you’re not familiar, the blog is a combo of rants on food politics, thoughts on life and my journey towards owning a farm, and tales of cooking and eating. Since the past week has been mostly rants, for Friday, I’m giving you an entirely non-controversial blog post (unless you don’t think humans should eat wheat, in which case you will disagree with me violently).

So last weekend for a holiday party, I decided to make crackers. I was inspired by Miss Zumba, who had made them for my holiday party. I typically buy a lot of crackers, because I love eating them with cheese, and so the idea that I could make them and eat them that way rather than buying them was terribly appealing.

And so it began. You can find the recipe over at Fit for Life. The dough was rolled out:

Early in the process:

More crackers:

And finished, sprinkled with sea salt and baked:

These are actually super easy to make. I thought they’d be something like sugar cookies, which are a pain in the butt to roll and cut out. But this dough rolls out super easily, and I just cut out the shapes with the pastry wheel my mom bought me like a year ago that I’ve never used. It makes those cute scalloped edges. And I just sprinkled a little sea salt (because I love sea salt), and there you go. 7 minutes in the oven and you have crackers.

Now I used whole wheat flour, Miss Zumba used regular all purpose. Hers were a little softer (maybe she didn’t leave them in the oven as long either), and I thought mine where a little crunchier and a little closer to what I think of as a cracker texture (but I also buy whole wheat crackers from the store). They went over very well, and were almost entirely gone by the end of the night.

But then again, maybe that was the cheese. I also put together a cheese plate of Eve’s Cheese:

Jalepeno colby, garlic and chive colby (?), and cheddar. Yum.

I hate being cold. I mean, I really, really, hate being cold. And it is really cold in my apartment. And definitely in the handsome fella’s house. Old houses are notoriously not well-insulated. And mine is no exception. Add to that the historic windows the historic district commission won’t allow us to update, and, well, it’s cold AND windy in my apartment. At the moment, there are fleece blankets covering the windows to keep the worst of the drafts out. Unfortunately, every time the wind blows the fleece blankets blow into the middle of the room. Which can be a hazard. But I haven’t had the time or the inclination yet to put that stupid plastic sheeting stuff over the windows (that stuff is outrageously expensive for just being glorified plastic wrap), and so I sleep with four quilts, a comforter, and the two cats for warmth.

I was thinking, as I was lying in bed this morning trying to steel myself for the cold, that people had to be a lot better about this cold thing before there were well insulated houses with functional windows. I mean, people used to have to go outside to pee. Some people still go outside to pee. So, how did they keep warm? Cause let me tell you, I’m wearing an awful lot of clothing these days. Current count: five layers. I could put on a few more, if I needed to. But there must be something to it beyond layers of clothing.

Every fall, as winter approaches, I typically gain at least five pounds. Sometimes it’s a little more or less. I used to get upset about this, being a girl raised in America, but eventually I decided it’s just normal- my body is trying to bulk up for cold weather. For most of the fall, I crave fatty foods like you wouldn’t believe (unless this also happens to you). For a few weeks just before it really got cold, I ate ice cream. Lots and lots and lots of ice cream. And even now all I can think about eating is cheese, or cream, or steaks with lots of fat, or bacon, or cheese, or some kind of soup with cheese. Or homemade mac and cheese…

I restrain myself, however. I am too much a product of this culture to, at this point at least, just let myself eat whatever I want. I think I’m afraid that if I eat nothing but fatty foods, I’ll gain the weight for winter and then not lose it again in the spring. Plus, I will admit I’m just afraid of looking fat. I already get freaked out about looking pregnant whenever I have a big meal. I know this is silly. I know I am not an unhealthy weight. I mean, maybe I could lose a couple extra pounds around the hips, but whatever. Extra padding for when I run into things (which I always do. Huge klutz). And in the summer, no problem, I’m usually below the standard weight for my height.

But can you imagine a normally fairly average to small sized girl suddenly putting on like 15 or more pounds for the winter? How people would react to that? I did put on that much extra weight once, during my last semester of college (when I lived on pizza), and I thought I looked horrible. My face looked puffy all the time. Given, that was weight gained from pizza, and not from healthful fats like those in meats, but still.

I don’t actually know the first thing about this subject, which is why I’m so curious. Did people used to gain a lot of weight in the winter? I can’t imagine how they could, when winter was the time of the least available food, and is also the time you burn a lot of extra calories trying to stay warm. So how did people stay warm? Were they just used to it? Was their blood thicker? Or their skin thicker? What is the secret, dear internet? A very cold girl wants to know.

In the meantime, I am going to be eating a lot of really creamy soups, and lots of things cooked in bacon fat…

The funny thing about this whole raw milk battle is that each side is convinced they are completely right, and the other side is completely wrong. I got lectured the other night by someone who is convinced that raw milk kills babies- and here I am convinced that raw milk is the second best thing for babies, after breast milk.

Now, some of the advocates for raw milk are convinced that all raw milk is manna from heaven, and refuse to hear any aspersions against it. I am not one of those people. I am perfectly aware that you can get sick from raw milk, but you can also get sick from pasteurized milk, or meat, or spinach, or any number of things. You can get sick from small children. You can get sick from sitting in airplanes. I mean, we live in a society where people are in very close quarters. It is pretty much guaranteed we are going to be fertile breeding grounds for loads of diseases.

The funny part is, the people who are against raw milk are completely convinced that raw milk is this dangerous risk to public health and it kills everyone it comes in contact with. That website I linked to the other day, for example. That guy is totally convinced that everyone who drinks raw milk gets sick. This is far from the truth. And statistics can be made to say almost anything, and statistics about illness and outbreak even more so- because people don’t always report illnesses, and sometimes when they are reported, they are reported wrong (as in, it is assumed one thing made a person sick when it might have been another).

It was brought to my attention recently that the fancy steaks you can buy in the store go on and on about their quality nearly as much as I do about the grass fed steaks we get from our neighbors. The funny thing being, at least to me, that those other steaks are bragging about being “grain-fed”- the very exact thing I’m always so proud my steaks are not! Apparently the people who sell grain-fed steaks are convinced that they are the height of quality, when it comes to steaks. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t be caught dead eating a grain-fed steak, cause heaven only knows what the poor cow suffered before being slaughtered. Most likely it ended its life on a feedlot, being fed some kind of ridiculous concoction of “grain,” that also included rendered proteins from other animals (oh yes, that’s still happening), chemical supplements, and goodness knows what else. Cows aren’t supposed to eat all those things. Their stomachs are made to eat grass. And you’re telling me they are higher quality because they’ve been fed GMO grains? Puh-lease.

Speaking of GMOs. I recently heard the amusing alternative to GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), “God Move Over.” I believe Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures dairy in California coined that one. Farmers (and corporate types) who are fans of GMOs think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Plants with pesticides built in! Who couldn’t beat that? But people who don’t like eating pesticides are not such big fans, and farmers who end up with GMO plants in their fields who didn’t plant them there, and who end up in court because Monsanto is a big dumbface who sues the pants off people just because Monsanto copyrighted seeds accidently ended up in someone’s field are definitely not fans.

The point, I suppose, was that the strange thing about this whole food scene is you have people on such rampantly opposite ends of the spectrum. On the one hand: the germaphobes. On the other: the bacteriaphiles. Or the live culture lovers or whatever you want to call them. And each person is rabidly convinced that their way is the right way. I was reading this fantastic New Yorker article about Sandor Ellis Katz the other day (sorry I can’t share, they made it subscriber only on their website) and the guy was talking about people who love to eat rotted meat. That just crosses a line, in my opinion. The argument is supposed to be that prehistoric peoples sometimes ate rotted meat, but seriously, prehistoric people probably ate a lot of very nasty things, and that alone is not an argument for us to eat them, too. I’m going back to the argument that it’s much more pleasant to drink raw milk then to eat fermented fish heads.

I know I’ve made the conclusion before, but there really is no other way to say it: you have to eat what makes you feel good. The odd thing is, I suppose, that people are really good at ignoring when they don’t feel good. There are plenty of people who run around exhausted all the time, are listless, and have constant stomach problems, and it apparently doesn’t occur to them that this could be related to what they eat. Plus you’ve got all these people being diagnosed with allergies (and the allergies just keep getting crazier, how many people are allergic to peanuts now?), and coming down with diabetes, and cancer, and god only knows what else, and still, no one goes, hmm, maybe there’s a reason for it…

Clearly I must be right!

That last post went way off track. I had intended to actually talk about how I heal myself if I don’t go to the doctor for medicine. I in fact almost never go to the doctor these days, unless something is going on that I simply can’t diagnose. But after the horror I went through last summer, when doctor after doctor couldn’t do a thing for me, and after I got put on round after round of experimental drugs to no effect, I think I’ve forever been broken of any desire to go to a doctor for a “cure.“ It’s amazing that my childhood didn’t break me of this earlier- it would take me hours to talk about all the ridiculous things I’ve allowed doctors to do to my body in my lifetime.

I’ve always suspected there had to be another way. Had to be another way besides round after round of medication (always changing, because my body would get used to one and cease to react to it), and too many rounds of antibiotics to count (antibiotics which never failed to make me nauseous). Doctors don’t always know what they’re talking about. There was the nurse that kept telling me to sleep more when I had mono, to the point where I had insomnia for days and was so wired when I went back to the doctor she thought something was wrong with my heart and sent me for an EKG. Turned out she just freaked me out, because my heart rate would go down whenever she left the room. Or there was the doctor who, upon hearing that I charted as my form of birth control, spent the rest of the appointment repeatedly saying, well when you get pregnant… and pointing out that ovulation can be irregular, as if I hadn’t realized this (and asking, repeatedly, are you sure you don’t want to discuss birth control options? Maybe she thought I was too stupid to raise a child).

Most doctors I’ve seen are so incredibly condescending it’s no wonder that everyone walks around half terrified of having some disease. The way they talk, it’s amazing anyone is still upright and walking. And god forbid anyone ask questions of a doctor. God forbid, more than anything else, that you ask questions about what the medication does and how it works. Or if there are any alternatives. I’ve gotten so many nasty, disdainful responses from doctors that I now have some kind of complex about going. I spend the entire day before every visit steeling myself to be treated like an idiotic child who can’t seem to stop sticking things up their nose. I can’t possibly know more about my own body than a doctor. And any attempt I make to explain what’s going on, and what the symptoms are, is usually bull dozed over with a quick, here’s some medication.

I’m not saying there aren’t good doctors out there, I’m sure there are, somewhere. I just haven’t met them yet. No, I would much rather concentrate on prevention. Eating whole foods, that actually have nutrients in them. And exposing myself to lots of good bacteria.

Another thing that struck me in that Mark McAfee interview was his response to the question that all vegans and ex-vegans ask when faced with the prospect of drinking raw milk: but isn’t milk for baby cows? It’s true, it is. And I’m definitely against any farm that doesn’t let the baby cows drink the milk, cause really, that’s just mean. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the leftovers. Mark McAfee made this point: all cultures that had intact eating habits and intact health (basically, that hadn’t been exposed to western diets) had some kind of super food they used to build immunity and to get the majority of their nutrition. Most cultures have some sort of fermented food that serves this purpose. In a lot of cultures, it’s some kind of fermented fish (especially heads). There are also fermented organ meats. And in the cultures that do have milk, they drink lots of it- though usually sour, because without refrigeration you don’t have a lot of fresh milk. All of these foods share very similar qualities to raw milk. We’ve just been spoiled by generations of mild foods- our tastebuds aren’t accustomed to things like sour milk or fermented fish heads. So while we could go and eat lots of fermented fish heads to get our nutrition, a lot of us are choosing raw milk instead…

… while the rest of the population eats more nutrient-free, sterile food. Do you ever wonder why it is that all those products in the center of the grocery store don’t go bad? Think about this for a moment. Things rot when bacteria latch onto them and start eating the nutrients. Pests go for foods that are high in nutrient quality. So the fact that all those foods can stay “fresh” for days, or even months, means the bacteria aren’t interested. That should really worry you.

I also learned, from the same podcast, the difference between when raw milk goes “bad” and when pasteurized milk goes bad. When raw milk sours, it’s because it’s turning into yogurt. You can very easily take raw milk that smells funny, add some additional yogurt culture, and get some very tasty yogurt. The milk itself isn’t bad. It’s just fermenting. On the other hand, you have pasteurized milk. When that stuff goes bad, you will literally get sick if you drink it. It putrefies, as they say. The few nutrients that remain get eaten by nasty bacteria, and you get that awful chunky grossness that no one in their right mind would touch. The foods I eat are alive. As Mark McAfee says, they don’t spoil, they “evolve.”

And why isn’t there “research” to prove all these things? Why do the doctors look at me like I’m a lunatic when I come in and say I get my health by eating well, eating lots of fermented foods, and drinking raw milk? Well, scientists haven’t really gotten into doing studies on all these things. Studies are very expensive. And who pays for the studies? Why, industries, of course! The medical industry isn’t going to pay for a study that proves you don’t need medications. Duh. Neither is the processed food industry. And since government bodies like the FDA get their funding from industries, well. Their researchers are going to focus on certain things that the industries want. So yes, my decision not to take medications is based on “anecdotal evidence.” But I also like to think it’s based on common sense.

I’m pretty sure I used to be a hypochondriac when I was younger. I used to freak out at the slightest sign of something that was out of place, and would scour the internet for clues as to my symptoms. When it came to lady-related symptoms especially, I would get in a panic at the slightest sign that something was out of place. That all changed when I learned fertility awareness. Fertility awareness, or charting, is unlike the old “counting days” system that many seem to be aware of. Instead, women who chart keep track of three basic clues as to what’s happening in their bodies: their temperature, their fluids, and the shape and feel of their cervix (and there’s another one- how will I chart when my thermometer stops working?).

The more I’ve learned about my body, the more I’ve ceased to be alarmed by the things it does. This didn’t occur to me until the other day when it crossed my mind that I might be sick, and I simply shrugged it off because it didn’t make that much difference, except that I determined I had to get a lot more rest. Some of the peace of mind also, I think, comes from knowing there’s not much of anything I can do about minor illnesses, anyway. In the old days I might have run to the doctor at the earliest sign of a sinus infection (I have a chronic condition where I get sinus infections at least four times per year), asking for antibiotics, but these days there’s very little that will induce me to take antibiotics. Maybe if I had pneumonia or something. But even then I’d think twice about it.

I was medicated for one thing or another (mostly allergies and asthma) my entire life. And now I find out that the cause behind allergies and asthma, and the alarming rates at which they are increasing, especially among children, is poor immune system health. And most of that is related to diet. I’m never going to believe that growing up next to a power plant and generally living in an area with poor air quality didn’t have something to do with the asthma especially, but it makes sense with the allergies. In order to defeat allergies, you need to have an effective immune system that can fight off invasions. And in order to have an effective immune system, you need to be exposed to lots of things that make your body build antibodies and that sort of thing.

This is going to be the least scientific explanation of immune system function in the world, but bear with me. When you are growing in your mother, you are in a fairly sterile environment. There’s not a lot of back and forth with the outside world. You apparently pick up some of your mother’s antibodies, but the majority of your immunity comes from, believe it or not, the vaginal wall on your way out. That’s when babies pick up all kinds of fun germs and bacterias and things, and are forced to develop an immune response. They’re aided and abetted in that task by breast milk- which is full of all kinds of enzymes and more bacteria and antibodies and all kinds of things that babies need for functional immune systems.

Nowadays babies don’t get all these immune boosters. Instead, more and more babies are born through c-sections, and more and more babies are fed formula instead of breast milk. Formula does not contain antibodies, nor does it contain even a fraction of the nutrition found in breast milk. But we’re obsessed with sterility these days, and breast milk is just plain dirty. Add to all that an overabundance of antibacterial hand soap, sterilized foods, and an aversion to playing in the dirt. This leaves you with people who get sick really often. And are allergic to everything.

I was struck the other day, when listening to an old interview with Mark McAfee (on Underground Wellness, my current favorite podcast, but it’s not on this page, you have to get it on iTunes I think), raw milk guru, by just how insane this is. I’ve always said it was insane, but he put it in a whole new context. Our bodies are mostly made of bacteria. Like half our body mass is bacteria (or something). Bacteria help us with everything- from digestion to fighting off infections to simply existing. And yet we use antibacterial everything. We’re obsessed with pasteurizing milk and irradiating food to “kill the germs.” But our body is made out of “germs.” And by trying to sterilize our environments, and our food, we’re literally killing ourselves. If we removed all the bacteria from our bodies, we would die in a minute. And by not regularly inculcating our guts in particular with a host of good bacteria (from wonderful raw foods), we leave the path wide open for the bad guys- the E. Coli 157s or whatever the new one is.

It seems so illogical, when you stop and think about it. But we’ve all been raised to think germs are bad. We’ve all been raised to think that the cleaner something is, the better. But I’ve stopped washing all the dirt off my vegetables (gasp!). When I get sick, I drink more raw milk, because all that beneficial bacteria has to be good for something (and all the nutrients are pretty good too). A farmer friend was once making me dinner, and he stopped to apologize because he had dirt under all his fingernails. Actually, his fingers are kind of permanently black on the tips. This happened to be during the whole swine flu freak out, when everyone around us was paranoidly spraying down every surface with Lysol, trying to avoid getting sick. We both laughed that we would never get swine flu, because we were simply too dirty.

It’s really true. Children that play in the dirt are healthier. I mean no, not dirt that has been contaminated with industrial waste, and I’d never let kids go near a pile of manure from feedlot cattle. There are obvious limits. But some good healthy dirt? Children have to be exposed to the bad things if their bodies are going to learn to fight them off. Because, let’s face, there’s no way to avoid the bacteria. Not without avoiding ourselves.

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