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Moving Forward

My new, non-homogenized milk along with some ferments- buttermilk, water kefir, milk kefir, creme fraiche, and kombucha.
As I mentioned in this post, the motivation that I lacked last summer has returned en force.  This applies not only to my gardening and homesteading goals, but to my food goals as well.  Quite frankly I slipped last summer and stopped doing a lot of the things I had been doing before we moved.  This winter, thanks to living up to the title of this blog, I started making bread, soaking grains, making yogurt, and cooking mostly from scratch again.  Now that I've caught back up, I feel in my heart that it's time to take the next step.

Because if there's anything I repeat, it's this- you can't make a change in your life unless you really truly believe down to the very core of your being it's beneficial or necessary.  That's why so many of us try to "diet" or "eat healthier," last two weeks, then backslide.  Not only are the generally acknowledged ways of "eating healthier" unsustainable for long periods of time due to a variety of reasons, but we are often only doing it for superficial reasons- someone else says it's better for us (but we don't believe it), we want to look like a supermodel (but that's not realistic).  I think it's far healthier to figure out what your heart says you should be doing, and then do it one very slow step at a time.  It's like the flylady approach to taming chaos in the home- do one step at a time, then master it for a week or even a month before even thinking about the next step.  The key to success is to change one thing and wait for that one thing to become habit before moving on to the next.  With this approach nothing seems overwhelming or prohibitive.  As an example, here's the approximate chronology of the changes I have made:
  • Pre-kids: attempted to mostly eat a whole foods diet, with varying success.
  • 2006-2009: had kids, mostly ate healthy, but still ate things like processed chicken nuggets, fast food, etc on occasion.  Already limiting sugar and white flour intake, though.  Both kids show signs of MSPI and general dairy intolerance during infancy (diaper rash, congestion, eczema, worse than normal infant acne, excessive spit up, and colic).  Problems grow exponentially worse with Oliver when formula is introduced.
  • Early 2009: discovered kids each had double ear infections and reactive airway- doctor thinks Oliver may have asthma.
  • January 2010: finally, after 9 months of constant ear infections, coughs, and reactive airway, both kids are diagnosed with food allergies (dairy and wheat).  This is not something the doctor brought up, I have to pursue this myself (although the doctor cooperated).  I put them on a restrictive diet and (as I react to any situation) begin researching the cause and possible cure for food allergies.  I stumble, almost on accident, onto Nourishing Traditions and WAP.  Stirred both by the motivation of "fixing" my kids and my draw towards traditional cooking, I order NT and Wild Fermentation based almost solely on recommendations.  I devour each book in a matter of days, and it's like my heart was screaming "YES!" the entire time I was reading it (followed by "why didn't anyone tell me this before I had kids!  Which is why I'm so passionate about getting this info "out there" for other moms to hopefully discover before food problems crop up).  I also start baking all our bread.
  • Early 2010: I dabble in raw milk and buy a grain mill, but only use the mill to grind spelt for a few baked goods for Oliver.  I start soaking my grains and making kombucha and milk kefir, but nobody drinks the kefir and only I enjoy the kombucha.
  • May 2010: we move, and being overwhelmed with the move I opt to just toss my kombucha mother and kefir grains.  I stop baking bread and only sporadically remember to soak grains.  But since the kids are still on a healing diet (probiotics, theraputic vitamins, and exclusion of wheat and sugar) and don't eat much grain they are "cured" of their intolerances by July, which is wonderful but removed a huge motivator for me to continue to follow NT.
  • August 2010: I buy a half a beef from a farmer (aka my dad) who isn't necessarily organic, but who pastures his beef, raises it humanely, and only feeds corn to finish.  While I have to say it's a huge advantage that I have beef farmers on one side and hog farmers on the other, it might be worth it for you to look for a local farmer to buy 1/2 or even 1/4 beef from (or 1/2 a hog...).  A chest freezer would be almost necessary, but I always see small ones on Craigslist for under $100.  If you don't want that much meat, find someone to co-op with.  The price, especially for grass fed and humanely raised beef, will be way lower than what is available in stores.
  • Summer 2010: I garden, but it's small and most of my crops do poorly.  Thanks mostly to the farmer's market and my mom and mother in law I put up tomatoes, salsa, banana peppers, jalapenos, crab apple jelly, applesauce, green beans, sauerkraut, sour pickles (one of the few things to come mostly from my own garden), and various other pickles and relishes.
  • Winter 2010:  The first part of the winter I still lack motivation.  I've stopped giving the kids their cod liver oil and we're not eating the sour pickles or sauerkraut nearly as much as we should be.  But a series of events kicks me back into motion.  First of all, at Thanksgiving I notice that they sell 25lb bags of wheat at Walmart.  One of the factors keeping me from grinding my own was cost, since ordering wheat costs a lot in shipping.  Then the kids got sick- not like before, but it was still a needed reminder to help them as best as I can to stay well.
  • Present:  As of pre-Oregon trip I was grinding my own wheat and baking my own bread, soaking my grains, and making yogurt.  And usually remembering to give my kids their CLO (although I need to buy the good stuff).  I had also weaned my kids off of apple juice (which I had originally only started because they couldn't drink milk, and it was the only way I could get them to take their vitamins and probiotics during their recovery).
  • Changes I am working on right now (ie my NEXT STEPS): increasing the amount of fermented dairy my kids ingest, switching to pastured non-homogenized full fat milk and pastured cream and butter; buying more local foods; giving my kids the choice of kefir, pima milk (like runny yogurt, essentially- I haven't tried it yet, but it's supposed to be very mild and kid friendly), or water kefir for breakfast each day; phasing out commercial cereal (one particular area I backslid- I started buying cereal again); varying our grains (and rolling my own oats- I know this sounds excessive, but I got a roller mill with my grain mill last year so it would be imprudent for me to NOT roll my own oats); buying free range local eggs until my own chickens start producing; and growing as much food as I can to store up for the winter, so I have to rely less on imported produce from the grocery store next winter.
It has all happened very gradually, but as I said I didn't make any changes until I felt them in my heart.  Take the milk for example- a year ago changing our milk wasn't a priority because no one was drinking it except Scott.  Then, a few months ago, I was talking to my brother-in-law about milk (his family drinks a LOT of milk) and how healthy it is, but almost out of habit I added the "but" about homogenization.  Before that it hadn't really sunk in as something that was worth the extra expense, but suddenly I realized a) my kids are eating/drinking more dairy now, and b) ignoring what my husband ingests (as he is the only real milk drinker) while I agonize over what my kids ingest is stupid and short sighted.  In that moment I knew I had to make this change soon.

So don't be afraid or overwhelmed when you research the affect of food on your health.  Make one little change, then live with it for a while until it seems normal to you.  Then think about the next change that makes sense to you.  And just as food for thought, since I peruse a ridiculous amount on traditional, paleo, and other food blogs, I have some observations;
  • Many people who follow WAP and Nourishing Traditions were vegetarian or vegan (or at least followed a "China Study" based low fat diet) for some amount of time in the past and found it damaging to their physical and/or mental health.  I've never run across anyone who was the opposite (followed an NT diet and changed to vegetarian).  Meanwhile various diets and nutritionists keep skimming over the fact that women who eat full fat dairy, on average, weigh less than those who drink skim or low fat milk- often mentioning it and then turning around and saying to drink skim.
  • The traditional foods movement is growing in leaps and bounds.  The Nourished Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs, was in several top 100 lists this past year... and, despite (or perhaps because of) it's focus on butter and full fat dairy, was named #1 healthiest mom food blog by Babble.
  • Research and come to your own conclusion... but let me know if you want to resources.

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