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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Zephyr

One of my bunnies died today.

I've never really had a pet before (unless you count sourdough starters or worms). I'm a practical person, the kind who has to have a use for most everything—not the kind of person you would expect to have bunnies (unless for breeding), and honestly, the only reason I really wanted some was for their manure. So last Easter I finally decided to take the plunge, little as I really knew about the gentle creatures. I'm a learner on the go. Plus, my compost needed those droppings!

I did not expect to attach to the bunnies.

But it happened almost immediately. I felt a strong stewardship over these bunny brothers, newly weaned from their mama. I wanted to take care of them just right. I gave them good quality food (including greens from my garden) and let them share my Berkey water. I let them out of their cage to play nearly every day. I talked to them and stroked them. I made them a good-sized run in the backyard so they could enjoy the grass and the outdoors. I made strict rules about the allowed interactions my little boys could have with them. I even took them to Utah on a three-week trip and let them run jubilantly around my mom's chicken coop with her hens.

We all loved them. They felt like part of the family.

This morning as I was doing some routine yard work, I went to refill their water. The bunnies were in their little cardboard house I made for them, but Zephyr wasn't moving, and I knew instantly why. His brother was snuggled up next to him, like always. I was stunned. I cried and cried. For the longest time, I sat there under the avocado tree, not knowing what to do next. I finally decided to pull out the dead tree and bushes in their fenced run, and bury him there with a new tree planted above. So I spent hours digging. Which helped me feel a little better.

The worst is, I don't know why it happened.

My first impulse was the heat, but the last couple days were only in the low to mid 80s, and the bunnies had water and shade. Then I wondered if it was a poisonous plant they'd been nibbling on in the yard. Today I found a huge long list of plants that can be poisonous to bunnies, and one of the plants in their run had just grown some tiny berries he may have tried. Maybe that. And when I pulled up the plants around the dead tree, I disrupted a cozy nest of black widow spiders. So then I thought maybe he got a fatal bite, since he liked to play in that area. But that's least likely of all. Widows are not aggressive. Maybe it's something else still. Maybe I should have waited to get rabbits until I knew more about them. As things are, I must figure out what next, especially for the truly forlorn brother rabbit left behind.

***

As I cuddled my youngest boy in my arms tonight before bed, I couldn't help but think how fragile and precious life is (and the tears threatened to come again). These little children, whom I love infinitely more than the bunnies, mean more to me tonight because of our loss earlier today. How important it is to be vigilant for the well-being of those we love. But how much more important it is just to love! Reminders like losing Zephyr, though dreadful and heartbreaking, serve to keep things in perspective.

Tonight I am grateful for life.

video
Zephyr, 3 1/2 weeks old

One week ago



Today I know, for the first time in my life, what it's like to mourn for a cherished animal. I never understood it before. Have you ever lost a pet? Tell me about your experience.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rachel Reed

Have you ever heard of Rachel Reed? She is so many things, such as midwife, university lecturer, Doctor of Philosophy, and the writer of the beautiful blog Midwife Thinking. She carries with her knowledge for women who want good birth experiences, and for those who have had bad ones, she can help bring healing. She is compassionate. 

I would here like to introduce you to her writings, because she has been such a solid voice for me in my travelings in and out of the world of labor and delivery. She is honest and forthright, and she is kind. She cares very much for mothers. I wish we were neighbors to be honest.

I hope you can glean as much from her as I have. If you already know of her, which of her blog posts have you loved best? It is difficult to say, but I think these two might be my favorite. (Each word there has a different link.)

Have a lovely night!

P.s. If you click on her 'about' tab, you will find her resume. It is beyond impressive!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Utah Natural Meat -- Shop Here if You are Able


Utah Natural Meat
7400 S. 5600 W. West Jordan, UT
       I wanted to make a quick shout out to a local haunt my family adores. Utah Natural Meat is the farm where we purchase our meat. Shayn and and Kristen Bowler are third generation owners and operators of this little family business. And when I say little, well, I mean tiny as businesses go these days. They hire temporary help here and there, but they employ only one regular staff member. This is a true family business, and has been in the family since the 1940's.

Some of the things I love about about this little family and farm:
  • They are so obviously hard working. They go out of their way to make sure their customers are happy. And at times when I've been pregnant, they have always gone out of their way to make my visit as easy as possible.
  • They are honest. I was chatting one day with their worker as she checked out the packages I was buying. The conversations went something like me saying, "I really love this store. The family has always seemed so great!" To which their worker said something like, "Oh, I love working for the Bowlers. They are beyond scrupulous. It is just so nice working for people who are so concerned with being honest about the way they operate." Conversations like this say a lot to me about a business owner. I'm sold.
  • They sell a variety of meats, and have very reasonable prices. You will find beef, pork, lamb, goat, chicken, and turkey. They sell the muscle meats, which are awesome, but they also sell organ meats (liver, kidneys, and heart), fat from pigs and beef for rendering into lard and tallow, and bones.

  • They sell eggs pastured eggs! Walking up the the store you will often see a variety of chickens meandering around.

  • Speaking of that, all of their animals are pastured. As you drive up to the store you will see fields with pigs running around, mother cows with their calves, a tiny little donkey named Pepper, two draft horses, King and Duke. (We recently went to a family day at the farm and got a wagon ride with these beautiful horses. Amazing animals.) They often times will have turkeys wandering around too. And our favorite, the farm dog, Maggie. She is just the sweetest fuzzy girl.

Shayn with Duke and King
  • Another great thing about family operations like this is they are a family. They have children the same age as mine, and so all of these animals are accustomed to children and their antics. I love going there and seeing toy tractors all over the place, and knowing that I can let my kids wander while I grab what I need. Maggie thrives on the attention the kids pour on her.

  • They specialize in a heritage breed of cattle called corriente. If you click on the link to their website, you can read there all the great things about the corriente breed. I can testify, it is excellent quality beef, and again, the price cannot be beat.
  • Along with their animal ventures, they also grow vegetables to sell in the summer and fall months, and they have local bee keepers, and artisan soap and cheese makers who sell their wares in the farm store as well.
  • Oh, and they grow all their own feeds for their animals. Yes. I know, can real people be this fabulous? Non-GM alfalfa, and during the winter they have a green fodder system so the animals get greens year round. Bless them.*
      So there you have it. I am an advocate for buying locally, and wanted to get the word out there about this fantastic family and their little store. We can't raise all of our own meats yet. In the mean time (whatever that means) we feel good about our purchases here, knowing the animals raised here have good lives in sunny fields free to roam, with good real foods to eat. 

Thank you, Kristen and Shayn!

*Utah Natural Meat is not organic certified, however, they do use non-GM, corn/soy free feeds for all of their animals. You can read about their choice to remain uncertified here.

Note: It appears I forgot to mention Utah Natural Meat's store hours. They are open Thursdays 2:00pm-5:30pm, and Saturdays 9:00am-12:00pm.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Talk to Me: PPD and D-MER

I mentioned in a previous post that I had experienced post part depression after my third son was born. I wanted to write a post about how I realized I was suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER), and what I was able to do to climb out of the brackish pit.

I was sitting on my couch not long after baby 3 was born, he was snuggled in for a nurse. All of a sudden this wave of despair washed over me. Not just the "Oh, I'm sad right now." kind, but the "Why bother even trying to go on? Life is worse then it has ever been." And also thoughts like, "I seriously hate my husband. I cannot even understand why I married him." This would last for about 10 seconds, and then it would pass. After about two weeks of this, I noticed these deep troughs of feeling correlated with nursings, more specifically when my milk let down. I dreaded it. Not long after that I realized I had read about this phenomenon while randomly browsing for birth stories on the internet. I was suffering from moderate dysphoric milk ejection reflex, or D-MER. (They hyphenate it because the acronym "DMER" had already been taken...)

D-MER is not the same as PPD, although mothers can have both. Also, it is not psychological in nature. I'll repeat that: D-MER is not psychological in nature. It is an anomaly based on the chemistry of milk let down. The best science of our day says that when prolactin goes up (it does more than just make you make milk, but for our purposes think of it is the lactation hormone) dopamine levels plummet for just a few seconds. In mothers who are experiencing D-MER, for some reason they feel that dopamine plummet as a wave of depressive feelings ranging from mild sadness, to more severe suicidal thoughts. Often the anomaly just sort of fizzles out as the mother and baby continue on their nursing journey. For some mothers they need to cease nursing their baby, because the wild hormone fluctuations are too damaging. (Yet another reason to stave off judgment for the mothers who do not nurse their babies.)

My remedies: 

  1. I personally felt greatly relieved from merely remembering what I had read. It's always nice to know you're not going crazy. This epiphany didn't make the sinking despair go away, though, it simply buoyed me up for the times I would experience it. 
  2. I am not a doctor, but I will tell you that I was able to find some information during that time that linked poor dopamine responses to magnesium deficiencies. I am a big proponent of getting the things we need from our foods, but I am not above taking a well chosen supplement. They can be life saving at times. I started supplementing with magnesium and it helped. Magnesium is a tricky mineral to supplement, because it can cause loose stools, and yet it needs to be in the intestines long enough to be absorbed... Good news is, even though supplementing is tricky, it did help some. It did not completely fix the problem, but I did find marked improvement. And luckily for me, the problem resolved with time. My main man and I have nursed longer than any of my other babes. I'm so grateful to be able to do it.

That isn't where things ended, though. Shortly after realizing all that craziness, I found myself standing in my kitchen one day just staring out my back window worried. I was worried about just about anything that my mind could grab hold of, but usually wild imaginings of what people thought of things I had said, or the way I had done this or that. I was anxious, restless, and just sad. It hit me that day as I was staring out the window, I hadn't always felt like that. I hadn't always felt so perpetually sad, and tired all the time. I am an active woman, and I while I wanted to be active still, I just felt tired. I spent some time searching in my mind that day, wondering when I all of a sudden felt so sure anything that was bad that could possibly happen would... and it hit me like a lightning bolt, this was postpartum depression. I hadn't felt this way a few long weeks ago while I was pregnant; it had been a good pregnancy, though it was a surprise.

My remedies: 

  1. I remembered that day that I had read an article written by a homeopath on different remedies for anxiety and depression. (I know, am I not the biggest nerd the world has ever seen? I just read all these seemingly random articles, but they come in so handy. Maybe it's God...) I found the article, and tried the homeopathic remedy Ignatia Amara (I used 30C). I felt miraculous improvement with this remedy, within minutes of taking it. Our house is never without it now. I have since moved on to my constitutional remedy, Sepia.
  2. During this same time, I also remembered the billion times I had been told PPD is strongly correlated to low vitamin B-12 levels, so I went in search of a good supplement for that. I took methylcobalamin (B-12), but didn't see any results. I was so disappointed. But I began to wonder about other B vitamins as well. To make a long story short, there are many different B vitamins all lumped together in what is referred to as a complex. The whole B vitamin complex is interconnected, and work closely together. I found that by supplementing one of the B vitamins, a person can unwittingly drive down level of other members of the B complex, and most, if not all of them have psychological effects because of their physiologic effects on our beautiful bodies and brains. After doing a lot of research I was able to find the most amazing food based B complex supplement. Ever.

I want to stress that these did not completely get rid of all of my symptoms 100% the first time taking them. The homeopathic remedy was awesome for minute to minute help, those times when I could just feel the anxiety creeping in. It is my miracle for that time frame. The B complex helped me feel at least 80% better after a small amount of time. I can't really say how long it was, I just realized one day, I wasn't fretful anymore. The last 20% has come with time as I have continued with the B complex.

I know there are a lot of people who are totally skeptical of homeopathic remedies. I can't say that I blame them, but I am here to tell you all they do work. I'll write my next post about the actual science (it is there oh ye doubters). Edit: Here is that post now!

So let's talk about this ladies. Have you experienced PPD, or D-MER? What was your experience like? What did you find that helped you? Or have you not? Are you still suffering? Please talk to us here. We would love to listen. Sometimes a listening, and empathetic ear can do wonders.

If you are wondering, but not sure that you have depression, here is a wonderful post with a list of possible symptoms.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rendering Lard

Rendering lard is the easiest thing I've ever done. Literally. It's one of those things where you spend five minutes doing something, then you leave it for a few years, (not literally), and then come back to do more things to it. In total I think you'll spend ten minutes with this project over the course of a 5-7 hour block of time.

These steps will work for rendering any kind of renderable fat: lard, tallow (beef, goat, sheep, and wild game), and any kind of fowl: geese, turkey, chicken, and duck.

1. Get skin of animal whose fat you want to render.

2. Get a large pot, one with a lid is best. If you don't have a lid, pretend you're from Idaho and use an inverted plate in its place.

3. Put the skin in the pot, and put the lid, or plate on.

4. Turn your burner on medium low.

5. In 1 - 1 1/2 hour(s) turn the heat to low. (Optional)

6. Let the skins cook on this low heat for a few hours, stirring every one or two hours. (The smaller the amount of skins you are cooking, the less amount of time you will need to cook them for.) You'll know it's done when the skin becomes brownish and crisp.

7. Strain.

8. Sprinkle salt on the skin bits and eat them.

9. The end.

Seriously. So easy. Ok, just a few things. You can turn the heat up on this to speed up the process. I choose the lowest heat possible because, even though these are the best fats to cook with at higher temperatures, the lower the heat for extraction the healthier the fat molecules will be after all is said and done. Also, I am lazy and the lower cooking heat allows me to pay the least amount of attention possible. That's my favorite thing.

One tip: the larger the pieces of skin, the longer it will take to extract the fat. Some farms sell only slabs of skin. I have purchased skins this way, and I used to cut them up into 1/2 inch squares. Totally not necessary. One day I didn't have time to cut the skins into pieces, but I needed the lard so I threw it in anyway... and it still rendered. It just took longer. So totally up to you.

One more tip: I keep a pint jar of lard next to my stove, and keep the larger quantity of lard in my fridge. It will keep for months and months in cool storage.

The last tip: There have been a few times where I've started this a few hours before bed, and realized it wasn't going to be done before I nodded off. No worrying here, though. The great thing is, you can turn your stove off, and leave it there over night. I know, I hear you. It totally sounds questionable... Until you remember that in bygone days people use to cook sausage, and then keep it fresh for months by submerging it in containers of fat. The fat keeps microbes from making anything rot! Genius. 

P.S. Someday I'll add pictures to this post... sorry, I'm lame right now.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sprouted Spelt (or other wheat type grain) Tortillas

Alright guys, it's a Friday night. I'm making this quick. (I heard you cheering that. Offended...)

I haven't been making tortillas for very long. It is so easy, though, I'm actually really bummed I didn't start making them a long time ago. They are a serious breeze, and as with all things in life, the more you make them, the easier it becomes. We eat these at least three times a week -- sometimes daily.

THE BEST TORTILLAS EVER

2 cups (approximately) sprouted wheat/spelt/kamut flour
1 tsp salt
Dash baking soda (optional)
2/3 cup (approximately) fat, lard/butter/tallow/coconut oil
Enough water

Method:

Mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Cut in fat of choice. I just use my hands and mix the butter/lard/tallow/coconut oil into the flour until I have pea sized bits of fat milling around in there... sort of like making pie crust. Be careful about this part: mix water in little by little until you have a malleable dough. You want it to be firm-ish, like bread dough. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls, and cover somehow (to keep them from drying out). Let these sit for half an hour before rolling and cooking.

To cook, heat a skillet or frying pan on medium heat. I prefer my pan to be already hot when I start cooking these babies. Roll these flat with your rolling pin, and cook them as you go. Cook for a few seconds on one side, flip the tortilla and repeat. Remove from pan. Eat with beans and rice, meat and beans, liver, fish, lettuce and cheese, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, or love.

Cook tips:
  • Greasing pan well between each tortilla makes for a more foldable tortilla in the end.
  • Once you get a feel for the dough, you can actually skip the half hour sitting time before rolling. I prefer to let my dough sit, but it is possible to make it work skipping that step.
  • After you cook these (if you aren't eating the that very second), cover the plate with another plate, inverted. This will keep the tortillas from drying out, and inadvertently becoming tostadas.
  • These keep in the fridge for excellent left overs.
  • The dough can also be saved in the fridge for a few days.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Cheesy Sausage Cabbage Bake

My husband dubbed this a variation on Musaka. It isn't really that much like Musaka in reality, but the fact that he called it that means he likes it. I'll take the compliment.

Cheesy Sausage Cabbage Bake 

Ingredients for sausage:
2 lbs ground pork/lamb/beef (I use pork)
dash ground chipotle (optional) 
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground fennel (the seed, not the bulbous vegetable)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

1 head cabbage, any color will do
Butter
Salt
1-1 1/2 cups shredded cheese

Method:
Pre-heat oven to 300. Cut the cabbage in 3/4 inch slices, lightly butter and place butter side up on a cookie dish. Cabbage rounds should be touching. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Place pan in oven.

While the cabbage begins cooking, mix your choice of meat with all of the spices. Partially brown over medium heat. Take partially cooked cabbage out of the oven, and raise the temperature of the oven to 350. Dish meat evenly over each of the cabbage slices, and then pour the cooking juices from the meat evenly over all of that. Top with the cheese, and return to the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown.

We eat this topped with sour cream. I meant to serve this over a bed of arugula this last time, but forgot. Someone try that, and tell me how it goes. 

Tastes great reheated.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bean and Eggplant Burritos

I discovered a new recipe last week. I made some refried beans, but then got side tracked with kiddies for a while. When I got back, they were dry and crumbling. I had had a roasted eggplant in my fridge, which I was going to use to make Baba Ganouj, but never got around to... so I blended it into the dried refried beans! Viola! I got my family to eat eggplant, which they think they hate. I feel like a good mom today.

Bean and Eggplant Burritos (makes about 14)

2 cups beans of choice (I used a combo of pinto and red beans)
1 medium eggplant 
2-3 cup cheese finely grated, divided
1/4 cup lard/butter/olive oil (I used lard)
salt
pepper
chili seasoning (optional)
cumin (optional)
14-18 smallish tortillas (Delicious tortilla recipe)

Method:

Beans
Soak beans for at least 8 hours in warm filtered water, to which you have added apple cider vinegar. (You can actually lengthen the soaking time, to aid in digestion. I usually soak my beans for two full days, making sure to change the water daily.) Strain and rinse before cooking. Cook in a pot of salted water until very tender. When the beans first come to a boil, turn down the heat, and skim the foam that rises to the top.

Strain well. Add fat of choice to the pan you cooked the beans in, and return the heat to medium. Add the beans, and using a potato masher, pulverize the little buggers. Let cool.

Eggplant
While the beans are simmering, preheat your over to 350. Wash, and then prick your eggplant with a fork. Once the oven is heated, pop that baby in there straight on the rack. Let it cook until the skin is browned. Pull it out and cool it.

All together now
When the beans and the eggplant are both cool, blend them in batches. Begin with the eggplant by cutting the top off, and then down one side. You should be able to easily peel open the skin. Put all the flesh into your blender, and start adding the beans. You want to have a relatively thick consistency -- think cookie dough, only this won't be as sticky. You should be using most of the beans for this. Empty the contents of the blender into a large mixing bowl as you go. Once you have the right consistency, little by little, add one cup of the finely grated cheese to the bowl of beany-eggplant. Mix as you add so that you don't end up with clumps of cheese.

Spoon a much of the filling as you can safely fit onto a tortilla, while still being able to roll it up. Place seam side down into a baking dish. Top with grated cheese, bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Notes:
I made two pans of these: one plain, and one with homemade red enchilada sauce. The sauce was amazing, but was a little too spicy for the babes. 

Red Sauce:
2 cups homemade broth
2 tblsp fat of choice (I used lard)
1/2 tsp Chipotle pepper (I got crushed and ground it in my coffee grinder/herb grinder)
1 small can/bottle tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
dash onion powder
dash garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Heat Lard on medium, add chipotle pepper and let it get aromatic. Add broth, tomato paste, and everything else. Let boil for about five minutes. Thicken with a slurry of milk, or water, mixed with a little flour. (Try 1/4 cup milk/water, with 2-3 tbls flour.) Add this to the boiling sauce, and stir. Pour over the burritos, before you add the cheese. Bake as per instructions above.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Utah and Candy

Did any of you see the headline today about Utah and candy consumption? Or as one news source put it, "Utah Leads Nation in Candy Use". I thought that was a great way to word this. I don't know what bothered me more, the fact that this is true, or the quotes from the good professor. Essentially we, (Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS, what ever we call ourselves), are trading one vice for another. I am not exempt, but I do severely limit how often I imbibe.

What are your thoughts on this?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Cholesterol

This will be my second venture back into the blogging world after a brief sabbatical. During the time I was gone I changed a lot of diapers, had another baby, and started a Master's program in Health and Nutrition Education. I thought I'd drop the schooling bit in now, because what I'm about to introduce to you may seem radical...

I had a friend ask me the other day which cholesterol was the good, and which was the bad. I was totally embarrassed to admit that I couldn't remember, and honestly, that I had never known. As I thought about that the rest of the day, I finally realized the reason my mind had never retained that information is because I don't believe there is good and bad cholesterol. I really love cholesterol, and so I thought I'd share my mental ramblings on this sadly misunderstood nutrient.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol fits tidily into the fats and lipids category, and should be revered for its many functions in the human body. Both HDL (high density lipoprotein), and LDL (low density lipoprotein) perform vital functions in the human body, and deficiencies in either are catastrophic in nature. Cholesterol, in times past, was blamed for clogging arteries. I find it poor logic, though, to look at a wound, and blame what we find there for the presence of the wound. We don't blame blood for scratches and cuts. We don't blame bandaids for them either. What is it that causes cholesterol to get stuck in a person's arteries? There are several mechanisms in place, but the primary problems that cause blockages in arteries are in fact poor blood sugar metabolism, which cause inflammation i.e. over consumption of carbohydrates (this can include fruit for particularly sick people) and resultant damages on a cellular level. Google this, "cholesterol patches damaged arteries" -- it's not really a secret.

Further, check out all cholesterol does for you (other than patch damaged arteries):

  • All cell membranes in the human body are made sturdy by a combination of cholesterol and saturated fat. So that pretty much covers everything your body does. Let's end there... Just kidding, there's more.
  • All human sex hormones are a break down of cholesterol. (That link is a Chris Masterjohn link. If you don't know of him, he's a smarty.) A  cholesterol deficiency can lead to a deficiency in these, which would wreak havoc on more or less all of your systems -- because our bodies function as a whole organism. You cannot experience degradation in one system alone. To name just a few of your systems that would struggle due to imbalance in these hormones, though: reproductive system (duh), pulmonary system, cardiovascular system, adrenal system, and... more. 
  • Many other hormones are also made from cholesterol, such as cortisol, the stress hormone, and aldosterone, which regulates mineral absorption.
  • Cholesterol aids in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins K, D, E, and A. Your body can even make vitamin D out of cholesterol. It's kind of this everywhere fix-it guy.
  • Your body uses cholesterol to make bile. Bile is a green, viscous liquid made in the liver, which aids in the digestion of fat.
  • It also aids in the absorption of minerals.
  • For all the women reading this, morning sickness has been linked to a cholesterol deficiency, because it is linked to hormonal imbalances, bile production, and mineral absorption. (Magnesium is a big culprit here. Magnesium can also make you smell better when you sweat. That's fodder for a different post, though.)

Where do you get it? Where can you get it? Where should you get it?

Your body makes cholesterol in your skin in the same sort of fashion as it make vitamin D. Your body can also make cholesterol out of carbohydrates, in a similar fashion it can manufacture saturated fats from carbohydrates. Caution friends, this is far from ideal. In the absence of sun, and dietary cholesterol (or saturated fats, as it were) your body will crave carbs so that it can manufacture these other building blocks. This adds an extra step, and we know that the over consumption of carbohydrates: 1. depletes our bodies of minerals, 2. injures our bodies on both a large and small scale.

It is also important to note, the cholesterol made by your skin when exposed to the sun is in a different form than dietary cholesterol, (it is sulfated, or attached to a sulfur atom) and serves different functions in the human body than the dietary form. Dietary cholesterol is also important, because your body doesn't make the sort you get from foods. Your body, when exposed to optimal amounts of sun, will make about 98% of your cholesterol! That is amazing, and also scary considering how much time we all spend inside, and all of the things we have heard about sparing our skin sun exposure...

Just to make this slightly more controversial, cholesterol lowering drugs inhibit the human body from making cholesterol. That's right folks. Even though there is this, and this we are still giving statin drugs to the aging... even though low cholesterol is linked to double the mortality rate than high cholesterol. It is also linked to depression, suicidal thoughts, and violent behaviors.

The best dietary sources for cholesterol are:

  • Shrimp
  • Lobster
  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Chicken, with the skin
  • Cheese
  • Full fat milk
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Human milk ("The cholesterol in human milk supplies an infant with close to six times the amount most adults consume from their food." -- Mary Enig PhD, and world renowned lipids expert.)

So basically, google "high cholesterol foods", and eat those. Provided they are real, whole foods. Avoid snack foods like tater chips.

Interesting articles to read on the subject. Warning: sometimes Masterjohn can be a little dry...

Dr. Chris Masterjohn (Read this especially if you fear I'm leading you down the path of heart disease.)
Dr. Mary Enig on breastmilk composition.


Also:
Wikipedia: Cholesterol (I know guys, Wikipedia. It actually does have some good information these days.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Clever Idea for a Bountiful Tomato Harvest

Happy Earth Day!

I love our world. I love being out in it, even if it's just in my own little garden. When it comes to trying new techniques to make the garden thrive, I am ever an optimist (even in the wake of a rocky track record). This year, I'm trying a brilliant idea by a man named James Bryan that should lead to a bumper crop of ravishing tomatoes. Check out his impressive results. (Here are the directions from his Facebook page, which vary slightly.)

In a nutshell, the idea is to plant your tomatoes around a container that will provide subterranean water trickling through a pile of compost. Here's how easy:

I drilled holes in a little six-gallon trash can: one round near the bottom of the can, and another ten inches higher, just above where the dirt level would be after I buried it. (According to this report, Bryan started out with a 13-gallon garbage can, but eventually switched to 5-gallon buckets, which are cheaper and easier to find... you just have to fill more often.)


I then buried the container, filled it with a couple big scoops of the best compost I have, and planted four little tomatoes I'd started* around the can. 


I filled the bucket with water. Some trickled out of the top holes, but most seemed to push through to the bottom row. The water level went down pretty fast. I love that it must travel through that rich compost before meeting the roots of the plants.



In studying the original idea for this post, I discovered two important points I overlooked in my initial reading:
  1. Whatever size container you use, you want to give each plant about five gallons of water per week. So if you have four plants surrounding a 5-gallon bucket, you should fill the bucket four times per week. 
  2. I also saw in the comments of that first article that you should add fresh compost a couple times a week until fruit starts setting. (The comments are very helpful.)
I've only been filling the bucket maybe every five days or so (they haven't looked thirsty, even on hot days), and haven't added extra compost. I figured that Byron's burst of growth was mainly from the compost, but apparently, it's at least equally from the quantity of water and the additional nutrients added to the container. I'll make those changes! (For you tomato gurus, he also doesn't prune the suckers! That was a surprise to me. I'll have to experiment with that.)

Nevertheless, I'm pleased with my little plants. They're starting to flower like crazy. Here is the change that's occurred over three weeks:



I plan to try this method with squash and pepper plants, too, as well as another round of tomato plants. Watch for an update!

~~~~~

Lucky for me, I live in a warm climate where I can garden year-round. What about you? Have you started your tomatoes yet? Does this look like something you'd like to try?

*I was hesitant to use these particular plants for this idea because I started them at the end of January, and though they sprouted just fine, their first couple months were spent in a small container in mediocre soil (so in my opinion, they'll never be what they could have been). But in the end, I decided that this method may be just the boost they need. We'll see what they can do!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How to be Gentle to a Postpartum Mother

A few years ago, our darling sister, Ariel, wrote a wonderful post about how to speak to a pregnant woman. I loved it, and thought I might write a post about how to speak to a postpartum woman. To preface this conversation, I should mention that this may seem like, "Wow, I've had a lot of really crummy conversation right after I've had each of my children. I want to tell you about each of them. In great detail." I haven't, for each of these unfortunate experiences, I've had probably a thousand good ones. But there has been a lingering bite to some of these, and I think it is something we would all, myself included, do well to consider for the future.

1. Don't assume a mother wants, or doesn't want company. Just ask.
Giving birth is such a personal thing, and affects every mother differently. For me, each postpartum experience has been vastly different. Sometimes I have craved company, others I have relished time alone. There is no shame in asking how the mother is feeling, and if she would like company. Postpartum is a terrible time to be burdened with company you don't have the energy for. Which leads me to my next point...

2. If you visit, don't overstay your welcome.
The day my second son was born, I was in the restroom when I heard a knock at the front door. It was a lovely neighbor bringing us a meal. It was beyond thoughtful! She then sat and chatted. And chatted. And chatted... I was hiding in the bathroom, because I had just birthed a 10 lb. bowling ball after a 9 hour labor, and didn't have the energy for guests. I finally came out and sat on the couch, and my neighbor continued to chat... I honestly don't remember the resolution to that visit, (did I mention I was tired?) all I know is that it made me cry. That is a rather grandiose example, though. There was that other time visited my friend whose baby was a month old, and time got away from me because our sons were playing so nicely together. And then my friend suddenly stood up inexplicably... oh wait, no. She was just trying to get the message to me that we should have left a while ago. (We had been there an hour.) Let's just all remember to make visits short, or again, find some way of asking what the mother needs.

3. Don't make commentary on the size of family she ought to have. Also, don't assume she is planning on a large, or small family
Does this make anyone immediately awkward? It does me. After my second son was born, a lovely lady brought us dinner. I mentioned it being busy taking care of a new baby, and his not-yet-two-year-old older brother. She said, "Well, but then once you have your sixth or seventh, you'll see it gets easier, because the older kids will help with the younger while you are with the newest..." And she just beamed at me! Honestly, this woman can't get sweeter. She is a very good woman. But I had just had my second child days before, and was not in a hurry to jump into another pregnancy. To be blunt I didn't want more than two. And being extremely tired, and having just had a baby, I cried after she left. I honestly felt like a bad person for the literal revulsion I felt over the thought of being the mother of that many children. I've come to terms with it. Have you? Let's all remember it is none of our business how many children other people have. Assume the best, they are in close contact with God about it. He is just fine with people having large families, he is equally just fine with people having small families. The end.

4. If she confides in you about a difficulty that stemmed from giving birth, the proper response is ALWAYS, "That must be so difficult. I'm so sorry!"
I feel like this should be self-explanatory, but just incase someone missed this life lesson, if a mother tells you she has been suffering from depression since her baby was born, just hug her for crying out loud! Or, if she had a bad birth experience, don't tell her how things could have been worse. By all means, please don't tell her it could have been better if she had chosen to birth in different way. Ugh. I may have been guilty of this one, being a natural birth junky. Dear Universe, I am so very sorry for being inadvertently rude...

5Don't make a commitment to help the postpartum mother, unless you know you can keep it.
These stories are shared with the permission of those involved. When I was expecting my third child, I made arrangements for my sister to come stay with me for the first week when my husband went back to work. (Seriously, am I the only person for whom that first week of being alone with all of the children, new and old, is terrifying?? It always turns out fine, but there is no masking that it is just a difficult time.) Well, plans didn't turn out as smoothly as we had thought, and I spent the first two days without any help at all. As I said, it turned out fine, but for a woman who had been expecting help, to suddenly not have it... I felt like I was drowning in babies. It was actually really harrowing. One more example to drive this one home: I have a friend who had just had her third baby, and her mom called saying she wanted to come get her older children the next morning. My friend said she could almost taste the sleep. The time for her mom to pick up the kiddies came and went, but she finally called to say she was running late. Then an hour later she called again and said she was still running late. Three hours later than when she said she would be there, she called and said she would try again the next day. (I'm not making this up.) Please, please, please, please, don't try to be helpful by promising something you cannot deliver. We all understand life is busy -- boy is it ever! It is far less offensive, though, to have someone not offer help, then to offer it at such a crucial juncture, and not fulfill.

6. For heaven's sake (literally), please stop judging. Just stop. Really.
So there was this one time a group of my friends were talking about how sometimes women use having a baby to get out of their church callings, or not go to church for a month or more at a time. I wanted to raise my hand and say, "Been there. Done that." Like that time I was a brand new mother to my first son, and was given a time intensive calling in our the primary presidency (the children's organization of our church). I got bronchitis a week later, and was struggling with nursing because my milk supply was low from the fever and being sick -- I could not drag myself to make it to the presidency meeting that week, and so the wonderful women I was in the presidency with (one who didn't have children at the time, and another who was very honest about the fact that she had never wanted any), had taken off from work, but then there wasn't a meeting to go to because I wasn't there. And then every Sunday I would be performing some function where I couldn't be feeding my new baby, (sometimes babies want to nurse at inconvenient moments, let's be honest. I won't apologize for wanting to feed my month old baby.) and so someone else would be holding him in the hallway, and he would be crying. And so he would fall asleep crying in the hallway on Sunday's. Call me a baby, but it was too much for me. I asked to be released. And then there was that time when I had had my third baby, (whose pregnancy was a surprise, by the way), and I was slammed by postpartum depression, and I felt like I was drowning, so I asked to be released as a visiting teacher, because I wasn't making it to appointments anyway.... I'm not depressed anymore, but being a mom to three kids in three years is just really intense. I still haven't asked to be reinstated as a VT, yet. Taking care of my best time investments ever positively fills my plate, to be honest. And God has told me repeatedly that he is OK with this arrangement. Let's just not go there, friends. We don't know how that new mother is feeling. It does not matter if it her first, fifth, or tenth, just call her blessed, and then make room for her and her family's needs.

We all have our stories. Let's all learn together so we can be better sisters to those around us. Do you have any experiences you'd like to share? Please feel free, you are in a safe place here.