Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Raw milk!

Milk is SO good for you! I will specify and say that milk from the grocery store (which is pasteurized, homogenized, and from grain-fed confinement cows) is absolutely not good for you, but raw milk from pastured cows definitely is! It truly is nature's perfect food. I love milk.  I never used to even "like" milk, but now that I know the health benefits of drinking real milk, I can say that I truly enjoy the rich flavor. 

Part of the reason I couldn't enjoy milk to the fullest capacity was because of the onslaught of typical lactose-intolerant type symptoms it brought with it.  Growing up, my mum always bought skim milk and I was always hassled to "drink my milk". At some point or other I developed a distaste for milk and then only drank it on occasion. When I moved out of the house, my then-boyfriend now-husband pushed me toward buying 2% milk which is what his mum fed him. Finally having the choice of what milk to buy, I bought organic 2% milk.  This milk was expensive though, and I didn't know much about the company that was producing it nor where it came from. That's when I found out that our local health food store sold local milk! This milk also seemed expensive, but it seemed worth it to me to support a local farm that fed their cows grass. With this discovery, we began drinking whole, grass-fed milk.  As I learned more and more about the benefits of drinking milk from grass-fed cows, I found that there was a farm nearby where I could purchase a portion of the cow herd and receive whatever my portion of the herd produced.  Of course, this included the cow's milk.  The best part of this operation was that I could obtain unpasteurized (raw) milk legally and gain even more benefits from the white, liquid gold. The beauty of raw milk is that it contains all of the enzymes necessary for pretty much digesting itself. This makes it much easier for your body to digest, since your body doesn't have to produce as many digestive enzymes--they're already in the milk! Furthermore, cows raised on pasture are healthy and happy.  They are eating what they are meant to eat and get to be outside all day to boot. When cows are happy and healthy, this also means that their milk is healthy too.  Cows that are fed grain, however, are not happy and are certainly not healthy.  A cow is only able to successfully digest grass and when they are fed grain it makes them sick.  When the cow is sick, it is injected with antibiotics which are then excreted in its milk.  Does a big glass of milk from unhappy, sick cows plus a splash of antibiotics sound good to you? I certainly hope not.  Back when I was buying organic 2% milk, I was purchasing the brand "Horizon" organic milk.  I thought that because the milk was labeled as "organic" that the milk was coming from happy, healthy cows.  The reality is that the majority of the farms that provide milk to Horizon are confinement operations where the cows are always enclosed in tiny pens and, guess what, are only fed grains.  Yes, the grains that are fed to the cows are certified organic, but organic or not, those grains make the cows sick.  It is much better for you and for the cows that are producing your milk to be grass-fed or pastured. If you live in MI and a cow share program to obtain raw milk is not something that you are interested in, at the very least please try to find yourself a source of milk that is grass-fed or pastured. Again, better for the cow and better for you. 

Need more information on raw milk before you make the leap? Here is a little article on raw milk and it's benefits. Also, request "The Untold Story of Milk" by Ron Schmid, ND at your local library.  It's a really, really eye-opening book with tons of great information and history on raw milk and its health benefits. 

Here's to happy milk drinking! 

It's been awhile...

Hey there, folks! It's been a little while since my last post, and I am blaming it all on extreme busy-ness. There has been so much to do around here. I finished canning all of my tomatoes for salsa, picked and thrashed the lettuce seed heads, finished one Christmas-related knitting project, washed and scoured blue-faced leicester fleece as well as half of a fleece of polypay, and started a new knitting project for myself. Among all of that fun stuff that I did, I also wiped myself out with a week-long bout of gastroenteritis from (I am guessing to be) a stomach virus. So yes, I've been very busy.

I am now only working three days a week, which leaves lots of time for doing soul-preserving tasks like baking more, spinning, and knitting.  Boy, have I ever needed it! After a summer of extremely stressful waitress work, the cool weather has brought along the "slow" season and I am finally able to work less. Spinning has brought about a new excitement for me as well:  dyeing! On one of the days that I was feeling moderately well during my sickness, I went out in the rain and collected a huge bucketful of poke berries.  Good thing it was raining too, because my hands were quite the shade of purple when I finished! Tonight I plan on mordanting my washed/scoured polypay fleece and then tomorrow I'll get to dye it.  Michael is currently outside in the dark mashing the poke berries into juice for the dyeing adventure.

I am wishing I had some pictures right about now, because I did a TON of baking and cooking today.  The list consists of:  cinnamon swirl bread, peanut butter pie, shortbread (I swear this list isn't entirely sweets...), cauliflower soup, and a tomato tart. The tomato tart holds the last bit of this year's tomato crop, and I am feeling a little bit down about that. I was also less than thrilled to see how ridiculously puny my leeks were for my cauli soup.  They were probably a centimeter in circumference. Oh well. It was my first year growing leeks (ha, yes, an excuse!).

Well, I am off to start the mordanting process.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Knitting fever...

This summer weather sure has been great and all, but truthfully, I am ready to be wearing my wool again. The Michigan Fiber Festival was (of course) a successful "shopping" trip, and I have plenty of alpaca fleece to spin up and to knit with. Not to mention Elise our angora bunny, as she has been pumping out lots and lots of angora fleece for spinning with too.


Now if I can only finish putting up all of my food in a timely manner...perhaps I'll have some knitting/spinning time in the near future.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

putting up pears

So...remember those pears that I was telling you about? Well, Michael and I went back and picked another 20 lbs or so. That makes for approximately 30 lbs of pears that we picked from our neighbor's tree. We've been letting them ripen in our basement because as I understand it, pears do not ripen well on the tree (or at least not in a timely manner).

Here are the pears in the basement after putting up 14 pints:
Preparing pears for canning takes a lot of work. Michael and I sat outside with 1/3 of our harvest and peeled, cored, and halved the pears. Given that the pears were not treated with any pesticides, some of them had larvae living in them so we had a lot of cleaning to do with them. Once the pears were prepped for canning, we made a light syrup out of sugar, honey, and water. I made a double batch of the syrup ('cause we got a ton o' pears) with 12 cups of water, 2 cups of honey, and 2 cups of sugar. From there we cooked the pears for five minutes in the syrup and then packed our clean, sterilized jars with the pears. You can then fill up to the fill line with the syrup, slap a lid and screw top on, and toss 'em in the canner for 20 minutes (25 for quarts).

A little of our finished product:
Yummy! Keep putting up your goods--winter is around the corner!