Why Aren’t Chimneys Illegal?

Our local paper had a gripping headline today that left me feeling betrayed and unprotected by our government.  The headline read, “Residents are warned to avoid possible tragedy.”  Quickly, I read the article.  My mouth went dry.  Fear grabbed me as my knees began to shake.  Every year, there are chimney fires.  Not just a few, but nearly 4 million chimney fires every year.  Did you read that?  Nearly 4 million chimney fires every year.  Right here in America!  And every year it is estimated that more than two thousand people die from these fires.

Where is our government?  Why aren’t our lawmakers forming a special committee to investigate these fires and the chimneys that cause them?  Where is the ATF?  People just are not capable of handling fires at home on their own.  We need guidelines and restrictions.  We need laws.  We need special permits and licenses to be able to have fires in our own fireplaces because every year there are nearly 4 million fires and many of those fires cause deaths.  Isn’t it the government’s responsibility to protect me from myself and my own decisions?

Oh – wait a minute – people have been having fires in their own fireplaces, safely, since the beginning of time.  Silly me.  I guess I was thinking about raw milk.


Where we are, What we’re doing, How we’re doing it

Hello Dear Readers!  Much has happened in my life in the last 12 months.  It’s been hard, but it’s all good.  Major life changes, even the good ones, don’t come without effort, stress, tears, and prayer.  Since I last posted, we have moved from a rental house into our country home on 23 acres.  A month later, we had our fourth baby:  beautiful 8 lb. 5 oz. Rebekah.  We also added 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a study onto our house.  Then we bought 12 chicks (future egg layers!).  This has all been in the last 6 months.  Currently, we are waiting for it to stop raining long enough for us to fill our raised beds with dirt and start our garden.  Slowly, we are making this house and land our home.

Our move to the country took us away from most all of our healthy food sources.  With our beloved farmer’s market, farms, and even Whole Foods more than an hour away I have had to reinvent my entire method for obtaining healthy food without sacrificing on the health part.  Pregnancy and nursing are critical times in the life of Mommy and Baby, and at 43 years old I cannot afford to let that go like I did at 29.  But it’s not all about me – I have 3 other children and a husband looking to me to provide them with nourishing food that will keep them well now and in years to come.  Well it’s been a year this month since our move away from the city and I am thrilled and thankful to say, “We did it! And we ARE doing it!”  I want to share with you a little about how we did it, and a few things I have learned in the process.

Our here in the country there is not only no health food store, but the local grocery stores leave a lot to be desired.  Thankfully the grocer in our neighboring community has just remodeled and in so doing has expanded their natural foods section.  They have a long way to go, but there has been great improvement.   Unfortunately they still do not offer any natural or pastured meats, and the only acceptable dairy product they offer is Kerrygold butter.  I’m still searching for local sources for organic or nearly organic produce.  These things take time, and usually you meet someone who knows someone else who saw a little stand somewhere … In the meantime, we are going to learn how to grow our own and I am excited about that.

So what am I doing?  I am relying on my freezer.  We have eaten an entire beef this year.  Not a quarter, not a half, but a WHOLE.  I picked it up from the processor last June.  We have just a few cuts left.  I will be picking up our next whole beef in June again.  This will be our main meat supply for the coming year.  This forces me to plan what we are going to eat, and to learn new ways of  preparing certain cuts that I previously knew nothing about.  In the last 12 months, I have not bought one single cut of beef from a store!  Additionally, we’ve been eating the whole chickens I purchased and froze before our move.  We have not been having fancy, expensive boneless chicken breast dishes.  But I have learned how to cut up and de-bone an entire chicken to have on the grill or bake in the oven.  In the last year, I have not bought one single package of chicken from a grocery store (ok I did buy some drumsticks from a local farm)!  Additionally, once a month we drive 90 minutes to Whole Foods and load up on foods that we can’t get here that freeze well.  And I just reserved a pig that will be ready for us around the end of the year,  about the time we’ll have made a good dent in the beef.  That will re-fill the freezer.  Can I just say that the investment in a large chest freezer has been worth every penny?

Something else I am learning to do is rely on the “Dirty Dozen” list that tells me which fruits and vegetables should be organic and which ones are ok to eat conventionally.  Our local grocer has some organic produce but not much so I buy according to the Dirty Dozen list most of the time.  When we drive to the city once a month, we go on a Saturday and make our first stop the farmer’s market where we buy as much produce as we can there, making sure not to over-buy so that we eat what we buy within two weeks so it is all still fresh.  I’ve learned that healthy meals don’t require lots of produce.

After asking everyone I knew, and praying about it, I have found our source for fresh raw milk and farm fresh eggs.  We are getting eggs from pastured hens for $1.25/dozen!  On the other hand, we’re now paying $9/gallon for milk (as opposed to the $3/gallon we paid before the move).  We go through several dozen eggs and 5 gallons of milk per week.  These are very important items.  The cost is a non-issue – we have to have the milk and it evens out since the eggs are so cheap and we are not buying as much produce, etc.  Hopefully by the end of the summer our 12 chicks will be providing us with plenty of eggs!

Finally, I am relying on the mail and online ordering for items like cheese, maple syrup, coconut oil, cod liver oil, etc.  I am still able to use our bulk food co-op since they have a delivery location nearby so that is a great blessing.

Does all this sound crazy?  Consider Proverbs 31 verse 14 where God tells us that a virtuous woman, whose price is far above rubies, is “like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.” 🙂

Here’s the kicker to all this:  we are eating really well, very healthy, in abundance, and we are spending LESS. Yes, we are spending LESS!  We are still spending a bundle per visit to Whole Foods, and a hundred or more per month through my food co-op, and we are buying expensive milk and expensive coconut oil and expensive maple syrup and more, but we are spending less.  For one thing, we no longer have the convenience of running to the grocery store to pick up a little something for dinner.  For another thing, we are buying in bulk.  And finally, we eat at home.  There just isn’t anywhere to eat out around here, so we just eat at home.  I am cooking a full breakfast for my family of six most every day of the week, and a full dinner every night.  But we are spending less money.  I never use coupons, I never get anything on sale.  I just buy directly from the farmer when I can, including through the mail, and we eat at home. Oh yes – and we cook from scratch instead of eating prepared, processed foods.

So we’re spending less, and eating more, and I have a new baby who nurses every 2 hours plus 3 others to homeschool and I am cooking more.  How is this being accomplished?  I am making meals as simple as possible, and I have taught my children how to help.  My ten year old daughter has learned how to do a lot of things in the kitchen this year.  Because she can read and follow directions, and I have taught her a few cooking techniques, she can do quite a bit in the kitchen.  On Sunday nights, she is completely in charge of our meal!  Anything she has a problem with she just asks.  I can nurse the baby and give verbal directions at the same time.  Also, she and my son are in charge of emptying the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast and dinner.  They do this every day.  And like I mentioned earlier, we eat very simple meals.

It’s been quite the year for our family.  I never thought we’d move out to the country like this, and I sure didn’t think that I would be having a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby at 43 years old.  There have been many times where I have marveled at God’s mercies to have brought me where I am today.  If He had not led me on this journey of healthy eating, and I had not listened, how would my body have handled pregnancy and birth at this age?  There was a long season in my life where I had nothing to drink but diet Coke, and McDonalds was my primary food source.  But I did listen, and while it has been difficult, it has been worth it.  

I hope that you are listening too.  Your journey toward healthy eating and better health won’t be easy either.  People won’t understand, they will criticize you, they will talk about you behind your back, they will challenge you, they will roll their eyes, and you will be tired and busy and frustrated many times.  You probably won’t see immediate results and your kids will refuse to eat and your husband will complain.  Hang in there!  It will be worth it for you too.  But don’t trust me, trust God.  He will direct your path.

…Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8b

Another Food Recall

Well, it’s happened again:  another food recall.  This time the recall is with Nestle’s Toll House Cookie Dough.  According to FOX News, 69 people in 29 states are sickened with e coli symptoms, all having consumed this cookie dough raw.  The FDA confirmed that recent tests found e coli in the dough.


So my question is this:  is it really that hard to make your own cookies from scratch?  Because when you do, you not only save money but you take control of what you eat.  Have you checked out the ingredients of Nestle’s Toll House Cookie Refrigerated Dough lately?  When you buy a processed food you get a lot of ingredients you wouldn’t normally choose to eat.  Here are the ingredients for Nestle’s refrigerated cookie dough, cut and pasted from their website:




Do you have some mono- and diglycerides in your pantry that you just picked up from the local chemist?  What about sodium benzoate?  Did your kids make some in their chemistry lab and bring the extra home for dinner?  And just what are corn syrup solids?  Why do cookies need sodium aluminum phosphate?  You know people wear safety goggles when they concoct these types of things in the lab! Do you really want to eat them? And don’t get me started on vanillin – an artificial flavoring derived from wood pulp.  Have you been near a pulp mill and smelled the sickening smell it gives off?  Well that slurry of smelly waste has been put to good use – flavoring your children’s treats.


“Welcome home from school, Junior!  Mommy has a special bowl full of sodium benzoate just for you!”


“Mommy and Daddy are so proud of you for keeping your room clean this week.  We’ve saved all the mono- and diglycerides just for you!”


Um, no.


Now compare the above list to this one:  butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda, and chocolate chips (note: Ghirardelli uses real vanilla in their chocolate chips, but Hershey’s and Nestle use vanillin).


The difference in the two is striking, isn’t it?


It takes a little more time to mix up the ingredients for home made chocolate chip cookies than it does to slice and bake, but my bet is that after considering what is in the slice and bake variety you’ll be much more willing to make the time to bake your own.  


Who do you trust to feed your family?

Peanuts, Salmonella, Organics, and TRUST

I just read some articles about the salmonella outbreak that has been linked to a peanut processing plant in Georgia.  FDA inspectors claim this is one of the largest food recalls in history.  There have been 500+ confirmed cases of salmonella linked to this one small peanut plant, and at least 8 people have died.  Initially word was that the contaminated food was a peanut paste used in crackers and other highly processed foods served in hospitals and nursing homes (gasp!).  But now the plant has halted all production and is recalling foods produced as long ago as 2007.  The list of recalled foods includes a variety of processed peanut products (peanut paste, peanut meal, granulated products, etc) as well as the actual roasted peanuts themselves.  Affected retailers and companies span the nation, in addition to all consumers – junk foodies and health-conscious consumers alike.  Yes, that’s right.  While lots of cookie and ice cream products are affected, so are  items found only at your local Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.


The story is nothing new.  It probably happens at processing plants everywhere, yet this one just happened to get caught.  According to FOXNews reports, the plant’s routine testing revealed salmonella at least 12 times in the past yet the production lines were never cleaned.  When the company re-tested and got a negative result they continued to ship out products.  (Inspectors state that in products such as peanut butter you can have pockets of contamination allowing a contaminated food to test both positive and negative, therefore one positive test should result in destroying the entire batch.)  Once people began to get sick and the plant was identified as the source of the outbreak, the plant was inspected and found to have “mold, roaches, a leaky roof, and other sanitary problems.”  Delicious.


What is frustrating about this story is that it wasn’t just “junk brands” that had to be recalled, as the initial reports suggested.  You can read the recall list for yourself here:   http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/PeanutButterProducts2009.pdf

On it you will find items from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods; respected brands such as Health Valley, Arbonne, Keebler, Sam’s Choice, Little Debbie, Nestle, and Famous Amos; and other familiar brands like Hy-Vee, Naturally Preferred, Private Selection, and WalMart’s bakery.  And, it pains me to say it, Larabars made the list.  We love Larabars and consider them to be a good choice for whole, raw foods.   Some of these names are brands that we not only trust to provide clean, safe food, but they are brands that are supposed to be on a level above all others because they are closely associated with “all natural” and “organic.”  Yet we now see that the ingredients on highly processed “health foods” come from the same nasty places as all that other junk we Food Snobs are too good to eat.


Years ago I was sitting at a Shoney’s restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, waiting to meet a social services client.  The restaurant appeared clean and well-kept.  While waiting I observed one of the largest roaches I’d ever seen crawling around the food bar.  At the same time, the restaurant was having its health inspection.  I watched the inspector carefully examine the food bar and surrounding areas.  Eventually the roach crawled up under the food bar and never came out.  When I left the restaurant, the new health score was in the upper 90’s (I can’t remember specifically but 98 or 99) yet this roach had been crawling all around and inside the cabinets of the food bar right in front of the inspector.


It is tragic that innocent people were sickened and even killed because of someone else’s carelessness at the peanut plant.  Many of these people had no choice over what they ate as they were invalids in nursing homes and patients in hospitals.  Possibly a mom just like you purchased some chocolately peanut butter cookies for her child’s birthday party, and a child became seriously ill.  We can all agree that we would never ever knowingly purchase and eat food from a place where we knew there were unsanitary conditions such as mold and roaches, and especially the risk of salmonella.  That’s just the point.  When we choose to buy processed foods, whether they are conventional or organic, we relinquish control over what goes into our bodies.  We put our trust in food safety regulations and inspectors. We pass the torch to a total stranger, someone we have never met or seen and whom we know nothing about and who doesn’t know us… someone who has profits in mind above all else. This is false trust and it is foolish.


Even organics are not immune when referring to processed foods.  While researching this article I learned that Larabars are owned by General Mills.  Just another big company trying to tap into the “all natural” market.  The result is more money for the rich execs but less quality for you and me.  If you want to be in control of what your family eats, then you must quit buying processed foods.  Instead buy whole foods that you have to prepare yourself, and get as much as possible from a local farmer who knows you and your family by name.  This is how you form a real, trusting relationship with real people, and it is wise.


Coming soon … a peek inside my kitchen to show you just what I’m talking about.


And, Behold, It Was Very Good

God makes good things.  Of the many wonderful things he created, whole foods are one of them.  But just what are whole foods?  And then there are processed foods.  What are they?  How does one tell the difference between the two?  My purpose here is to help you understand and identify both.  Then you will be well on your way to making good choices for your family dinner table!


Apples, eggs, steaks, whole milk, butter, lettuce, carrots… Hungry yet?  These are all examples of whole foods.  Foods that are considered whole are foods that God created, and they are as close to the way he created them as possible.  The list above is a good example of this.  Whole foods are natural and they haven’t had anything done to them to change them much from the way they are in their original state.  For example, you could buy a carrot in the grocery store in a cellophane bag, or you could buy a bunch tied with a rubberband with the green tops still on, or you could buy them sliced/diced and frozen.  They can be eaten raw or cooked.  But these are all easily recognizable as carrots and they are a whole food. 


Whole foods are not always identical to each other; within one food group there is a lot of room for variety, shape, color, size, texture, taste, etc.  Apples are a good example of this:  there are red, green, and yellow apples, some are sweet, some are tart.  Another example is whole raw milk.  Depending on the breed of cow, her feed, health, and the time of year the milk may be creamier at times than others, it may have a creamy color or it may be slightly yellow, and it may taste sweeter than at other times.  And if the cow has gotten into a patch of onion grass, the milk will taste like it!  Raw honey is also a whole food with many variations in flavor and color depending on what flowers the bees visited.


Whole foods will provide a variety of necessary vitamins and nutrients when eaten alone, or you can take whole foods and combine them together for even greater nutrition.  This is synergism, which I will talk about later. Whole foods always contain the specific vitamins and nutrients that God intended for them to have, because he created them for the purpose of nourishing our bodies, which he also created.  Another aspect of whole foods to consider is that different whole foods are produced through the earth at different times of the year, and in different regions, as opposed to being available year round.  This is all part of God’s plan.


And now let’s look at the opposite of whole foods:  processed foods.  After reading this I hope you will understand that the phrase “processed food” is actually an oxymoron.  The following items are all processed:  boxed cereals, soy milk, canned soups, Velveeta, American cheese, toaster pastries, soy hot dogs and other concoctions, white flour, white sugar, boxed mixes, low-fat and skim milk, animal crackers, Crisco, and the list goes on and on and on …  Examine this list and you will see that none of these items occur naturally.  Whole foods become processed when they have had things done to them that change them dramatically from their original state, altering their original God-given nutrition.  The end result is always not only less nutritional but often damaging to your health in the long run.  Also note that many processed items have had vitamins added to them – flour and cereal are enriched, low-fat and skim milks have vitamin D added, etc, because vitamins cannot survive the process of processing.  There is no processed food that can grow from the ground or that can come directly from an animal.  All processed foods originate in a lab, then go to a factory and finally arrive neatly packaged at the grocery store, gas station, or vending machine.  Processed foods are always the same, box after box, with no variation.  Processed foods are available everywhere, all the time.


White flour, white sugar, and table salt are good examples of processed foods.  White flour originates with wheat that grows in the field and is then harvested and ground into flour.  But there is another part of the process:  the germ and the bran are mechanically separated from the wheat.  What is left over is then often bleached to make it a snowy white.  This is white flour and it is all starch — no nutrition — so synthetic vitamins are then added back into it to keep people from getting debilitating vitamin deficiency-related diseases (pellagra, for example, and even insanity in some cases).  But don’t be fooled.  Of the 90+ vitamins that are removed, only about 4 are added back and they are not in the amounts or forms that God created.  The germ and the bran are what contain all of the nutrition and are sold off for other uses – animal feed, or neatly packaged jars of wheat germ, or bran cereal, etc.  Business executives have made a lot of money from this.  White flour is a processed food.  The same is true of white sugar.  Sugar cane actually has some nutrition in it, but all of it is stripped away in the process of making white sugar.  What is left is bleached and refined so that you have freely flowing, snowy white sugar granules that have zero nutrition.  Then there is table salt.  Real salt is coarse and gray with colored flecks in it and is full of naturally occurring minerals.  But this beautiful food that God created is put through many processes, including intense heat and bleaching, which results in the healthful benefits being lost and gives the consumer a freely flowing snowy white product known as table salt.  White flour, white sugar, and table salt are well known to have adverse health effects such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.  The list of documented problems with just these three items has no end.  And you will find at least one of them, often all three, in almost every processed food item available.


Here are more examples of foods God created and are healthful in their whole state, but are ruined through man’s processing:  Raw honey is loaded with nutrients.  It has living enzymes and is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral.  Pasteurized honey has no nutrition.  Corn is a healthful, seasonal vegetable but corn syrup is dangerous to your health.  Fresh, whole, raw milk is loaded with beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are good for your digestion, and it is also antibacterial.  Pasteurized, homogenized milk has lost all of these qualities and can actually be harmful to your health.  Low-fat and skim milk have dry milk powder added back to make it thicker and add color.  I could write pages about ways  man has messed up God’s perfect creation by processing it.


There are some areas where it may be difficult to identify whole or processed foods with confidence.  Dairy is one of those areas.  Milk has already been discussed.  Cheese was mentioned briefly; cheese is basically a whole food however many cheeses have had undesirable things done to them and added to them leaving them nutritionally deficient.  Yogurt is a whole food yet most yogurts available are highly processed as they have had many undesirable ingredients added to them.  When faced with uncertainty, it is extremely important to read the labels!!  If it is full of hard to pronounce ingredients that you know didn’t come from the farm, then you are looking at a processed food.


Whole foods have synergy.  The different parts work together as part of a whole package. Processed foods cannot do this.  According to Webster’s dictionary, the term “synergy” means, “combined action or operation.”  Think of each component of a whole food as a synergist – “something that enhances the effectiveness of an active agent.” This is how you get “synergism” … the interactions of each “agent” (think: nutrient) working together results in a “total effect…greater than the sum of the individual effects.” (Quotes are from Webster’s Dictionary)  Let this sink in a moment.  We marvel at the amazing parts of God’s creation, such as the ocean, the stars, the many animals … yet we tend to totally ignore his incredible creation of food that is so diverse and has such potential to nourish and heal us, if we would only let it.


“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God created us.  God created the earth.  God, in his infinite wisdom and with his intimate knowledge of us, created perfect foods to nourish us.  To God be the glory!