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    Our Thanksgiving Day Adjustments - Eating More Locally and Commiting to More Gardening

    Posted by pockets

    It has felt like ages since I posted last. My adrenal fatigue is worse again and we are having heart-stopping trouble with our computer. My whole thought life is on the computer. Which makes me wildly uncomfortable, by the way. It is dopey to rely upon things that are not reliable, right? I mean that is the whole point of the direction of our lives and the posts on this blog. Sigh. Well, I will deal with that one another day…

    Meanwhile I have been jotting down little notes about posts I want to write on our various blogs. This shorthand list is three pages long. Makes me tired just looking at it. However, I thought I would take the time now to convey a conversation we had as a family on Thanksgiving that will affect the future direction of our homestead and homestead kitchen.

    Just before Thanksgiving, we had to drive to Roanoke. While there, we stopped in at an Indian grocery to pick up a few things we were out of. We eat Indian food here at least three or four times a week and have done so for a long time. In the back of my mind has lurked the thought that someday we may not easily be able to get Indian supplies as, in reality, India is a long way away. But, like the problem of being dependent upon capricious computers, I kept putting conscious thought and problem solving about this off for another day.

    Rice has been expensive for a while now, as you may know. We have discovered during this time that basmati rice may actually be as good a deal as jasmine rice because it cooks up to a much larger volume than jasmine rice does. I guess I would have to do a detailed analysis between price and volume but just from cooking every day in the kitchen, we have found basmati to be a better deal than we thought and not just a rice for special occasions. But still - it so expensive. It darn near takes your breath away to pick up a bag of it with an intention of heading towards the cash register. So, I put that off and headed over towards the bags of mung dal.

    What I saw shocked me. The price was so high on this ancient, simple food of poor and/or spiritually oriented people that I couldn’t dream of buying it. Rice and dal. Cheap, cheap food. Now so expensive that it is out of my reach. And rice and dal are - or have been up until now - staples in my kitchen. With my mind reeling, we left the store. We had not a bit of mung dal in the house but we left nevertheless.

    I had to work on turning my reeling mind into a mind that simply meditated on the problem and came up with a solution or an approach, at least. I did this and it resulted in a family discussion which I will relate but first there is another strand.

    In homesteading literature, you constantly run into debates about whether it is better to raise cows or goats. We solved this debate for ourselves years ago by doing the rather unusual thing of raising both on very limited land. We love the cows and don’t ever want to live without one ever, ever, ever gain. The goats are fun and easy to manage and child sized and, well… I really love feta cheese. Plus I need all the minerals I can get and goat milk is higher in minerals than cow milk. Anyway, we have raised both and enjoyed both.

    The thing is that my family is very animal oriented. I am very happy to have these animals as companions and do not want to go through life without their energy and intelligence any more. We count on them. However, I am also a very plant oriented person. I crave greens and used to dream about herbs when I was an apprentice to an herbalist so many years ago. We have done little bits of gardening here and there but nothing really major. Everything has gone into maintaining the cows and goats and the many other projects around here like wood-fired earth ovens and outdoor bamboo showers and whatnot.

    But with this economic crisis adding a certain flavor and with our maturing a bit as homesteaders, we are starting to take on a different view and this is really what our Thanksgiving Day conversation was about.

    I talked with the family about my sticker shock with regards to Indian food supplies. I also talked about the significant reading I have done about families that choose to eat locally only. We then all talked about the morality (or not) of shipping food thousands and thousands of miles just so that others can choose to eat what does not grow in their region. The people I have read who have eaten locally for a year, say, all tend to have far more resources at their disposal than we do. Floyd County would be a great place to undertake such a project, I think, but we just can’t afford it. I proposed that we consider making every effort to eat what at least can be available in the United States. So while mung dal would not be available, mung beans would be (I Googled it. They are grown in unexpected places like OK.). What did everyone think of this idea?

    Then I raised the issue of keeping goats when we already have cows and a lifetime commitment to having cows. We need to diversify - we need more than milk and cheese in order to survive and thrive. We need to garden, I suggested. We need to garden A LOT. We need veggies and herbs and so many things. The goats are occupying the space where we would otherwise immediately start expanding our gardens. What shall we do? I asked this with some trepidation because no one here ever wants to give up any animal. But drawing upon my social work training, I had talked with my husband and several family members ahead of time and already discussed their feelings and ideas to a certain extent.

    So we as a family decided two things on this Thanksgiving Day:

    1. We will gradually learn to limit our food choices to those foodstuffs that can be grown in the United States. We are doing this as a preparedness measure in the face of wildly uncertain times and we are doing this as a morality measure as the resources that go into shipping foods such vast distances should really be spent more effectively locally.

    My husband encouraged me to apply Indian cooking spices and cooking practices to more of the foods we will continue to eat and sort of invent a hybrid cuisine that will work for us. I already do this some and I appreciated his practical and supportive suggestion. Now I only have to set about carrying it out. (And get over my heartbreak about eating less Indian food. I am not a foodie. I just have a heart thing with India and an abiding respect for the ancient science of Ayurveda.)

    2. We will sell the goats, our surefooted little companions of several years, and put our energies into getting much more serious about veg and herb gardening. As a matter of fact, a young man with a rather large farm to develop is coming tomorrow to meet our modest herd. It will be difficult to see them go. I have resisted selling them several times over the years but now it is time, as evidenced by the fact that everyone is surprisingly on board. Eager even.

    I have to immediately start thinking about seeds for spring. I have read lately on a number of agrarian blogs that quality heirloom seeds will be more scarce this spring and to order early. So after the goats go to their new home, we will apply ourselves to this next phase of our homestead development.

    Shortly after all of this bracing family discussion and decision-making, I read the following in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver:

    He told us that in India it’s sometimes considered a purification ritual to go home and spend a year eating everything from one place - ideally, even to grow it yourself. I like this name for what we had done: a purification ritual, to cultivate health and gratitude. pps. 338-339

    Yes, this is exactly what it feels like to us. For us this way of life is about more than adjusting ahead of time to straitened conditions. It is about more than spending time together as a family. It is about more than learning to live frugally so that there are more resources available for others. It is about purification. It is about living naturally. It is about easing out of sense gratification and conventional ways of thinking and finding ourselves. And finding inspiration. And peace. And time to look inward.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,


    CO2 Up, Wheat Protein Down and the Move to Flat Breads

    Posted by pockets

    We have a lot of things going against us in terms of trying to stay well nourished these days. To start with, no one seems to know how or what to eat any more. Secondly, historic documents and various alternative health measurements (such as iridology) show us that humans are not born with constitutions anywhere near as strong as what people used to be be born with. Thirdly, industrial attitudes towards food and the agribusiness farming practices that flow from those attitudes alter the nutritional profile of foods significantly for the worse. Many studies have long established that organically grown foods are more nutritious than industrially grown foods. I think that common sense would indicate this but scientific measurement also now confirms it. Fourthly, as I wrote in a previous post we have lost much of our genetic material in terms of varieties of produce and livestock so the nutrition and growth adaptability they provided is also lost. Finally (I like to say “finally” but I am sure this next blow against good nutrition is not the final one), rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere reduce various nutrients in all foods whether or not they are grown with organic or industrial methods.

    This last threat is detailed in “Global Warming and Empty Calories” on Grist.

    One of the silver linings of climate change, some have argued, is that high carbon dioxide levels will mean increased crop yields, which will, in turn, be good for combating global hunger (the logic, I suppose, being that if we’re frying fifty years from now, at least we won’t be hot and hungry). But some underpublicized studies, reported this month in Nature, cast a long shadow on this sunny assertion.

    Careful experimentation with growing crops in a simulated high CO2 environment revealed that

    crop yields were elevated — plants imbibing large quantities of CO2 had more starch and more sugar in their leaves than those on a normal carbon diet. But because they also took up less nitrogen from the soil, they made less protein.

    Industry says, “Great. With higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere, we can grow more food and just have farmers throw more fertilizer on the fields to make up for the lack of nitrogen.” Nature, however, is not so easily meddled with and certainly not to be outsmarted by mere humans:

    Arnold Bloom, a plant biologist at the University of California in Davis, thinks that the reduced nitrogen levels seen in high-CO2 conditions is not just the result of plants needing less protein. He believes they actually become less able to absorb nitrates from the soil — in which case, dumping extra fertilizer on fields won’t be of much help.

    Protein levels in wheat, for instance, are not only important in terms of nutrition, they are critical when it comes to making bread. Gluten is the protein property of wheat that forms the stretchable structure that holds the gases generated by the action of the yeast and allows the dough to hold the rise. This is so important to the breadmaking process that you can buy gluten as an extra ingredient to insure a high rising, light loaf of bread.

    Gluten content of the same variety of wheat will vary from year to year anyway according to varying weather conditions. Now it seems, though, that we have created the atmospheric conditions that will cause protein levels in wheat to drop permanently. Gluten is expensive. While many bakers use it as a matter of course, I never have. So far our bread rises fine (thanks to the thorough kneading provided by our Bosch) but apparently the day will come when that probably won’t be the case. I hope I have some time to come up with a Plan B for this. I know one baker who always researches the percentage of protein in each year’s wheat crop and adds gluten to her recipes accordingly. Perhaps we will all have to do this eventually. Or perhaps we can start eating more flat breads where holding a rise isn’t an issue and make up for the shortfall of dietary protein from other sources.

    However, research also shows that

    crops grown in high-CO2 environments have diminished calcium and zinc levels (between 10 and 20 percent).

    OK, I guess we will have our grass-fed cows and goats to rely upon for calcium, zinc and protein. And I can learn how to make more varieties of flat breads. I wonder how many kinds of flat breads there are anyway. Time for another Google search… If I come up with a particularly nutritious and tasty flat bread/cheese combination, I will be sure to pass it along. It is never too early to think ahead.

    Quick note: I quickly started a Google search before posting this and already unearthed the fact that there are more than 60 types of flat breads worldwide. I don’t think pita crisps are where I would start after pizza, pancakes, tortillas and chappatis, however. Here is a short list of possibilities to choose from. Or how about fragrant, flavored focaccias or Turkish Spinach and Feta Gozlemes or even fried Ricotta flat bread with parsley sauce (I would subtract the anchovies)?


    Wow, this certainly seems to be a case of opportunity arising out of difficulty. I am going to sprint into the kitchen and get to work. I will keep you posted on on all interesting flat bread developments!

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,



    One Simple “Nutrient Dense” Page of Health Information

    Posted by pockets

    During one of my ongoing searches for more information and experiences with oil pulling a couple of weeks ago, I came across Joe’s Health Site. This page has stayed in my mind since for two reasons. The first reason is that I read two pieces of information on it that were new to me and the other is the brevity and simplicity of this page.

    Researching, learning, changing and eating our way back to some semblance of original health generally seems to be a ridiculously complicated endeavor. Books and web sites devoted to this subject are often fairly complex and contain so much information that the reader can easily become overwhelmed. Not at Joe’s Health Site. It is one page! And not one of those hugely long pages that is really the length of a full length novel. It is one page with a few select links. However, I can say with confidence that if you follow the recommendations on this page, the health of many,many people will dramatically improve. (I say this even though we are vegetarian and Joe clearly is not.)

    Topics covered include:

    Eating enough quality protein;

    Using coconut oil daily;

    Getting enough gelatin;

    Oil pulling;

    Thyroid health;

    Information about good fats and the myths about cholesterol;

    The Dangers of Microwave Ovens;

    and the health benefits possible from Rebounding.

    All good stuff simply presented. Now here are the two facts I pulled out of Joe’s Health Site that stuck with me personally:

    I started oil pulling on 3//4/07 and I have no intentions of ever stopping it. It has helped my sleep, moods, reduced my anxiety, improved my brain function, and more. Read about it, and then try it! Curezone.com has a forum on it. They say if you do it once daily for 2-4 weeks, you’ll never want to stop it! This is an ancient Ayurvedic Healing Technique that’s very effective.

    I have also found that once I started oil pulling, I never wanted to stop. It is funny that something I had never heard of just a few months ago is now something I intend to do always and teach my children and grandchildren to do too! I am not even aware of any big changes in my health from doing it. It just feels right to do and in some subtle way I have to do it! It is soothing and health promoting in a deep, natural way that I can feel but not necessarily pinpoint. By way of contrast, I have had to skip doing it for short periods a couple of times because I didn’t have any sesame oil to use. This didn’t wreck my day or anything but the morning felt incomplete. It’s like not brushing your teeth at a time when you always brush your teeth. It won’t kill you but it doesn’t feel good.

    Secondly, I noted this with regard to thyroid function:

    Taking the oral temperature is the best way to detect low thyroid. It should be 98 on arising and 98.6 to 99 during the day. If it’s much below this you’re probably hypo-thyroid. Resting pulse should be 85. Much below 80 usually indicates hypothyroidism.

    Taking your temperature is pretty much the only way to accurately gauge thyroid function and I have known that for years. There is a bit more to the best way to do this than is mentioned here. However, the point about a low pulse being a sign of hypothyroidism really hit me. I have had a low pulse rate for as long as I can remember. Once I was getting a physical in order to work in Internal Medicine and Urgent Care at an HMO in Boston. The nurse practitioner took my pulse rate and then asked me if I had been jogging for years? I was surprised at the question. I had always been athletic and a dancer but had never found jogging even remotely interesting. I replied with a laugh that I did not jog. She commented that my pulse was so low that she thought that must be what I do.

    If only she had had enough clinical experience to realize that a pulse in the high 60’s was a possible warning sign of hypothyroidism. (Most MD type medical people are not too good at this thyroid business, by the way.) Perhaps I could have gotten enough thyroid support at that time that my thyroid wouldn’t have collapsed almost completely after giving birth the first time. Sigh. And here up to now even I thought that my low pulse rate was one of the good things I had going for me healthwise. I was a little blue when I read this, to tell you the truth, but I guess it is better to know.

    This is a lot of information from just one little health page. I am going to post this on our Effective Health and Personal Care page under Essential Links on the Pockets of the Future web site for future reference. May we all read it, take action and enjoy improved health.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,



    Our Insatiable Appetite for Superficial Variety is Destroying Our Future

    Posted by pockets

    I have been thinking lately about how modern day society’s insatiable appetite for man-made variety has superseded our more subtle in-born appetites for natural variety. This desire to eat something trendy or foreign or gourmet or quick or brightly colored has led to a such a breakdown in human health that we can’t even find our way back to what a healthy diet actually is or was.

    What is perhaps even worse, our addiction to superficial variety has utterly destroyed the deep, health sustaining variety nature so generously provided us and the Earth. This fact is vividly demonstrated in A Visit to the Doomsday Vault aired on 60 Minutes this past Sunday. Just a few facts mentioned on this compelling segment (paraphrased):

    We are on the verge of losing 10,000 years worth of human diet and agriculture.

    In the 1800s Americans raised 7100 named varieties of apples. We have since lost 6800 of those varieties. That is an extinction rate of 86%.

    Every day 1 crop strain disappears from the world.

    Scientists note that we have no way to anticipate the potential value to us of any given bit of genetic material. There are instances where a characteristic from one strain of wheat, when introduced to another strain of wheat, saved a region from likely starvation. We can’t know all the possibilities and potentials Nature has stored up in her many natural varieties. We have no way to estimate the value of what we have already lost. We can’t even assess the value of what we are currently losing.

    Seeds used to be passed down through families for generations. This not only preserved countless of varieties of crops and other plants but created strains ideally suited to very specific niches. Now agri-business has dismantled this method of preserving genetic variety and lost for us enormous numbers of strains of crops forever.

    The “Doomsday Vault” or Global Seed Vault this segment of 60 Minutes focuses on is a “safe house for humanity” built 700 miles from the North Pole. It is built in an extraordinary way and contains 1.5 billion seeds which are back-ups of all the Earth’s crops. The scientists and financiers that are seeing this project through to completion are committed to protecting humanity against a doomsday unfolding right now. One scientist stated that:

    There is a perfect storm poised and ready to hit agriculture within the next one hundred years.

    This is above and beyond the extended “perfect storm” we might say has hit the Earth already in the form of human beings endlessly fulfilling their desires for superficial variety and profit.

    Watch the 60 Minutes video embedded below. It is extremely informative - fascinating even - and deeply disturbing. We need this perspective. We need to know what we have done. We need to know what we are still doing. We need to get a sense of the magnitude of what our minds and desires have wrought. If our poorly disciplined minds and complex desire driven lives could create this much mayhem and destruction, just think what disciplined minds and elegantly simple, desire free lives could create in terms of a peaceful, green, balanced Earth.

    May it be so.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,



    Self Reliance Includes Stocking Up on What Other People Grow

    Posted by pockets

    Can you only call yourself self reliant if you are producing most of your necessities yourself? I would say not. Self reliance means that you can creatively and effectively respond to changing conditions. Combining self reliance with homesteading means that you adapt to changing conditions in ways that bring labor, skills and necessities home.

    A friend writes:

    Okay, I am the first to admit that prices here on things I need are sky high now. They have now actually been confirmed in several news articles. Namely staples have gone up almost 30% in the last two years while processed foods/non staples have risen about 7.5%. So if one is just buying staples, it seems like they are going through the roof.

    In a recent newsletter I read:

    American families, which spend 9.9% of their disposable income on food, are facing the fastest rising food prices in 17 years. The consumer’s cost for everything from yogurt and popcorn to breakfast cereal and fast-food french fries is climbing. In US cities last month, the average retail price of a pound loaf of whole wheat bread was up 24% from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Whole milk hit $3.807 a gallon, up 26%.

    I would note here that milk prices have probably inched up a bit more since this report and that us Americans who live on less than government averaged incomes spend a good deal more than 9.9% of our incomes on food. In fact, even with as much of our food as we grow we probably spend one third to one half of our income on food (and that does not include the expenses of hay and so on for our livestock). In fact, a report just printed in the New York Times gives a better perspective:

    Government figures released Friday showed that grocery costs had jumped 5.1 percent in 12 months, the latest in a string of increases. In fact, the nation is undergoing its worst grocery inflation since the early 1990s.

    With a few exceptions, nearly every grocery category measured by the Labor Department, which compiles the official inflation numbers, has increased in the last year. Milk is up 17 percent, as are dried beans, peas and lentils. Cheese is up 15 percent, rice and pasta 13 percent, and bread 12 percent.

    No food product has gone up as much as eggs, jumping 25 percent since February 2007 and 62 percent in the last two years. US Economy Beset by Problems

    This is all compounded by the fact that gas prices are rising rapidly. High gas prices hit those of us who live in the country particularly hard. Even if food prices were even, driving frequently to town to purchase necessities has become out of the question. The combination of rapidly rising gas prices with rapidly rising food prices is painful - especially to those of us living off the beaten path and still learning and adapting to growing our own food and being generally self reliant.

    What to do?

    One very important thing to do is to buy food in bulk and store it at home. There are several benefits to buying in bulk:

    * Unit price of the food or item goes down when you buy by the bag or case;

    * You don’t have to drive to go shopping. Eventually you can go shopping in your pantry;

    * You learn to live with what you have and create meals and menus from what is on hand;

    * You are not tempted to spend money on extras when you shop in your pantry rather than a grocery store. Even “shopping” while you are hungry no longer presents a challenge!

    * Stocking up in the present is a hedge against inflation. You will continue to eat food at the old prices for as long as your supply holds out;

    * You learn to cook from basic ingredients;

    * You can send your children shopping for you without a care in the world as they are only going to your pantry or basement or other food storage area;

    * If you don’t live in the country now but intend to, you will develop a habit that will serve you well once you get there;

    * You are protected a bit from the vagaries of weather, weakening memory (what was I supposed to pick up at the store?), income fluctuations, job loss, injury, price increases and so on;

    * You are taking a big step towards living more simply at a time when you can chose to rather than having it imposed upon you.

    There are probably more reasons and benefits to stocking up on food and necessities than I have even listed here. People write entire books on this subject after all. But these are the main benefits I have discovered so far.

    I have been buying food in bulk and storing what I can for years. In our house in Louisa and in the one here, I have a corner of the basement dedicated to storing food, toiletries, water and so on. Grains, beans and other dry goods such as sugars and salt are stored in plastic pails set up on pallets. It is important to keep your plastic pails off the cement floor as moisture can wick up from the floor through the plastic into the food inside. In general, anything you can do to increase air circulation is a good thing and setting pails up on pallets helps in that way. Furthermore, this basement seems to get flooded on a regular basis so having pails of stored foods up off the floor is all the more important.

    Here is a view of some of our food storage pails.

    Most of the pails have come from the painting section at Lowes. According to my research, these are made of food grade plastic. Each pail is outfitted with “gamma lids”. These things are wonderful. The lids that come on plastic pails are really, really hard to get on and off. Gamma lids solve this problem and are an invaluable homesteading tool. You snap a neck onto the top of the pail and then the lid screws on and off. So easy. Easy enough for children even. And they come in colors, as you can see above. I do take advantage of the color coding. I put beans in pails with red lids, grains in pails with yellow lids and sugars and sea salt in pails in blue lids.

    I also have made labels on the computer for each pail. This helps out a lot when you have quite a few. Here are a couple of bean pails:

    You can get gamma lids in a number of places but the cheapest place I have found is USA Emergency Supply. Great company. I have found very useful books through them also.

    In the basement Paul has also set shelves up for me to hold cases of canned tomatoes or Indian food supplies or molasses or whatever. I use plastic dish tubs to hold packets of herbs and citric acid and so on. (Bulk sized packages of herbs go in the freezer.) I also have shampoo, hydrogen peroxide and other such necessities on shelves there. The shelves are pretty sparse right now which I find makes me squirm a bit. I hope I can get more on them sometime soon.

    Most of my grain pails I keep in the kitchen because I use them so much. Also I use such a large amount of grain at a time that it wouldn’t be worth it to keep filling smaller containers in the kitchen from food pails in the basement like I do with beans and lentils.

    In one corner, I have tucked away corn, rye and kamut.

    Under the table that holds the grain grinder, I have Prairie Gold wheat (this is a light wheat), Bronze Chief wheat (this is a darker, more flavorful wheat) and spelt.

    Here my husband is obliging me by pouring a 50 pound bag of wheat into a pail for me.

    You can buy bulk food in a number of places. Health food stores will place bulk orders for you and give you a discount, for instance. Check around your community and see if any families have gotten together to form a food buying coop. They usually order from a catalog and a truck delivers to a designated drop off location once a month. This is a wonderful option because you can also meet like minded people in your community. As a matter of fact, through the food buying coop in Louisa we ended up with our first cow. You never know where one good step will lead next!

    Having enough money to buy in bulk can be an issue also for many families. One suggestion is to save just enough each month to buy one thing in bulk. Or when you see something on sale at the grocery store that you use a lot, buy at least a few extra. Gradually, gradually your stores will add up. If you get a chunk of money, for some reason, like a tax return decide ahead of time that you will dedicate some of that money to buying supplies in bulk.

    Arranging your finances and your living environment in ways that permit you to store up some of what other people grow and produce is an opportunity to deepen self-discipline, exercise creativity and strengthen planning, researching, networking and frugality related skills. The end result is more wiggle room in your budget, an increased sense of self reliance and much greater peace of mind.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,



    Homeschoolers Learning Young to Take on Raw Milk Issues

    Posted by pockets

    If our children are going to be leaders in the new future that is awaiting humanity in general and Americans in particular, then it behooves them to develop a clear-eyed understanding of the state of humanity and of America today. One good place to get a bird’s eye view of prevailing power gropes and methodologies based in profits and self-serving “ignorance” is the politics of food. The national battle being waged over the sale of raw milk has recently seen the intersection of the governmental/regulatory/legal side of society and the private business/raw milk dairying/homeschooling side of society.

    I won’t attempt to summarize the battle over raw milk. For detailed information reported by an intelligent journalist, The Complete Patient is a great source. Suffice it to say that raw milk is the one food, the only food, the government has labeled so dangerous that it must be regulated out of existence and by force if necessary. For a brief description of the issues at stake at Meadowsweet Farm in upstate New York, read David Gumpert’s post Meadowsweet Dairy’s Members Sweat Out a Judge’s Decision, and Prepare for the Long Haul.

    With this background in mind, next read his post of today The White Coats are Coming! Teaching Kids About the Raw Milk Mess. After describing the latest developments in this particular court case and noting that the dairy family brought six of their homeschooled children to the court room, Mr. Gumpert ended with this:

    Much as I’d like to see the children shielded from seeing the real behavior of their government, I really do think it’s preferable for them to learn the lessons earlier rather than later, like the adults among us.

    For parents who feel responsible for guiding their children towards whatever form of inspired leadership they may be capable of as adults, this can be a tightrope to walk. You want to shelter your children long enough from a degraded society that they may grow naturally strong and deep and then, at just the right time presumably, you want to bring them alongside you as you deal with the intricacies of a profit-mad world. Gradually you work side by side until one day they are themselves leaders and problem solvers and torchbearers.

    We, and many other parents, find that homeschooling our children provides them with both opportunities - growing naturally as well as learning to think originally and act effectively - in a manageable way. Kathryn Russell of Majesty Farm here in Virginia summed this up so beautifully in the comment she left with the above mentioned post. I will share at some length because she sums up so well:

    The next generation does need to be made aware of what is true and right, and what real community and work consists of. Why do home schoolers seem to be ahead of government schoolers in maturity and ability to logically reason? The answers have been known for many decades, not because of WHAT and HOW they are taught, but that they are given the opportunity to produce in a meaningful way, and the time to make decisions, face real consequences, and reflect on the why of the situation. Homeschoolers have the chance to communicate in a non-peer structured environment in real life situations, since they are THERE with the family.Homeschooling is not the only way to reach kids, but a great and painless way to do it. Just as local, community based foods are the top of the line typically, so are those local community based kids.

    What an interesting analogy. Here at The Lionsgate School, I am of course aware of us parents being the teachers and our children being the students. That awareness directs traffic most of the time. We do such and such so that they will learn such and such. However, I am equally aware that we are all of us students here together in this place we call home and school. The insights, energy and soul development of these children is often not a function of their chronological age at all. As a matter of fact, I have felt eclipsed by them more than once. Far more than once.

    Really we are just eight people who have chosen to live together in a deeply satisfying and edifying intimacy as we each attempt the exact same thing, i.e. merger in Him and through Him give service to humanity. At the most essential level, then, we eight are the same and seek the same goal. It is this sharing of a spark and a goal that provides the harmony of our family life and our homeschooling. On other levels, we are different in ages, interests and destinies and it is those differences that provide the interest, the pizazz, of our family life and homeschooling.

    Our children are mostly still young so we are still at the stay at home, milk the cows, drink the “local community based” fresh milk, read great books and learn how to get along day in and day out stage of life. As much as I love this stage of life, I also look forward to having our “local community based kids” come along side us parents shoulder to shoulder. Together we parents (two) and children (six) will creatively and prayerful work our way through the painful, soul-deadening intricacies of life in this age toward the goals we each cherish so deeply.

    Then they will have children and the cycle will start anew with a fresh generation of clear-eyed, original thinkers who have the ability to look inside for their answers.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,



    Our Generous Family Cows

    Posted by pockets

    I have always been an animal person. In my youth I wanted to be a naturalist or a veterinarian. For years, I used our set of encyclopedias and the library to study one animal after another. One animal I had little interest in at that time was the cow. I guess I thought cows were boring and unimportant because it looked to me like all they did was stand around in pastures. However, my ideas about cows changed dramatically two years ago when our first family cow came to live with us. Now I understand that cows are one of the key animals supporting human civilization.

    The cow’s generosity is one of Nature’s special gifts to humanity. She embodies the Divine Mother’s gracious qualities of generosity, patience nurturance, tolerance and grounding. Cows have a very earthy quality that gives you a sense of security when you are around them. All of us here experience a great sense of wellbeing during milking times, no matter what state we are in when we start out. Through spending so much time with them, the cow has become for me the Earth Mother’s representative. I feel blessed to some living with me on my property. Here is an interesting essay about the attributes and the value of cows from a Hindu perspective. While we are not Hindu, we have discovered the truth of some of what is written here through personal experience.

    I notice that how a culture treats its cows reflects in some way how it treats its women and how it relates with the feminine principle in general. In our society we generally disrespect and exploit our cows in spite of how many of them we have. In the corporate mentality that now dominates the world and reigns supreme here in America, cows are treated as a commodity. Agri-business has focused exclusively on a select few breeds as the corporate the ideal for serving the modern marketplace. Many of the remaining heritage breeds carefully developed over hundreds of years are disappearing so rapidly that they are now categorized as rare breeds. (Please see the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy for more information.)

    The industry ideal these days for the beef cow appears to be the Black Angus while the ideal for the dairy industry is the Holstein. The Holstein is a tall cow with a slim frame and long legs and an over-developed mammary system. She gives an enormous amount of lower quality milk -as much as eight gallons a day when they first calve. Due to their being over-bred and cared for in unnatural ways, the Holstein is prone to disease and doesn’t carry a parasite load well. As is generally the case in the cattle industry, Holsteins and other corporate favored breeds are routinely injected with health-stealing antibiotics and hormones. Just as within human bodies, the harmful bacteria and viruses are becoming resistant to the antibiotics. The majority of corporate cows are not given access to the pasture which provides their natural food but are kept in small feedlots where they are fed grains, usually corn, which they are not equipped to digest. Their inefficient digestion of the grain leads to increased disease as well as excess burping up of the methane gas which contributes to global warming. Their enforced grain diet and cramped quarters also increases the incidence of harmful e coli bacteria. Both beef and dairy cows are a cog in the corporate assembly line for slaughter and milk extraction respectively. The cow which has been respected and celebrated worldwide for thousands of years is now treated as an exploitable commodity. Just like nature, the earth and woman herself, the cow is considered an object, something that you mold the way you want, from which you take what you want when you want it and then thrown away when the one exploited/desired quality diminishes with maltreatment and age. This attitude of ingratitude will be the downfall of our civilization.

    For us as a family, our cows came to us through the various efforts of both the progressive and conservative communities where we were living. My wife, Leslie, had researched for years about the benefits of raw milk so a family cows was a definite part of our general plan for building a homestead. Leslie joined a food co-op and picked our orders up at a very nice, conservative Mennonite woman’s house. The woman told Leslie about a family that was practically giving away raw milk because they had far more than they could use. Leslie contacted them right away and began to get delicious milk from them by the gallon. Months later they decided they wanted to sell their milk cow and figured we were likely candidates for taking her on. They gave us a few options for trying out milking her ourselves and seeing if we wanted to buy her.

    At the time we had just seen the excellent PBS Nature episode entitled Holy Cow which tells the story of how the cow has domesticated human beings. I had also recently gone on a trip to India. At an ashram there, I noticed a cow that was living with no available pasture and was lying on a cement slab when I saw her. I walked up to her. We looked at each other and had some sort of a moment; there was a subtle exchange. At that moment I knew we were going to purchase the cow.

    Needing a second cow a year later, we went to the Twin Oaks intentional community nearby our home. This progressive community was where our cow, Pezra, originally came from and where we ended up purchasing her older sister, Phoebe. Ironically the Mennonite woman and Twin Oaks were both are on the same road, only several miles apart. Both of the parties we purchased the cows from were helpful in setting up our homestead and getting us adjusted to our new duties. So for us the cows were “uniters” as they created a convergence of two otherwise polarized communities.

    We are still milking our two cows, Phoebe and Pezra, twice a day. Since their arrival we have learned how to make butter, mozzarella, panir, ghee, kefir, kefir cheese, kefir mascarpone, feta and a few other things with their wholesome milk. We switched our cows over to being grass-fed only with the sole addition of an excellent mineral mix. Our cows are the rare Dutch Belted or Lakenvelder breed that has only 200 registered in the United States. Ours are not pure bred and are not registered but they are wonderful nevertheless and give delicious, easily digested milk.

    There is a part of this experience that is difficult to translate into words but I think it has to do with the fact that people and cows have been together for centuries. In many ways, for us having cows has been like coming home. There is something familiar and nourishing about being with them. This goes beyond food or anything else that the cows physically provide. It has more to do with the fact that they have a presence, a condition, a vibrational quality that is very beneficial to the human experience. I have nothing but gratitude for these cows and their heifers coming into our lives.

    Attached is the first in a series of 12 videos of “A Day in the Life of Our Cows” and a link to our channel for the last nine.

    All the best,



    The Costs of Growing Milk vs. the Costs of Buying Milk

    Posted by pockets

    I haven’t visited the dairy aisle in a grocery store in well over a year but I learned in a recent article on msnbc that worldwide prices for milk are skyrocketing. The article entitled “What’s Behind High Milk Prices? Look to China - Growing taste for Starbucks, McDonald’s helps drive up costs worldwide” gives an international perspective on milk and milk prices. Elaborating on reasons for heated prices, it says, “Reasons include growing appetites for dairy foods in China and elsewhere in Asia, where chains such as McDonald’s and Starbucks are introducing unfamiliar taste buds to cheeseburgers and lattes. Other factors are rising costs for animal feed, shrinking European production and long-standing drought in Australia and New Zealand, the world’s largest milk-exporting region.” It cites prices in the US as being nearly $4/gallon although someone I met this week in Floyd says she sees prices of $5/gallon here and more.

    While having a family cow certainly increases the workload at home, it also (along with every other aspect of homesteading) insulates you to some extent from the politics and foolishness of the world at large as it relates to food. Governmental price supports, corporate expansion and the vulnerability of producing food globally instead of locally subject natural foods like milk to very unnatural stresses in terms of how the milk is produced, how the milk itself is treated and then finally how it is priced and distributed. The result is a worldwide populace dependent upon governmental intervention, corporate farmers’ notions about how you feed and manage cows, profit driven marketing practices and the vagaries of weather patterns thousands of miles away for their milk. The result of this dependence is people ingesting a mere facsimile of what nature otherwise provides and ingesting it in a way that is completely disconnected from real food, cows, neighbors, nature or any other life affirming qualities and energies.

    What is roughly our daily cost here on the homestead for several gallons of milk? Let’s start by looking at what costs we don’t have:

    We don’t have the costs of:

    * vet bills (our cows are rare breed, vigorous and live pretty natural lives);

    * feed bills (our cows are grass fed only);

    * expensive infrastructure (we milk by hand and build whatever simple buildings we need also by hand).

    We do have the costs of:

    * ongoing research into the natural rhythms and principles of raising healthy grass-fed cows;

    * living on gorgeous farmland in order to provide pasture;

    * providing them with natural minerals with kelp that smells so good that they nourish us twice (once going into the cows’ bucket and once coming out in the form of milk);

    * storing up bales of alfalfa and other hay grown locally by farmers with whom we build fruitful relationships;

    * the self-discipline, attention to family cooperation and the willingness to build the necessary habits and skills required to successfully milk twice a day with young children and then process that milk into whatever the family needs.

    Thus far in our experience, our “costs” for providing nutrient dense unprocessed milk to our children are essentially the “costs” associated with natural living and character development. In fact if we didn’t have this way to pay those costs, we would have to go out and find another way.

    Natural systems and approaches build upon each other. Submitting to the “costs” of natural systems and approaches allows us to find our true potential as human beings. Being aware of and grateful for the “costs” of natural systems and approaches brings us to the door of maturity and fulfillment. Working with natural systems and approaches brings us to a state of true health.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,