Saturday, June 26, 2010

Unbelievable. (Well, it's not, but it SHOULD be.)

I just read this post about corruption in the dairy industry, and watched the videos there at the link. Most riveting was the second video, which I found so compelling I'm sharing it here:

If you do nothing else today, WATCH THIS VIDEO. It's the most enlightening ten minutes you'll spend. And, though it probably shouldn't be, it's shocking. I'm not the least bit surprised that Monsanto knew about the harmful effects of bovine growth hormone and its other drugs, nor am I surprised that the corporate media covered it up. But the lengths that corporate media will go to, and that the government will go to, to aid and abet the deliberate poisoning of our population (especially children)... well, I don't have a strong enough word.

And make sure you stay tuned for the ending.

Interesting that Canada, the UK, and the rest of the civilized world has banned the use of bovine growth hormone (known as rBST) in dairy production because it causes cancer and a host of other harmful effects. But in *this* country, we have a government that not only permits rBST, but encourages it, and penalizes those who avoid it.

Case in point: Dairy farmers who wanted to label their milk as being "rBST Free" were BANNED from doing so by the FDA, after Monsanto's lawyers and lobbyists objected to the honest labels. Dairies are now free to use the "rBST Free" label, but they have to include the disclaimer, "No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST treated cows" - in other words, they're required to lie on their own packaging. And who wrote the disclaimer? Why, that would be Michael Taylor, then-FDA Deputy Policy Commissioner, who was one of Monsanto's attorneys before he joined the FDA, and who returned to Monsanto's employ when his "service" at the FDA was done.

Monsanto is now lobbying aggressively at the state level to ban "rBST Free" labels so that consumers are unable to choose. They're pretty threatened about this issue, since consumers have voiced their preferences so loudly that many sellers have stopped using or offering dairy treated with rBST - Tillamook Dairy, Ben & Jerry's, and Starbucks banned rBST, as did Kroger, Publix, and Safeway, and even Wal-Mart's generic brand of milk is rBST Free. So Monsanto is losing money here, most definitely, and they're sending out their most vicious dogs to corral the herd. And the FDA is one of those dogs.

Moral of the story: You cannot trust federal regulators with the safety of your food. Monsanto is working overtime to destroy our options, to render us dependent on their poisons, and to purchase our government and media. Check those labels, and keep your eyes open, and don't let the dogs herd you into the corral. That corral is attached to a slaughterhouse.

What a difference a century makes.

(Click the picture to see a bigger version and read the text.)

Remember when hard times and war meant we LIMITED our consumption, and did more for ourselves? When we had a patriotic duty to learn to be self-sufficient, frugal, and creative with the things we had? When the government encouraged people to be independent?

Yeah, I don't either. I'm too young. But I've read about it, and every so often I stumble across something like this, and it makes me wonder when we lost our way... and if we can ever collectively find it again.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Well, whaddya know!

The day after the first day of summer, when I posted about summer being cancelled...

Summer showed up after all!

For three days now it's been sunny, warm, and beautiful. Highs have been in the mid-seventies and this is set to continue all week. While it does mean I have to water the seeds and look after my little garden more, I'll take it! My corn, beans, squash, and melons - I have them planted all together, Indian-style - shot up overnight and have all unfurled large leaves. Well, the corn is actually more like grass right now, but the beans are going up like gangbusters.

I've spent as much time outside as I possibly can these past few days. I really need to sweep the house, but I can't bring myself to stay in that long! I've been getting up first thing in the morning and opening all the windows to let the air in. I hear other people's music, the kids next door playing basketball, all the ice cream trucks going by (we've had several)...

Yup. It's summer, at last.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Desperately Seeking Summer

The headlines are all over the news here in Oregon: According to the National Weather Service, summer has possibly been cancelled for this year. On account of rain, I suppose. A meteorologist here in Portland put it well...

"If you look at a national temperature map, it's almost like we have become a separate continent," said Hill, "because literally everybody else in the lower United States is in a different season than we are. I mean, it really is just absolutely nuts!"

He's not wrong. My family back in the Mississippi Delta has been living in triple-digit heat for some time now; the corn in my father's garden is apparently over seven feet tall. Me, I just planted my corn a few days ago and have no idea if it's going to make it or not. The newspaper today lamented our local farmers' losses and the sad state of our legendary farmers' markets; our strawberry farmers have lost some 80 percent of their crop to weather problems and associated pests. According to the National Weather Service, we have had FOUR - count 'em, FOUR - sunny days since April 1. That's getting close to three months ago. And no one knows why this is happening, or when it will end, which is possibly the most disturbing part of it all.

Still, today we got a few hours of blessed sunshine before the clouds rolled in again, and those hours of sunshine found me with my friend and her toddler, out on Sauvie Island picking strawberries. The crop may be suffering from the weather, but these particular strawberries were abundant, juicy, and oh-so-fragrant! I picked half a flat of them and set it on the kitchen counter when I got home, and a few hours later when I started dinner, the whole kitchen smelled like strawberries. That's how you know you've got good stuff.

So they were worth a celebration. After all, strawberries aren't so easy to come by this year, so we have to treat them right while they're here! I could think of nothing so much as strawberry shortcake. So I came up with my own fancy version: sweet, buttery short biscuits with fresh-picked rosemary baked in, topped with those juicy fresh strawberries macerated in honey, balsamic vinegar, and a little more rosemary, and then capped nicely with a scoop of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream.

By the time I sat down to enjoy my dessert, the clouds had taken over again, and the air was heavy with the promise of more rain tomorrow. But for a little while, I didn't care. I sat on the porch and relished my strawberry shortcake, and the glow of a few hours' sunshine, and for as long as it took me to eat dessert, it was summer after all.

You gotta seize it when you can, these days.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Article: "Sour Milk"

I just had to share this article:

Sour Milk:
Big-box dairy farms bring manure and misery to some Central New York communities

by Rebecca Lerner

This is an excellent illustration of the destruction wrought by factory farming, even on those who aren't participating in it. The next time you reach for a package of mass-produced cheese or milk (hey look, it's only $1.99!), think of this story.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Good Feeling, indeed!

OH MY G-D THERE'S A BIG HOT BALL OF LIGHT IN THE SKY!! What the hell is that thing?! It reminds me of something I've seen before, long ago, but I can't quite remember what...

I looked it up, and it is SUNNY today! For the first time in what feels like ages. Yesterday was rainy and chilly, and out of nowhere today it's bright and sunny with a high of 81. Keith left for another work trip this morning, so I was up before dawn to make him biscuits for the road, and he dropped me off at the Tik-Tok Cafe so I could get a bit of writing done. I was there just over two hours before I'd had all the coffee I could handle, and then I started out on a nice hour-long walk home.

The sun came out as I was walking - it was a chill morning - but once I lost the hoodie it was a really pleasant walk. It was great to see everyone out and about for once. A man was washing his truck, kids were running around, lots of people were out gardening. And that's what I'm on my way out to do, too.

But first I had to fortify, and I did that with a kefir smoothie. I've gotten really into kefir lately; the name comes from the Turkish word for "good feeling," which is appropriate because it does always seem to elevate my mood for a bit. It originated centuries ago in the Caucasus, where shepherds would carry milk in leather bags with kefir grains to culture and preserve it; the cultured drink is still popular in Eastern Europe.

Kefir is incredibly easy to make as the cultures do all the work. I just stir the kefir grains (which are colonies of beneficial bacteria and yeasts glued together in the proteins and other stuff that they make) into some raw milk and leave it sitting out on the counter for a day or two, giving it a quick swirl every so often, and then I strain the grains out and let the kefir finish ripening in the fridge for another day.

It has a sharp taste, kind of like yogurt but sharper and better, and it's not thick like yogurt - it's more like buttermilk, but with a better flavor. It's even better for you than regular milk, since the kefir grains convert the lactose into folic acid and other nutrients, and that conversion of the lactose aids digestion and loads the body up with antioxidants. Kefir may also lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and boost the immune system.

But even more important, it's tasty, especially when sweetened with a little raw honey (woohoo, more nutrients!) and fruit. I like to add peanut butter to mine too, just to boost the protein and heart-healthy fats. Sometimes I add flaxmeal to make it even more nutritious. It's really hard to believe that something this healthy can be so delicious; a smoothie of kefir, peanut butter, banana, and honey (in the picture above) tastes more like dessert than breakfast, but without all those funky-feeling refined sugars. It just makes you feel good all through, especially when you're sipping it by the window as you bask in all that glorious, uh... what's that word? Oh yeah! Sunshine!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nights of Wine and Roses (and healthy bread)

Last night it was raining again, and neither of us really felt like a big meal. I was craving bread, which we've been trying to avoid lately, so I gave in and threw together a wholegrain maple-oat quickbread.

I love our porch. It has a clear roof on it, so we can sit on our porch and stay dry while we watch the rain. Our porch is screened from the street by a dense thicket of red roses, so when we sit out there in the evening, it's like being wrapped up in roses and rain, with the fresh floral scent and heavy music from the roof all around us.

There's also a table and some chairs out there, so we had our supper on the porch last night. We had the wholegrain bread with sliced radishes, pickled garlic, asiago cheese, and smoked bleu cheese. And of course, a nice little shiraz. The bread was still hot from the oven and really brought out the flavors in the cheeses... it was a good meal to linger over.

This bread is super-easy to make yourself (I adapted it from this recipe). It's a good base, so add whatever you want to it. You could add dried fruit and nuts, or seeds, or wheat berries, anything. I'm going to try it with gluten-free flour soon and see how it works as a gluten-free bread. It seems pretty flexible!


1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup flaxmeal
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 scant cup milk
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper.

Chuck all the dry ingredients into a bowl, just as is. Whisk it together with a fork. Pour the milk into a measuring cup, add in the olive oil and maple syrup, and whisk them together too. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mix it up with that fork until evenly blended, and spoon it all out onto the cookie sheet in a big rounded pile. Pat it into a round, even loaf with your hands and stick it in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

This is by far the easiest bread I have ever made, and it's delicious. You can use honey instead of maple syrup, soy/rice milk instead of cow's, a nut flour instead of the flaxmeal (but the flaxmeal is so good for you!), add those seeds, nuts, fruit, etc... go crazy with it.

Just make sure you enjoy it on the porch. It goes best with a rainy evening.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Easy like Sunday morning...

So Saturday was pleasant and sunny and warm, the first non-rainy day for 20 days straight in Portland... of course, as we lay in bed Sunday morning, we woke up to the heavy beat of rain on the skylights. Everything was soaked again. It's a good thing we got in our yard work and beach time when we did on Saturday.

Sunday morning we slogged out into the rain and mud for the first day of the Lents International Farmers' Market. The turnout wasn't great, but we made some purchases (mustard greens, a bundle of baby leeks, some radishes, asparagus for a high school wrestling team). Soaked and muddy, we changed back into our pajamas as soon as we got home, and lingered over the crossword together as we had breakfast.

We spent most of the day taking it easy, with the windows open so we could hear the rain, and I made raw ice cream, which was amazing. Raw milk, raw cream, our backyard eggs, real vanilla, those little fresh bananas, and the strawberries we'd picked on Sauvie Island the day before... it's a bit less creamy than I'd like, so next time I'll use less milk and more cream, but otherwise it was perfect. Tons of fruit flavor, not a lot of sugar, that sweet raw dairy, and all the good fats and nutrition intact! THAT is "guiltless ice cream," not that tasteless chemical crap they sell at the store. It's nice to indulge in a lovely dessert and not feel the least bit of worry over the consequences. Here's the recipe:


2 pints strawberries, washed, hulled, & halved
4 small bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 pastured eggs
2 c raw milk*
2 c raw cream
1 Tbsp vanilla

* In retrospect I would reduce this to 1 cup milk.

Mash the strawberries in a big mixing bowl, then stir in 1/4 cup sugar. Set aside and let it macerate for 30 minutes to an hour, so that the sugar dissolves and pulls all the juice out of the crushed berries. Stir in the bananas and mash it all up some more together. Set aside.

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl with a mixer, going on medium-low speed until the eggs foam up. Beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, a little at a time, until it all thickens up. Mix in the remaining ingredients, then stir in the fruit and transfer it all to your ice cream freezer to let 'er rip. This makes about 2 quarts.

Anyway, Sunday night dinner was awesome too - did you know that you can stuff steak? I had a lovely flank steak, which I marinated in soy sauce and olive oil with a bit of molasses and garlic, and I cut a deep pocket into it while it marinated. I stuffed it with some barley that I cooked with sage and some other spices, as well as carrot and green onion, and then slow-roasted the whole shebang. It was perfect! We will definitely be doing barley-stuffed steak again. I served it with the asparagus we'd gotten at the farmers' market, steamed up with some lemon, and a nice red wine. Perfect for a rainy Sunday:

Yesterday was much less peaceful, got the house clean finally (the one thing I miss about apartment living is getting all the cleaning done in two hours) and got caught up on bills and all the mundane welcome-back-to-life stuff. And now, we're officially caught up and back home. We took a nice walk to His Bakery this morning and read the paper over breakfast (a lemon-ginger scone for him, a pecan cinnamon roll for me). Keith's been doing yard work, since it's mercifully not raining yet, though it looks like it wants to. I'm about to go munch on some leftover blackeyed peas and cornbread (which we had with mustard greens for dinner last night) and get some writing in. It's all so mundane but I love that it's all getting back to normal.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

We're Home! (A Very Portland Weekend.)

Oh man, am I exhausted! But it's the good kind.

We made it from L.A. to Portland in one 18-hour day, including a stop for lunch at a decent little pizzeria in Northern California, and a trip to a kitchen goods outlet store, which is a dangerous place for us to be but we scored a great deal on a salad spinner I really wanted and a very nice ice cream maker at half the retail price. Yay for homemade ice cream! We've really wanted an ice cream maker for some time now so that we can make our own deliciousness out of raw milk/cream and good organic fruits and herbs. Coincidentally we also scored ten bananas for fifty cents at our little produce market here in Portland yesterday, so it looks like banana ice cream is first up (though more on that later)!

Anyway, we also made the obligatory stop in Central Point, Oregon, for Rogue Creamery cheese and Lillie Belle chocolates, plus a very pleasant wine tasting. So we weren't in the car for the full 18 hours. But we were still pretty exhausted by the time we got in, about 10:30 pm. We loved on the cats some and passed out.

Since then it's been a flurry of catching up. Portland has suffered through a pretty massive rain in our absence, yesterday being the last day of a twenty-day run of straight rain. This is typical of winter around here but not summer, and no one knows why it happened. The most noticeable effect of it all was evident even as we pulled into our driveway in the dark: an explosion of roses, and knee-high weedy grass. Oops.

So we had mowing and weeding and staking roses to get through, plus unpacking, laundry, straightening up, restocking chick feed, restocking people feed, marveling over the chicks' incredible growth, and otherwise restoring the balance. We've been hard at work and still aren't done yet. I hope to finish tomorrow.

But today was Saturday, so we went to Sauvie Island for the afternoon. We made a stop at Kruger's Farm for fresh-picked, candy-sweet roasted corn, then headed for the beach, where we waded through thigh-high flooding to get to a narrow strip of sand along the swollen, fast-moving river. After so much rain ending in a sunny warm Saturday, all of Portland was out enjoying the weather today, but our strip of beach wasn't too crowded and we soaked up some vitamin D and relaxed for awhile. Eventually we headed back to Kruger's Farm to pick ourselves five pints of strawberries.

We got home sun-tired and woozy, but hungry, so I quickly seared and roasted a fresh salmon filet we bought yesterday (with fresh rosemary from the yard), and served it up atop a lovely salad of red lettuce, green onions, red turnips, sunflower seeds, and smoked bleu cheese. A lemon vinaigrette held it together nicely, made with a lemon from Keith's father's lemon tree (that tree makes the sweetest, juiciest, tastiest lemons I've ever had). The salmon was so perfectly moist and flaky, and went so nicely with the smoked bleu cheese, that we both just sat at the table quietly licking our lips like cats for several minutes before Keith got up to do the dishes.

I was going to make the banana ice cream tonight, but I'm just too freaking tired right now to skim the cream off the three half-gallons of raw milk we have in the fridge, much less cook up the custard and make ice cream. So I'll save that for tomorrow. It'll be a good day for it, since tomorrow is the first day of the Lents International Farmers Market (our favorite market in Portland, and also our closest one)! We'll have to celebrate with strawberry-banana ice cream now since we picked all those strawberries. Maybe we got too many, but they were so brilliantly red and sweet, still warm from the sun - I could've picked the whole field and brought it home.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bye, L.A.!

This month down south is over, and in seven hours we'll be hitting the highway to go home! (So of course, I can't fall asleep. OF COURSE. Hence my blogging quietly in a dark room with the screen dimmed.)

We had a very nice last day in town. Went for a walk on the beach this morning, and watched a wild sea lion playing in the surf. We'd just lost him and were about to head back when three dolphins approached, so close we could've waded out to pet them. They cruised along as dolphins do, casually enjoying the morning, when out of nowhere the smallest one leapt from the water - RIGHT IN FRONT OF US - and did a little twist-flip on the way back down. They all continued on their way after that as though nothing had happened. Keith said it was almost like he did that just for our benefit. There was no one else around, early on an overcast Tuesday morning.

After that we walked on back and made our plans for the day. Keith dropped me off in Hollywood, where I had my favorite Thai lunch with a good friend, and then she and I went shopping for some incredible jewelry at the 1928 Outlet Store (everything half off!) and browsed around the other nearby shops. Meanwhile Keith had lunch with friends of his and browsed his favorite stores in L.A., Y Que and Glory. We met up again when we were done, and he and I headed down to Redondo for a walk with his dad and the dogs, and then the three of us (sans dogs) went to Ortega 120 for a fresh-and-delicious Mexican dinner.

Funny how I always thought I hated Mexican food before I moved to L.A. and actually had Mexican food. The nasty canned-goods enchiladas I had in the school cafeteria can't ever be compared to the mango-jicama salad I had tonight, topped with sliced all-natural carne asada, served with an incredible margarita made with fresh-squeezed juice. I'm off in happy la-la-land again, just thinking about that meal...

... Whew! And I'm back, still stuffed to the gills.

We're packed up mostly, the car is loaded and all we have to do when the alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m. is hit the snooze button for another two hours put our clothes on, brush our teeth, and go. We're leaving early so we'll be out of the desert by the time the sun gets insufferably hot, and also because Keith wants to make the whole trip to Portland in one day, which is a heroically long schlep but at least we can stop at the Rogue Creamery and Lillie Belle Farms again on the way up.

And until then, I really should at least try to get some sleep.