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Archive for February, 2010

B and I love cooking.  And we love trying new things.  She is reading a cheese making book as I type this post.  I think she plans to make her first attempts at ricotta and cream cheese this week.  I’m pretty excited about it.

I, on the other hand, have been trying my hand at home brewing.  My bride bought me a very nice home brewing kit for Christmas.  It looks like a grown up chemistry set.  And it kind of is.  A few weeks back I made my first attempt, a German style light (After all, I am on a diet).  Two weeks ago, we bottled it.  Tonight we had our first taste test.  It’s very good.  The carbonation is just right.  It has a good head on it and it tastes very fresh and clean. I am extremely pleased and can’t wait to try a different recipe.  The only problem is, we don’t drink much beer and the darned recipe makes 5 gallons.  I see lots of beer batter, Cajun cooking and barbecue sauces in my future.  Anybody thirsty?

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Time For a Little R & R

Today is the long awaited day.  It will start like all the others, I will shower, shave and head to the office.  But it will end a little differently.  At about 3 p.m. I will check out early, drive home, load a couple suitcases in the car, wait for B to climb in the passenger seat, then we are off on vacation.  We are putting East of Eden into hibernation for 5 days and heading for the Bahamas.  I am psyched.

We have great neighbors who will look after the house.  The dogs are going to the kennel at our vet (they always gain a bunch of weight there).  We will water the seedlings and house plants and then try and beat the rush hour traffic through Atlanta.

February is the best month for a vacation for us, followed by November.  Feb. is mostly down time.  The weather is still cold.  Seedlings don’t take a lot of work, and things are very slow at my job.  So……..we’re outta here!  See ya next week.

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Yesterday morning, before getting ready for Church, I fried up two of the pastured eggs we picked up from a local farm.  It seems appropriate to share my first impressions.

Before that, some background.  Making the move has been hard for me, because I am such a bargain lover.  Ok, I’m a cheapskate.  After all, eggs are eggs, right?  Maybe not.

For some time, B and I have been uneasy about the conditions of chickens kept in commercial batteries.  We are true animal lovers and the thought of eating the product of such cruelty has weighed on our minds.  Recently, the nutritional quality of commercial eggs has also bothered us.  The balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 is way off kilter as a result of the chickens’ diet.  And why do they have to be so ultra pasteurized (the same question should be asked of milk, but that’s for another day)?

In a totally uncontrolled experiment, a few weeks back, when we went to the supermarket, we purchased some ‘organic, cage free’ eggs.  We paid considerably more than for the regular eggs.  When we fried them up side by side, we saw zero difference.  The yolks were the same pale yellow, the taste was indistinguishable.  So what was the big deal?  Price, that’s what!  Ok, maybe the organic ones had some nutritional superiority and maybe the chickens are less cruelly treated, but I have only the carton’s word for that.  We were disappointed.

B and I are avid fans of Polyface  Farm in Virginia and Nature’s Harmony Farm right down the road in Elberton, GA.  Reading about their eggs made us curious about pastured eggs versus ‘organic’.  So, on Saturday we drove over to nearby Carlton Farms, in Rockmart who have converted their traditional commercial dairy farm into a more natural, sustainable wholistic farm model.  They have cows, pigs, lambs and chickens doing something really weird…. grazing.  We saw, with our own eyes, the chickens wandering through the pasture, enjoying their chickenhood.  The sight was strangely comforting.  We bought two dozen eggs at  $3 a dozen.  Yikes.

Now, back to the cooking.  The first thing I noticed were the shells.  No, not the color.  These were brown,  but that’s rather superficial.  I’m sure there are plenty of pastured breeds laying white eggs.  It was the thickness of the shell that struck me.  It took a much firmer thump to crack the shell.  There was a noticeable difference between my experience with commercial and organic eggs which have very thin shells.  That was my first sign that we were onto chickens with a healthier diet.

Next up was the yolk.  The yolks in the pastured eggs were a much darker yellow, again a product of diet, exercise and I suspect natural cycles of sunlight and darkness (these birds see both).  But it was the integrity of the yolks that most impressed me.  When I flipped the eggs, the yolks didn’t even attempt to break.  They stayed firmly shaped in their little sacks.

But the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.  And these were good eating.  The egg whites did not taste any different to me than with factory eggs.  They held together better in the pan and didn’t run everywhere, but the taste was still plain old egg white.  B will have to test them for whipping, I don’t make desserts.  No skill for it.  But the flavor of the yolk was far superior in the pastured eggs.  They were……….well,….eggier.  They were richer, creamier and more filling.

Simply put, my first impression of pastured eggs was a very good one.  The cost is roughly the same as store bought  ‘organic, cage free’.  But the quality was superior in every way.  And the experience of actually seeing the chickens wandering the pasture was priceless.  We are SOLD!

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B and I finally took the plunge and are cutting ourselves off of commercially produced meat, poultry and milk.  It has been a difficult decision, because our financial and ‘nutritional’ convictions have been in conflict.  We are fairly frugal.  We live on a budget and every dime screams for attention.  We don’t like to waste money.  I write frequently about financial issues on my “Recession Proof Living” page.

But we are also very conscious about what we eat.  We have grown weary of chemical laced canned foods and tasteless, pesticide soaked, wax coated ‘fresh’ food.  That’s one of the reasons East of Eden was born.  We have come a long way in creating and consuming better fruits and veg.  But meat and dairy have lagged behind.  Mostly, that’s been financially driven.  We can produce our plant products as cheaply and usually more cheaply than we can buy them, so our nutrition has gone up while our cost has gone down.  We can’t produce our own beef, pork, poultry or dairy, so we are reliant on supermarkets.  In the supermarket, there are some very inexpensive cuts of meat, some very low cost eggs, and at the right stores, milk goes for a song.  Those prices meet my financial expectations.

So, tightwad Sam is happy, but Sam the natural food and animal lover is dismayed.  Brittan has had a full fledged crisis of conscience.  We like meat.  That’s a fact.  But we believe animals should be treated with respect and allowed to live as naturally and die as humanely as possible.  Most commercially produced beef, poultry, pork, eggs and dairy are loaded with chemicals and the animals live despicable lives.  The treatment of animals in feed lots, poultry farms and processing plants is a violation of God’s created order.  And in the end, God’s plan will always trump my pocket book.

After reading, discussing, researching and much praying we decided several things:  1.  We will find a way to provide as much of our own meat as possible.  That means raising meat rabbits and probably fish right here on in the burb.  2.  We will do more hunting and fishing.  3.  When we purchase, we will buy only pastured chicken, pork and eggs; grass fed beef and milk.  3.  We will eat out much less frequently.  4.  We will accept the fact that our grocery bill is going up.

We started today.  We are content with our decision.  We do have some meat in the freezer that we will eat.  We paid for it and waste would be disrespectful, too.  But from today, our lives have changed.  Here we stand.

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Hey, that kind of rhymes.  Lyrical or not, it has been frustrating to watch our dwarf orange tree lose leaves by the bucket full.  So, I did a little research.  The good news, ‘leaf drop’ (what an original name) is rather common.  The bad news, it’s my fault.  I have done everything wrong since we got this little tree.

First, I let it get too dry.  Then, apparently I over watered it.  I also let it get to cold then warmed the roots too fast and too high.

It would appear that so far I have done nothing right by this poor plant.  What a knuckle head.  I think I can save it.  The tree is not dead, so there is still hope.

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It seems like only yesterday that B and I created our three year plan to become self sufficient in Veg and Fruit.  Yet this is the third year.  Not only are we ahead of schedule, but we anticipate growing a surplus this year and setting up a stall at the Marietta Square Farmers’ Market in Marietta, GA.

I just completed the application.  I have no idea how this will all turn out, but we are very excited.  It is quite satisfying to know that we can provide tasty, healthy fare for our own table and even enough to offer to the general public.  And, we do it all  on our little half acre of land, deep in the heart of an HOA.  I love Georgia.

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Ok, I’m late to the party.  So sue me.  B and I finally broke down and watched Food, Inc. this weekend.  It was disturbing enough, we watched it twice.

For those who haven’t seen it, the film is essentially highlights from the writings of Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma).  It focuses on the role Big Agra and Big Govt. play in the food we buy and consume.  It is a politically and morally disturbing film.  While the filmmaker, Robert Kenner does a good job at attempting to be non partisan, the overall world view of the film comes across as left of center.  That is neither a condemnation nor a commendation, merely an observation.

I applaud the makers of Food, Inc for attempting to lift the veil on the cruelty and cold hearted nature inside much of the world of Big Agra.  Smithfield and Monsanto come off worst, though Perdue and Tyson receive some body blows as well.  Ironically, Wal Mart comes out of the film as a reluctant good guy.  Their motives for increasing their lines of organic options is questioned, but the practice is applauded.

The most visually disturbing segments involve animal cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses.  That is to be expected, I think.  But we all need to see it.  We should not hide from the truth and the truth should not be hidden from us.

The most emotionally upsetting portion for me, was the story of Monsanto’s legal pursuit of a seed cleaner for “encouraging farmers into patent violations”.  It was a chilling insight into the financial and legal muscle of that organization.

By far, my favorite bits were those focusing on Polyface Farm.  The contrast of their operations with those of Big Agra and Big Meat was like watching a movie in 3-D color vs black and white flat 2-D.  Glaring, is the word that comes to mind.  Images of cows on grass vs standing knee deep in muck and pigs roaming freely verses the factory swine crammed into small pens and slaughter houses provided a needed emotional reprieve.

On the whole, Food Inc. was strong on problems, light on solutions.  A handful of ideas scrolled across the screen just before the credits was not altogether satisfying.   Frankly, even the ideas like “vote at the checkout and three times a day” are conceptual rather than practical for the overwhelming majority of us who live of budgets to make ends meet.  And, “plant a garden”, while a great idea (we obviously do), almost answers a question not seriously addressed, and ignores the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” over what to do about meat.  Most of us are not going to become vegetarian!  Grass fed meats are expensive.  Budgets are tight.  That’s a problem.  I’ll tackle some possible solutions another time, this post is about the movie.

I avoided this movie for a long time because I usually avoid politically loaded films.  I’m glad I checked it out.  We will probably buy a copy so we can loan it out to friends.  It’s not something we will want to pull out and pop into the DVD player on many occasions.  But we want it as a reminder to help us stay on the nutritional path we have chosen:  one that respects God’s creation, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, and especially human.

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