IANS – Raw Foods

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Raw milk butter in the making.


It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain

When George Gershwin composed the song It Ain’t Necessarily So, he was onto something. I’d love to have a nickel for everything I was taught or told or just accepted as fact in the course of my life. From food preservation to gardening to animal husbandry to medicine to finance, there have been a lot more ‘not-so’ things than ‘so’ things. A while back I did a post on not needing to waterbath jams and jellies; I got more than 100 comments corroborating my “not-so” position. At which point it occurred to me there are lots of other not-so things out there, and shazaam, I had an ongoing blog topic. Here’s the latest “it ain’t necessarily so” (IANS).

You can’t eat certain foods raw.
Among these no-no’s are raw milk, raw eggs and raw meat. Let’s demolish the raw milk nonsense first. As long as the milk cow is healthy and the milking practices sanitary (not sterile, just basic cleanliness) you can drink raw milk until the cows come home. Millions of people all over the world have done so for thousands of years and continue to do so, without any ill effects. In some countries in Europe, you can buy bottles of raw milk from vending machines. Moreover, raw milk is more nutritious than the pasteurized stuff.

Breakfast eggs; no washing or refrigeration needed.

When it comes to raw eggs, there’s a caveat – you can’t eat store-bought eggs raw. Store-bought eggs are washed. This removes the protective coating which would otherwise protect them from bacteria getting into the egg. Not to mention that the water in which the eggs are washed is not particularly sanitary as it is continually reused to wash large numbers of eggs, so as the eggs are stripped of their protective coating, they are also often being inoculated with bacteria. Think of the condition of the wash water when you finish hand-washing dishes – quite the primordial soup. It’s best to eat only the freshest of raw eggs and you should make sure the shells are clean and intact. Common sense should tell you not to eat eggs that have mud or manure on them. You can, if you desire, wash the eggs just prior to cracking them.

Home raised, grass fed.

Plenty of people eat raw meat – think steak tartare, which is simply finely chopped raw beef (although it may also be horsemeat or venison). The meat is typically mixed with onions, capers, a raw egg and perhaps a bit of Worchestershire sauce. And of course, there’s sushi. As with commercial eggs, I would be leery of eating commercially raised meats raw, as those animals are not raised in ideal conditions and there are plenty of ways for them to become contaminated by sloppy processing practices. But your home-raised meats should be fine. There’s a bit more of a risk with raw pork, because pigs raised in foraging situations may eat meat from wild animals infested with trichinella spiralis, the bug that causes trichinosis. If you raise your own pork and control what your animals eat, there’s little to no risk. Even if you don’t want to eat meats raw, you can rest assured that it is not necessary to cook them to death, particularly pork, which only needs to be cooked to 135 degrees, not the 170 degrees many “experts” recommend.

Take a Missouri Approach
Missouri is the “show me” state. The mental attitude of “you’ll have to prove it to me” is a good one. Use your common sense. When your experience or that of people you trust is contrary to accepted scientific wisdom or expert recommendations, odds are very high the scientific wisdom and the experts are out to lunch. Ask the old homicide lawyer’s question, “Cui bono?” Loosely translated as “Who benefits?” what it actually means is “To whose profit?” When big bucks, company survival or professional reputations are on the line, ethics quite often take a back seat. Circus entrepreneur PT Barnum was the one who coined the sucker-born-every-minute rule. Don’t be a sucker and remember: it ain’t necessarily so.

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Herb Season

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A mature horehound plant. Note the dry, weedy conditions.

To everything there is a season, and at my house it’s herb season. Mind, it’s still calf-feeding season and gardening season and a whole lot of other seasons, but herbs are most defective for medicinal use when gathered at the right time. The late spring and early summer are when I gather yarrow, horehound, mint, monkey flowers, chamomile, St. John’s Wort, mullein and elderflower. Later in the year I return to the elderberry tree for ripe berries and in the fall, it’s time to harvest willow bark. The best time to gather aerial parts varies according to the plant and which of those parts you want. With mint and horehound, the volatile oils are strongest just before the flowers appear. For yarrow, elderflower, monkey flower and chamomile, I want the flowers themselves, so I gather them in full bloom. Both flowers and leaves from the mullein are valuable, so I gather leaves just before it flowers and then make a return trip for the flowers. Here’s a bit about each.

Chamomile hung to dry; this time of the year, the house is festooned with all sorts of herbs.

Chamomile – German chamomile and Roman chamomile can be used pretty much interchangeably, although German tends to be a bit better for skin conditions. The tea is used to help calm anxiety and promote sleep, while it also makes a good eyewash (used cold) for conjunctivitis, or pinkeye. Externally applied, chamomile can sooth skin irritations and itching from chicken pox and eczema. If you’re allergic to ragweed, use chamomile cautiously at first, as the two are related.
Elderberry – the flowers are useful in a tea for a mouthwash or gargle for sore throats. Berries, when cooked, strained and mixed with ginger, cinnamon, cloves and honey, make a good antiviral syrup to help protect against flu and clods.
Horehound – this very bitter herb makes great cough syrup. I brew a batch each fall from dried leaves and keep it in the fridge all winter.
Mint – wild mint (this is a spearmint in my locale, not peppermint, but mints can be used interchangeably) makes a nice tea and an excellent mosquito repellant. Insects in general don’t much care for mint and ants tend to avoid it, especially peppermint – just spray it on their trails.
Monkey Flower – one of the Bach flower remedies, mimulus is used for anxiety and “nervous conditions.” The alcohol-based tincture is usually added to a tea.
Mullein – one of those herbs that seem to do almost everything, mullein is used for asthma and other lung problems, earaches, bruises, burns, hemorrhoids and gout. The leaves may used to make tea or smoked for asthma, while the essential oil can be applied to the skin when diluted in a carrier oil.
St. John’s Wort – used for depression, but I collect the flowers to make a sun-infused oil that’s good for treating skin irritations and wounds.

St. John’s Wort; the flowers are actually quite small, about the size of my little fingernail.

Yarrow – useful for fever and colds, to induce sweating and for wounds. The fresh leaves can help relieve toothache when chewed. The name Achillea millefolium comes for the Greek hero Achilles, who used it to stop bleeding in battlefield wounds and the finely divided leaves (millefolium means thousand-leaved).

Yarrow flowers; the leaves are also useful (and edible).

I gather these, give them a 10-minute soak in salt water to get rid of bugs and then hang them to dry. Then I remove the flowers (or in the case of horehound, the leaves), put them in labeled glass jars and store in a dark place. They’ll be good for at least a year. Sometimes I turn them into tinctures later in the year when things slow down a bit.

Remember when using herbs – although most are gentle, they can have side effects. Get a good herbal or expert advice and use them correctly.

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Ranch Cats – Some Thoughts on the Newest

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It’s a little hard to tell in the picture, but this is a small cat – about the size of my two fists held together.

We have acquired a new cat. This is a bit unusual, as in my experience, cats acquire you. They simply show up one day and decide you belong to them. In the 38 years of our marriage, we have only acquired (as in deliberately brought home) five cats of the 30+ we’ve owned. The first was a half-bobcat orange tiger my husband brought home when we lived in Idaho. Rusty was a ferocious hunter; his favorite prey was snowshoe rabbits, which he would eat on the front porch, leaving the remains in just the right place for me to step on each morning as I went out to get wood for the fire. The next two were a pair of short-tailed Manx brothers named – with good reason – Captain Chaos and Rip and Tear. Shadow was another half-bobcat. Hubby brought home the semi-wild two-month old black cat, who hid under the bed for almost two weeks and then decided I was his human. Highly social, Shadow was an early bird. About 4:30 every morning he would leap onto the bed, stroll up my slumbering frame, stick his nose into my ear and say PURRR! In other words, “Get up, Mom, it’s morning.”
The latest curtain climber (literally) is another husband-acquired feline. Hubby happened to be in the local pharmacy when a woman was trying to convince one of the pharmacy techs to take the cat; the tech said no, but hubby caved. Bit of a softy, my husband. So we now have Radar, The BatCat (so named because he has a Radar O’Reilly habit of walking through the house with both big ears scanning back and forth), which brings us back up to our usual four cats. Cats are invaluable in rattlesnake country, as they help keep down the rodents that rattlesnakes like to eat. When you are feeding chickens and pigs and such, you nearly always have some spilled grain around and the mice quickly find it. Then the rattlesnakes find the mice, which can lead to hair-raising experiences like having a snake dart over your hand when you reach in the feed container. Luckily, in that case the snake was a young-un and more frightened than I was – he just wanted to get away.
Radar is one of the rowdiest cats I have ever run across. I haven’t found him actually hanging from the ceiling yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Nothing is safe – dogs’ tails, bits of newspaper, tennis balls, shoestrings, bare toes, pants legs. The two male cats currently in residence have accepted him, but they’re a bit elderly in their late teens and have no burning desire to engage in games of tag or wrestling matches. When confronted by a small black demon who thundered across the floor and leaped on them with all four legs outspread like a ninja, they were Not Amused. Rosie, the older dog, sighs loudly and gets up and moves when Radar tries to entice her into a game of Pouncing-Walking-and-Jumping-On-The-Dog. Pip, less patient and more high strung, growls swear words in Canine.
Radar next started pestering CeeCee, the female, who is a few months shy of a year. Her initial reaction was outright hostility, followed by disdain and cold-shouldering. Radar is a persistent little beggar, however, and the two now spend considerable time engaged in tag, wrestling and tree-climbing, all to the accompaniment of growling, hissing and spitting that is as sincere as the same sort of thing in a professional wrestling match. I suspect CeeCee has met her match – she tore up a tree the other day with Radar in hot pursuit. Not only could she not get away from him, he climbed the tree right behind her and then climbed over the top of her when she didn’t move fast enough to suit him.
When he’s worn himself out, he collapses into the instant sleep stage of the very young, on my chest with his head against my chin or lying with his head on my left wrist (makes typing awkward). I know it won’t be long before he becomes a grown-up, so as one must do with young things, I’m enjoying every minute of his short childhood.

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