What We Eat


A five-minute picking round first thing in the morning; about as local as it gets.

One of the women I work with asked me the other day, “So since you have this big garden and everything, what do you eat?” I figured “Pretty much everything” probably wasn’t the answer she was looking for. Just because I try to grow a lot of our food doesn’t mean we eat weird stuff. To me, weird stuff is Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, Spaghetti-Os and bottled salad dressing. So OK, what do we eat?

Chuck Roast.

We eat meat. Although we will buy bacon when we don’t have pigs, most of our meat is grown on the ranch. At the moment I have home-grown beef and chicken in the freezer (and a nice big chuck roast in the oven). Right now we also have lots of venison and elk from hubby’s hunting trip earlier this year. Other wild meats such as goose and duck are also in the freezer at the moment. No lamb at the moment – need to get a new sheep house built that is cougar-proof before we try to raise more woollies.

Morning haul.

We eat eggs. Now that we’re past the winter solstice the chickens are picking up the egg-laying pace again, so most of the time I have four or five dozen eggs in the fridge.

The good stuff – working water out of freshly churned raw butter.

We eat fat. Yeah, I know, not politically correct. We use lard, tallow, coconut oil and olive oil. When possible, I buy olive oil from the local orchard. It shows up in the fall at the health food store in the big town (and goes really fast!). And we eat butter and cream cheese, especially when we have a milk cow and it’s home-made.

Summer apples.

We eat fruit. We have so many fruit trees on the place (not to mention the wild blackberries) that as long as we pick and preserve in some fashion we will never run short of fruit. Apples, pears, plums (plus wild plums), cherries, an Asian pear, elderberries and grapes grow all over the ranch. Some were deliberately planted, while others were obviously dropped by birds or tossed by a ranch hand who took one in a lunch bucket. I think I’m going to have to break down and buy a new Meyer lemon tree, though. The current tree is elderly and I’m pretty sure it’s on its last legs – err, trunk.

Summer squash: Black Zucchini, Early Prolific Straightneck, Cocozelle, Yellow Patty Pan and a few Crystal Apple cucumbers.

We eat veggies. In our climate, I can grow darn near anything. My plantings are limited only by space, water and the food dislikes of family members. For example, I’m the only one who eats beets, but everybody eats summer squash, tomatoes and corn. Good thing about that summer squash, since if there’s a sure thing in the garden surplus department, summer squash would be IT.

When they were little, the kids always wanted “Maybelle” milk – not the store-bought stuff.

We drink milk. Right now, hubby’s drinking the store-bought stuff (which I won’t touch) because he has to have milk in some form. Since Violet’s not going to work out as a family cow, I’m on the lookout for a new milk cow. He also drinks tea and we both drink coffee.
What don’t we eat? Well, I eat very little grain and when I do, it’s not wheat – hubby likes French toast or a sandwich occasionally. Although I buy sugar, the hummingbirds are the primary beneficiaries of the white stuff. I bake a pie or cake about three times a year. I haven’t had any luck with preserving olives, so I do buy those. And occasionally we’ll buy a pizza at my daughter’s store or something like potato chips. I don’t buy canned veggies or prepared foods or fruit (except peaches – the peach trees are still young-uns) or baked goods.

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The Real Normals – High Cholesterol


Raw milk butter; one of the healthiest fats out there and not a cause of high cholesterol.

I’m an old nurse. Literally. I graduated in 1968. When you spend half a century in the same career, you are uniquely positioned to evaluate the changes that have occurred in the medical field. If you pay attention, you can begin to put things together and identify certain trends. One of those trends is how “normal” health indicators have changed in the course of those fifty years. That is not a good thing – in many cases, what was once considered normal is now considered a disease. And of course, a disease must be treated, preferably with the newest and most expensive medication. While treatment lines the pockets of the drug companies, it often does the patient no good.
The High Cholesterol Myth
Lots of people track their cholesterol levels and agonize over the numbers. Doctors scold those who “aren’t low enough.” To what end? I’ve talked about this before, but there is plenty of evidence that high cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease. You need it for brain and nervous system health; your body will make it if necessary. Even the most die-hard believers in the conventional medical establishment have finally admitted that dietary cholesterol doesn’t raise your cholesterol levels. So it’s disheartening to see how many people are on statin medications, which may lower their high cholesterol levels but otherwise do them no good and in some cases do active harm.

Ground beef fat in the crockpot, ready to render.

Normal vs. High Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels vary widely in healthy people (by the way, they normally tend to be higher as you get older). The levels in healthy people range from 105 mg/dL to 343 mg/dL. When I graduated, a normal cholesterol level was around 220 mg/dL. These days, normal is supposed to be less than 200 mg/dL. Data on cholesterol levels over the years indicates the average (that doesn’t mean it’s healthy) cholesterol has dropped from 222 mg/dL in 1960-1962 to 203 mg/dL in 2002. During roughly the same period, statin use increased 24% in men over age 60 and 22% in women of the same age. Hmmm – a normal rise in cholesterol has now been dubbed a disease, which means there’s a market for statins. Anybody smell a rat? Even more important, evidence is beginning to emerge that high cholesterol is a biological anti-inflammation tactic. In other words, the real problem is increased inflammation, which your body is fighting by producing more cholesterol. The primary causes of inflammation? Dietary sugar – especially high-fructose corn syrup – a sedentary lifestyle, chemical or toxin exposure, stress and diabetes.
Benefits of Cholesterol
Take this to heart – cholesterol is essential to life. You have cholesterol in every cell membrane. It insulates nerve cells. Without adequate cholesterol, your body cannot build cell walls. It’s a critical component of bile, which is made in the liver and helps digest fats. Liver damage, by the way, is one of the most common side effects of statins. Your body uses cholesterol to make vitamin D and many hormones. There’s evidence that it helps support the immune system, is used in serotonin uptake (which helps you sleep and stay calm) and may serve as an antioxidant. Stored in the liver, it is sent to areas where there is inflammation and tissue damage to help promote repair. It’s also the main dietary source of B-choline, a critical vitamin for the nervous system. So when your doctor says, “You have high cholesterol” and offers statin medications, you might want to answer, “PASS!”
Think about it.

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Rainy Day


The weather wishers said today would be a rainy day. Based on what’s been happening since I got up around 4:30, I think they may have underestimated just a bit. The clouds are so low and heavy that it looks like the middle of the night when you look out the window, even though the sun rose – somewhere up there – several hours ago. We’ve had thunder and lightning strikes within a mile or less and rain varying from a few pitter-patters to stand-under-the-shower-full-blast downpours. Not to mention hail. At the moment it’s the latter. So once the basic outside chores are done, I’m focused on inside work for the duration of this rainy day. The whole next week is expected to be sunny and mild. I can guarantee I’m not going to be inside unless it’s too dark to see…
Dishes – the youngest granddaughters are here for the day, so lots more dishes than I usually have. This is vintage Nortake china, 12 place settings, that I got off Craigslist for 95 bucks. A full set is worth between $500 and $900. Even though I had to pay an additional $150 for the completer dishes from Replacements.com, I’m way ahead on the deal. My other set of china was at least 50 years old and I have never been able to find replacement pieces. I was down to four place settings that weren’t chipped (as in major chunks, not little slivers) or so badly stained the white was beige and brown.

Having 12 place settings gives me more leeway in the dishes department on the crazy-busy days.

I like this pattern; subtle but decorative.

Cookies – our microwave died a few weeks back. Well, more accurately, it tried to catch itself on fire. A neighbor gave us a smaller one he’d only used a few times. I could do just fine without a microwave, but hubby gets crotchety when he has to reheat food the old-fashioned way. So I was thrilled not to have to spend money on something I didn’t want in the first place. The chocolate chip cookies are for a thank-you (plus a few for hubby and the kids– otherwise I’ll never get out the door with the others).

Have to have lots of nuts. Hubby will eat cookies (and cake) without nuts, but he bitches, gripes and grumbles the whole time.

This is the third batch. Hubby and the kids made short work of the first two.

Paperwork – filing, tax preparation, updating the ranch journal.
Laundry – as I’ve mentioned before, if there’s a never-ending story around here, it’s about the laundry. And when you’ve had six inches of rain in less than five days – as we’ve just had – the mud is calf-deep in some places. I had six loads today. Plus the clothes and such from hubby’s last hunting trip and my clinic work clothes (which I darned sure don’t wash with the other stuff). I start with the muddy stuff and after everything else is washed, my white lab coat goes through.
Cleaning up the fridge – by the end of the week, the refrigerator tends to accumulate things. Among them are the chuck roast we had for dinner last Sunday. Even though we’ve been using it for lunches and leftovers, it will spoil before we finish it. So my usual tactic is to whack it into two-person servings and freeze them. Very useful when life gets out of hand and there’s no time to cook. That nice meaty bone from the roast and the fond in the bottom of the casserole dish, plus some other bone leftovers and vegetable trimmings from the freezer, will make good broth for vegetable, beef barley or minestrone soup.

With grass-fed beef and older animals, cooking meat right out of the freezer is the best way to go. Start at 450 degrees for the first hour, then turn the oven down to 250; check the temperature about three hours later. You want it between 130-135 degrees.

This is what the roast looks like five hours later – tender, succulent and delicious.

What do the rest of you do on a rainy day?

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