Five interesting things from our guest speakers

We had two guest speakers, Ozarks Farm and Neighbor Publisher Lynzee Glass & Springfield Leather Company Facebook Manager Christy Diebold (I don’t believe this is her title, but this is the position she holds that she basically briefed), for our class during our teacher’s, Jaime Johansen, absence on 2-6-2013.

Ozarks Farm and Neighbor site

Ozarks Farm and Neighbor site

  I enjoyed hearing them speak and share how public media–Facebook in particular–shaped the organizations they work for and even provided them chances to excel or create attention to the companies that employ them.  As part of last week’s assignment, I was to collect the top five fun facts I took away from the class, which are (plus one additional):

  1. It can take a lot of work convincing your boss of the necessity of Facebook and blogging, etc. for the business to grow
  2. Such a quick expansion can come from using free social networking for businesses
  3. You don’t need articles all the time in business posts; pictures and questions engaging your fans generates a ton of attention from your followers
  4. The admin site for business on Facebook is way cooler than the normal user’s version
  5. You have to have a personal Facebook account to setup a business account
  6. Springfield Leather Company uses [I think annoying little] Chihuahuas as mascots very uniquely and successfully through YouTube videos

    Springfield Leather Company Chihuahua mascot

    Springfield Leather Company Chihuahua mascot

I learned a lot about how to create a “following” on Facebook.  Since then I have noticed how individuals I’m friends with who operate a small business or service have been able to expand their following.  Very interesting…and most importantly, very free!

Blessings,

Michelle

Grass-fed or Grain-fed?

I spent my entire life growing up around dairy and beef cattle who were raised nearly exclusively on grass, so the idea of feedlots or factory farms was entirely foreign to me until I started investigating the food my family was consuming.  Like many women I’ve encountered, having a baby made me consider everything that goes into my son’s body (and consequently my husband’s and mine own).

Happy cow

Happy cow

One of the first things I discovered was the meat we had been eating wasn’t coming from a farm like the one I grew up on.  More likely, it was either from cattle who spent a lot of time on a feedlot consuming grain that wasn’t part of their natural diet.  I truly began to adapt the “foodie” attitude and really focused on how our bodies respond to certain diets and lifestyles.

Not a lot of foraging here

Not a lot of foraging here

Grass-fed versus grain-fed

In specific, beef cattle who forage produce some of the healthiest meat available for us to consume.  I’m not claiming cattle shouldn’t be fed any grain, but the type of grain and how much given is critical.  Grain is used to essentially grow cattle larger and faster than if they were foraging alone.  When cattle are given more grain than grass, I equate it to given humans fewer vegetables and more starches and meat.  The article Diet And Disease In Cattle: High-Grain Feed May Promote Illness And Harmful Bacteria details some information on feeding cattle mostly grain.

We’re blessed in our country with an abundance of land for animals to roam, yet only 1% of America’s beef supply comes from purely grass-fed cattle.[1]  Why don’t we see more grass-fed beef?  Well, it take longer to finish the cattle for processing and they do not produce as much beef, which entails Americans basically waiting and spending more money—oh no!  Here is some information about grass-fed beef, which I think makes it worth the wait and money:Fair-Oaks-Comm-Chart

  • Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and overall has 27% less fat that grain-fed [3]
  • Per three-ounce serving, grass-fed beef has 35 mg of Omega-3s EPA and DHA, compared to only 18 mg for grain-fed [2]
  • Compared to grain-fed, grass-fed beef has twice as much Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which research shows links to easier weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease [2]
  • Levels of E. coli are usually higher in grain-fed cattle [2]
  • Much higher in antioxidants such as Beta Carotene in grass-fed beef [3]

Agriculture in America

I support of agriculture and farming.  I’m from a family of farmers and think farmers are the backbone of America—Dodge had it right when they quote Paul Harvey in their Super Bowl commercial saying God made the farmer on the 8th day.  Our country would not be where it’s at with its agriculture.  I especially support small farms like the one I grew up on.  Unfortunately, small farms won’t keep up with American’s demand for lots of inexpensive food.  The demand for cheap meat and food has caused some shortcuts essentially in American agriculture—not all shortcuts are bad mind you.  However, some of these shortcuts such as the use of hormones, genetically modified organisms, preservatives, pesticides, etc. have been banned in other socially, economically and culturally comparable countries like the United Kingdom due to their potential health risks. [4]  Things that make you go, hmm…

My family consumes organic produce (as necessary—another topic) and grass-fed meat, eggs, butter and unpasteurized milk exclusively because of the dramatic differences in nutrients and care of the animals.  Yes, the animals are given some non-GMO/organic feed, but their primary diet is grass.  Not everyone has the same opinion as I do, of course, but I do wish people could open their eyes to some of the dangers lurking out there in the food industry.  We are the unhealthiest, well-fed country in the world and are getting fatter and dying younger every year; there’s a connection, peeps. 😉

The farm we purchase our beef, eggs and unpasteurized milk from is Pasture Nectar Farm in Mount Vernon, Missouri—they deliver to several locations in and around Springfield throughout the week.  In addition to nutritional differences, the quality and taste of the products we purchase from them is beyond compare to what I’ve purchased at a store and other farms in South.  Pasture Nectar Farm is a small, family-owned farm that supplies people like me nourishing foods.  I had to give them props because they rock!  I wish I could embed a picture of one of their eggs compared to any other type of egg you can buy at a store (I don’t want to waste the money on a store-bought egg) because it’s incredible—they’re so nutrient dense with their big, deep golden-yellow yolks.  I also wish I could magically teleport tiny samples of their milk, eggs and meat products for comparison as well…would someone invent the teleport already??

A spiritual note

God provided us animals for our consumption when he commanded Noah in Genesis 9:2-3, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea into your hand they are delivered.  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.”  He gave us animals not to mass-produce and fill full of genetically modified food that isn’t natural to them just so we can have a $1 cheeseburger at McDonald’s.  We are responsible for taking care of His creation.

I believe He gave us our own bodies to be responsible for as well, which entails using discretion when opting what to put in our bodies.  The type and quantity of meat we consume is definitely a factor in our health.  Sadly, our country is relying more on reactive medicine to fix the problems diets and lifestyles got us into instead of being proactive and recognizing what we eat impacts not only the “important” things like our weight and good looks but our overall physical and mental health.

On the other hand, Jesus commanded us not to worry about what we eat in Matthew 6:25 and that we must not be anxious about how we get the food.  There is a fine line between adapting a healthy relationship with food and idolizing our bodies and the food we put in them.  I definitely struggle with getting fixated on the ingredient lists, which I’m trying to tame by moving away from buying so much premade/processed food altogether and making it myself at home.  It’s cheaper and I know what’s going into the food and our bodies.  This is a great way I can serve my family, but there are so many things I just don’t have the time to replicate, like potato chips.  I’ve made them, yes, but I ate every batch I made while cooking them.  Doh!

Budgeting for grass-fed meat

The greatest drawback to consuming grass-fed meats is the cost.  How does the frugal housewife pay for such luxuries?  I pay a premium for the local beef and pork, and even more for the pastured chicken we consume compared to average meat prices.  To offset the costs, we are very conservative with our meat consumption.  In order to best do this, we have to meal plan for at least the meat we’re planning to consume during the week with each meal.  I haven’t got serious enough about meal planning (still new at my “job”), but I do track our meat consumption throughout a week period.  My husband and I have always been big meat-eaters, so weaning ourselves down to appropriate proportions has been a bit of a challenge but worth the effort since it helps us maintain a healthy weight as well.

Second is the difficulties in purchasing it, but if you’re willing to drive to farm or pay a little more at the store, you can easily buy it.  Back to my favorite store, MaMa Jean’s, where I purchase our pork, chicken and lunch meat because they have a larger stock of meats from local farms that is readily available.  They have a great selection to choose from—everything from bison to bacon.

Closing (finally)

No matter what type of diet you have or food you eat, I think we all need to be intentional in our choices because we depend on it as a people in this country.  We are spending more on health care and disability, which are saddling our country with debt.  We are dying younger (the newest generation) and are more obese than ever before.  Our children are less active and developing diabetes more than any generation before.  Grass-fed, grain-fed or both, I hope everyone at least looks into the food they’re consuming (ignoring all the food marketing).

Blessings,

Michelle

I’m wholly nuts about Soap Nuts!

Similar to so many cloth diapering mommas, I have attempted pretty much every method of laundering to remove the “stinky” from Asher’s diapers (and cloth wipes, though they hardly take the beating diapers do) since his birth when Jesse and I started the cloth diapering.  I’ll go into our rationale for using cloth diapers in lieu of disposables in another post.  I have found success with several methods of cleaning; however, these methods required numerous washings and rinsing—a big no-no for a house lady on a budget.  Cue the soap nut and angelic ‘ahhh’…

Soap nuts by Greener Living Products LTD

My soap nuts voyage

My soap nuts journey began with a former [male] coworker with whom I spent a lot of time chatting amid work—in particular about parenting philosophies, breastfeeding, cloth diapering…and how best to keep them clean.  Side note:  my very manly coworker is a very involved father of his two wonderful children to say the least and was a tremendous blessing to me since I learned a lot from him and his wife.  We discussed soap nuts several times, but I wasn’t convinced of my need to try them until he and his wife heard the owner of a local cloth diaper store in Columbus, Georgia swears by them.  Of course, this secondhand information prompted an investigation that led me to believe soap nuts are truly God’s gift to the frugal homemaker!

Naturally, my next step was to hype them up to my husband and sister—eh, maybe a little trial should come about before for next super product?  Next I scoured the web for the cheapest soap nuts, which led me to putting a bag in my ever-filling Amazon shopping cart.  There they sat for months until I found a 1.1-pound box by Greener Living Products LTD for about $8 less at MaMa Jean’s Market.  BO-nus because I wholly support local stores, especially this one, and I didn’t have to wait for shipping!

Theory tested…and approved!

The following day I entered my trial period for my glorious soap nuts.  I threw about five nuts in a provided muslin bag and ran them through a fairly heavy wash cycle using the extra water feature on warm (or was it cold?) then dried them in the dryer as usual.  When I threw them in the dryer, I did my typical sniffing for stinkies and they smelled remarkably clean—better than ever before even with my hypersensitive smeller (thank you, pregnancy hormones)!  Wow, I must be dreaming!  After they finished drying, I discovered I had actually been dreaming…they smelled awful!  Ugh!  All my touting and fantasizing of the soap nuts was down the drain with that load.

After four uses, they're still going strong!

After four uses, they’re still going strong!

As my husband could testify, I’m not one to easily give up on things like this—I did give up on homemade dishwasher detergent after a few attempts while I was still working full-time (and only a part-time homemaker), but now that I’m a newly commissioned, full-time homemaker, I will try, try again someday…when we get a dishwasher.  I digress.  Instead of giving up on my soap nuts, I added a couple more nuts to the bag and threw them back in the wash for a second, heavier washing.  After finishing drying this time, they smelled great—not as great as they’ve been in the past with a different washing method, but a whole lot better than the first attempt.

My final trial-and-error session concluded the next washing, which now includes the soap nuts and occasionally a few drops of tea tree oil in the wash.  Ba-zing!  Our cloth diapers are cleaner and smell better than ever at a fraction of the cost.  I’m convinced my first run was a fluke and caused by build-up in the diapers—I also might have washed them on cold, which is a soap nuts no-no.  Apparently there’s a soap nut soak out there you can use to wash in cold, but I haven’t tried it.

Some quick info on soap nuts

–   They come from the berry-like fruit of the Sapindus Mukorrosi tree (yes, I’m looking into growing my own—wholly money saving potential!)
–   They produce Saponin, a natural soap compound found in soap nuts which I like to refer to as God’s soap
–   You do not need a fabric softener when you use them
–   You use 4-6 per bag in the wash, remove the bag before drying and reuse the soap nuts until they run out of soap and turn gray and mushy (4-6 times)—you can test their soapiness by shaking them in water in a glass jar to see if they produce suds still
–   If you accidentally dry them with the clothes, you can still reuse them
–   They’re the most natural detergent on the planet and are safe for everyone and everything
–   You can use them to make a multitude of other cleaning such as a mosquito repellent, shampoo, liquid laundry detergent, an all-purpose cleaner, a window & glass cleaner and in the dishwasher, which I will do…as soon as I get my dishwasher[1]

–   There is a ton of skepticism out there (I certainly was), but I’ve yet to read anything other than reviews from people like me who are entirely blown away by the efficacy of the soap nut

I have yet to use them on our normal laundry since I’ve still got some of my pricier detergent, but they’ll work…if they can clean the crap out of a diaper (sorry, I had to use the pun), they can certainly clean anything!  I think the key is to not give up if they don’t initially work and just find the right combination of wash cycles and essential oils as necessary.  Hopefully, you’ll find the soap nuts to be as much a blessing to your frugal homemaking as they are to mine!

Blessings,

Michelle

Sources:

Matt Johnson, G. L. (2013). How to Use Them. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from http://www.buysoapnuts.com: http://www.buysoapnuts.com/how-to-use-them/