Are You A Slave?

No civilization can be healthier than the life energy in the food it eats.

-Joel Salatin

You are what you eat.

What we label as ‘you’ is really a community of beings, a veritable microcosmos. The bacteria we depend on outnumber what is genetically human by a count of at least 3:1 according to recent science. No biological system can thrive without nutrients.

You are what the community of beings called ‘you’ can thrive on.

The government heavily regulates what you can feed that community. Massive subsidies that distort the market by promoting some of the worst possible agriculture: monocultured corn, sugarcane, and other crops. Regulations which stand in the way of innovation, local pioneers, and cottage industry. Regulations that stand in the way of true nutrition, true health, and regrounding our community of beings in the local terroir of the soil which nourishes us.

If you do not have unfettered freedom over food consumption, you are owned.

You are a slave.


Taste and Satiety

The more I learn about cooking, food production, and my own relationship with food I am a food traditionalist. Simple, real ingredients. Animals raised in a bio-mimicry environment (e.g. pasture). Produce sourced from as local as possible, preserved (if necessary) in the most nutritionally dense form (cellaring > dehydration > freezing > canning).

I’m not a dietician, biologist, food scientist, or anyone with alphabet soup credentials. I’m a cook, a gardener (an aspiring future farmer), and a parent. I go with what tastes good, but like my last post, we can make an important distinction:

  • How does this taste to me?
  • How do I feel when having eaten this food?

Lots of things can taste good by overloading our biological wiring. Sweets. Industrial ‘junk’ food. But if we connect the intake sensory input with the output sensory input, it tells a very different story. There’s a reason junk food is called junk. It’s not because it has high fat, high salt, or any other thing. It’s junk because our body can barely run on it. It’s like putting watery, low-octane gasoline into a finely tuned race engine.

Eat what makes you feel good. Ideally, eat what tastes good and makes you feel good afterwards. What makes me feel good? Pastured meat. Even the fat lines on these animals are delicious. My body feels how satisfying it is. Good produce. A smoothie containing greens like spinach and kale with enough whole fruit to provide sweetness, palatability, and their own vitamins can provide fuel for hours despite having relatively few calories. In this case, nutrient density trumps raw energy. In the Western world, calories are in vast surplus but nutrients (especially trace minerals and vitamins) are not.

Let your hunger response catch up to your digestive system. This can be challenging. We’re taught to eat until we’re not hungry anymore. But no one tells us when we’re supposed to feel full. Full while eating. Full half an hour later? Just like the personal finance challenge of evaluating what is ‘enough’, it takes time to re-connect with your body. You might feel ravenously hungry but eat a small meal, wait, and then the hunger disappears. The immediate hunger response of “eat now!” is turned off primarily by raw volume. That’s why drinking large volumes of liquid can (sometimes) aid in dieting. But nutritionally worthless inputs do nothing to satisfy long-term hunger. On the other hand, even if we continue to feel hungry after eating something, giving the body time to uptake the nutrient load may turn off the hunger over the long-term. When snacking, I’ve found it helpful to eat a small helping of something packed with nutrition like fresh produce or nuts, but in small amounts, then wait at least a half hour to see if the hunger disappears. Quite often it does. My body didn’t need much in the way of calories, but was craving some other macro or micro nutrient.

Understanding satiety is one key to a deep, dynamic mind/soul/body relationship. Maybe you’re already in good health. Keep up the good work! Remember that life only thrives with disturbance. Continue to push yourself. Continue to feed your body the best possible inputs you can get. Maybe (like me) you have room for improvement. Starve your body just a little bit on raw calories, but make sure you’re feeding it the most nutritionally dense foods possible. Dark, leafy greens. Produce sourced from as locally and as in-season as possible. Pastured meats free from toxins and with good omega-3 to omega-6 balance. Nuts and seeds. Only then while it thrive. If you’re morbidly obese, hey, I’ve been there too. Use the same strategy as the mildly overweight person with the added element of patience. If necessary, practice mindfulness meditation to replace the mental association of junk food’s immediate sensory reward with the longer-term crappy feeling it gives you. This has helped me become significantly stronger in reducing the temptation of junk food, but it’s even better to eliminate the temptation.

Plus, it saves you money! Real, honest food is cheap. It’s amazing what will happen to your grocery bill if you stick to raw, whole ingredients instead of pre-made food, whether full meals, snacks, drinks, etc. Learning to eat seasonally (and thus locally) will naturally increase the nutrient density, which means you’ll need less to trigger long-term satiety. Sure, local food can be expensive. Pastured meats are definitely more expensive than factory-farmed meat, but you need so much less to feel full, because it’s so much better for you. If you have trouble seeing this, as frugal as I am, I didn’t see it until recently either. Consider tracking in detail your grocery spending along the lines of what I did last month.

It’s only until I broke “food” into diverse categories that I saw the true relationship of dollars to nutritional value.

My categories are as follows, but adapt them as necessary for your dietary needs and desired clarity:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts (a handful of raw or toasted nuts makes a fantastic snack, and DIY nut butter is easy).
  • Baking (raw dry ingredients)
  • Dairy (it can be hard, but keep it rBGH free at minimum, and ideally pasture-based)
  • Eggs (free range or homegrown, for health and humane handling)
  • Meat (strictly pasture-based, for health and humane handling)
  • Fats (I put butter here instead of dairy, pasture lard, and then good olive/grapseseed/canola oil).
  • Prepared food (rare purchases these days other than pasta)
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • Alcohol

Even when (like now in the dark of winter) produce seems expensive on a per pound basis, think of what else you’re buying that’s a ridiculous financial cost when put in terms of nutritional value. And the longer you live this lifestyle, the better you’ll get at growing your own food or sourcing it in season, then preserving it (when cheap yet high value) against the lean season. Expect plenty of preservation posts from me as 2015 warms up 🙂


Read this: a neat distinction concerning self-esteem and activities

I don’t usually share a lot of articles unless I have something to add, but I’m going to share this one.

The money point is this distinction:

The questions “do I like doing this?” and “do I like who I am when doing this?” are different things.

That’s a really salient point that can help cut through the clutter of our current activites and habits, and what we truly desire. It’s similar, in my mind, to the distinction between the Mammoth and the Authentic Voice.

Read the rest (from Raptitude).


The Foodness of Food

Joel Salatin likes to talk about the benefits of raising animals in a way that lets “chickens express their chickenness, and pigs express their pigness”. Farming as bio-mimicry has incredibly taste, ecological, and health benefits. While we live too far away from Polyface Farms to enjoy their livestock directly, similar farms in our area raise some incredibly tasty pork – I can just imagine the pigness being expressed there every time I bite into the most tender pork steak you’ve ever had!

Eating seasonally, locally, and raising as much of your own produce as possible opens a similar window into the world of fruits and vegetables. One of the best remarks I got last year was when my Dad commented on strawberries we’d picked from a local farm: “this tastes just like I remembered strawberries as a child”. We found a place that raises strawberries so well that, picked at their peak, they express the strawberriness of strawberries. The wonderful sweet-tart goodness lived on in the preserves I made, then hoarded to give out as surprise Christmas presents. The same farm grows the most amazing apples. Honeycrisp is an inherently tasty variety, but these blow the socks off the same variety at the grocery store. They’re an excellent storage variety, so I might chance a far bigger purchase and cellar them next year.

Just this week I splurged on a bag of carrots for far more than I usually pay because they were locally grown – and boy, did that pay off. Everyone who’s had them has agreed we’ve never had tastier carrots. They’re absolutely fantastic. Being locally grown, or even self-grown, isn’t a magic bullet. My sister expressed disappointment in the carrots they grew this year – whether because of variety or growing conditions – but tasting these gives me something to aspire to, as this year will be our first attempt at carrots.

I’m still a novice gardener despite my grand ambitions, but last year we had a few eidetic vegetable experiences from our own garden. Despite buying shelling pea seeds by mistake, we picked them at snow pea stage to avoid the vellum layer and they were incredible. Picking an entire salad spinner of basil to make pesto. The buttery, nutty sweetness of sauteed, just picked zucchini. Having so many cucumbers that cucumber water could be made ‘just because’. The smell of roasting pie pumpkins in the oven, and experiencing the fluffiness the resulting puree gives to my pan-fried pumpkin pancakes.

The bounty of the land is an amazing thing. Reconnecting with food by taste is the best way. Part of the reason one apple tastes better than another is the nutrient content. When it comes to real food, our tastebuds can tell what’s better for us. It’s right there in the way a given fruit or vegetables expresses the form generations of genetic selection have given it.

Winter is when we rest, remember, and plan for the next season. But what keeps us going are the memories of deliciousness we’ve stored in the roots of our memory. Sense memory is a very powerful thing. I can still remember helping pick sweetcorn at my grandparents’ farm, knowing it would be going in the steamer as soon as it was shucked. I have fond memories of the deliciously fresh, squeaky green beans my parents grew. And this past year has given me many more memories – and the desire to share this with my family and more as we get better (and bigger, with the potential for a distributed community garden).


Winter Hermitage

Winter can be a tough season for a gardener (or a parent) to deal with. There’s little to do outside, and any journeying requires the planning of an expedition’s worth of gear. We can fight this or we can release and go with the season.

Yesterday sickness forced me to rest. I think I was awake for less than 2 hours total, in fits and spurts of “Daddy I’m hungry” and knowledge that failing to do laundry would have us soon out of clean clothes. But even when I’m not sick, I’m discovering how much I like slowing down. Resting. Withdrawing. Reflecting in our small, cozy little hermitage we call home.

The Alchemist and I still have to leave and return for our jobs, for errands, and for exercise. The goblins leave for religious education on Sundays. And that’s about it. There’s no desire to see or do more. As I write this at my desk, they’re all sitting behind me at the folding table, using their wild imaginations. With good light coming from outside and that all-important ingredient of imagination, a space less than 200 feet square becomes ENORMOUS.

Spring brings (quite late, around here) asparagus, greens, rhubarb. Summer and fall bring the earth’s bounty. Winter brings what? Snow, ice, cold. Do we fight it with our modern technology, or do we dig in and let the seasons teach us something? Slow down. Withdraw. Recharge. Calling myself a hermit could be seen as a negative, but I embrace it.

What does winter teach you?


Goblin Hoard Report Card – December 2014

December was an unusual month for us. We spent the last two weeks of it on holiday with the Alchemist’s family. My in-laws are very generous folks, and so what could be expensive trips are rarely expensive considering how long we stay.

We did have some hiccups with our lone car, but thankfully the repairs weren’t too expensive at the end of the day. While traveling induces its own kind of stress, it was a good trip for the family and there were tears shed at the end by her folks. As we continue to get settled in, I’ll try and post some of the best pictures we got from the trip.

Regular readers will see a new format to the spending, with some categories broken down into what may seem an obscene number of subcategories, but I’m experimenting with something from Your Money or Your Life that I think will help us ensure our spending matches up with our values.

Budget for December 2014

Income (combined after all deductions): $6,204

Fixed Spending

  • Housing (Mortgage+Tax+Insurance): $1,061
  • Student Loans (combined): $571.61
  • Auto Insurance: $36.08
  • Life Insurance: $60
  • Internet: $58
  • Netflix: $9.49
  • Amazon Prime: $8.42

Variable Spending

  • Extra debt payment: $1,049
  • Fuel: 80.48
  • Gas/Electric: $159.76
  • Health Expenses: $10
    • Maintenance: $10
    • Sickness: $0
  • Water: $226
  • AirVoice cell: $30
    • Current monthly average: $14
  • Kids “Stars”
    • Allowance spending: $15
    • To Investments: $326

Sink Funds Spending

  • Groceries/Necessities (detailed breakdown here): $280
    • Fruit: $3
    • Vegetables: $5
    • Nuts: $0
    • Baking: $23
    • Dairy: $30
    • Eggs: $6
    • Meat: $34
    • Fats: $5
    • Prepared Foods (includes pasta): $41
    • Non-alcoholic beverages: $35
    • Alcohol: $42
    • Misc and Personal Care: $27
  • Discretionary: $214.53 (Forward balance: $402.31)
    • Restaurants: $0
    • Gifts: $214.53
    • Garden: $0
  • Transportation Capital Fund: $595.16 (Forward balance: $174.80)
    • Car upgrades: $14
    • Car maintenance or repair: $465
    • Bike upgrades: $0
    • Bike maintenance: $0
  • Travel: $301 (Forward balance: $928.77)
    • Fuel/Tolls: $278
    • Lodging: $0
    • Dining Out: $13
    • Attractions: $10
  • Kids/Education: $0 (Forward balance: $170.78)
  • House Capital Fund: $31.55 (Forward balance: $168.71)
    • Maintenance: $31.55
    • Upgrades: $0

January is a bit of an unknown right now. We should have a strong income month and despite eating our pantry down in December (hence the very low produce purchases) I am going to do my best to keep things under budget. After our most recent finance date, our broad priorities look like this:

1. Retire one group of my graduate loans, lowering the overall minimum payment,

2. Save up to repair/remodel our bathroom. It needs love.

3. Garden hard, garden smart. I did last year’s garden on a shoestring budget. Obviously I have no interest in wasting money, but having more money to potentially invest in it should pay big dividends this year.

Somewhere in that I may quit my job, or we may decide to have me keep working a bit longer.


Goblin Hoard – Net Worth Q4 2014

Here’s how we end the year. Didn’t quite make it back to $0 but a 57% savings rate with so much money still getting eaten by interest is not shabby at all.

Assets

  • Home (Estimated Market Value): 80,000
  • 401(k) combined: 66,436
  • Cars: 1,500
  • Cash Savings: 15,436
  • Total: 154,683 (+8,689)
  • Passive Income from liquid assets: $3,280 p.a.
    • Putting in context: this would cover our yearly property tax and almost all car fuel.

Liabilities

  • Home Mortgage: 104,531 @6.5% –> PMI makes it effectively ~7.1%
  • Student Loan (Chief A): 2,439 @0.1%
  • Student Loan (Chief B): 10,190 @6.5%
  • Student Loan (Alchemist A): $2,388 @0.1%
  • Student Loan (Alchemist B): $25,372 @6.5%
  • Roof Loan: 10,971 (no interest before March 2015) –>this is getting retired this month
  • Total: 155,891 (-2,568)

Net Worth: -$1,208

Savings Rate Calculation

  • Savings: 9,642 (cash, principal paydowns, and 401(k) contributions)
  • Income: 16,867 (net income plus 401(k) contributions)
  • Rate: 57%

Net Worth Q4 2014