June 28, 2012

Got raw milk? Part two - Is it better for you?

There are a lot of people in the health food world who, for one reason or another, question drinking milk at all. One of the most common arguments is "no other creature in the animal kingdom drinks milk from a different animal." This may be true, but I don't like to assume that's a bad thing. There are a LOT of things we do that no other creature in the animal kingdom does, and usually it's because we're MORE intelligent, not less. However, I know many very intelligent, health-minded people who've determined that drinking milk is not in their best interest. And quite honestly, I'm a pretty huge fan of several of the milk alternatives (coconut milk!) So if that's what works for you - great. But if you're a fan of dairy and the raw milk idea intrigues you, read on.

Because my goal as a real-foodie is to eat food that's as close as possible to the way God originally created it, my natural tendency is just to assume that raw milk is best because it hasn't been tampered with before it's consumed. However, since I never just "take someone's word for it," I don't expect anyone else to either. So I'll try to share with you some of the more concrete reasons why I believe raw milk is nutritionally superior to store-bought, pasteurized milk.

1. The source - typically cows from small, local dairies who provide milk directly to consumers are well cared for (of course it's up to the consumer to determine if that's the case!). They often are not subjected to the antibiotics and hormones that big-industry cattle are. They're also often fed grass, instead of loads of genetically modified, pesticide-laden grain. Anyone who has nursed a child knows that nearly everything that gets into the body can come out in the milk and cows are no different. I prefer my milk as antibiotic, hormone, GMO and pesticide free as I can get it!

2. Nutrients - are destroyed during the pasteurization process. Raw milk is rich with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Heating the milk during the pasteurization process destroys the enzymes, significantly diminishes vitamin content (destroying B12 and B6), and changes the structure of the milk proteins (this one reason those who can't easily digest store-bought milk often thrive on raw milk). (source)  Unlike sterilization, some nutrients are preserved, however certainly not at their original quantity or quality. But what I personally find most interesting is the destruction of phosphatase. Phosphatase is an essential nutrient for the absorption of calcium...but in pasteurized milk it's completely destroyed! Without phosphatase, all that calcium you're supposed to be getting from store-bought milk (or whatever is left of it) cannot be absorbed into your system(source)

3. Allergies - pasteurized milk is one of the most allergenic foods, nationwide, linked to all kinds of medical issues ranging from acne and rashes to colic and diarrhea. Raw milk is not associated with any of these. (source)

4. Conjugated Linoleic Acid - or CLA is a fatty compound that grass-fed, raw milk is rich with. Numerous studies are currently being conducted on this compound because it shows significant promise in fighting hypertension, obesity and even certain types of cancers. CLA is found in abundance only in milk from grass-fed animals. Meaning if you want to take advantage of this benefit, you'll have to be well aware of what your producer feeds his or her animals.

5. Beneficial bacteria - raw milk is a living food. Raw milk contains a host of good bacteria, including lactobacillus acidophilus, which aids in digestion and vitamin and mineral absortpion. You'll often see it's name associated with most types of probiotics. You don't need to purchase expensive bottles of those when they're conveniently present in a natural food. Lactobacillus bulgaricus provides the stomach and intestine with bacterial lactase which helps break down lactose. Bifidobacterium bifidum strengthens the immune system by eliminating harmful bacteria. These health-promoting bacteria are completely destroyed when heated and are not present in pasteurized milk. (source)

It's these bacteria that make raw milk so healthy and versatile. Using these bacteria to culture the milk, we can make some amazingly healthy products that are like probiotics on steroids and line our gut with a host of beneficial bacteria. If you leave store-bought milk out on the counter, do you know what you get? Stinky, rotted milk. But raw milk left on the counter will produce a variety of products that are not only wonderfully good for you, but also useful, tasty, and I might even suggest, a really great example of God's handiwork! -more on that in part 3.

One last note - please don't confuse fresh, raw milk with organic store-bought milk. Almost all organic milk in the store is pasteurized, containing none of the beneficial bacteria or complete nutrient profile of raw milk. It also often comes from factory farms just like non-organic milk, with the only difference being that the cows are fed organic grain. If there is a local source of raw milk near you, it will be well worth your time and effort to find it! And if you live near me, I have one I'd be happy to hook you up with :)

June 25, 2012

Got raw milk? Part one - Is it safe?

Let's face it, when it comes to most real food issues, there's at least one argument against a practice for every argument in favor of it. Should we soak grains or not? Organic or conventional? Refined sugars vs. natural sweeteners....the list goes on. A BIG one is raw milk. My purpose is not to convince anyone that they must eat like we do. But it IS to encourage you to do research, make informed decisions, and not take everything the government tells you about food as truth.

When our daughter began showing a possible intolerance to milk, I researched other options. Our first choice was goat milk. There are a number of reasons this was a better option, and so we tried it for a while. It worked very well, but was expensive and not consistently available. This led me to begin researching raw milk. A friend who runs a local dairy told me that they had several customers with a milk intolerance that could handle raw milk, suggesting that the intolerance was actually a result of something added to commercial milk, or taken out during the pasteurization process.

At this point in our lives, we hadn't really started the real food journey. The only thing I had been doing was baking all our own bread, and that was mostly because I didn't like the fake taste of commercial breads. Being the researcher I am, I decided I'd better look into the pasteurization process and determine if raw milk was a safe alternative for our daughter.

So, let's start with the number one question that arises as soon as the words "raw milk" are mentioned.


Raw milk is exactly that - RAW. There is nothing done to it. It comes from the cow, goes into the fridge and is consumed that way. Many people believe that without pasteurization, raw milk is not safe to drink. And sometimes it isn't. But sometimes store-bought milk isn't either.

Pasteurization was first suggested for milk in 1886. Because of the industrial revolution, people were congregating in the city and detaching themselves from the agricultural community. This led to a rise in the demand for milk in urban areas and it didn't take long for dairy farmers to realize that if they could keep the milk from souring during transportation, they could sell more by bringing it into the city. Pasteurization allowed for extended shelf life and made this possible.

Prior to 1886 EVERYONE drank unpasteurized milk. GASP! Yes, it's hard to believe, but people DID drink it that way. In fact, the most current method of pasteurization, HTST (high temperature short time), was not done routinely in the United States until the 1950's, making this method barely over 60 years old....a tiny fraction of time in milk-drinking history.

As pasteurization made transportation possible, demand increased. Farmers had to add more cows to keep up with demand, and since the milk was pasteurized to kill bacteria, they didn't have to be as careful with the health of their animals. Larger farms + pasteurization = industrialization of the milk industry.

And as we know, industrialization in the food industry usually means foods become very processed. The same is true in the milk industry, and the result is PROCESSED milk.

There's the short story. Milk is pasteurized so it can be transported long distances and sit on the shelf without going bad.

"But pasteurization kills all the bad bacteria," you say? Yes, it does (and all the good ones too). But that assumes that there are bad bacteria in there to begin with. This is where consumer discernment comes in. If the farmer follows proper procedures for keeping the cows, milking area, bottles and equipment clean, they will have no problem producing safe, nutritious, raw milk.

Bottom line: Raw milk MUST come from clean, well-kept dairies with healthy cows.

Before we began purchasing raw milk, I spent a great deal of time talking to the farmer. I asked questions, and talked to others who purchased milk from him. Because I've known him quite a while, I knew he was raising his own young children on the same milk he produces for others. And I researched and researched and researched (are you seeing a pattern here?).

This is our farmer and his very happy (grass-eating!!) cows.

My milk is local. And I know my farmer. I know he's extraordinarily meticulous, incredibly detail oriented and exceptionally clean. I know what he feeds, how he cares for and treats his animals. And my milk doesn't need to be transported anywhere except into my refrigerator.

The milk-room he works in is spotless. The cows are spotless. The bottles are spotless. And probably most importantly, he takes great pride in his work and providing a quality product to his customers. He (and his family) work hard to produce their milk at highest quality and a fair price. And that's something I'm happy to support.

The next two parts (part two here) in this series will discuss the reasons that raw milk is nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk and it's additional benefits (like incredible taste!). But if you're interested in trying some now, feel free to contact me and I can put you in touch with our farmer give you directions so you can grab some of your own!

June 14, 2012

Dossier submitted!

Here it is! A completed dossier. All documents, signed, notarized, certified, authenticated and paid for! Plus 374 pages of copies of the thing in it's entirety, four times.

I'm very happy to report that the entire dossier and all the copies (except the one we keep) are officially out of my hands and in the mail to their respective destinations.

And that makes me one happy mama!

Now, just praying that Bethany Global won't find ANYTHING that would cause it to be delayed. Let's get this thing sent to CHINA!

June 10, 2012

Garage sale and dossier update

I spent nearly all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday getting ready for the fundraiser rummage sale. We had WAY more than I had anticipated and it was a pretty exhausting job in the heat. I wasn't able to take my kids to the pool or do our summer home school those days. Somewhat dejected, I thought, "I hope we make at least $400 or this is going to be a waste of time."

We counted the total yesterday and it came in at $830. We're feeling very blessed! This will cover a huge portion of our next bill - the dossier submission fee - which is $1800. And, to make things even better, we received the LAST document that we need for the dossier in the mail on Saturday, right as we finished the garage sale. If I'm organized enough, I should be able to get the dossier in the mail tomorrow!!

Thank you SO much to everyone who contributed to the garage sale. We truly could not have done it without you! My contribution only made up about 5% of the items, so it would have been a pretty pathetic sale without your help!

But the biggest blessing that came from the last weekend wasn't the money. It was the people. I can't even tell you how many people introduced themselves and encouraged us. Many told us they were adopted or that they had adopted. And SO many people said "keep the change - it's for a good cause." I've done other rummage sales before and people haven't been so friendly. Perhaps the big "adoption fundraiser" sign in the driveway put everyone somewhat at ease.

Thanks again to all those who donated and all those who purchased. We are truly grateful!

June 7, 2012

Summer plans

The last two summers at our house have been, well....frustrating. Prior to these summers, June, July and August were just like every other month since I've always been home with the kids, so summer never really changed anything. But since our oldest started school, and now we have two in school, summers take on a different meaning.

I started each one with good intentions. Reading programs, crafts, pool and play time, slow-paced days. But what I ended up with was feeling like I spent the whole summer trying to entertain my children and answering for the 10 millionth time "NO! You cannot play Wii! Or watch TV! Or do anything else with a SCREEN!"

So this year, I have a bit of a plan. And I'm blogging about it for the sole purpose of accountability, because I'm not sure how it's going to go. Hopefully a friend occasionally asking "How's it going?" will keep me from quitting the whole thing.

We're attempting somewhat of a summer home school curriculum this summer. I even made a schedule (a pretty rough one, but still, a schedule - right?). I think that makes it somewhat official :)

I have a several different reasons for doing this:
• There's a lot of things I want to teach my kids before they leave my house. This is an opportunity to purposefully incorporate some of those things that may otherwise get left out.

• I have one child who new concepts come very easily to. School is "boring" because "I know everything". I doubt this is true, but I do believe this child is capable of greater challenges.

• I have another child who is equally bright, but slightly less, shall we say..."motivated." This child will benefit from not being "out-of-practice" come September.

• This provides some structure for their day that will hopefully help eliminate boredom.

• Since I like to be sort of outside-the-box-ish, I don't feel right sitting idly by while the government decides what my kids will learn. I want to have some say in the matter and the best way to do that is to do it myself.

We're keeping it pretty simple, and starting with a few things that are important to us as a family.

First order of business is Bible study. For this we're using the D6 curriculum's Adventure Guide magazine for kids.

 I love that these lessons actually get kids into the Bible. It's not just stories or worksheets; they're actually digging into the Word to find the answers. 

Daily lessons all focusing on the same chapter in the Bible are followed by discussion questions and an activity.

They also include a weekly memory verse, which my kids are writing on an index card at the beginning of the week. Hopefully at the end of the summer we'll have a pile of verses we've memorized and a set of cards to work from.

Those who can't write draw pictures instead :)

Next, we do a lesson on manners. I've discovered that polite, well-mannered children are often few and far between in our culture. Not that my kids are any better...this is why we're working on manners! There's definitely room for improvement.

I found this book in our church library. It's totally old-school! I'm even learning a LOT from it. I actually checked it out several weeks ago when I first decided we needed to work on manners. We did one lesson about napkins during a meal and the kids loved it....I mean REALLY loved it! Oddly enough, this has continued with the lessons about introductions this week. They are really into learning about this stuff! Now, hopefully they will practice away from home.

Of course, we have to do some reading, writing and math. These books were suggested to me by one of my many friends who home school ALL the time and do it well. They're for gifted & talented kids, and while I don't necessarily know if that describes my kids, they do take concepts they've already learned to the next level to present more of challenge. And that's exactly what I was looking for.

And we're going to learn about great artists. Because art is fun, and I like it. And that's really the only reason! I hope one of them might follow in my footsteps, just a little.

So far, I'm loving that I can incorporate other things into our schedule too - like chores. We call them "morning jobs" or "afternoon jobs" or whatever, and we attempted to do them before, but for some reason, having them on the schedule as part of a morning routine seems to increase the odds that they'll actually get done.

And that's it! Since we were gone last week, the last few days have been our first attempt. So far it's going well.

I hope I can say the same thing a week or two from now!

June 5, 2012

Getting closer...

Last Saturday, we received our USCIS approval! This was the last form we needed before we could move on to the next step. Today I'll be sending eleven pieces of paperwork (and a check, because you always need money to get something done in this process!) to the South Dakota secretary of state for authentication. Each document needs to be authenticated in the state it originated from. So we already sent two others for authentication - a birth certificate to Minnesota and our marriage certificate to Florida.

I received the one from Minnesota yesterday and expect the Florida one to be here this week. If I overnight the South Dakota forms, we may be able to get them back by this week as well, which would mean we could SUBMIT OUR DOSSIER!!

We are getting very close to being done with this VERY large chunk of paperwork. Thanks again to everyone who has been supporting and praying for us during this process!

June 3, 2012

Sunday Snapshot - Hills 2012

Our last week was spent together as an ENTIRE family in the Black Hills.

We stayed a few miles West of Hill City.

There was no 3G. No cell coverage. No wi-fi. 

It was wonderful. 

Being so "disconnected" all week made me want to chuck my phone in the trash when I got home. 

I didn't. But it was very tempting. 

Chocolate frosted donuts at Wall Drug.
[Sunday Snapshot Photo Tip: Maximized background distance by having her sit at a table where there wasn't anything in the background close to her.  Used the minimum aperture of 2.8 and maximum focal length of 75mm to reduce the depth of field.  Bounced the flash off the ceiling to get natural shadows.  Then, waited patiently for the perfect moment...]

Riding the Jackalope. Pretty sure we have my sister-in-law Sarah convinced they're real.
Great Faces....
The entire crew headed up to Harney Peak.
We ALL made it to the top! Even my little 4 year old. It was quite a hike!
Exhausted after the 7.7 mile trek.

So we aren't the greatest at fishing....at least we caught something!

My future brother-in-law getting in good with his future niece.

Breezy day at Deerfield Lake.

Stephen would get an "A" for effort.

Slightly more successful at Sylvan Lake.

One of my favorite pics from the whole week! It's not a Black Hills trip without feeding the burros!
My two princesses gave me these flowers and declared, "You're the best mom ever!" PRICELESS!

Ni Hao Yall