Friday, July 30, 2010

Moving Day

Nightlife has moved! High-tail on over to and pick up a housewarming gift from me to you. See you there!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Growing Costs: The Value of Food

I'm going grass-fed. I promised.

My freezer is nearly empty of conventional meats. A pound or two of bacon remains. And some organic ground beef from Costco, which is New Zealand grassfed mixed with American organic grainfed. After that's gone, I'm all in.

I've found a vendor of quality, local, grassfed meats just one town over. They sell beef tenderloin for around $20/lb, but I'll be ordering the ground beef, stew beef, and mixed cuts of pork that average $5.50/lb.

I may have to close my eyes while entering my credit card number. I will try very hard not to think about conventional prices of $1.98 for ground round or pork shoulder at $1.79 or whole roaster chickens under $3.00 on sale.

This, after all, is simply how much food ought to cost. Unsubsidized, allowed to mature at a natural rate without being poisoned by a grain diet that would kill them in months despite heavy antibiotic loads, if they didn't go to the slaughterhouse first, livestock is not cheap to raise.

In fact, given the dinner I enjoyed last night, $5.50/lb for local, grassfed beef looks downright reasonable. Yesterday evening, I cooked up two, broiled lamb chops with mint pesto and side of sauteed summer squash and onions with thyme.

Simple, right?

Sure, if you picked it all up from the grocery. But I didn't. Those chops came from lambs born here at In the Night Farm. I grew the herbs and onion. The squash came from a co-worker's garden.

Cheap, right?

Hardly. Not even if you picked it all up from the grocery. Which I didn't.

Those chops came from lambs born here at In the Night Farm, remember? They were grass (actually, mostly hay) fed, which meant they took their time maturing to slaughtering size. Quite aside from the daily labor of caring for livestock, the monetary cost can't be ignored. Care to have a look?

Quality alfalfa/grass mix hay runs $125 a ton around here. That's about $0.0625 per pound. A sheep eats 5 pounds a day, for a daily feed cost of $.32. The sheep in question was 450 days old when slaughtered, and therefore consumed $144.00 worth of hay.

Well. That's not too bad!

But wait. I also had to feed my breeding stock -- one ewe and one ram. I'll only add in the price of one parent, since the lamb I'm calculating was a twin.

So, $144 in lamb feed plus $144 for its mama's feed (and that's assuming I didn't have to feed mama during gestation, which of course isn't true), for a total of $288 in feed.

Now, add butchering costs. I paid $207 for both lambs, so let's call it $103.50 for one.

$288 in feed plus $103.50 butchering = $391.50 for one lamb.

How much meat is in a lamb? About 40 pounds.

$391.50 / 40 pounds = $9.79 / pound.

Oh, my.

Is it worth it? To eat a healthy animal? A healthful animal? An animal I raised from birth, cared for daily through winter's snow and summer's blaze? An animal that, well-nourished, can provide real nourishment in return?

An animal that gave its life for mine?

$9.79 per pound.

That's value.

You might also like
A Tale of Oregon Elk: On Food and Gratitude
Practically Impossible: The Challenge of Sustainable Living
The Organic Pocketbook: A Struggle Survived

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Tallies: Extreme Edition

Tuesday Tallies usually offer a sampling of my typical, day-to-day food intake and work output, because I get so many questions about it. This week, however, was special. The menus reflect my need to support a tremendous amount of movement, thanks to the hefty job of moving 16 tons of hay, almost singlehanded, into winter storage.

As you'll see in the menus and notes below, I ate more carbs, more calories, and more often than usual -- and still ended up hungry enough by Monday night to cook up one of the richest, fattiest, most nutrient-dense curries I've ever consumed. It was delicious.


Pre-dawn workout: Stacked 1 ton hay in the cool of morning. Each ton is 20 100-lb bales. The stacks are 6 high. Must get a mask! Dust is unbearable.

Post-workout: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with 3/4 cup fresh raspberries. Coffee.

Breakfast: 2 Savory Egg Muffins.

Lunch: Business meeting at restaurant. Large salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, blue cheese, and about 4 oz of steak.

Pre-workout: Larabar.

Afternoon workout: Stacked 1 ton hay. Used new mask. Thrilled to be able to breathe!

Dinner: Green salad with guacamole, roasted red pepper, and 6 oz grilled chicken. Almond butter and raisins.

Evening workout: Stacked 1 more ton.

Post-workout: Half a banana.


Pre-workout: Half a banana with coconut cream concentrate.

Morning workout: Stacked 1 ton hay.

Breakfast: 2 eggs over easy. Beet and kohlrabi hash. Bacon. Coffee.

Lunch: Baked sweet potato with butter. Green salad with guacamole and grilled chicken.

Afternoon workout: Stacked 1 ton hay.

Post-workout: Almond butter with dark chocolate and coconut oil.

Evening workout: Stacked 2 tons hay with Ironman's help.

Dinner: Omelette with pepper jack cheese and onions. Zucchini sauteed in bacon grease. Greek yogurt with black raspberries.


Pre-dawn workout: Stacked 2 tons hay with Ironman's help.

Post-workout: Half a banana with coconut cream concentrate.

Breakfast: Green salad with avocado, tuna, carrot, and green olives.

Lunch: Hard boiled eggs. Half an apple with cold bacon.

Pre-workout: Half an apple with almond butter.

Afternoon workout: Stacked 1 ton hay. Singlehanded again. Missing Ironman!

Dinner: Sweet potato with butter. Sauteed chard and onions. Greek yogurt with black raspberries.

Note -- I took Friday off as a recovery day. Fatigue is an injury waiting to happen. Started again full-bore on Saturday, which looked much like Sunday, except that I stacked 3.5 tons instead of just 2.


Pre-workout: Greek yogurt with strawberries.

Morning workout: Stack 1 ton hay. Getting tough now. All 20 bales had to go up 5-6 levels.

Post-workout: Half a banana with coconut cream concentrate. Coffee.

Morning workout #2: Stack 1 ton hay. Another tough one, all bales going up high, and temps climbing into the 90's.

Breakfast: Three eggs over easy. Sauteed chard and onions. Sliced tomato and avocado.

Lunch: Green salad with tuna, apple, and walnuts. Dark chocolate with almond butter and coconut concentrate.

Dinner: Kippered herring. Boiled sweet potato with butter and salt. Half a banana blended with cocoa powder and coconut milk.


I'm down to 1.5 tons on the trailer now, and weather has forced another rest day just in time. I was seriously fatigued for several hours this afternoon and only now feel better after eating a meal of 1500+ calories (mostly fat and protein).

Hopefully, I'll finish stacking this load tomorrow, then it's back to Oregon for another 9 tons. To support this level of physical activity (2-4 hours of heavy lifting daily) for an extended period (2 weeks or so), I'm doing everything in my power to assist my recoveries. Here are the steps I've implemented -- feel free to post more ideas in the comments!
  • Eat. Lots. Calories are not a concern (ever, but especially under this workload). However, it took me about 5 days of heavy work to get to the point that I was able to consume more than 300-600 extra calories per day.
  • Eat carbs. Lots (relatively). My normal carb intake is around 65-85 grams daily, and I've had to concentrate on raising that dramatically. (Mark Sisson recommends an extra 100 grams for each hour of intense work above and beyond his standard "primal" recommendations.) I'm lucky if I can get up to 150g per day, though, even throwing in fresh fruit, dried fruit, squash, and sweet potatoes. This takes practice!
  • Sleep. At least 8 hours per night. No exceptions. (Well, there was one...and it cost me!)
  • No alcohol. Not a problem; I don't usually drink, anyway. (Okay, I had one shot of whiskey while Ironman was in town. But that's where I drew the line.)
  • No grains. This is easy, as I don't normally eat them anyway -- but if I were considering a cheat, this would not be the time. Asking my body to deal with gluten on top of this kind of physical stress would be downright foolish.
  • Maintain good posture. It's easy to let tired muscles sag when I sit at the office, but that's just a good way to strain already-weary obliques, traps, abs, etc. Sit up straight!
  • Hydrate. Water, primarily. Some coffee. And for goodness sake, no packaged energy drinks!
  • Electrolyte. It's hot out there! Even when I come inside, it's to continued sweating because I'm being stubborn about the AC. I'm adding more salt and potassium salt to my food than usual.
  • Increase fish oil. Judging by how my muscles feel (fatigued -- but surprisingly, not at all sore), I think I may fall into a more "banged-up" category than usual on Robb Wolf's fish oil calculator. I've bumped up my Carlson's consumption by a couple teaspoons per day.

I'm over halfway! Load up and eat I come...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Slippery Slope: Natural Bodycare Goes Beyond Pooless

Once you start thinking about the absurdity of slathering your body with a daily dose of chemicals, it's hard to stop thinking about it.

Ditching shampoo was, for me, a gateway drug. I've moved on to eliminating most conventional skin care products from my routine, including soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and makeup.

Soap: I've used less soap than most people do for quite some time. What's wrong with a good, old-fashioned water rinse? The little soap (or soap-like substances) I use is mostly for shaving. I like Lush products, but it's worth checking them out on a site like Skin Deep because despite Lush's effective branding, some of their products are more "natural" than others.

Facial cleanser: My complexion, which improved dramatically upon removing grains and reducing dairy in my diet, looks even better now that I only cleanse my face once a day, typically to remove mascara. I use Lush for this, too.

Toothpaste: When it comes to dental health, diet (grains and sugar again!) is a significant factor. I recently took the additional step of switching from sweetened, chemical-laden Aquafresh Sensitive-Teeth Whitening to Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil & Neem toothpaste. I really like the mild flavor, and tooth sensitivity has not resurfaced as a problem.

Deodorant: This was the biggest change, for me. I've resisted natural deodorants for years for reasons similar to those that delayed my going pooless: I have a professional job that requires the wearing of professional clothes. Women's professional clothes, as you may have noticed, aren't generally well-suited (punny!) to antiperspirqnt-free living. I have yet to find a natural antiperspirant.

But, having achieved success on the pooless front, I finally consented to give it a go. Rather than trying a pre-fab natural deo, I mixed up my own based on a recipe posted by a reader on the womens' blog Jezebel. This is really easy. And cheap.

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup baking soda
2 Tbs coconut oil
15-30 drops essential oil (Lavender and tea tree are recommended for their antimicrobial properties.)

The mixture is silky and snow-white. I keep it in a small, lidded container and use a fingertip to apply a pea-sized amount after showering. This stuff is seriously amazing! I've put it through long, summer days including farm work, heavy lifting sessions, laying out in the sun, and all manner of other sweaty ventures. No odor. None. For 24+ hours.

My commercial deo couldn't do that. And honestly, I'm not sure the commercial deo was doing a much better job on the antiperspirant front either. Plus, I swear my body has down-regulated on the BO front -- not that it's ever been a real issue for me, but these days, I can go a whole weekend on the farm with no deo at all, and no odor. Huh.

The only problem I'm having is that the homemade deodorant tends to give me a red, itchy, bumpy rash for about 12 hours after application. I suspect this is from the lavender oil and will be mixing up a batch later today without the oil, to see if that solves the problem while still working as effectively.

Makeup: I've never been a heavy user, but lately I've dropped the use of eye shadow, blush, and face powder. I keep a bottle of Lush's tea tree toner spray in my desk drawer for oily moments, but rarely need it. Mascara is my one holdout -- I just like how it looks. We'll see how long that lasts.

Moisturizer: I rarely need moisturizer these days, and have taken to telling people who comment on my "beautiful skin" that I moisturize from the inside by eating plenty of healthful fats. When I do use something, it's typically another Lush product. When I run out of that, I'll probably try the much-recommended coconut oil instead.

Okay, folks. What am I missing? What natural bodycare concoctions have you tried? Did you stick with it? Why or why not?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rubber, Meet Road.

I don't work out to stay lean, or look hot, or even for the undeniable health benefits. Those are perks. The real reason I work out is so I can run my farm.

There's a 55-foot flatbed parked on my upper driveway. It towers with 6 rows of tightly packed bales of Oregon hay. The bales average 98 pounds -- 17 pounds under my own bodyweight -- and the load totals 16.2 tons.

My mission is to unload the bales from the trailer and re-stack them, 6 to 10 high, for winter storage. This must be done by early next week, so the trailer can make another trip across the border and return with another 9 tons.

It's a hell of a workout. Wrestling those bales into place takes me, singlehanded, about an hour per ton. I try to move about 3 tons in a day. The effort compares to the same time spent on a heavy lifting workout -- a bit more variety, no breaks between sets -- but it's similar. Plenty of real-life deadlifts, bent-over rows, front squats, and lunges. Throw in some sled dragging. And do it all in an enclosed space so full of dust and pollen that you have to wear a mask to keep your throat from closing up.

A while back, I wrote that fitness is choices. And it is.

But fitness is also the ability to do the job that needs doing, brutal though it may be. And I have it.

If friends stop by to help, it'll be much appreciated. The job will be done faster, and I can get back to training horses. But they probably won't, and that's okay. I can handle it. It'll work out because I work out.

And that, my friends, feels pretty damn good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Tallies: Primal Menus and Movement

Once again, my infrequent answer to the frequently asked questions: "What do you eat?" and "How do you work out?," with notes following.

Thursday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Two eggs over easy with chile verde and sour cream. Coffee.

Lunch: Chicken curry clafouti. Garlic-seasoned kale chips.

Dinner: Steamed kohlrabi and carrots with butter. Blackberries with coconut milk. Iced tea.

Thursday's Workout

Several hours of horse training, riding, and farm chores.

Saturday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Two savory egg muffins. Ground beef, carrot, kohlrabi, and spaghetti squash hash. Blueberries and mango. Coffee.

Snack: Half a banana with coconut cream concentrate.

Lunch: Organic greens salad with black olives and guacamole. Sardines.

Post-workout: 100 grams plain, full-fat Greek yogurt.

Dinner: Beef potroast. Roasted brussels sprouts. Raspberries. Gin.

Saturday's Workout

Several hours of farm work in sweltering heat. 4x rotation of pushups, pistols, pullups, and weighted HLRs.

Sunday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Two eggs over easy with spaghetti squash "hash browns" and bacon.

Snack: Half a banana with coconut cream concentrate

Lunch: Organic greens salad with black olives and guacamole. Kippered herring.

Pre-workout: Raspberries. 1/4 cup coconut milk with cocoa powder and cinnamon.

Post-workout: 100 grams plain, full-fat Greek yogurt.

Dinner: Beef potroast. Roasted brussels sprouts. Small baked sweet potato with butter and potassium salt.

Sunday's Workout

5 hours of hoof trimming, training, riding, and farm chores. 5x rotation of backsquats, military presses, and bent-over barbell rows.

Monday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Beef potroast. Steamed beets and kohlrabi with butter. Blackberries.

Lunch: Office barbecue! Chicken breast, hamburger patty, salad, and kale chips.

Pre-workout: Half a banana with coconut cream.

Dinner: Green salad with eggs, olives, sundried tomatoes, and guacamole. Almond butter and chocolate.

Monday's Workout

Unloaded and stacked 1 ton of hay in 100 lb bales.


Last Tuesday, I remarked in the notes that due to stress at work, I was making a temporary shift away from my usual habit of frequent intermittent fasting during the week. As you can see, I've not only continued that trend, but have been experimenting with pre- and post-workout fuel as well.

In the past, I've often worked out fasted and/or gone two or more hours after a workout without refueling. These are good leaning-out tactics, but I'm quite lean now and want to focus on building strength. I've cycled toward more farm work and fewer formal workouts, which remains appropriate while I have plenty of daylight to spend getting things done outdoors, but I've lost more on my lifts than I'm happy with, so I'm kicking things up a notch. Not three notches, but a notch.

I've added Greek yogurt post-workout despite my general avoidance of dairy partly for the growth benefits it offers in the wake of strength training, as well as for its probiotic content. I find that I feel better with an occasional probiotic supplement, particularly on those weeks when my stomach feels somehow less lean (more bulky, I suppose) though fat percentage remains low and digestion good. So, I thought I'd try some regular probiotic food consumption and see how it goes.

I bought a canister of potassium salt and have been using about 1/4 tsp per day in salad dressing and on food, not because I'm concerned about sodium intake, but because it's an easy way to supplement potassium. (I got the idea from this post by Astrogirl.)

Finally, you can't tell from the tallies above, but I'm making an effort to finish meals at least an hour (preferably two) prior to bed. This is tough, particularly in summer when farm work fills my evenings, but I'm hoping it will improve my sleep quality and increase the HGH release that occurs early in nighttime slumber.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pretty Pooless

This business of switching to shampoo-free living has gone much, much more smoothly than I could have hoped. I'm just about to wrap up Week 2 of Project Pooless...and I think the project might be over. Transition complete. Lifestyle element integrated. Deal sealed.

After Week 1, which ended with a Monday morning shampoo before going to the office, I got a little bolder:

Tuesday -- Salad Treatment (baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar conditioning). My hair was soft, shiny, and manageable all day at work. Ironman noted he didn't even detect the vinegar odor, let alone become bothered by it.

Wednesday -- No poo. Water rinse only. I noticed while combing out my wet hair that it was much less tangle-prone than usual. I'd go so far as to call it tangle-free, which is a near-miracle for my long, fine, straight hair.

Thursday -- Egg wash and ACV conditioning. Still looking good and feeling fantastic.

Friday -- No poo. This was a risk. This was the fourth day since I'd used shampoo, and I was going to face the office after only a water rinse. I used my new boarshair brush to smooth the natural oils along my hair, then rinsed for a couple minutes with medium-hot water. It worked. My hair looked clean all day, and even shinier and softer than before.

Saturday -- No poo. It was a dusty, sweaty day on the farm, and I wore a hat until my cool late-afternoon shower, which left my hair slightly oily but certainly acceptable for a weekend evening on the deck swing.

Sunday -- Salad treatment. I almost went with just another water rinse, but I'm planning on a de-greasing egg wash tomorrow before work, and I thought it would be considerate of me to bother with a deodorizing baking soda wash in case my coworkers are more sensitive than I to any lingering scents of livestock and sweat.

I think I've done it. I'm free! My hair looks and feels fantastic. It styles fine even with air dried, which it never did before. I even "shed" less. Seriously. You have to try this! If I can do it, with my long hair (see my "about me" photo at the top of this page), so can you.

But watch's a slippery slope. I've progressed to natural varieties of almost all other bodycare products. Details to follow.

Go forth and go pooless!