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!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tea-Berry Paleo Popsicles

Can a person get too old to want a popsicle on a July afternoon?

I surely hope not.

Here's a lightening-fast recipe (loosely based on the Eades' Paleolithic Punch from Protein Power LifePlan) that I whipped up over the weekend and have been enjoying ever since. Using herbal tea in place of water adds depth of flavor; adding half-cup of coconut milk to the blend makes for a creamy option.

Feel free to use whatever berries you like. I like tartness in food as much as in personalities, so I used a fair number of cranberries and raspberries along with the blueberries. A cherry-strawberry-blueberry blend would be much sweeter.

Tea-Berry Paleo Popsicles

1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup frozen cranberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups iced herbal tea (I used Lemon Zinger)

Blend all ingredients together, using as much tea as necessary to make a thick, icy concoction. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze at least 6 hours. Makes 8 popsicles (using standard 1/2-cup molds).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Savory Egg Muffins

Egg muffins: The ultimate in primal breakfast to go! I found this version particularly tasty, but feel free to substitute any variety of meats, vegetables, and seasonings. Leave out the cheese if you prefer; replace it with a couple tablespoons of coconut milk or cream.

If you like them cold, great. Prefer hot? 1 minute in the microwave is perfect for 2 muffins. Serve alone or with a side of fresh berries, greens, or sliced tomato and avocado.

Tip from a friend: Baking these in silicone baking cups (like cupcake papers, only reusable) virtually eliminates clean-up. The silicone cups make the muffins a little smaller, obviously, because they take up room in the muffin tin, but they stick to nothing and make the muffins even easier to eat on the fly.

Savory Egg Muffins

1/3 lb hot Italian sausage
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 Tbs minced jalipeno, with seeds
9 eggs (more or less, depending on size)
1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 1/2 tsp oregano, dried (or 3 Tbs fresh)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook Italian sausage, onion, bell pepper, and jalipeno in a skillet over medium heat until sausage is done and vegetables are al dente. Meanwhile, scramble eggs in a bowl and whisk in the cheese and oregano. Divide sausage mixture among 12 muffin cups, either greased or lined with silicone baking cups. Pour egg and cheese mixture over sausage mixture, filling muffin cups to just over 3/4 capacity. Bake 25 minutes or until muffins are lightly browned and centers are set. Enjoy hot and refrigerate extras, covered, for up to a week. Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Tallies: Primal Menus and Movement

Once again, here's my infrequent answer to the frequently asked questions, "What do you eat?" and "How do you work out?" (Click here to view more Tuesday Tallies.)

Monday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast -- Omelet with onion, cheddar, and spinach. Sliced tomato and avocado. Coffee.

Lunch -- Lamb burger (with *gasp* bun, at a restaurant), Asian slaw, and beer.

Dinner -- Cold chicken thigh. Roasted zucchini. Blueberries with coconut cream.

Monday's Workout

One hell of a climb straight up the ski slopes at Baldy, for lunch at the restaurant at the top. (By the way, this counts among my best dates ever.)

Wednesday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast -- Two egg and sausage muffins (mini-frittatas baked in muffin cups, not Egg McMuffins!), sliced tomato and avocado, cilantro garnish. Coffee.

Lunch -- Big ass salad with organic greens from my garden, tuna, green onion, olive oil and lemon juice. Spearmint iced tea.

Dinner -- Bunless burger with spicy mustard. Zucchini and carrots sauteed with garlic and butter.

Wednesday's Workout

4x rotation of backsquats, pullups, weighted HLRs, and bench presses.

Friday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Big ass salad with the last of my garden greens, roasted red pepper, green olives, garden peas, tuna, fresh basil, olive oil and lemon juice.

Lunch: 2 savory egg muffins and half a cup of blueberries.

Dinner: Cold chicken thigh. Beet greens, carrot, and garlic sauteed in bacon grease. Small sweet potato. Red wine and 99% chocolate.

Friday's Workout

Had planned for bodyweight/gymnastics, but decided to skip it after a stressful week.

Saturday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with fresh herbs, onion, and peppers. Bacon. Sliced tomato and avocado.

Lunch: Spinach salad with chicken (dark meat), green onion, boiled beetroot, oil and vinegar. Handful of cherries. Iced herbal tea.

Dinner: Chile verde with sour cream and cilantro. Blueberries with coconut milk. 99% chocolate.

Saturday's Workout

Long day of farm work (horse training, miscellaneous repairs, chores, and duck wrangling). 4x rotation of heavy lunges, weighted situps, deadlifts, and military presses.

Sunday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: 2 savory egg muffins. Baked apple with warm spices and coconut milk. Coffee.

Lunch: Spinach salad with chicken, boiled beets and carrots, tomato, garden peas, avocado, olive oil and vinegar. Iced herbal tea.

Dinner: Chile verde with sour cream. Berry-tea paleo popsicle.

Sunday's Workout

Another long farm day. Even longer, actually. Long enough that a formal workout was rendered quite unnecessary.


Although I normally include 4 or more 16-hour IFs in my weekly routine, I've temporally laid off them out of respect for my current stress levels. As Robb Wolf says, IFing is for people who have everything else dialed in -- not people who are dealing with too much stress, lack of sleep, high training levels, injury, etc. I'll go back to it when work settles down a bit.

The highly observant among you may have noticed that I've cut back on my nut consumption. I don't have any known issues with nuts, but my new Carlson's fish oil adds about 400 calories to my daily intake. So, I can clearly afford to nix my usual 1/4 cup of nuts from my salads. Extra O-3's instead of extra O-6's? Yes, please.

Also, I'm making a concerted effort (again) to bump up my carb intake for extra energy. Summer days on the farm are very long and active, especially when combined with the mental/emotional stress of my job, plus formal workouts, and I find that I run better when I take in at least 85g/carbs daily. Up to 125 (!!!) seems to work well.

I've become so accustomed to keeping carbs low that I have to actually pay attention to eating extra (by trading them in for a bit of protein and fat; note my moderately reduced meat intake). I have to remember that anything under 150g or so is still waaaaaay less than the damaging quantity of carbohydrate consumed by most westerners. Also, I'm choosing high-quality, paleo carbohydrates rather than harmful ones like grains and legumes. Carbs are not evil! They have their place; I need to give it to them.

Grokking on...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Project Pooless: Week One

There are two basic methods of shifting to a shampoo-free lifestyle:

1. Cold turkey, or
2. Baby steps.

Normally, I'm the cold turkey type. I like to do my homework, make a decision, then act without further hesitation. This time, however, the need to look decent at the office requires me to take the baby steps route.

So, here's how Week One looked:

Saturday -- No poo. Just a good, hot-water rinse after a day of sweat and dust among the horses. Next morning, my hair was reasonably manageable, if a little greasier than usual.

Sunday -- Poo. Hey, I was off to see Ironman and didn't want to subject him to the slimier side of my experiment. Yet.

Monday -- Poo. Date day. See above.

Tuesday -- Poo again. I didn't want to, but wasn't willing to risk an experiment just before heading to the office.

Wednesday -- No poo! I telecommuted and was therefore free to test what I've come to call the Salad Treatment. I "washed" my hair with baking soda and "conditioned" it with apple cider vinegar.


I scrubbed about 2 Tbs of dry baking soda into my hair, focusing on roots rather than ends, and rinsed it out. This is not supposed to remove grease, but simply neutralize any odors. (I later learned that most people make a paste by mixing the soda with water, or else dissolve it in up to a cup of water, either of which is probably easier than trying to work dry soda down to your scalp!)

To condition, I diluted about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar with 3/4 cup of water in a large, plastic cup. Into this I dipped the ends of my long hair, then tilted my head to allow the vinegar concoction to run through the rest of my hair while taking care not to get it in my eyes. I left the vinegar in my hair for several minutes while shaving, then rinsed thoroughly.

I was pleasantly surprised by the clean look and smooth, slightly heavier-but-fuller-than-usual texture of my hair post Salad Treatment. The only downside was a faint vinegar odor that lingered even after drying (everyone says the smell goes away with the moisture, but that didn't work for me!) Furthermore, when my hair was re-wetted with sweat later in the day, the vinegar smell increased. It wasn't overwhelming, but I'll be interested to see what Ironman thinks!

Thursday -- Poo. Office again.

Friday -- Salad Treatment. AND office. Encouraged by Wednesday's success, I once again applied baking soda and vinegar (not at the same time!) with very satisfactory results.

Saturday -- Egg wash.

Details: Egg, unlike the Salad Treatment, is supposed to remove some oil from the hair without being as harsh as shampoo. I tried it after another dusty, sweaty day in the round corral. While I wasn't in love with the eggy smell, I found the farm-fresh white and yolk easy to work through my hair. I let it sit a minute, then rinsed very thoroughly with COOL water (no need to poach a snack while showering). I followed up with vinegar for conditioning, then braided my wet hair instead of blow-drying. Interestingly, it was the eggy smell that followed me this time, more than the vinegar. Maybe it was mental. Either way, it was subtle. Next time, I might try adding a few drops of lavender extract to the egg.

Sunday -- No poo. Hot water only. Next morning, my hair was a bit greasier than normal (too greasy for me to trust to a Salad Treatment before going to work.) But, it was not nearly as oily as I'd have predicted.

Monday -- Poo. I tried following the wash with a vinegar conditioning treatment, but that was insufficient and I ended up applying a bit of leave-in conditioner before blow-drying.

All things considered, this is going better than I expected! Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Duck Hunt! (Hoo boy, do we know how to have fun!)

Remember when Duck Hunt was just an Nintendo game? It's your lucky day! Duck Hunt is now available in real life, right here at In the Night Farm.

[No animals were harmed in the making of this game.]

You see, when Ironman and I brought home our box of fuzzy ducklings, there were a couple things we didn't know. First, ducklings eat three times their own weight every 24 hours (or at least they seem to, judging by the feed bill). Second, Khaki Campbells and Rouens are not flightless. The breeder pamphlets say they are, but I assure you, it's a lie.

Just ask me how I know.

What's that?

Okay, I'll tell you: Because I've seen them do it!

A couple weeks ago, when I went to Chicago and left Ironman in charge of the farm, he came around the corner to the fenced (but not roofed) duck yard and startled up a couple of Rouens. One lingered nearby and he nabbed it, but the other was last seen on a wobbly flightpath into an oncoming thunderstorm.

Tonight, I did the same thing. Came around the corner, and up went a Khaki Campbell. She flew northward over the horse paddocks and disappeared. Well crap, I thought. Those buggers are worth their weight in gold, after all they've eaten! Better keep them locked in their indoor pen until we can get a roof on the yard.

I resigned myself to the loss of yet another member of the poultry brigade (it's been a rough year for chickens, too), collected the eggs and mail, paused to inspect the garden, and climbed wearily up the to the main level of my farmhouse.

...and I heard a duck. Quacking. From beyond the horse pens.

Well, what did I have to lose? I trotted back down the stairs and through the pasture, circling around behind a patch of weeds at which all the horses were staring curiously. Sure enough, there was little Khaki, a female, panting and obviously distressed by the unintended separation from her flock.

I approached slowly, sure my chances of catching her were close to nil, and was surprised to get within 6 feet before she panicked. She blundered against a nearby fence, flapping and squawking, the managed to slip through.

Dang it! I hurried around to the sheep pens, where there's a spot of fence strong enough to climb over without tearing down the wire or getting zapped with electricity, and caught up with Khaki near the stallion paddocks. She didn't seem to want to fly, but watched me warily, waddling away and occasionally skimming along with her wings outstretched and flapping if I got too close.

Right then. Nice and easy does the trick. Feeling like a large and unwieldy sheepdog, I herded her carefully up the path toward the gate, wondering what on earth I'd do if I managed to get her through. The fences seemed to guide her, but a long stretch of open land lies between the paddocks and the poultry housing.

As it turned out, that was one bridge I didn't need to cross. Khaki waddled right past the gate and into the round corral I use for training horses. I managed to direct her to the uphill side, where the panels are set into the hill and the earth shored back with planks to make a solid wall about as high as Khaki's upraised head.

Still unwilling -- or too unfit? -- to do so, Khaki scrambled back and forth as I weaved to stay ahead of her, repeatedly blocking her path as though she were a fractious filly. In the back of my mind, I couldn't help wondering how hard the neighbors were laughing.

Slowly, slowly I crept nearer. Near enough to...


Missed. Blast! Khaki slipped through my hands and scuttled away -- but blessedly, she didn't fly.

On my second try, I got her. Pinned her wings right to her sides and gathered her against my chest, where she rested without a struggle, peering up at me with a shiny, button eye. She sleeps safely now amid her flock.

Maybe I should add duck wrangling to my resume. I think I will. Who wants to work for an employer without a sense of humor?

Besides, cool I am not, but if you're in the market for a renaissance woman, I've gotcha covered.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Organic Pocketbook: A Struggle Survived

You've heard of debtors prison. Even if it still exists somewhere in the world, I will never go there. I was reared to be responsible with money. Very, very responsible. If a fool and his money are soon parted, count me among the wisest folk you'll ever meet. For me, a major spending spree runs about $150.00 and involves durable goods. I'm positively allergic to debt.

My dad once told me that money is choices. For me, like many women, it is also security. In my case, this means not only my own security, but also that of the 40 of so critters that depend on me for everything from fencing to feed.

I'm telling you this so you can understand what it cost me to go grocery shopping today. Normally one of my favorite activities, today's shopping trip made my stomach literally ache with indecision.

There sat organic avocados, $1.89 apiece. Beside them, conventional for $.78. Organic tomatoes, $1.99/lb. Conventional, as low as $.89. Cherries, $1.99 for a pound of organic, or the same price for two pounds of conventional. Baby spinach, $4.99 or $3.50? Zucchini, $1.29 or less than a dollar?

But I said I would do it, and if there's one thing I hate more than irresponsibility with money, it's irresponsibility with words. Integrity is doing what you said you would, even when no one is watching. Even when it hurts.

And so, despite sufficient stress that I'm considering downing an extra teaspoon of fish oil before bed, I checked out of the store with $23.86 worth of produce. Even though my garden is currently languishing between early crops (greens, peas, rhubarb) and later ones (tomatoes, squash, peppers, beans), that should last me a week.

So, let's multiply that up to about $100 per month for produce. Huh. Not so bad, actually. My former food budget was $200 per month. (Yes, it's possible. I live alone and cook virtually all my meals.) $100 for produce is steeper than my comfort zone -- I need to spare funds for meat and a few extras, like coconut milk and nuts! -- but it's not outside the realm of reality.

Because I'm not really that crazy about money. My bedroom walls, alas, are not stuffed full of hoarded cash. I'm quite content to spend money on priorities: my horses, my farm, adventure, knowledge, and certain people.

Including myself, I suppose. My health. My choice not to slowly poison my cells with daily doses of pesticides and genetically modified mystery plants.

If money is choices, there aren't many more secure than that.

Hungry for more? You might also like A Tale of Oregon Elk: On Food and Gratitude.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All In: Taking Primal to the Next Level

About this time last year, I was beginning to accept that grains and legumes should not be counted among healthful foods. I'd added fish to my flegan diet in order to support an intense workout schedule. And I read a lot.

By August, I understood. Primal/paleo made sense, I'd applied it, and it was working. I'd long since nixed alcohol except for the occasional social event, I hadn't consumed an appreciable quantity of processed food for years, and refined sugars rarely passed my lips. To those auspicious beginnings, I added grain- and legume-free eating, shifted up to 70% of my daily caloric intake to healthful fats, and increased my focus on getting adequate sunlight and sleep.

I've since added in some judiciously researched supplements (magnesium, CoQ10, alpha-lipoic acid, Vitamins E and C, and fish oil). I've become more strategic in balancing my formal workouts with the rigors of summertime on the farm, and 14-16 hour intermittent fasts are a near-daily habit.

So, I'm ten months in and pretty well on track. Right? Well, that depends who you ask. Sure, I eat and exercise more effectively than the vast majority of westerners (and I have the lipid profile to prove it), but there's no denying that more that can be done.

So, for at least a month, here's what I'm going to try:

1. Going Grassfed. The only excuse not to is money. Maybe it's a good excuse, and maybe not. I'm determined to find out.

2. Going Organic. See above. Hopefully, I can apply sufficient savvy to make this affordable.

3. Going with Better Fish Oil. Enough with the Costco capsules. My bottles of lemon-flavored Carlson's just arrived from the Vitamin Shoppe, and they aren't half bad. Four teaspoons a day surely beats 20 gelcaps. (Yes, 20. See Robb Wolf's fish oil calculator for details.)

4. Going Pooless. This is a scary one. I have both a professional job and long, somewhat fine hair that's subjected to plenty of sweat and dirt -- facts that seem incompatible with shampoo-free living. But, I hear it can be done, and my early experiments have been (mostly) positive. Stay tuned.

5. Going Shoeless. Well, sort of. The much-lauded Vibram Five Fingers aren't an option for me, thanks to my severe bunions. So, I'm in the market for a pair or two of soft-soled moccasins. I doubt I'll be wearing them with business suits or among the horses, but for indoor wear and dog walking, they'll be a big step closer to barefoot.

So. Some little things, some big things. Some things that will certainly be sustainable, some that might not. All I can do is try it and find out.

Anyone care to join me?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beyond the Cave: Primal Thoughts on Corporate Travel

Primal living is easy -- beyond easy! -- when I'm at or near home. I pack large salads laden with protein and healthful fats for my midday, post-IF "breakfasts" and conjure up large roasts or pots of stew that serve as dinner throughout the week. My refrigerator bursts with eggs and vegetables, my freezer with meats, and my pantry with coconut milk and spices. I have a farm full of work and a gym full of iron at my disposal. I'm living large.

And then comes corporate travel. Most people seem to view trips to the big city as occasions of culinary opulence. What a beautiful city! they crow. So much to do! So much to eat! I seem to be the only one wondering where people who actually live there forage and hunt. (To this day, I have yet to locate a single grocery store in Washington DC.) Airports and restaurants seem quite unaware that it is, in fact, possible to construct an entire meal that contains neither grains nor frankenfats nor heaps of fruit. Hotel management is so paranoid of lawsuits that you're lucky to find a set of dumbbells in what I've come to call the "Fitless Center" with its never-ending stream of cardio-bunnies bounding righteously along on glorified hamster wheels.

Nevertheless, sometimes, one must travel. I just returned from a four-day jaunt to Chicago, where I spent my days at a professional conference. Here are my observations:

1. It is possible to locate salads -- albeit anemic, low-protein, low-fat, unimaginative ones -- in airport kiosks. However, they all come with sugar and soy/corn oil-laden dressing packs. I need to dream up some way to pack reasonably healthful salad dressings. Most likely, said dressings will need to be homemade. Leakproof. Safe at room temperature. And 3 oz or less. I'm open to suggestions.

2. Packing my own "paleo kits" was a lifesaver. In anticipation of inedible conference food, I packed a baggie of beef jerky, almonds, walnuts, macadamias, and a few home-dried apricots for each day of the trip. As the box lunches provided by the conference each contained at least as many carbs as I would normally consume over 3 entire days (mostly in the form of potato chips, sandwich rolls, and cookies), these paleo kits came in mighty useful. Next time, however, I'll pack the jerky separate from the nuts and fruit, as they all decided to exchange moisture levels in the shared space, resulting in extra-tough jerky and slightly mushy nuts. Thanks to the conference breakfasts of fruit and fried burritos, I was also glad to have packed plenty of kippered herring and unsweetened coconut flakes.

3. The primal lifestyle makes one look rather hot in summery, business-casual dress, which has the useful side effect of enhancing networking capability. Play to your strengths.

4. Speaking of strengths, effective bodyweight workouts can be squeezed in among the ridiculous contraptions (read: ellipticals and bowflexes) the fill hotel Fitless Rooms. Bonus: free entertainment in the form of disbelieving expressions when you bang out more decline pushups, pistols, and renegade rows than any of the boys. For extra fun, surreptitiously post a notice above the stack of free Tribunes: WARNING -- Working out while reading the newspaper makes you look like an unproductive idiot.

5. A few days of calorie restriction has its uses. My trip provided an interesting shakeup of my typical eating schedule. Instead of consuming my usual quantity of fuel during an 8-hour eating window, I instead consumed a reduced amount spread throughout the day. As a result, I returned home visibly leaner -- albeit ready to plow through several pounds of steak without coming up for air.

There's more, of course: Seek out greenbelts for sprinting, strategically apply a long run to drain glycogen stores if you do give in to a burger and fries, remember your supplements (including extra fish oil), keep your mouth shut about being paleo unless someone asks, focus on intellectual pursuits rather than obsessing about food, keep the bloody television off, etc.

But you know that stuff, right? Happy trails.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Primal Jambalaya

Fast, rich, and easy. Sounds like a Hollywood starlet, but alas, it's just a recipe. This primal version of jambalaya (no rice, of course, though you could serve it over cauliflower rice if you wished) makes for a filling, one-dish meal in about 20 minutes.

The recipe makes 2, dinner-sized servings. For a savory breakfast, split it into four servings, each topped with a fried egg or two.

A word of warning: when shopping for Polish sausage, be sure to check the label. Some brands contain an appalling quantity of high fructose corn syrup or other sugars, while others contain little or none.

Primal Jambalaya

2 chicken thighs, cooked and cut into chunks
2 Polish sausage links, sliced into coins
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeno, sliced (with seeds)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (not drained)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp creole seasoning (plain salt works too)
4 Tbs fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Brown sausage in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven. Add onion and peppers and saute over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add dry spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 20-30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes and chicken, scraping bottom of pan to deglaze, and simmer until chicken is heated through. Serve topped with cilantro, if desired. Serves 2.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I blog too little lately
because I haven't enough time

Which makes me wonder why I blog at all
because I could always fill time
in other ways
real ways

Still, I return to fill not time but minds
not space but souls
because people matter
even though, some days,
I hate us all.

I blog for the fatties!
the chronically ill, the dissatisfied
for the stubborn bodies that refuse to respond
to mindful
adherence to spoon-fed, corn-fed, never-dead

I blog for the primals!
the paleos already freed
but also dissatisfied
always alone
because no one still bound can understand.

Do they want to understand?

I blog to break free!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Tallies

My occasional answer to the frequently asked questions, "What do you eat?" and "How do you work out?"

Saturday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Two eggs over easy with avocado, cottage cheese, and primal chili.

Lunch: Moroccan chicken. Half an apple with almond butter.

Dinner: Bunless hamburger with smoked gouda, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and fresh garden salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Half an ounce of 99% chocolate and coconut cream.

Saturday's Workout: Long day on the farm. 11+ hours of "moving slowly," with occasional lifting of heavy things. Horse training, riding, chores, gardening...

Sunday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Moroccan chicken over jicama and carrot "rice."

Lunch: Three eggs scrambled with onion, jalipeno, and spinach, topped with avocado and hot sauce.

Dinner: Harvati rolled in deli roast beef. Salad with sugar snap peas, strawberries, apple, walnuts, and olive oil-cinnamon vinegar dressing.

Sunday's Workout: Even longer day on the farm. All the above, plus rototilling.

Monday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Intermittent fast totaling 16 hours.

Lunch: Spinach and garden lettuce salad with canned wild salmon, avocado, olives, sundried tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Dinner: Primal hamburger casserole. Roasted carrots and zucchini. 1 oz. 99% chocolate.

Monday's Workout: 4x rotation of barbell lunges, weighted HLRs, pullups, deadlifts, and weighted bench situps. Evening walk with Wyrsa the staghound.

Tuesday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Three eggs scrambled with onion, jalipeno, and spinach, topped with avocado and hot sauce. Strawberries and blueberries blended with coconut milk.

Lunch: Spinach salad with canned wild salmon, avocado, roasted carrots and zucchini, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Dinner: A handful of Primal Energy Mix, and maybe a tin of sardines.

Tuesday's Workout: Rest day. Concealed carry class tonight!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


As the cat lapses into savagery by night, and barbarously explores the dark,
so primal and titanic is a woman with love madness.

~ Frank Gelett Burgess

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Tallies: Primal Menus and Movement

My occasional answer to the frequently asked questions, "What do you eat?" and "How do you work out?"

Thursday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Spinach salad with alfalfa sprouts, steamed carrots, sugar snap peas, and green beans, canned wild salmon, cashews, a hardboiled egg, olive oil, and vinegar.

Lunch: Round steak. Steamed Brussels sprouts, carrots, sugar snap peas, and green beans with butter.

Dinner: Eggs and bacon. Fresh blackberries and strawberries with coconut milk. Half an ounce of 99% chocolate.

Thursday's Workout: 8x 100-meter hill sprints. Grease-the-groove pull-ups and push-ups.

Friday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Spinach salad with salmon, half an apple, carrot, walnuts, and cinnamon-cider vinegar-olive oil dressing.

Lunch: Italian-style egg salad made with bacon, olives, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, oregano, plain yogurt, mustard, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

Dinner: Baked spaghetti squash with butter and herbs. Blackberries and strawberries with coconut milk.

Friday's Workout: Rest day.

Saturday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: 3 fried eggs with bell pepper, onion, and avocado. Sausage. Fried spaghetti squash.

Lunch: Half an apple and half a banana with almond butter.

Pre-workout: Handful of brazil nuts.

Post-workout: Full-fat cottage cheese with fresh strawberries.

Dinner: Grilled salmon with ginger-sesame-lime marinade. Steamed sugar snap peas. Glass of red wine.

Saturday's Workout: Full day of horse training, riding, and farm work. 5x barbell lunges, weighted HLRs, deadlifts, and bent-over barbell rows.

Sunday's Food as Fuel:

Breakfast: Baked butternut squash with coconut milk and cinnamon. Avocado and cream cheese rolled in sliced roast beef.

Lunch: Salmon, egg, and raw zucchini salad. Raw sugar snap peas.

Dinner: Half a banana with almond butter. Strawberries and blackberries in coconut milk.

Sunday's Workout: Full day of horse training, riding, and farm work.

Monday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Spinach salad with tuna, artichoke hearts, olives, sundried tomatoes, walnuts, alfalfa sprouts, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Lunch: Salmon, egg, and raw zucchini salad.

Dinner: Spaghetti squash sauteed in butter. Italian hot sausage. Almond butter and 99% dark chocolate "cookies."

Monday's Workout: Rest day. High stress at work, and little time.

Tuesday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Intermittent fast until 1:00.

Lunch: Spinach salad with canned tuna, alfalfa sprouts, steamed carrots and green beans, sunflower seeds, and olive oil & vinegar.

Pre-workout: Cottage cheese and strawberries.

Dinner: Roast chicken. Butternut squash with coconut oil and herbs. Blackberries and coconut milk.

Tuesday's Workout: 5x rotation of backsquats (New PR put me over bodyweight!), renegade rows, bench presses, and military presses. Tacked on grease-the-groove style pullups and pushups.

Notes: I find myself shifting toward larger breakfast and lunch meals, and a smaller dinner. This is partly because I've narrowed my eating window most days; that is, I almost always go at least 14 hours between dinner and breakfast, which pushes breakfast and lunch quite late in the day, so I don't need a huge meal come dinnertime. This can be problematic, however, because I often need to cook in the evening in order to have leftovers for future meals. I'm working on it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ground Beef and Sweet Potato Curry

Many of us primal eaters are looking for ways to balance our O-6:O-3 ratios and our budgets. Considering that one of the best ways to achieve the former is to consume grass-fed, grass-finished meats, the latter can be difficult! Many of us have to compromise by supplementing our conventional meat intake with quality fish oil, and buying less expensive cuts of grass-fed meat.

Ground beef is an easy and inexpensive favorite, but too much of it can lead to a meal plan that's, well, less than exotic. This recipe, requested by reader Barb, is one way I've managed to jazz it up a bit. Obviously, you can take the basic concept and mix it up any way you like. Use chicken or steak in place of the ground beef. Try different vegetables (carrot and zucchini work well). Heat things up or cool them down. Curry is an astonishingly flexible dish. Enjoy!

Ground Beef and Sweet Potato Curry

1 lb ground beef
1 medium, yellow onion, julienned
1 red or yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 Anaheim pepper (or try a pasilla or a couple jalipenos), julienned
1 Tbs coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
2 Tbs fresh ginger, grated or minced
2 Tbs red curry paste
2 Tbs hot curry powder
2 Tbs mild curry powder
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) full-fat coconut milk
1 cup beef broth
1 medium sweet potato, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
Unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped almonds, and minced green onion (optional, for garnish)

Brown ground beef and set aside. Saute onions and peppers in coconut oil until al dente, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and curry paste and powders. Saute another minute, stirring frequently, to toast spices without burning. Add tomatoes, coconut milk, broth, ground beef, and sweet potato and stir to combine. Cover and simmer over low heat until sweet potato is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve topped with coconut flakes, almonds, and green onion if desired. Serves 4.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bloody Marvelous

I just received the results of my first-ever blood panel.

Normally, I avoid conventional medicine (aside from emergency care, which is a whole other -- and much more impressive! -- ballgame) like the plague that it (mostly) is.

But, when Central District Health brought a $22 cholesterol screening and fasting blood glucose test clinic to my office, I couldn't pass up the chance for some cheap numbers. My inner geek demands regular feedings, after all, and I was dying to know whether this high fat, moderate protein, fairly low carb diet was killing me.

I've been primal (closer to paleo, actually) for a good 7 months now. Unfortunately, I don't have "before" blood work. A comparison would be fascinating, particularly as I'd been mostly vegan for the previous three years.

Anyway, here are the numbers as they came off the report. Interpretation to follow.

Fasting blood glucose: 84 mg/dL (Optimal is 60-100. Higher puts you in the pre-diabetes or diabetes category.)

Total cholesterol: 216 mg/dL (Optimal is under 200. Or so says conventional wisdom. Wait for it...)

Triglycerides: 38 mg/dL (Optimal is 30-150.)

HDL: 101 mg/dL (Optimal is 40 or more. This is the "good" cholesterol.)

LDL: 107 mg/dL (Optimal is under 100. According to conventional wisdom.)

I know enough about cholesterol to be unconcerned about these numbers, but for all the gory details, I pulled up this fantastic post, written by a knowledgeable member of the MDA forum. "Griff" has actually reversed full-fledged, type II diabetes with diet alone, and he knows his stuff.

As Griff explains clearly and thoroughly, total cholesterol is much less important than the ratios between the numbers, and LDL cholesterol numbers from a simple test like this are inaccurate in anyone with triglycerides below 100 mg/dL.

Let's start with that second point. LDL is typically calculated using the Friedwald formula, but it is well known that the formula only works properly, mathematically speaking, if trigs are higher than 100 mg/dL. Therefore, because my trigs only came in at 38, I know that the 107 listed for my calculated LDL is inaccurate.

Fortunately, there is a different and more accurate formula available. According to the Iranian calculation (detailed in Griff's post, if you're curious), my LDL is actually only 71.7 -- well within the optimal range of 100 or fewer mg/dL. So there.

Now, let's talk about ratios. There are three that count. Here are mine and what they mean:

Total:HDL = 216:101 = 2.1 (Ideal for women is 4.4 or lower. This indicates that my LDL cholesterol is predominantly Pattern A, or "large fluffy," which is neutral rather than dangerous.)

Trigs:HDL = 38:101 = .37 (Ideal is 2 or lower. This indicates low risk of heart disease, as well as low free insulin, which is a good thing.)

LDL:HDL = 71.7:101 = .7 (Ideal is 4.3 or below. Even using the inaccurate, Friedwald formula, my ratio is still stellar at 1. This indicates that I have very little carotid plaque.)

So. It looks like I'm not going to keel over from coronary heart disease anytime soon.

Pass the bacon n' barbell, please.

For details of what I've been eating these past 7 months, check out the posts labeled Tuesday Tallies. You'll see that they've changed some over time (mostly in a carb-lowering direction), but the central principles have remained intact.

PSA: If you have bloodwork results of your own handy, please, PLEASE do yourself a favor and run the ratios on them. Your numbers can be low enough to satisfy your doctor, yet your ratios could put you in the danger zone. Conversely, you may have been prescribed statins (and all their nasty side effects) when your ratios are actually quite safe. See the MDA post linked above for easy instructions on how to do the math.

For further reading, there are lots of links in the post. See also Protein Power by the Drs. Eades.

Down Under: Root Cellar Update

It's been a long time coming, but In the Night Farm's root cellar is nearly complete.

The big hole, dug nearly two years ago with the help of a generous neighbor's backhoe, now features an underground room lined with shelves. Many of the shelves (which still need to be bolted to the walls) are vented to provide air flow beneath root crops like onions, sweet potatoes, and Yukon Golds.

Yes, potatoes! Many believe these to be a less-than-primal food (and I haven't eaten a white potato in months), but homegrown taters are a sensible indulgence I'm more than willing to enjoy. If you've never tried them, you must! They're as different from commercially grown potatoes as are garden tomatoes from those supermarket imposters.

There's also plenty of space, down here in the humid chill, to hang herbs, store sealed packages of dried fruit from the apricot tree and tomato vines, and cluster jars of home-canned dills. We might even throw in a few bottles of wine.

The walls are reinforced, the cracks sealed, the tin ready to go on the roof...and it's time to start filling in the hole. Now, there's a primal workout I've looked forward to! Really. Digging in the dirt, particularly with a real goal in mind, is tremendously satisfying. Ask any kid.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

(Tardy) Tuesday Tallies: Primal Menus & Movement

It's time again for my occasional answer to the frequent questions: "What do you eat?" and "How do you work out?"

(Yes, I know it's Wednesday. I was busy yesterday.)

Sunday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: 3 eggs over easy with onions, peppers, avocado, and hot sauce. Bacon. Apple.

Lunch: Didn't need it. Besides, I was out riding. I had a few brazil nuts when I got back.

Dinner: Ground beef and sweet potato curry. Blueberries with coconut milk and 1/2 oz 98% chocolate.

Sunday's Workout: Playday! Rode 26 miles. For those unfamiliar with good equitation, riding a horse well takes about the same level of effort as walking briskly.

Monday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Spinach salad with steamed carrots and broccoli, canned wild salmon, pecans, olive oil, and vinegar.

Lunch: Ground beef and sweet potato curry.

Dinner: Bunless cheeseburger with sauteed onions and mushrooms. Steamed brussels sprouts with butter. Strawberries with coconut milk.

Monday's Workout: 3x rotation of pistols, decline pushups, Turkish getups, close-grip pushups, planks, and chinups.

Tuesday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: IF (15 1/2-hour intermittent fast, broken at 1:00pm)

Lunch: Spinach salad with steamed carrots and green beans, alfalfa sprouts, canned wild salmon, walnuts, olive oil, and vinegar. And a bit of smoked salmon someone brought to the office to share.

Snack: Strawberries and half a banana with coconut milk.

Dinner: Ground beef and sweet potato curry. Cottage cheese with avocado.

Tuesday's Workout: 5x backsquats, renegade rows, bench presses, and military presses

Wednesday's Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Spinach salad with alfalfa sprouts, steamed carrots and green beans, canned wild salmon, cashews, olive oil and vinegar.

Lunch: Italian tuna salad (tuna, sundried tomatoes, black olives, artichokes, oil and vinegar, oregano and pepper) and 2 hardboiled eggs.

Dinner: Small steak. Brussels sprouts with butter. Strawberries with coconut milk.

Wednesday's workout: Rest day.

Note that I've thrown in a bit more carbohydrate than in the past (except on the rest day). I'm moving up from about 65g/day to about 85g, as my energy expenditure is higher now that we have more daylight down on the farm. I was getting a bit fried at the lower carb level, but I think I've found the right balance again.

I love understanding (or at least, getting closer to understanding) what's going on with my body -- and how to manipulate it for maximum performance!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coconut Fried Plantains

Here's an easy, 100% primal dessert I've been serving lately as part of my commitment to reintroduce a reasonable quantity of carbohydrate to my diet. (More on that in an upcoming post.) A whole, medium plantain contains about 60 grams of carbs, but just a quarter of a fruit fried up in healthful coconut makes a remarkably satisfying, barely-sweet end to a meal.

The medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides in coconut oil are widely credited with health benefits ranging from enhanced longevity to fat loss to anti-viral impact to the elimination of candida.

Tropical Traditions is a good source of quality coconut oil. Get on their e-mailing list for a steady stream of notifications about excellent deals on their products.

Coconut Fried Plantains

1 medium plantain, peeled and cut lengthwise, then width-wise into quarters
1/2 cup unsweetened, dessicated coconut
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 cup coconut cream
Dash of cinnamon

Melt coconut oil in the bottom of a glass bread pan. Roll each plantain quarter in the oil, then in the dessicated coconut to coat generously. Return plantain quarters to pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until coconut is well toasted. Serve each plantain quarter on a small plate with 1/4 cup coconut cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serves 4.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Who Needs Lulus? (Or, How to Turn Your Ass from Sag to Sass)

Have you ordered your Lulus yet?

Apparently, they're all the rage among Crossfitters. Why? Because (in addition to being high-quality and high-comfort), Luluemon Athletica's pants are reputed to make even the most mundane female backside a head-turning exhibit at your local gym.

Which is great. I guess. If your backside is boring and you don't mind cheating in order to turn heads.

But who wants a Wizard of Oz butt? I mean, c'mon. Are those admiring looks really satisfying when you know, deep down inside, that your Luluemon tush is, behind the veil, a lemon? Who wants to worry about running into the gym guys at the grocery store, when your non-Lulued backside is waving its true colors behind your unsupportive slacks?

Talk about false advertising.

You want a real sassy ass, you're going to have to work for it. And don't give me that crap about being too old. The only reason we Westerners tend to lose muscle mass with age is that we get lazy. We expect to get soft. And weak. And unhealthy.

You do not have to lose muscle mass with age. At almost 32, I'm falling seriously behind on the bat-wing and saddle-bag curve that's practically required of women who've left their twenties in the dust. (Just try to find a scrap of fat dangling from my triceps. I dare you.) Similarly, Ironman, at 40, is regularly mistaken for a much younger guy. Why? He's lean and cut, and we're not used to seeing that on anyone over 30.

It's as simple as you've always heard, people: Use it, and you won't lose it.

But what if you've already lost muscle mass? Well, shut up griping and start doing something about it. You can build muscle whether you're ninety or nineteen, and whatever lean tissue you add will help keep you lean. The notion that metabolism must slow with age is a myth.

That's the good news. The bad news is that you do actually have to put some effort into achieving the backside of champions. Since it's we females who typically agonize over our butts -- resorting either to baggy sweats or Lulus to conceal or modify them -- this post is especially for women. (Guys who give a rat's ass what yours looks like: the concepts apply to you, too. Just keep away from the Lulus, k? K.)

Without further ado, here are four steps to a sassy ass. Guaranteed or your money back.

1. Diet

Yeah. Sorry girls, but nutrition is the single, biggest factor in leanness. If you want a perky butt, you're going to have to get rid of the layer of fat that conceals the muscles beneath. (We'll talk about developing those muscles in a moment.)

Contrary to popular belief, undamaged dietary fats (not to be mistaken for the frankenfats that are rampant in processed foods) do not make us fat. Sugar makes us fat. All carbohydrate is, as far as the body is concerned, sugar. Some carbs (most notably, vegetables) are worth the tradeoff. Most (especially grains and sweeteners) are not. Clean up your diet ala the Primal Blueprint or Whole 30 Paleo, and watch your bodyfat vanish -- not to mention a host of other health problems.

Still in the does-not-compute phase? Watch the Lustig and Taubes videos for accessible explanations of the science.

2. Squat

Air squats, heavy squats, Tabata thrusters, pistols... Pick your favorite variety, start at whatever level you can, and do them. Lots of them. Work up to heavy squats, because that's where the real money is in terms of gluteal development. You want perky, you gotta squat.

In a typical week, I do several kinds of squats. Thrusters and air squats appear in metcon routines, pistols are a staple of my gymnastics/bodyweight days, and backsquats are my personal favorite among all the heavy, compound lifts.

Do your homework on form. You know all those aerobics instructors who warned never to squat past parallel for fear of wrecking your knees? They were wrong, k? Here's Mark Rippetoe on the subject of squat form. Rippetoe (literally) wrote the book on strength training.

3. Lunge

Ah, lunges. These suckers are my best friend and worst enemy. Done properly, they're hellishly hard...but do them properly, and your glutes will be heavenly hard.

I started out with walking or standing lunges 3-4 times per week -- first without weight, then with dumbbells in each hand, then with the dumbbells plus a backpack stuffed with 35 pounds of sand. (Hey, you use what you got.) 4-6 sets of as many reps as you can do while maintaining good form will do the job. These days, I barbell lunge up to 95 lbs for 5x5s (5 sets of 5 reps each).

As always, do your homework on form. Then work it. At first, you'll notice sore quads. But those will develop, and you'll start to feel the real work in your gluteal muscles. Be warned: heavy lunges can give you a seriously sore seat for a couple days! It's worth it. I have yet to find a better way to sculpt my butt.

4. Sprint

Sprinting is particularly useful for developing a shapely tush because it tones the muscles without adding a lot of bulk. (Depending on individual genetics, most women don't need to worry about excessive bulk anyway.) Rusty of Fitness Black Book discusses sprint form and butt benefits in this article. And we all know that sprinting offers myriad other rewards, not the least of which is the promotion of a hormonal response that leads to the burning of bodyfat for fuel.

There you go. Applied with consistency and commitment, the four steps above will turn your ass from sag to sass. Then you can buy LuLus and really rock 'em -- because you don't need them!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Anatomy of a Cheat

Y'all know by now that I'm not much of a cheater.

I like my primal straight up, thanks. I'll have a bit of dairy, but that's it. No sneaks from the office candy bowl. No toast with my eggs. No rice with stir fry or tortillas with fajitas or Pepsi on the sly. I'm too in love with my leanness, strength, and energy to risk it over a mouthful of sweet or starchy poison.

And yet, once in a blue moon, I do plan a major cheat. I hate that term, by the way, because it implies that the "cheater" is committing a mortal sin or losing control, rather than making an informed choice to eat something he or she normally avoids.

There's no real harm in a very-occasional , non-primal indulgence. (Assuming you're not still working to fix a broken metabolism, in which case more caution is advisable.)

And so, as I do about three times per year, I brought home a take-and-bake pizza (half Hawaiian, half pepperoni) and a small carton of Moose Tracks. I enjoyed several slices of pizza and a bowl of ice cream, and felt, as I knew I would, like complete crap.

The ice cream in particular made me feel like I'd swallowed a bucketful of steak knives. It also exacerbated the mild sore throat with which I'd been contending all afternoon. It was tasty, though!

I drank lots of water to combat the carb-induced water retention and went to bed smiling at myself, knowing that I was experiencing exactly what I was supposed to.

The next morning, I woke up looking reasonably lean -- about normal, but slightly puffy and less visibly cut in the abs. I had some leftover pizza for breakfast, in response to which my stomach made its displeasure known. A bit more ice cream reintroduced the sore throat and mucousy sinuses, which had resolved overnight. Note to self: Do not plan cheats for days your immune system is already working overtime.

Then, I went about my day, ignoring the lactose-, lectin-, and gluten-induced discomfort that persisted for hours. Unable to train horses or do farm work due to abysmal weather (horizontal sleet, anyone?), I drove to town and poked about in the thrift stores, where I scored a 5.5' x 3' wall mirror for my home gym.

Anyway. While I was in town, I bought (primal) groceries. I wandered around Home Depot, plotting future projects. I took my time. And I didn't get hungry.

I came home. Lifted heavy for almost an hour. Set a personal best on back squats. Wrapped up in an Aussie duster and fed the livestock in a driving rainstorm. Warmed up with a mug of spearmint tea. Didn't get hungry.

By 8:00, I still hadn't eaten and reckoned there wasnt' any need to. I went to bed looking lean and feeling strong (if still a bit queasy) and pleasantly satisfied with my body's apparent ability to make the best of a nasty shock.

As I understand it, a primal-adapted body, that is, one that is insulin-sensitive and accustomed to accessing fat for fuel, can endure -- and even benefit from -- an occasional influx of carbs. Yes, yes, such influx should typically be free of gluten and added sugar. Believe me, I know.

Faced with a rush of starch and sugar, my liver arranged neat chains of glycogen molecules to be harvested at will for the satisfaction of the parts of my brain and other tissues that prefer glucose as fuel. Excess glycogen was shuttled away to my muscle cells, where insulin rang the doorbell so my sensitive insulin receptors could admit as much fuel as possible. When my liver and muscle glycogen stores were both full, all extra energy was stored in my fat cells for later use.

Thanks to my fat-adapted metabolism -- the product of months of low-carb, adequate-protein, high-fat eating -- all that stored fuel was ready and waiting to meet energy needs long after my stomach emptied. Those bolstered fat cells emptied right back out.

And, as an added bonus, I enjoyed a reboot in leptin sensitivity, which resulted in visibly-improved leanness within 48 hours post-cheat. (Basically, leptin is a hormone that encourages the burning of stored bodyfat.) Under normal circumstances, I achieve this without the nasty side effects of grain and sugar-laden dairy by consuming a bi-weekly boost of primal carbs such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, fruit, or plantains.

And oh, those side effects are nasty indeed. Three days and two 16+ hour intermittent fasts passed before I felt completely normal again. It doesn't matter whether you fall off the wagon or jump off by choice -- the ground is just as hard!

I'm glad to be back on the straight and narrow for the foreseeable future. After all, the primal straight and narrow is a pretty satisfying place:


See this fascinating thread on the MDA forum for additional detail on how the body handles carbohydrate, as well as a variety of other topics.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Strawberry and Avocado Salad with Chile-Lime Dressing

Here's a simple one -- a springy side dish with bright colors, contrasting textures, and interesting flavors. Drizzle the extra dressing over an accompanying piece of grilled chicken.

Strawberry and Avocado Salad with Chile-Lime Dressing

4 cups fresh baby spinach
8 fresh strawberries, quartered
1 avocado, sliced into eighths

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/8 tsp salt

Combine dressing ingredients in blender and emulsify. Chill dressing. Arrange 2 strawberries and 2 slices avocado atop 1 cup of spinach on each of four plates. Dress salad immediately before serving. Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Make Way for Ducklings

I let the ducklings out of their nursery on Saturday. They now have the run of the indoor section of the main duck pen (but not the outdoor duck playground, which isn't cat-safe). The indoor section is about 12' x 5', mostly covered, with plenty of shelter from the wind. And, it's adjacent to the nursery pen so the ducklings can still get under their heat lamp as necessary.

They're huge already! At only about 2 weeks of age, they have more than quadrupled in size, and the 16 of them plow through over a quart of 20% protein flock-raiser mash daily. I have to play close attention to their water supply, too, as they must have it to keep their bills clear of debris, and they splash and drink plenty.

Here they are exploring the new digs. They particularly enjoyed the few tufts of grass that survived the duck-pen construction project.

Ironman has left town for a few weeks. (He has a cooler job than I do.) By the time he gets home, the first of the Pekin drakes will be nearly ready for slaughter. I've never cooked duck before, but understand it must be done properly for good results. Time to start reading up on the subject -- I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Progress, Plateau, and Progress Again

[Continued from Part One and Part Two in response to this Reader Question about primal workouts.]

I finally got an update photo taken to go with the continuation of my reply to reader Rebekah, who asked for specifics regarding my primal workout plan. This shot is from April 4, 2010 -- it's not great, but you get the idea:

If you've been reading for a while and have a very good memory, you might recall that I started doing primal workouts about 13 months ago, well before I'd even heard of the primal blueprint. I didn't have much equipment, but I had plenty of determination and enough creativity to turn bodyweight and interval work into a very effective training program.

But you know us overachievers. Never satisfied, are we? I wanted heavier things to lift! I also wanted more energy with which to lift them...and my long-enjoyed flegan diet wasn't cutting it anymore. I began looking for solutions to my slow recoveries and frequent stomach bloating. You can read about my transition to primal here.

Going primal -- I was nearly 100% compliant by late August, 2009 -- gave my training program a major shot in the arm. After enduring an extended low-carb flu (6 weeks, presumably due to my formerly heavy reliance on carb-laden grains and legumes for the bulk of my caloric intake), I emerged stronger, faster, and more energetic than ever.

But I still needed heavy things. Stacking hay is great, but you can't do it every day. The beasties just don't eat that much! I needed iron. Finally, in late December, I bought it. My Christmas present to myself was an Olympic barbell set, squat rack, plate rack, curl bar, and the necessary accessories.

My workouts, which had moved indoors for the winter, underwent a significant shift. My late 2009 workouts were built around metabolic conditioning (Tabata and other types of intervals, usually "prison style" due to limited space and freezing weather) plus bodyweight/gymnastics work such as decline pushups, pullups, and HLRs. Once my barbell set came home, however, my schedule transitioned to something like this:

Day 1: Heavy
6x rotation of back squats pull-ups, bench presses, weighted HLRs, weighted dips, and military presses

Day 2: Gymnastics
6x rotation of pistols(aka one-legged squats), decline push-ups, pull-ups, L-sits, weighted step-ups, close-grip push-ups, planks and side planks.

Day 3: Sprints or Metcon

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Heavy
6x rotation of barbell lunges, chin-ups, deadlifts, bent-over barbell rows, weighted calf raises, and renegade rows.

Day 6: Gymnastics

Day 7: Sprints or Metcon

Day 8: Rest

Pop Quiz: What is wrong with this picture?

Gradually, I did less metcon and more heavy lifting and gymnastics. Gradually, my performance peaked...and plateaued...and dropped. Gradually, mild fatigue set in and I lost enthusiasm for training. Gradually, my sleep patterns became disturbed.

Yeah. I was flirting with overtraining.

Okay, okay. It spent the night.

In early March, faced with minor but unresolved pain in my left knee and resolutely mediocre performance, I took a week off. A whole week! (Oh, the mental anguish!) It was my first rest of more than two, consecutive days since September, when Ironman and I took an active vacation to compete in a multi-day equine endurance race.

After my week off, I spent another two weeks working my way back into a regular, amended schedule involving more rest -- and also a few more primal carbs, which now come in around 85 instead of 65 grams on the average day.

I'm still in flux, accommodating increased farm work now that we have more daylight hours, but my enthusiasm has returned. My strength is burgeoning, too. I set a couple PRs last week. I'm leaner than ever. Climbing again.


I think there's a bit more going on here than overtraining. Just over a year into general physical preparedness training, and roughly 4 months in to my heavy lifting program, I believe I am teetering on the brink between "novice" and "intermediate." (Check out this fantastic reference.) My gains are starting to slow. I'm forced to work smarter, not just harder. As the weight goes up, so must my time spent in recovery.

About the abs: I like 'em. Some people seem to find them unfeminine, which is okay with me. They're entitled to their own, lousy opinion. ;) I've always said that I'd rather be athletic than classically beautiful.

Anyway, it has been my experience that weighted core work is responsible for the "6-pack" definition. I do renegade rows with 15 lb dumbbells, HLRs with 15 lbs between my ankles, situps with a 35 lb plate held overhead, and Turkish get-ups with a 12 lb dumbbell.

On post-workout nutrition: While leaning out, I found that skipping PWO food intake was an easy way to take advantage of the release of human growth hormone and maximize fat burning. However, a person can get too lean for optimum performance. I've found that, when increasing strength is my primary goal, I need to eat within about half an hour PWO. A little full-fat cottage cheese and fruit, or sweet potato roasted in coconut oil, goes a long way toward enhancing recovery.

On weight: I weigh myself about once a quarter. It's always fascinating -- but never so much as this last time, when I discovered that I've gained 12 pounds since last April. At 5'3", I'm up from 110 to 122. Wow! That represents a massive shift in body composition, from fat to lean, considering I had to buy a new professional wardrobe in January because all my suits were way too big!

I'd love to know my bodyfat percentage, but alas, I haven't a clue -- nor much faith in any of the usual measurement methods. C'est la vie.