Sour Oat Hotcakes

And my fermented-grain adventures continue with SOUR OAT HOT CAKES!!

I made these little tasties for breakfast today using fermented oats, duck eggs and raw milk. They are FLOURLESS, GLUTEN-FREE, WHEAT-FREE and 100% LOCAL and ORGANIC. (By the way, we always knew it was important to eat organic, but this latest Wise Traditions article about glyphosate contamination of collagen is the real clincher.)

I always keep a mason jar of whole oats (thanks to local farm Nash’s Organic) bubbling away on my countertop. The fermentation process is a type of “cooking” which softens them, and basically makes them ready to serve anytime, as convenient as instant oats, except waaaaay more nutritious and digestible. Even easier is making oatmeal. Just grind with some water, heat, and serve this simple porridge (with plenty of butter.)

For this recipe, I take a few scoops of oats from the jar and grind them in the food processor with pastured duck eggs and raw milk.  Kids love them (yay!) and they are pretty simple to make even on a busy morning.  And BONUS: the fermentation reduces the glycemic load, deactivates anti-nutrients like phytic acid, and basically predigests the grain for you, making these cakes a nutritional win-win-win.

SOUR OAT HOTCAKES

•2 cups fermented whole oats (drained and rinsed)

•2 large (duck) eggs

•1/3 cup (raw) milk

•2 Tbsp olive oil (or other favorite fat: melted coconut oil, ghee, etc. 

•1/2 tsp baking soda

•1/2 tsp salt

Grind ingredients in a food processor, cook on a hot buttered griddle and serve with any of your favorite pancake toppings. I like melted butter, yogurt and cooked fruit on top. This recipe makes enough cakes to have extra–great as a snack in my son’s lunchbox.

NOTE: These cakes work better when kept small. Larger hotcakes have a hard time holding together because they have no gluten.

Enjoy, and B Well—>>>Nala Walla
BWell Nutrition and Somatics
Integrative Wellness Coaching
BWellNow.org

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Holy Sh**t-sicles

I know this isn’t a very marketable name for a food, but I don’t care: these Popsicles are the shiznit! No added sweetener. Just sunripe goodness coupled with nutrient-dense all-stars like coconut oil and grassfed butter. A treat you can be confident will actually nourish your kids, instead of the typical sugar-bombsicles that will rot the teeth out of their heads.

The color and texture is pretty close to poop, but ya just gotta grin, and then admit that some sh**t really is holy.

HOLY SH**TSICLES

1 cup ripe raspberries
2 TB grassfed butter
2 TB coconut oil
3/4 cup sour cream (I use organic, lactose-free version)
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
2 TB unsweetened cacao powder
[Options: add a splash of raw honey, or substitute coconut creme/milk for the butter and yogurt if you want a dairy-free version.]

Blend everything in food processor, add to Popsicle molds and freeze! Makes 8 Popsicles. You’re welcome, kids.

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Bone Broth Gazpacho

I’m a soup gal. I like to eat it everyday, sometimes several times a day. Lately, however, it’s been so hot, I haven’t been drawn to soup.

But I don’t like missing my daily dose of bone broth! So, dutifully made the creamy cauliflower purée that is normally one of my favorites, but it sat there uneaten.

UNTIL!–I decided to turn it into GAZPACHO! I pulsed tomato and zucchini chunks along with lime juice, chopped parsley, and sea salt, in the food processor, then mixed in the cauliflower purée (which already had quite a bit of butter in it, by the way).

VOILA! A tangy, mouth-watering bone broth gazpacho to drink over ice at the beach. It’s perfect–bone broth, butter, raw veggies, and electrolytes all in one meal.

Super yummm!

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Lard Mayonnaise–NOT RUNNY!

I’ve never been able to find a store-bought mayo that doesn’t contain the evil canola oil. Even the ones that claim to be made of “olive oil” still have canola in them.Years ago, I’d tried the recipe for homemade olive-oil mayo in Nourishing Traditions, but it always came out runny.  I tried subbing out coconut oil to make it more solid, but I found the coconutty flavor didn’t really work for mayo, so I kinda gave up on it.

But today, I was making potato salad, and a lightbulb went off to substitute good ole fashioned LARD for the olive oil, and PRESTO!!!  Perfect mayo!!!  It’s so good, in fact, that I wonder if LARD was actually the original base for mayo before it was demonized.   Well, now we know better, don’t we?

Here’s the recipe:  ENJOY!

REAL HOMEMADE MAYO

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 tsp. prepared mustard

2 or 3 tsp. lemon juice

1 TBsp whey or other lacto-starter (OPTIONAL: the purpose is to make the mayo last much longer.  2 months or more, as opposed to 2 weeks without it.)

generous pinch of salt

3/4 cup lard (melted)

Put all ingredients except lard in food processor.  Mix well for about 20 seconds.  Then turn processor on and drizzle in melted lard slowly.

Super nutrient dense with Essential Fatty Acids — use it on everything!

 

Halloween Switch Witch to the Rescue!

Grandmother Witch

Around Halloween, health-conscious moms around the country are faced with the challenge of how to avoid all the HFCS and GMO-laden candy that surrounds us this time of year.

I want my son to be able to participate in Halloween Festivities, to dress up in costumes, to Trick or Treat, and to bob for apples with the best of ’em, but I don’t want him subjected to the metabolic havoc of gorging on Snickers Bars, Smarties, and Candy Corn.

So, we have struck a bargain with the “Switch Witch.”

I tell my son that he can collect all the candy he wants on Halloween, and then give it to “The Switch Witch,”  who will exchange it for his favorite foods.  This year I asked him what those foods were and he replied, “French Fries” “Chocolate Chips” and “Bananas.”  So, we gave the the Switch Witch the candy, and she gave Mama the raw ingredients.  The next day, I created the following recipe for “Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes” (being primarily comprised of of eggs, almond butter and sweet potato, these are much more like nutrient dense, grain-free muffins than cakes.)

And, as a bonus, it gave us a super-educational and fun activity to do all morning, as my three-year old got to measure everything out, press the button on the food processor, and, of course, lick the spoon!

Next activity is making gourmet french fries from our garden potatoes and local, home rendered tallow (lard works great too!)

Voila:  some (not so) naughty homemade treats to replace the typcial nasty Halloween fare.  THANKS, SWITCH WITCH!

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RECIPE:  Grain-Free Banana Chocolate Chip Cake 


•4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (cooled, or else the chocolate chips will melt, which is just as yummy….)

•1 1/2 cups homemade almond butter (made from soaked & dehydrated unpasteurized almonds–buzzed in food processor about 2 minutes)

•4 eggs (100% local & pastured with deep, rich golden yolks!)

•1/3 cup raw honey (or to taste)

•2 organic bananas (overripe ones work great)

•2 Tbsp. powdered gelatin (Great Lakes)

•couple handfuls of fair trade, organic, dark chocolate chips

•1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

•1 tsp. baking soda (optional)

Grease cake pan with coconut oil, butter, or other yummy saturated fat.

Process almonds in food processor or blender til it turns into almond butter.  Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and mix together.  Consistency should be like a cake batter. If it needs more liquid, you can add milk, cream, or cooking water from sweet potatoes. Stir in chocolate chips before folding into cake pan or lined muffin tins.

Bake at a low temp–250 degrees for about 1 hour.  This cake comes out pretty dense, almost pudding-like in the center, so we are basically dehydrating it a bit in the oven, and allowing the batter to “gel” rather than “rise.”  If you want fluffy cupcakes, add baking powder to batter, increase oven temp to 350, and reduce baking time to 20-30 minutes.

(Need I mention that these go great with homemade lard frosting?  Just pulse lard with maple syrup and spread it on!)

Bee Well this Halloween!

Nala Walla, MS, FIMCA, NTP (June 2015)
Ecosomatic Wellness Coaching
http://www.bcollective.org/html/professional.html

Ugly Ducklings and Suckers

When I hear the word “sucker,” I think of the plum tree in my garden, which sends out little shoots and leaves in a circle around itself, pushing up dozens of baby sprouts everywhere in an effort to reproduce. Many-a plant species uses this suckering strategy, especially when under stress, often cramping up in a tangle of itself so dense that it can choke out its own sunlight and compete with itself for soil resources, making it difficult for any individual in the thicket to thrive.

Sound familiar?

This behavior reminds me of the frenzied and almost automated reproduction of the human race in the last few thousand—and especially the last few hundred—years. Despite our rapidly declining physical, mental, and spiritual health, we just keep on multiplying.
Or maybe it’s really because of our rapidly declining health that our population is exploding?

There’s a sucker born every minute.

Perhaps we (accurately or inaccurately) sense an impending doom and we whirl around in some preset breeding fit that only increases the pressure on the family, the community, the larger ecology. This downward spiral then involves even more suckers to respond to the stress, along with decreasing regard for the vigor or sanity of our offspring.

And then, of course, there is the other sense of the word sucker, which also happens to line up quite well with modern behaviors: someone desperate, someone gullible, someone willing to accept almost any imitation as reality. Confronted with the firepower of an increasingly exploitative and and pathetically fake society, our habitual response is to paddle around our polluted little pond faster and faster with our brood. As the big guns take aim, the chemicals rot our feathers, and we become the proverbial sitting ducks.

But there are other responses to stress besides suckering.   Like the fabled Ugly Duckling, it is time for us to find the place where we truly belong, a beautiful place that involves real sustenance for people and planet both. Not to mention that human beings are (supposedly) a heckuvalot smarter than ducks. It is possible to slow our pace and actually give our children what they need, even if its something we never got ourselves. We can insert some creativity into our tired old procreative fantasies.

Like all other life on Earth, humans do have to reproduce if we are to continue here. Strict abstinence strategies amount to little more than suicide.

The real question is:  reproduce what?

It seems less and less wise to invest the future of humanity in a generation of record-breakingly sick, traumatized and bullied children. Plus a growing epidemic of fertility problems is rapidly chopping away at the colossal numbers we are capable of replicating.

Can we make an attempt to tune-out the roaring industrial propaganda—including brainwashing and guilt-trips about over-population, food pyramids, material success, academic achievement, obedience, manners, and discipline–and listen for the instinctual voice that still knows the root of what our children need? Nourishing food, loving arms, clean air, water & soil, strong family and community ties. These have always been the basis of what humans need to thrive. Maybe if we took care of these basics, we would naturally figure out how to keep our numbers in the range that our ecosystems can support, a homeostasis we achieved for 99% of human existence and lost only a blink ago.

If we can focus on raising a few truly healthy children, maybe when they grow up, they won’t be such suckers.

The Farmer and the Witch: Reclaiming the Seeds of Indigeneity

:::The following essay is a version of the essay that was published in the Routledge Volume, “Emergent Possibities for Global Sustainability:Intersections of Race, Class and Gender”:::

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The Farmer and the Witch:
Reclaiming the Seeds of Indigeneity

by Nala Walla

The world is populated with people who have lost their seeds.
They are not bad or useless people, but they are not real until they refind their seeds…
In some small, never-looked-at-place in the forgotten wilderness of their souls,
their indigenous seeds of culture and lifeways live…

–Martin Prechtel[1]

THE SEEDS OF INDIGENEITY

Just as every Red Delicious Apple contains seeds which will revert to a unique wild variety when planted,[2] so I hope to remind us that every person on this globe—even the most domesticated among us—contains the seeds of our indigenous origin. Our ability to respond creatively and decisively to rising sea levels, to civil wars, to nuclear meltdowns, is directly dependent upon our ability to recognize this inner Wildness and tap into its rich wisdom.

The patient seeds of our indigeneity are lying somewhere within our bodies, waiting for us to simply step outside our double-insulated, climate-controlled routines, into the nourishing rain and soil so our seeds can sprout once again.

THE FARMER AND THE WITCH

As I write, the colorful Halloween holiday is approaching, with straw-stuffed scarecrows and spooky lil’ ghosts parading across homes and storefronts all over the Northern Hemisphere. It’s my favorite time of year.

Crooked-toothed icons of witches on their brooms are plastered everywhere, and I can’t help but marvel at how, even after centuries of efforts to hunt and exterminate her, “The Witch” nevertheless continues to capture our imaginations. It’s as if somehow, even through the thick synthetic cloak of modern culture, our subconscious selves dimly recognize the Witch—that earthy woman stirring her pot of herbs and flying through a magical nighttime sky—to be our ancestor. Despite pervasive miseducation, and rampant dilution of her cultural history, the Witch endures.

The means by which the long and rich history of Witch Culture was erased include all the typical mechanisms of exploitation that we are familiar with today: terrorism, colonialism, genocide, propaganda. In the middle ages in Europe, Church, State and Media combined forces to develop massive violent campaigns whose purpose was to sever the connection of the peasantry to the land.[3] Only slightly different in scope and style today, these are still the favored techniques of belligerent governments and corporations around the globe who want to remove any resistance to exploitation.

Current cartoonish portrayals of witches—virtually devoid of any real meaning—are a testament to the “success” of these terror and slander campaigns, which have destroyed most of the detail about how ancestral European pagan cultures actually functioned, and the extensive knowledge they contained. In just a few hundred years, common representations of the Witch shifted from a revered, medicine woman embodying a living, European culinary, shamanic, and healing tradition, to a warty, cackling buffoon in a pointy hat who exists only in picture books.

A similar fate has befallen another figure who, in the public view, once possessed extensive knowledge about the land: The Farmer. The infantilized image of the witch is reminiscent of current North American depictions of farmers, ranchers, herders, etc. as clumsy “hicks” who are, at best, unsophisticated and out of touch with the slick urban “reality” of modern life, and at worst, stupid and irrelevant to the river of progress. As with Witch Culture, the details of rural culture have been glossed over in the creation of the current degrading stereotypes. I was ashamed to find on Wikipedia a whole list of pejorative slang used to refer to farmers and rural people—the very people who live in closest relationship to the land and are responsible for our sustenance:

•boor
•bumpkin
•churl
•hayseed
•hick
•hillbilly
•lob
•redneck
•rustic
•yokel

These slurs wound on several levels, translating to not only to a philosophical disrespect, but an actual biting of the hand that feeds us, as well. Even worse, they demonstrate the thoroughness with which we modern people have internalized our own oppression, colluding with the severing of our original connection with the land, slashing at the lineages of our own Indigeneity. Both the Farmer and the Witch–with their millenia-long roots, filled with knowledge of food, animals, herbs, handicrafts–are symbols of our indigenous ancestors.

Yet, currently, any familiarity between the average modern, industrial citizen and the farmer has been cauterized, allowing for a dangerous stereotyping to spread.

GRANDMOTHER WITCH

After our harvest feast, we are headed to the ice cream shop in our little town. My son is giddy with excitement, and as I put my hand on the door, I can’t help but notice the illuminated witch-in-silhouette, flying by night across the face of the waning moon. As I consider that he will likely pass through this door many times throughout his childhood, I wonder what he is learning about his own ancestors as he views this image?

For all its tiring over-generalizations, it can at least be said that this long-nosed, green-faced portrait is an accurate representation of how desperately little knowledge remains about my son’s own indigenous heritage. And, it is an image eerily well-suited to the bland palate of modern industrial society in general, which is in such poor health that it can hardly stomach anything more than fluff, even as it starves for meaning and connection.

Sadly, it may come as a surprise to many readers that people of European ancestry were (and arguably still are) subjected to the same processes of pauperization, industrialization and commodification which are occurring right now in so-called “developing” countries. In fact, we are so accustomed to seeing “white” people in a privileged, oppressor role, we assume it must have always been this way. We forget to ask, how did Europeans get so disconnected from the land? Is it possible that people of European descent have indigenous roots?

Like indigenous peoples all over the globe, pre-conquest Europeans were Earth-centered, pagan peoples (a term derived from Latin paganus, meaning “not cultivated” or “wild”) intimately connected to a living, breathing land which they revered as the source of all life. Similar to tribal people worldwide, ancient European tribes had no formal money systems, and had no need for them, as they inhabited a gift culture based on careful stewardship of the commons—that great interlocking web of physical, cultural, and spiritual relationships. Lo and behold! Europeans once displayed the same connective qualities and behaviors we attribute to indigenous people.

Please allow me to wager upon an act of kinship and solidarity with a larger family of pagan cultures: if the old European clans practice of “wicca” or “witchcraft” (a more modern term) was similar to that of tribes worldwide, then we can reclaim and revalorize the term “witch” as a loose description of any intact, nature-centered culture.

Surely, the witch-hunting authorities themselves did not limit the label “Witch” to European pagans. Snared in that same net—a net cast broadly enough to encompass almost any subversive activity, as “conveniently and strategically vague” [4] as the word terrorist is today–were colonial subjects from Africa to the Americas, at whom were hurled the same accusations of flesh-eating, fornication with the devil, and infant-stealing, and who suffered the very same torture rooms, pyres and gallows which so efficiently broke the communities of their European counterparts overseas. Previously just a description of European pagan culture, the brand “Witch” was appropriated and used as a four-letter-word to describe anyone viewed a threat to authoritarian control. Just a handful of generations ago, then, before mechanization, before colonization, before Christianization—we were all witches.

Amazingly, even after centuries of terrorism heaped upon The Witch on at least four continents–despite her constant demonization, degradation, minstrelization, and Disneyfication–her image continues to haunt the collective soul, even penetrating the bubbliest halls of pop culture. The sheer persistence of The Witch to this day is, to me, indicative of an archetype not easily forgotten. The Witch is everywhere, because she is our Grandmother.

THE COP IN THE HEAD

As my son and I slurp our creamy treats, and I overhear a woman describing an argument with her friend, exclaiming “Geez, what a witch!” I cringe at this stark revelation of internalized oppression, as she not only denigrates a fellow woman in this small community, but also slanders her honorary Grandmother. One of the main symptoms by which people in advanced stages of colonization can be recognized is that they have been recruited to participate in their own degradation and destruction, mostly unwittingly.

Using a marginalized person or group (such as “witches,” “terrorists,” or “jews,” for example) as a scapegoat upon which to blame virtually anything is an all-too-common human response to stress. And it is one that elite classes have long encouraged, since it successfully diverts attention away from the real source of the stress: the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the very few. And because scapegoating is but a mere temporary release-valve for tensions, it eventually backfires, as the original problem boomerangs back upon the thrower. Today the “isms” are being hurled on a massive scale in the form of rampant racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anthropocentrism, etc., destroying relationships, families, communities and ecologies.

Indeed, the breaking of the power of communities to resist subjugation and appropriation of their resources is the original and primary goal of all the “isms.” The campaign of terror against witches was designed with this exact intention in mind—to attack the women who were the foundations of pagan, peasant communities, as well as the backbone of the resistance to the “Enclosures”—the medieval version of the Privatization of the Commons that continues to this day. As women presently form the core of leadership in the Occupy Movement, we see them again forming a similar “backbone of resistance” pattern,[5] and we might thus be wise to keep our eyes out for attempts to target them.

In her book Caliban and the Witch, scholar Silvia Federici reveals how persecutions of witches during the Middle Ages in Europe were overwhelmingly aimed at poor, working-class women. Old women in particular were targeted, since they were the most likely to embody the cultural knowledge and heritage of the ancient ways that preserved the health and independence of the peasantry—raising crops and animals, herbal remedies and healing, midwifery, community building, etc. This is why, even today, the stereotypical Witch is still represented as an old, wrinkled woman dressed in tattered clothes. And for the same reasons, why people who work with the land, such as farmers, herders and ranchers, are represented by degrading stereotypes that belittle their extensive knowledge.[6]

Because of their age-old abilities to independently feed, clothe and generally sustain themselves, European peasants (again, like indigenous peoples the world over) had no need for wage-labor. This self-sufficiency was extremely threatening to merchants and elites in the Middle Ages who wanted laborers for growing mills, mines, and factories. Thus Land Privatization served not only to separate peasants from the actual land which had been commonly held, land but also to create a dispossessed population who would have no other option than to take these jobs.[7]

Today, the mechanization of industrial agriculture ensures that a minimum of people know how to grow food or medicine, and the rest are completely dependent upon service and high-tech for their work and their sustenance. During any current election year, we can hear how thoroughly modern people have been disciplined to accept our roles as “workers:” Note how common it is for people to clamor for “More Jobs!” whereas in the early sixteenth century, a peasant would rather risk the gallows than submit to wage labor. The wristwatch–once a symbol of slavery and an artificially imposed time disconnected from the natural rhythms of the land–has today become a status symbol.[8]

The horror of separation from the land—the original source of sustenance–created the stressful conditions ripe for scapegoating. As mistrust was sown within pagan communities, peasants began accusing each other and cooperating with their own marginalization. This is the terrorized and disturbed ground in which the –isms took root, and continue to “flourish” today. In modern, industrialized peoples for whom a subsistent, nature-connected life is already long gone, these –isms have become perhaps the preferred method of social control: an internalized, instead of overt, oppressor with whom we cooperate in the effective policing of ourselves. Much tidier, and a lot cheaper than inquisitions and bombing, we become, as Brazilian activist Augusto Boal describes in his Theater of the Oppressed,[9] our own “cop in the head.”

During the harvest season where I live in the Northwest USA, I see examples of this self-inflicted oppression everywhere, as people routinely consume and propagate over-simplified, ‘pin-up’ versions of witches and bucktoothed, smiling farmers holding baskets of corn. In an astonishing ignorance of our own pagan and agrarian past (and future!), we cooperate in the turning of witches and farmers both into cackling, guffawing minstrels.

And yet, we are beginning to understand that large-scale human estrangement from the land is threatening the extinction of our species and many others. Instead of taking boorish potshots at Farmers or Witches, perhaps it is wiser for those of us who have lost our connection to the land to actually seek out the people who have been safeguarding it against all odds, for centuries? Perhaps we might recuperate this wisdom–preserved within each of our indigenous lineages–and do our best to enact it, learning more about our food systems, our ancient healing remedies, about working with animals and the cycles of the moon?

In the shallow images of the Farmer and the Witch lie the remnants of our ancestral cultures and lifeways that deserve some much deeper attention. And as we approach them with an attitude of openness and curiosity, these lifeways may even reveal the solutions to some serious cultural and ecological problems. Could our heritages, in fact, contain the key to reversing climate change?

BRING BACK THE BUFFALO: FARMERS, ANIMALS, AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Perhaps this is the first time that you’ve seen the words, “Farmers, Animals and Climate Change” in one sentence, but I hope it won’t be the last. What follows is just one example of how stunningly straightforward reversing climate change could well be.

The research of Allan Savory[10] has not yet made it into breakfast-table conversation in modern, industrial society, as we gorge ourselves instead on pop culture and trivia, but he and his colleagues in the field of Range Management have discovered something of extreme importance for anyone interested in the climate change: a method for swiftly and drastically reducing atmospheric carbon levels that uses no technologies other than livestock.[11]

Livestock? How could ranchers and cowpokes—those backwards, lazy, know-nothings—actually reverse climate change?

All Grasslands–prairies, savannahs, steppes, etc.–originally coevolved with dense herds of grazing animals whose natural ranging behaviors provided the mowing, mulching, fertilizing, soil aeration, seed dispersal, essential to the health of these ecosystems. For decades, in a misguided attempt to stop “overgrazing,” land-management policies worldwide have been to remove herds—and the herding peoples whose life was intertwined with them–from these lands. And the result has been a drastic acceleration of desertification and therefore, of climate change.

Why does desertification have to do with climate change? As enormous amounts of carbon previously contained in the grasses and soils is released into the atmosphere, Savory emphasizes that desertification is as big or bigger of a contributor to global warming as burning fossil fuels. So, he and his colleagues have been assisting people on 40 million acres in Africa, Australia, Europe and the USA to bring back the herds, recreating, out of barren desert, both healthy grassland ecologies and right livelihood for pastoral peoples. Simply by returning the animals to desertified landscapes, and using Holistic Management techniques to ensure their natural movement patterns in the landscape, the Savory Institute estimates that we could store so much carbon in grassland soils, that we would again achieve preindustrial levels of atmospheric carbon.[12]

Amazingly, scientists are now revealing pastoral skills to be an integral part of reversing climate change, as carbon moves out of the atmosphere back into grassland soils. It seems that a restoration of respect for these skills is as important as restoration of the land itself! If we are serious about reversing climate change, herding animals will have to become, again, a respectable occupation. Imagine shepherding as the preferred profession for the hip and fashionable, the next “cool” thing to do!

As more and more people embrace the instinctual impulse towards respect of the land that is the source of all sustenance, reestablishing holistic and sustainable relationship to it, all kinds of resolutions to ecological impasses like the example above will arise. And we can start at anytime by recognizing the stereotypes we hold for what they are: examples of internalized oppression, a disrespecting of our own ancestors, the Witches and the Farmers. It is time for every citizen of this precious planet to identify as a creature indigenous to Earth, and begin to behave as such. Can we imagine a world where each one of us is able to participate in the simple pleasures of growing food, and where we actually encourage our children to cultivate “careers” in things like ranching, dairying and herbalism?

RECONNECTING WITH THE LAND: THE KEY TO ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION

Since moving to a rural island over fifteen years ago, my own experience with farmers—especially small farmsteaders seeking to steward their lands organically and sustainably—has consistently contradicted the stereotypes I grew up with in suburbia. Far from naïve simpletons, most farmers and ranchers I know are astoundingly savvy and resourceful, in addition to being some of the most politically conscious people I have ever met. And, as fellow citizens of the Information Age, farmers are now required not only to become expert in all things having to do with raising plants and animals, but also are expected to maintain a website, intern programs, community outreach calendars, as well as possess enough shrewdness to navigate impossible health and food regulations, cutthroat subsidies and marketing climates. One local farmer in our valley got an MBA before starting his farm, and our local butcher is also working surgeon. So much for the stereotype of the dumb farmer!

And I have still more good news to report. Against all odds, the rural county I live in has recently seen an encouraging reversal of the demographic trend that has been in place since the beginning of land privatization and the industrial revolution. Swimming upstream against the torrents of refugees fleeing the countryside to seek the wage in cities, a steady flow of young people are returning to our neglected farms, fields and forests. Having seen through the thin gruel which our materialist society tries to pass for sustenance, they are rejecting the dominant cultural memes of our time that denigrate working with ones’ hands. After observing a generation of parents growing hunched and pale in front of their computer screens, they are choosing to buck the technological tide by embracing traditional skills—starting small dairies, organic farms, natural building co-ops, wildcrafting herbal medicines, and relearning vital skills like tanning, smithing, orcharding, shepherding, masonry, and boat building.

Importantly, in revaluing these age-old skills, these young folk are growing real roots into their communities, and into the soil, gaining a visceral understanding how the fate of the trees, the animals, the plants, the waters are bound up with our own. In working with hands, wood, and soil, they are making it possible for the seeds of indigeneity that have been dormant within their bodies since their culture was uprooted (perhaps hundreds, or even thousands of years ago) to tumble out and sprout once again. And, as we instinctively know, people connected in a tangible way with the Earth are much more likely to act in reverence and stewardship of it. As Wendell Berry explains:

In [a] state of total consumerism – which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves – all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and …people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.[13]

Only when we risk rekindling a messy love-affair with our estranged beloved Earth will we gain the inspiration and the courage required to act resolutely when confronted with challenges such as melting sea ice, species extinction, massive pollution and “permanent” war. Thus, a human race moving robustly into a healthy, ongoing future, is destined to be a life which involves a reclaiming of our Indigenous Heritage—the basic right, and the basic pleasure of working with Earth. For more and more people, a healthy life will be determined by how much dirt we have under our fingernails.

THE WHEELBARROW ACTIVIST

Sometimes, on a windy October night like this one, I can actually catch a glimpse of the ghostly forebodings of my immigrant forefathers wafting around “Gotta get into a good school. You don’t wanna end up a ditch-digger, or grease-monkey, like your father!” “You’re smart enough to be a doctor or a lawyer!“ In these voices, which are threaded deep into the fabric of my personality, I can hear the echoes of a long history of exile from the land. Even after over a decades of living knee-deep in the forest, I can still perceive the cop in my head trying to convince me that working with the land is despiccable, suitable only for “peasants,” or, more accurately in Racist America these days, for “Mexicans.”

In response, I heft my wheelbarrow full of leaves and manure into our garden, and ready the beds for their winter slumber. I laugh with my toddler as he calls the pile “big poop!” and help him learn to use a shovel. I thank the cleansing winds as those voices catch an updraft and blow out to sea, and replace them with gratitude for the chance to work with Earth–a privilege for which our ancestors sacrificed their lives, and which people everywhere are still fighting for—from Indian farmers resisting the exploits of Monsanto, to Amish farmers battling for their right to drink fresh, raw milk from their own cows, to modern herbalists preserving their grandmother’s healing recipes despite increasing regulatory pressure from Big Pharma.

Like the green leaves that can always be found pushing their weedy heads through cracks in the sidewalk (no matter how many times they are torched, weedwhacked, herbicided, or pulled up by the roots!), the unceasing sprouting of human creativity and wild ingenuity consistently thwarts every authoritarian attempt to pave it over. Instead, the twisting vines of Indigeneity will climb even the boot of the tyrant if he stands still for too long. For modern people to recognize and resist the severing of our connection to Earth is perhaps the pivotal task of our generation. It is for this reason that I stand in solidarity with Farmers and Witches all over the globe, and reclaim them as titles of distinction and pride. I am a Farmer, and I am a Witch.

A WORLD WORTH LEAVING FOR OUR CHILDREN

The preceding words are my attempt to piece back together what Martin Prechtel calls the “tribal shards of the original magic of human culture.”[14] I write because I truly believe these shards can yet provide the blueprint for a sturdy cooking vessel, a pot we can use to simmer up a response to the rowdy ecological and social crises currently seated at our dining table. Only the healthiest, and most delectable cultural stew imaginable will be sufficient to please these demanding, if uninvited, guests. Each of us can recover the shards that we hold in our possession. Each of us can reach out to the Farmer and Witch exiled within, and welcome them home. When we do this, we will recover the magic we need to digest and transform catastrophes into a beautiful a world worth leaving for our children.


[1] Prechtel, Martin (2012) The Unlikely Peace At Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People As Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.

[2] Thanks to Michael Pollan for this revealing observation in his seminal work, The Botany of Desire (2001) Random House.

[3] Federici, Silvia (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, Autonomedia, Brooklyn, New York.

[4] Silvia Federici, Audio Lecture (2004) Fusion Arts, NYC http://silviafederici.littlerednotebook.com/

[5] See article, “Where Are the Women at Occupy Wall Street? Everywhere—and They’re Not Going Away” in The Nation (26 Oct 2011) http://www.thenation.com/article/164197/where-are-women-occupy-wall-street-everywhere-and-theyre-not-going-away

[6] Federici, Silvia (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, Autonomedia, New York.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Federici, Silvia (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, Autonomedia, New York.

[9] Boal, Augusto, Theatre of the Oppressed (1993) Theater Communications Group.

[11] Malmberg, A. (2013) “Restoring the Climate Through Capture and Storage of Soil Carbon Through Holistic Planned Grazing” The Savory Institute, Boulder, CO.

[12] Savory, Allan, 2013. “How To Green the Worlds Deserts and Reverse Climate Change” TEDx Talk, Somerville, MA. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html

[13] Berry, Wendell, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays, (2003) Counterpoint

[14] From Martin Prechtel, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People As Plants (2012) North Atlantic Books.

Wheelbarrow Paleo?

I guess some of you have figured out by now that I’m an absolutely unrepentant Nutrition Geek. If you can believe it, I actually read books like “The Vegetarian Myth” “Why We Get Fat” and “The Paleo Diet Solution” for fun and enjoyment!

Now, I must admit, I’m pretty on-board with Robb Wolf and his paleo strategy, though I think I’m in it for radically different reasons. For example, when I find myself adrift in the turbulent sea of the modern world, which offers little mooring in reality, I find myself with no recourse but to imagine, “what would a human 1,000 (or even 10,000) years ago do?” So, to move closer to eating the way a Paleolithic human would have eaten feels natural to me.

However, to do it so I can “rock my blood-work” or “look awesome in a bikini” seems to miss the paleo-point. What does his paleo-solution solve? Is it a solution to the “problem” of successful marketing of his “brand”? Or is it an actual desire to heal people?

At one point, Robb goes out on a limb to advise his readers to load up a wheelbarrow with sandbags and heft it back and forth on the lawn, even though it “smacks of yardwork.” As if there’s nothing so degrading as yardwork!?

If using a wheelbarrow is so good for us, Mr. Wolf, maybe our bodies are trying to tell us something? That our health so clearly responds to paleo diets and cross-fit workouts is perfect evidence that we ought to question the heinous departure of our modern life from interaction with earth, rock, sand, clay—all the things one puts in a wheelbarrow when actually doing real work. Like natural building, for example, or organic gardening? Has Mr. Wolf failed to notice that the world so desperately needs throngs of humans to step out of our air-conditioned vehicles and into our yards, to grab our wheelbarrows and get to work creating the dynamic, sustainable, zero-footprint villages of the future?

Maybe from aboard his favorite clients’ yachts, Robb Wolf hasn’t yet noticed that the aristocratic “I musn’t get dirt under my fingernails” sentiment is becoming more and more outta style by the minute. Hey Robb–hate to tell ya, but you’re missing the real boat–the one that’s sailing us towards a healthier, saner, more humane planet. Now that’s the paleo solution…

The Changing Food Landscape–Revisiting the Animal Foods Question

I am usually quite proud to belong to a counter-culture which works to expose and transform our American inheritance of racism, sexism, exploitation, militarism, mechanization, corporatism, “patriotic consumption,” pursuit of affluence at all costs. My friends and community regularly question the so-called “truths” spouting from the mouths of government and mainstream media. So I am left wondering, why do we allow dialogue about health and nutrition to be so truncated, so dead-ended by fundamentalism and privacy issues? Why, in such a rapidly changing food landscape are our conversations so stale?

I’m craving dialogues that go beyond the brown-n-serve eating strategies that dangerously misrepresent our place in–and responsibility towards–the food “chain,” as well as the broad spectrum of choices available today for eating ethically. In alternative food circles, we can no longer allow ourselves to believe that all our problems will be solved by eating a “plant based diet.” Sorry folks, but it ain’t that simple.

With the burgeoning of local food movements in the USA (and worldwide,) we now have many, many options for pastured, humanely raised meat, dairy, eggs, etc. that were not “on the table” when Moore-Lappe wrote, Diet for a Small Planet. Pastured meat is being found on more and more mainstream menus, (such as the Chipotle Grill and Hilton Hotels) which constitutes very good news for local economies and ecologies, including the ecologies inside our bodies.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/05/31/154084442/antibiotic-free-meat-business-is-booming-thanks-to-chipotle

I wonder if my vegan, vegetarian and raw-foodie comrades realize that in advocating for the same whole grain and vegetable basis of the “food pyramid”, they are actually doing the USDAs bidding? I guess the low-fat, anti-meat propaganda of the 70s and 80s was ubereffective, because many of my otherwise radical friends do not seem to understand that their food choices do nothing to challenge big agriculture, pharma, finance, oil, or the chemical industry giants and government policy.

On the contrary, the “eating low on the food chain” strategy so often trumpeted by those who claim to stand on the moral high ground actually helps to perpetuate dangerous societal habits such as the huge grain subsidies that are killing small farmers in every nation, including our own. And it completely misses the point that the monocultures of grain and vegetables that are the basis of a vegan diet are necessarily biocidal, as the native vegetation, animals and insects are cleared and drowned in fertilizer (all the better for Dow and Monsanto!) to create “crop land.” Agriculture is arguably the most destructive practice on our planet. How can vegans ignore this enormous elephant in the room?

Add to this major oversight the growing mountains of evidence that carbohydrate-laden diets are the basis of an epidemic of degenerative diseases—diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and a whole panoply of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders never seen before the advent of agriculture. And because both rely heavily on carbohydrates for the bulk of food consumed, a vegetarian diet is still disturbingly close to the Standard American Diet (SAD) of convenience food, despite the fact that it eschews meat.

Has anyone noticed the skyrocketing incidence of “gluten intolerance” and celiac disease? I would hope that it is obvious that humans are NOT ruminants. We have no extra stomach chamber designed to ferment and breakdown cellulose, which is indigestible to humans. No amount of wishful thinking will help us grown a rumen. Here’s an idea: How about we let the cows graze happily on their native prairie (saving ourselves all the nasty work of clearing land, spraying pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, going to war to get the petrochemicals, etc.) then harvest beef instead of grain? But dare I say that publicly? That wouldn’t be polite! It would be far better if I remained silent. We are adults after all, and everyone is entitled to make their own food choices.

But, I feel the pain of this silence everyday as I see people I love suffering from mood disorders, tooth decay, autism, obesity, chronic fatigue, eczema, and “inexplicable” allergy attacks. And these health problems occur just as much with vegans as those eating the SAD. Both groups are eating foods full of either toxins or allergens, usually both. And both somehow miss the connection of their dis-ease to what they are eating (and not eating!)

And I feel even worse when I see these health problems in children, who by virtue of their youth are often unable to understand, much less consent, to the food they are served. Culturally, it is not “kosher” for me to offer unwanted advice or opinions on what parents feed to their children, but I sometimes wonder about my complicity in their health problems? Where does my responsibility to these children begin and end? No easy answers here, either.

Rather than talk explicitly to parents about their children’s health and diet, I have at times broached the subject with friends-of-friends-of-friends of these kids, hoping to at least create a climate of casual conversation about it that might indirectly affect the situation, but even that has aroused the fury of veggie friends.

This discussion takes on a whole new holistic level once we consider that bringing grazing animals back to the dustbowls and deserts–which were caused by agriculture in the first place!– could well be the answer to global warming. Allan Savory has been successful at restoring millions of acres of the world’s prairies, savannas and grasslands with no technology other than livestock. Savory’s team has run the numbers and–get this: we could sequester ALL the carbon spewed into the air since the industrial revolution simply by allowing ruminants to do what they were born to do–EAT GRASS! I often wonder why Savory’s amazingly straightforward and hopeful work with Holistic Range Management is not more part of the regular fare of food justice and activist discussion? For those who are craving simple answers, look towards livestock, not veganism.

Holistic Range Management is very good news for North America with its vast prairie aching to be freed from agricultural bondage–and good news for our health (and tastebuds!) too, as it translates to a lot of grass-fed nutrition, with none of the attending problems of maintaining croplands. And, importantly, it amounts to a huge toppling of the vegetarian off the high ground of “ecological eating.” After all, monocropped soy, wheat, and corn ends up destroying natural prairie ecosystems. And feeding corn to captive feedlot steer amounts to torture. Set them free, and heal the prairie!

If eating low in the food chain is actually perpetuating an agriculture that pollutes aquifers and waterways, and destroys both soil ecology and gut ecology, it seems that we are desperately in need of meaningful civic discussion of the far reaching ramifications of our food choices. Yet we willingly cooperate with the gag order on real discussion, fighting amongst ourselves about non-issues and purity fantasies, while BigAg is all to happy to encourage diversion from the obvious: that agriculture’s poor nutritional profile and toxification of our environment lead to devastating health problems–for humans, for animals, for planetary ecosystems.

Any ideas about how to encourage honest and real dialogue about the issues mentioned in this post? Interested in searching for strategies to heal our beleaguered bodies, food systems and health? I’m all ears… Meanwhile I leave you with the conscious carnivore’s rallying cry—“Stop climate change–Bring back the buffalo!!”