For the next ten days, I will not be able to blog. Sixteen students, two colleagues, and I will be going to volunteer in Costa Rica. Half of our visit will be working on an organic coffee plantation and the other half will be working with sea turtles. See you in a few days with updates on this global works trip!
Yesterday, I started my summer volunteer work. After dropping David off at the T for work, I went to have breakfast with my friend Skye. While we sat over some pastries and lattes, we talked about my new plans for organic living. She was enthusiastic and supportive and when I asked her if she wanted to go with me to the dairy farm in Framingham for a day of volunteering she was on board.
We arrived at the farm early at 10:30AM and were told to come back at 11AM as the volunteer coordinator would not arrive until then. Needing to waste some time we explored the farm.
We explored the farm store which sells not only the raw milk from the dairy cows but also cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. The raw milk looked so delicious but with my trip to Costa Rica leaving on Wednesday, it would not have been wise to bring home a gallon of milk for 48 hours. However, next time I might bring home that gallon to try. The cheese samples were delicious. Yet the cheese is pasteurized while the milk is not.
Whenever I share with friends and family that I might be trying the dairy farm’s milk which is unpasteurized the immediate reaction is one of fear. Supporters of raw milk cite many health benefits including the increased intake of probiotics, the end of eczema, and a variety of other benefits. Yet, the claims of raw milk supporters harken back to the oil snake salesmen. On the other side, there is a risk to drinking raw milk (therefore, one must sign a waiver before consumption in the state of Massachusetts). I have an urge to try it at least once to see what it tastes like. Yet the literature out there treats the consumption of raw milk as though one was playing russia roulette or eating blowfish. There seems to be no middle ground between farmers and food companies. Perhaps, before I consume it myself (even though the desire is there) I will continue to do some research. The general sentiment that I have been able to parse out of numerous readings is: Raw milk consumption is risky. But, regardless of the debate on raw milk and whether or not I will try it, what I will do is continue to work with the dairy cows.
Visiting the farm and having the opportunity to pet the calves was truly unique. My role would be to come to the farm at 8:30AM and pass out fresh water and milk bottles to each of the 40 calves. Then, it would be time to head into the pens with the calves, give them a pet and a cuddle and clean up any messes. My orientation to the farm was so exciting and the calves were so sweet and unafraid. Maybe one day I will try their milk, but I will definitely come and volunteer and care for them each week this summer. My days of eating beef are probably numbered now though!
Since moving into our new house, David and I have struggled to confront our lawn situation. The entire plot of land that our beautiful, little house sits on is covered in weeds – dandelions in particular. While convention dictates that we use chemicals to tackle these evolutionarily successful, opportunistic weeds, we have decided to go more natural and avoid the use of all chemicals. Therefore, sweat equity is the currency in our backyard. Rakes, hoes, and shovels are our tools of choice. In the baking summer sun we worked for about three hours toiling in the soil, collecting weeds, and sprinkling seeds. It is a great feeling to work in the soil with our hands. The dirt under my nails was a badge of honor and those same dirty fingers are crossed for the grass to start growing!
Take a rake, a strong back, and determination over a plot of land. Rake up the weeds, making sure to remove the deep roots of the dandelions. Turn up the soil to release nutrients and aerate. Sprinkle grass seeds over the soil as evenly as possible making sure to cover the lawn fully. Water grass seed patch 2 times daily. Keep fingers crossed for successful growth!
While we were out there, we also planted some basil seeds, tomatoes, and roman chamomile. We used a small seedling starter for the chamomile. For the basil and tomatoes, we used an antique soda box. Hopefully, we will have our little garden growing sooner than later. Watch for updates!
My brother’s father-in-law posted this image on his facebook wall and it has stuck with me all day.
One of David’s favorite mantras is: humans are afraid to recognize they are merely animals. Perhaps this is why this graphic stood out so much as I scrolled through the various messages this morning. Perhaps it is also because of placing more organic living front and center these last few days. For whatever reason, however, the “eco” side of this graphic illustrates exactly what I am aiming for: a new mindset about life and how one participates in it.
After a long day in the yard toiling in the soil of our overgrown weeds, we finally sat down to relax and watch a documentary. Tonight’s selection was Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Surprisingly, this was not of my choosing. Rather, David called to me from the living room as I tidied up from dinner and said, “Hey, I think this would be interesting.” The documentary is not unlike many about food and Americans’ particularly bad relationship with highly processed foods and animal proteins. Yet, what was most enjoyable was the story of the protagonist’s journey into creating a long lasting habit change. The opposite of Super-Size Me, Joe transforms over the course of the film into a thinner, radiant, man who is unafraid to embrace exercise and who has shifted his primary food intake group from meat and processed items to vegetables and fruit. His “food pyramid” has fruits and vegetables at its base. What was impressive was not only how much weight he lost over the course of two months, but also how much healthier his skin and hair appeared and how much energy he demonstrated. As a result of this quest he inspired many individuals who were at risk for heart attacks, skin conditions, migraines, and strokes to reboot their own eating and take ownership over their food choices. One of my favorite moments in the film occurred when Joe asked average Americans who was to blame for their obesity or illness. The unanimous response was: myself.
Since starting my own healthy journey this week, I am surprised by how much energy I have. While I do know that I have only been organically focused for less than a week, I am encouraged to continue this journey and to continue to feel good and energetic. I used to think it would be hard to break my habits. And, in many ways, I do struggle against cravings and laziness, but I am also much more willing to get up and go than I was just three days ago and that is a measure of success in my book.
To help David and me continue with this momentum, I ordered a new “toy” for the kitchen. That’s right, we are drinking the “kool-aid.”
This morning I tried Hot Yoga for the first time. The studio was in Wellesley, MA. From our house, it is a straight, easy ride down 135 to the heart of Wellesley Center. What was so nice about this drive was the beautiful homes and landscape that dotted either side. So many of these homes were old colonials and victorians. Each was impeccably taken care of in order to show off its best assets. Once in Wellesley Center the best way to describe it to local bostonians is an immaculate Coolidge Corner scene with a few higher end boutiques along with the staples like Starbucks and Upper Crust PIzza. While I would have loved to stay and visit the town center, I was there for yoga class.
After finding a metered parking spot, I headed into HYP Studio.
I was note sure what to expect. Hot Yoga is a very trendy practice, yet I have heard from other yoga practitioners that it is not as safe or beneficial as it claims. That one needs to be cautious of how quickly students are asked to move through positions and that the heat causes many to hyperextend themselves. As such, I was quite nervous about this experience. Having only practiced yoga inconsistently and in slow flow setting, this was going to be very different.
The hardest part of the practice was definitely its iconic heat. As soon as you enter the room it hits you. Like a wall of cement the sauna heat smacks you in the face and cuts your breathing short. The instructor asks everyone to find their space and to set up. I work hard to keep my breathe even and more importantly to keep my nerves down. As we begin, I feel achy all over. Downward facing dog feels tight, but as we go through our first sequence, I begin to loosen up. Nevertheless, the heat causes me and the entire room to sweat uncontrollably and every once in awhile I feel lightheaded from the movement and heat combination that has me trapped in this room for one hour and fifteen minutes. The new mat under my feet is slippery as we approach the end of the session. Finally, in shavasana, the temperature is cooler and I close my eyes to relax.
I am not sure I will officially join this studio. Again, I am still on the fence in regards to the health benefits of this type of practice, but I will go back at least 9 more times to finish out their excellent new student deal. I might try another more traditional studio if there is one nearby, but at least I can say I have moved this body of mine all week long!
After taking a short jog around the park across the street from our house, it was time for dinner:
Ingredients: 1lb pork tenderloin, fresh sage, 1 shallot, butter, pepper, salt, 3/4 cup white wine, 3/4 cup chicken broth, 1/4 cup apricot preserves, haricot verts, red pepper flakes, olive oil
Cut the pork tenderloin into 1/2 inch medallions and salt & pepper both sides. Melt butter in the pan on medium heat. Saute the pork tenderloin approximately 6-8 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside under cover. In the saute pan, cook up the shallot with another dab of butter. Once fragrant, add wine, chicken broth, preserves and sage. Bring to a boil and reduce sauce by half. Plate the pork for individual portions, pour sauce over meat, and it is ready to serve.
Green Bean Instructions:
Boil water. Toss in haricot verts for a quick bath of approximately 4 minutes. Strain the green beans. In a mixing bowl, add green beans, salt, pepper, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. Cover and toss to coat.
A fast, easy meal for a weeknight or any night and quite delicious!