Archive for the “News and Reviews” Category

Hiya, Fatheads!

Bad news.

Tom is hard at work on that book/DVD project he’s been teasing us with for the last year or so, which is good. But it’s taking a bit more time and effort for this phase than he’d planned, so you all are stuck with me for another week or so. It should be worth it in the end, so let’s all, as Lone Watie said in the classic “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (played by Chief Dan George) –

“endeavor to persevere.”

BTW, if you’re too young to get that reference, you need to watch that movie. If you don’t have that kind of patience, or if Josey has ended up on the non-PC list, or if you’d just like a reminder of one of the great scenes in movies:

Okay, enough about the first Americans put on a government-run welfare program.

Back here in the present day, I’ve pointed out before the adage that “grandchildren are your reward for not strangling your children when they’re teenagers.” The Wife and I got an invitation to go to breakfast with The Oldest Reward (1st grader) yesterday at her school’s Grandparents Day. It was fun, and well attended.

Of course, you knew this had to be there:

You want to indoctrinate kids when they’re young. Otherwise, they may start thinking for themselves and we all know how messy that can get. Here’s something I never saw posted on the wall in the school cafeteria when I was a kid:

I never saw it, because hypoglycemia is associated with diabetes. Type I (juvenile) diabetes is rare and kids with it don’t need a poster to be aware of it. The other is Type II diabetes, but when we were kids, that didn’t exist. The condition did, of course, but it hadn’t been renamed to Type II diabetes. It was called “Adult Onset diabetes,” because almost no one got it until they were well past school age, usually mid-life and later.

It’s no puzzle to any Fatheads on how you create an unprecedented epidemic of insulin resistance in children. It’s simple. You just feed them breakfasts like this:

Didn’t manage to capture the other offerings in the picture, but you could balance your plate out with oatmeal and/or a plastic wrapped muffin, also. Not a drop of the fat kids need for their brains in sight, and the only protein available was a few grams in the milk. Fat Free!, of course. Ugh. The menu was missing one of last year’s offerings:

Thanks a lot, Michelle Obama.

Leah picked out what she thought looked good, and ate about half of it.

The Wife and I passed on the meal and just enjoyed being with her and her multitude of buddies. I was still fuming over the whole raw milk thing (or as the grandkids call it — “creamy milk!”) and took a look at the label on the fat-free chocolate milk:

Interesting that the FDA, USDA, CDC, and the Illinois State Medical Society are conducting a jihad against raw milk, but don’t seem to have anything but praise for the folks who bring our kids milk concocted with alkali, cornstarch, salt, artificial flavors, and carrageennan. Note also that the label does warn the consumer that this product “CONTAINS: MILK.” You know, just in case anyone was worried about there being milk in their milk.

It was fun being with the Oldest Grandkid, and we got to meet her teacher and see some of the school before she blasted off to the playground to squeeze in some playtime with her buddies before the bell started the school day. But the wife and I were a bit hungry so we stopped on the way to work and picked up a much higher quality breakfast to start our own workdays:

(Heh, heh. Just making sure Tom keeps getting those royalty checks from Ronald McDonald!)

Have a great weekend. Like it or not, I’ll have a few more things to say next week.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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Here’s another callback for you longtime Fatheads. It’s from the end of a two-parter I wrote on the State of Illinois’ attempt last year to regulate raw milk producers out of business, “The Older Brother’s notes from the sausage factory floor…” At the end, after over a hundred people showed up to politely but loudly protest the state’s heavy-handed actions, I noted:

“I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk… Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially.  Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.”

Feeling I had a better understanding of bureaucratic sausage-making than those good, honest people, I ended with…

“I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit.  Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons.  But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.

It’s what they do.”

… Well. Sorry to be right again, but really, it was an easy call.

Apparently, in the last week or so, the FDA-funded lickspittles at the Illinois Department of Public Health went ahead and promulgated new rules concerning raw milk because… well, because there were no rules and how can you just let people mind their own business without someone writing rules to give them permission to do their own business and regulations detailing how that business is to be minded.

This go-round, they’ve posted for comment regulations that will require anyone selling raw milk to gather the name, address, and phone number of anyone they sell raw milk to and turn it over to the state on request. They will also be prohibited from milking a cow with any dirt on its udder or belly, and be required to only milk cows in a building with floors and walls that can be cleaned. In other words, you can’t milk a cow outdoors, and you’ll have to build a building for several tens of thousands of dollars to do it in.

These are, of course, only a start. Once they get some regulations on the books, they can keep expanding them and “re-interpreting” them until they’ve driven all raw milk producers out of the market.  Mission accomplished!

I wouldn’t have known about this as my local paper — the one in the state capital and the middle of ag country — didn’t actually mention any of this. It did, however, helpfully print a letter to the editor from one of the FDA’s useful idiots – the (prepare to be impressed) president of The Illinois State Medical Society. Here’s a few of what the medical establishment’s public mouthpiece seems to think are compelling arguments on why educated, intelligent, health-conscious people shouldn’t be allowed to choose to consume milk in the way it’s been consumed for the last 7,500 years or so…

 

As the Illinois Department of Public Health advances rules governing the sale of raw milk, the Illinois State Medical Society remains opposed to the sale and distribution of “raw” or unpasteurized milk in any form. Federal law prohibits dairies from distributing raw milk across state lines in final package form and about half of U.S. states prohibit the sale of raw milk completely.

Correct answer: So what?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other medical and health organizations, raw milk that is not pasteurized may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and other bacteria, that can cause serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. And studies show that children, particularly, are most susceptible to illness due to consuming unpasteurized raw milk.

You mean, there might be germs in milk? Like just about any other food out there. Only as the statistics show, not so much. The nice thing about raw milk is that, unlike pasteurized milk, it also contains all kinds of good bacteria that, in addition to controlling the baddies mentioned, also brings both documented and anecdotal benefits. Probably in about another twenty years, the adherents to the type of medicine practiced by the Illinois State Medical Society will discover the wonders of the gut biome. (Don’t tell them now – you’ll ruin the surprise!)

Pasteurization, simply put, is heating milk to a high temperature and then rapidly cooling it to eliminate harmful bacteria, yet maintaining the milk’s freshness for an extended period of time. Even the Illinois Farm Bureau advocates that individuals drink pasteurized milk.

Wow. You mean, the industry group representing the commodity dairy producers who keep their livestock in confinement pens, inject them with hormones and antibiotics, then mix milk from thousands of cows from different producers, to be shipped hundreds of miles, think people should only drink pasteurized milk? The ones who also put artificial coloring and aspartame in their products?

Now, if you’re going to drink milk from one of these producers, you damned well better want it to be pasteurized. That has nothing to do with the environment of healthy dairy cows raised on pasture with sales going to people within driving distance, who can walk around those fields if they want to see what conditions their food is being produced in.

(Don’t worry about that aspartame thing though. The FDA of which the guardian of our health at the Illinois State Medical Society speaks is engaged in an effort, at the behest of these same producers, to allow aspartame to not be listed in the ingredients of your store-bought, “healthy” milk.)

And these commodity producers, having seen milk sales drop over 20% to the lowest levels in thirty years, are more than happy to advise the FDA, the USDA, the Medical Society, and any other economic illiterates, on how to best put small farmers — who are producing a healthy, ethical, vastly superior product at premium prices — out of business.

I’d say that if the good doctor’s medical expertise is in line with his depth of understanding exhibited in the areas of epidemiology and economics, it would explain why there are over 90,000 medical malpractice-related hospital deaths a year.

That’s an interesting number, because coincidentally, according to an excellent breakdown of the real numbers done by Chris Kesser here, that’s about the odds (1 in 94,000) of a person even getting ill from raw milk (not dead – just a reportable tummy ache). The odds of being hospitalized due to raw milk are around 1 in 6 million, or about three times less than dying in an airplane crash. As for dying, well that’s hard to calculate, since the last reportable deaths associated with raw milk were in the late 1990’s, and those were from homemade “bathtub” queso cheese, which was assuredly contaminated by the maker.

Now, back in 1985, both the worst case of food poisoning deaths (52) and the worst case of salmonella poisoning deaths (possibly up to 12) since the CDC began keeping records in 1970 resulted from consuming dairy products. However, both of those cases involved pasteurized milk. You know — the safe kind.

In fact, there has never been a death reported from just drinking raw milk. That’s according to the CDC. But it took a Freedom of Information Act request to get that out of them, cause it tends to mess with their mission, which is to produce press releases that say “Majority of dairy-related disease outbreaks linked to raw milk.”

Not that food can’t kill you. Since that last death associated with raw milk products, people have died from spinach, green onions, cantaloupe, peanuts, drinking water, apple juice, various types of meats, and again, pasteurized milk products, among others.

If the sundry State Medical Societies worked on “physician, heal thyself” and “first, do no harm” instead of acting as the PR wing for the FDA, CDC, USDA and other Big Ag-owned agencies, they could save countless lives. Up to 90,000 just for starts. That’s without even touching all the havoc and suffering they create helping out their other good buddies over at the pharmaceutical companies.

NOTE: If you live in Illinois, you’ve got until October 20th to let your elected representatives know that you’re not interested in less freedom, crappier food choices, and putting small farmers out of business. Remember, nothing gets a bureaucrat’s attention like a lawmaker who’s getting an earful from irritated (but polite, please) constituents two months before an election.

Cheers,

the Older Brother

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I know I said The Older Brother was taking over the blog for a little while, and he is.  But I was interviewed a couple of days ago for a libertarian site called Liberty.me and the video is now available online, so I’m interrupting just long enough to post it.  Pierre-Guy Veer, the host, is a libertarian living in Quebec.  (I heard there was a libertarian living in Canada, but didn’t believe the rumors.  Glad I met him.)  His microphone cut in and out, but his questions were brief and you can pretty much guess what he was asking from my answers.

We now return to your regularly scheduled guest host …

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I’d planned to review Keto Clarity, Jimmy Moore’s new book, last week.  But as you know, I was distracted by some videos and posts featuring really stupid fat-shaming and other forms of b.s., so I decided to deal with those instead.

As I’ve mentioned several times recently, I’m not on a ketogenic diet and don’t aim for ketosis.  I’ve done enough experimenting to know which diet gives me the best combination of energy, strength and weight control, and it’s not ketogenic.  I’m on a low-carb diet (usually below 100 grams per day), but I don’t restrict protein or carbs enough to stay in ketosis.

For reasons I explained in a previous post, I don’t believe a ketogenic diet was the default diet of our paleo ancestors, and therefore I don’t buy the notion that anyone who doesn’t thrive on a ketogenic diet is suffering from a metabolic defect that needs to be fixed.  There’s simply no evolutionary reason we should all be genetically geared to feel fabulous on a diet that few if any of our ancestors consumed.

But I also don’t buy the argument that since our paleo ancestors didn’t live on ketogenic diets, a ketogenic diet must automatically be ineffective or even dangerous.  Our paleo ancestors didn’t drink whey protein shakes either, but those shakes are certainly beneficial for people who lift weights to build muscle.  A ketogenic diet, like a diet supplemented with whey protein, is intended to be therapeutic – i.e., it’s supposed to help you accomplish a particular goal.

Obviously, one of those goals is weight loss.  That was the main motivation for Jimmy to adopt a ketogenic diet, and considering that he lost 80 pounds in a year, I’d say it’s working.  I also suspect that most people who buy Keto Clarity are interested in weight loss.  And the scientific literature shows that ketogenic diets are indeed a good tool for weight loss – not for everyone, of course, but for many, many people.

One of the silliest arguments I’ve heard dismissing ketogenic diets goes something like this:

Well, sure, people lose weight on a ketogenic diet.  But it’s only because people in ketosis end up eating less.

That almost sounds like an explanation, but it isn’t.  Imagine having this conversation:

“My brother-in-law used to be an alcoholic, but not anymore.  Now he drinks normally.”

“If he used to be an alcoholic, why isn’t he an alcoholic now?”

“Because he doesn’t drink as much.”

That’s not an explanation; it’s simply a restatement of a result.   If someone craves alcohol to the point where he drinks so much that it’s screwing up his life and his health, but then starts feeling satisfied on a drink or two, wouldn’t we want to know why?  Wouldn’t that suggest a dramatic and positive change in his brain chemistry?

I’d say the same thing about ketogenic diets.  If an obese guy loses significant weight and keeps it off for the first time after adopting a ketogenic diet, it’s obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that he ended up consuming less energy than he expended during the weight loss.  But that’s not the explanation; that’s the result.  Wouldn’t that result indicate that something rather positive changed in his metabolism?

Well, uh, the ketogenic diet is satiating, you see.

Uh-huh … which is as much of an explanation as He stopped drinking too much because he’s satisfied on less alcohol now, you see.

So without (I hope) re-igniting a debate about who should or shouldn’t try a ketogenic diet, I’m reviewing Keto Clarity for what it is: a guidebook for people who want to try a ketogenic diet, either for weight loss or some other reason.

The book begins by explaining what ketosis is and the difference between a truly ketogenic diet and a low-carb diet – an important distinction because, as Jimmy learned after his weight crept back over 300 pounds, it’s entirely possible to be on a low-carb diet or even a very low-carb diet without being in ketosis.  (That would be the case with me.  I drift in and out of ketosis, according to my meter.)

The next couple of chapters are the here’s how to do it guidelines:  how to determine the mix of fat, protein and carbohydrate that will produce what Dr. Jeff Volek and others call nutritional ketosis.  The required ratios, as Jimmy explains, will vary from person to person, but the most important lesson here is:  don’t make the mistake of thinking that if a low-carb diet is good, a diet low in both carbohydrates and fat is even better.  You have to get your energy from something besides protein.

I can attest to that one.  When I first tried a low-carb diet in the 1980s, I still believed in the low-fat nonsense.  I didn’t read a book on the Atkins diet or any other low-carb diet (my bad) and tried to get by on skinless chicken breasts, turkey ham, egg whites and green vegetables.  After a week of feeling half-awake and lethargic, I gave up.  Whoops.

Anyway, as Jimmy explains in Keto Clarity, it’s the fat in a ketogenic diet that keeps your energy up and appetite down.   But of course, the fats have to be the right fats.  As the book explains:

Saturated fats, like those in butter, coconut oil and red meat, and monounsaturated fats, such as those found in avocadoes, olive oil and macadamia nuts, are basically safe for consumption in terms of your health.  They don’t raise your blood sugar, and they don’t cause any harm when eaten to satiety.  In fact, they are quite beneficial: they are anti-inflammatory, raise HDL, help you feel full and – most important for our purposes – they help you create ketones.  Compare this to the polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils, which increase systemic inflammation and linked to multiple health problems, despite the fact that they are heavily touted as the healthy oils we should all be consuming.

And let’s be honest:  butter, sour cream, coconut oil, avocadoes and egg yolks are freakin’ delicious.  If you’re going to change up your diet, it certainly helps if your taste buds don’t feel punished.

In a subsequent chapter, Jimmy explains how to use a blood ketone meter to check your ketone levels.  And yes, if you’re going to try a ketogenic diet, you should invest in one of those meters.  The urine ketone strips Dr. Atkins recommended back in the day were all that were available, so that’s what ketogenic dieters used.  But once you become keto-adapted and are relying more and more on ketones for fuel, fewer ketones are excreted in the urine, even if your blood ketones are still high.

One of the advantages I’ve found of a low-carb diet (ketogenic or not) is that I can go for hours and hours without eating – unlike back in my high-carb days, when skipping meals would give me the shakes.  In a chapter on fasting — which many people consider the other “f” word, according to Jimmy – he explains that there are health benefits to intermittent fasting.  (Paul Jaminet makes the same point in his Perfect Health Diet book.)  One advantage of a ketogenic diet is that it allows many people who previously couldn’t stand the thought of going 16 hours or more without a meal to do so easily.  But, Jimmy cautions, you need to listen to your body.  If you’re really and truly hungry, as opposed to experiencing a stomach gurgle, you need to eat something.

Good point.  I don’t think starving yourself ever works out in the long run.

As I mentioned above, I don’t believe everyone will feel his or her best in a constant state of ketosis.  So in chapter titled Keto FAQ, I was pleased to see this comment from Bryan Barksdale, one of the experts Jimmy quotes liberally throughout the book:

I believe a well-designed ketogenic diet can overcome a lot of the negative effects people experience while eating a low-carb, high-fat diet.  One such strategy some people may want to use is cycling in and out the various macronutrients, just as would have happened naturally in an ancestral diet.

Jimmy then writes that some people shed more fat if they cycle in and out of ketosis, although cycling may not be appropriate for everyone.

Again, test it for yourself and see how it works for you … If cycling in and out of ketosis gives you the results you desire, then go for it.

My sentiments exactly.  Jimmy is obviously quite enthusiastic about the benefits he and the people whose personal stories he quotes in the book have experienced, but he doesn’t argue that everyone should be in ketosis all the time – despite what some internet cowboys will tell you.

He also doesn’t claim that being in nutritional ketosis automatically translates to weight loss.  When you burn fat for fuel, you create ketones.  That fat can come from your diet or your adipose tissue.   If you consume all the fuel you need in a day, your body has no reason to tap its reserves.  What a ketogenic diet accomplishes for many people is put their bodies into a fat-burning mode where it’s easier to tap those reserves – which makes it easier to eat less.  That’s the point.  There’s no magic involved that causes calories to vanish into thin air.

In one of the last chapters, Jimmy lists a number of diseases and conditions that have been successfully treated or may eventually be treated with ketogenic diets (some of the research is in its early stages), including epilepsy, diabetes, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, some cancers, fibromyalgia, autism and Alzheimer’s.

The emerging research is another reason that while I don’t buy into the “everyone should be in ketosis all the time” argument, I also don’t buy the “ketosis will ruin your health” argument.  That argument reminds me too much of this one:

Sure, your low-carb diet might help you lose a lot of weight, raise your HDL, and lower your blood sugar, blood pressure and triglycerides … but it will give you a heart attack.

I just don’t think our bodies are that stupid. I don’t believe we improve a gazillion health markers while we’re killing ourselves.

Given what we’re learning about the gut microbiome, the one real concern I’d have about going on a ketogenic diet would be depleting the healthy gut bacteria – but the problem there is a lack of fiber, not ketosis per se.  So as I’ve mentioned before, if I were aiming for ketosis, I’d be sure to include a lot of fibrous plants in my diet and supplement with some form of resistant starch – which doesn’t kick most people out of ketosis.

The final chapters of Keto Clarity include a shopping list and a bunch of recipes contributed by readers and friends of Jimmy’s.  Some of the recipes look pretty good and I plan to try them.  I don’t aim for ketosis, but I certainly don’t avoid delicious high-fat foods, either.

Jimmy is a gifted writer, and everything in the book is explained clearly and as simply as possible, with some humor sprinkled in for good measure.  If a ketogenic diet is something you plan to try – or are already doing but need more guidance – this is the book for you.

PROGRAMMING NOTE (so to speak):  I need to step away from blogging for awhile so I can focus on that book and DVD companion Chareva and I have been planning.  Ideally, we’ll be ready to release both by the time the low-carb cruise rolls around in May.  She’ll need to produce a ton of cartoon characters and other artwork, so I promised her I’d have a draft ready by Oct 1st.  (She’s talented, mind you, but she can’t draw scenes I haven’t written yet.)  With full-time programming work, kids, the farm, blogging, etc., I’m behind on my writing schedule.  If I don’t give myself some focused writing time, I’ll miss my deadline.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that The Older Brother agreed to sit in the Fat Head chair until I get caught up.  I enjoy reading his posts and consider them a nice change of pace.  I’ll answer comments on my own posts, but otherwise the blog is all his for awhile.

Man, it’s nice to have a reliable guest host …

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I mentioned in a previous post that even after we turned Rocky Raccoon into chicken-killer stew, something came around and killed another of Sara’s chickens.  In fact, it climbed to the top of the hoop-house and ripped open the tarp.

I figured it was yet another raccoon and baited my trap.  The next day, the bait was gone and the trap had been dragged 10 feet from where I’d set it.  So I baited it again, set a heavy concrete block on top so the trap wouldn’t move, and set my trail camera.  The next day, the bait was gone and there were deep scratches in the ground by the opening.  Something had eaten the cat food but still managed to back out of the trap.  The trap is 12″ high and 32″ long, so I figured maybe it was extra-large raccoon or a fox.

When I checked the trail camera, I found that the @#$%ing thing is now refusing to snap pictures after dark, no matter what settings I choose. So I borrowed a trail camera from a co-worker and set the trap again.

Lookie what I saw when I checked the pictures yesterday:

My first thought was, “Oh, great.  Some neighbor’s cat is sniffing around our chickens at night.”

But then I noticed this particular cat seems to be significantly taller than the trap — which, like I mentioned, is 12″ high.  And it seems to be as long as the trap or longer — long enough to stick its snout in and eat the food without getting trapped inside when the spring door is tripped. Hmmm, what breed of cat is … and then I saw this picture:

The picture is dark, of course, but if you look closely, you can see the cat has stripes and spots — kind of like this:

So that would be a bobcat.  I’m pretty sure my 32″ trap isn’t going to snag this little kitty.

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Back when I was using a weed-whacker with a blade attachment to hack my way through the briar jungles around our property, a couple of readers predicted that I’d end up buying a bush-whackin’ mower someday.

Yup.  The jungles are getting away from us again, plus Chareva wants to reclaim quite a bit of the overgrown field behind the house for chickens, fruit trees and gardens.  Rather than continue paying people to come out and bush-hog, we decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy something that will let us stay ahead of the growth.  So here it is:

Nothing like writing a post about a tick whose bite can cause a meat allergy, then heading out into the deep weeds the next day, eh?  As you can see, I tucked my jeans into my boots, as a reader advised.  I also sprayed my boots, pants, arms and shirt with Deep Woods Off.

Anyway, this particular model is called a Predator.  Pretty powerful little machine for the money.  The reviews were almost uniformly positive, although several people complained that the cables running from the engine to the handles hang loose, which means they can get snagged and yanked out.  So on the advice of the same reviewers, we wrapped plastic tubing around the cables and secured them to the side handlebars with zip-ties.

My only other minor complaint is the speed.  Even in fourth gear, it’s a slow walking pace.  I’d like to move a little faster, but I guess the slower speed is necessary to give the blades time to tear up all that brush.  According to the both the manual and the reviewers online, this thing will suck in and tear up saplings up to an inch-and-a-half thick.

Yes, it would have been nice to just mow down all that briar, even at a slow walking speed.

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