People have asked us in the past how we deal with the sugar-fest known as Halloween.  For the sake of new readers, I’ll answer that question again:

We let the girls go trick-or-treating and eat the candy they collect.

Halloween is a big, fun event for kids, and we don’t want to ruin it by being food fascists.  Kids were enjoying Halloween long before the steep rise in childhood obesity and diabetes.  It’s not the occasional treat that screws up a kid’s health and metabolism; it’s the chronic overload of sugars and other refined carbohydrates.  Those aren’t part of our girls’ normal diets.

So our girls eat Halloween candy — but the deal is that they only get three days to indulge, including Halloween night.  After that, the candy goes away.

The first year we instituted that system, Sara tried to gobble up all her remaining candy on the third day.  She got sick as a result, and most of what she’d gobbled down ended up in the toilet.  Lesson learned … she and Alana have since concluded that there’s no point in filling their bags with a ton of candy they can’t eat without making themselves sick.  In fact, after they haunted a few streets in a nearby neighborhood last night, they announced they were ready to go home.

Sara then separated out the candy she likes — mostly chocolates — and dumped the stuff she doesn’t.  She explained that Pixie Stix, for example, are just a big mouthful of sugar and are way too sweet to taste good.

That’s my girl .. or my screaming banshee, at least during the evening’s festivities.

 

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More than a year ago, my daughter Sara became somewhat obsessed with having her own little cabin on our land.  Her vision, which she shared with me over and over, was quite precise.

I’m going to sit on the front porch of my cabin on nice days and drink iced tea and read books, with the dogs curled up at my feet.

So your cabin has to have a porch, huh?

Yes, it has to have a porch.  With a railing.

I found her vision appealing, but (as I explained to her) there’s a word for kids who get everything they want just because they want it: spoiled.

You can have your cabin, I told her.  But you have to earn it.  I’m not buying it for you just because you asked.

So she and Chareva agreed on a list of indoor and outdoor chores that would pay in Cabin Cash, and Chareva printed a bunch of the new currency in various denominations.  I suppose it was fun to act like the Federal Reserve and simply create new money out of thin air.

Sara set about earning Cabin Cash by scooping up after the dogs, vacuuming, emptying trash, feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, and generally assisting with various farm projects.  She’d get busy with school and other activities and forget about the cabin for awhile, then wake up on a weekend and demand we give her a project to earn more Cabin Cash.  She finally finished filling her account with the required funds during the log-splitting weekend, when she worked alongside me for two long days.

Chareva ordered the cabin (a customized shed) from Yoder’s Dutch Barns.  They originally said the turnaround time would be four to six weeks, but when she told them Sara’s birthday is November 6th, they replied they’d get ‘er done in time.

The cabin arrived today while I was at work.

Sara got off the school bus as the cabin was being situated and reacted in her usual cool-as-ice manner:

She wanted the cabin in the side yard so she can get to it by climbing out her bedroom window. I wanted it in the side yard because she has plans to camp overnight in the cabin, and the side yard is within the area patrolled by our Rottweilers.

There’s hardly a flat spot on our land, and certainly none in the side yard, so the guy who delivered the cabin swung it around and used concrete blocks to level it.

The cabin has a couple of lofts inside, which Sara plans to convert to sleeping and lounging areas.  She also has plans to store food and water out there.  I’m not sure if it’s occurred to her yet that the cabin doesn’t include a bathroom.

Anyway, I expect to see her out there soon, sitting on the porch, drinking iced tea and reading a good book with the dogs curled up at her feet.

Enjoy, kiddo.  You earned it.

Meanwhile, Alana and Chareva are working on a new currency called Treehouse Tender.

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Here’s part of what I wrote in a recent post titled Body Types and Brains:

I remember one of my roommates in college looking at the single spiral notebook I took to all my classes and saying, “That’s all the notes you take? How the heck are you getting A’s in everything? You hardly write anything down!”

“Uh, well,” I mumbled, “if the professor says something and it makes sense, I just remember it. I don’t really have to write much of it down.”

That particular roommate was a party animal. I partied right along with him, but only on Thursdays (dollar pitcher night), Fridays (quarter beer night) and Saturdays (student parties all over campus and near-campus).

I had another roommate for half of my senior year who was a studying machine. He not only took copious notes in class, he’d rewrite them all in neat penmanship later.  The notes he took in class were “too messy,” you see.  He attended the occasional party, but never drank much. We graduated with identical grade-point averages: just a fraction under a perfect 4.0/4.0, which means we both got a B in a class at some point. I remember him once asking me, “Why is it that you can party like [the first roommate] and then get the same grades I do?”

“Uh … I don’t know,” I said. “I channel both of you?”

Actually, I explained why I got those grades in the Body Types and Brains post:

I got those grades largely because I’m a “brain mesomorph,” so to speak. Brain mesomorphs can pick pretty much any method of studying and still do well, as long as they don’t do something to screw up that genetic gift – like, say, don’t study at all.

Well, I’ve changed my mind. I now believe I got (almost) straight A’s because I had the discipline to take a few notes in class, study a bit to master the material, turn in my papers on time, and limit my heavy beer-drinking to three nights per week. In fact, I think everyone could pull straight A’s in college if they were just willing to do the same.

To prove my theory, I’m going to re-enroll in college as a one-man experiment. This time around, I’ll drink copious amounts of beer six nights per week, skip the note-taking entirely, not bother studying, and turn in half-assed first drafts of my papers a week late. I suspect this will lead to no better than a C average, perhaps even worse.

If that’s the result, I’ll announce that I’ve proved my theory: anyone who doesn’t do extremely well in college simply isn’t willing to take a few notes, study a bit, and limit the partying to no more than three nights per week. Those B and C students have no one to blame but themselves.

Say what? You think my theory is bogus and my experiment is stupid?

Yes, of course it is. Academic achievement was easy for me, and screwing up on purpose to get average grades proves absolutely nothing about why other people get average grades.

As part of an extra-credit program in high school, I tutored another student who was struggling with freshman algebra. (I was a junior, which means I was taking trigonometry at the time.) This kid certainly put out the effort – more than I ever had to – but had a difficult time wrapping his brain around mathematical concepts. I felt sorry for him … because even at age 17, I had enough common sense not to blame people for being less than genetically gifted.

Unlike this nincompoop:

A woman who intentionally gained 50 pounds wants to demonstrate a point she believes about overweight people: They have only themselves to blame for being heavy.

“People have always said to me, all of my life, ‘You’re lucky to be skinny,’ and what I wanted to prove was that there are no excuses for being overweight,” British reality star Katie Hopkins told TODAY.

Ahh, I see. You’ve always been skinny, so of course you know all about what causes obesity. Are you by any chance related to MeMe Roth?  Your “before” picture suggests as much:

Hmmm, maybe you should get in touch with Heath Squier of Julian Bakery and ask him how to puff out your belly to look a teensy bit fat, then claim you were 35 pounds heavier.  Anyway …

Known across the pond for her acerbic, outspoken comments, Hopkins created a Twitter frenzy when she declared on a British talk show: “I don’t believe you can be fat and happy. I think that’s just a cop out.”

Critics immediately accused Hopkins of “fat shaming” and failing to understand the psychological, as well as physical, factors behind weight gain.

Hopkins then fought back against those who called her ignorant and wrong by eating. A lot. She consumed 6,500 calories every day by stuffing herself with calorie-rich burgers, fries, pasta and cupcakes, recording everything in a food journal. At times, she brought herself to tears because of how much she ate.

“I didn’t cry at childbirth. I didn’t cry at my wedding, but I cried over this because I was just so disgusting,” she said.

So to gain weight, you had to stuff yourself with 6,500 calories per day and eat until you were disgusted and in tears – in other words, waaaaay beyond what your appetite would dictate – just like all fat people do. Geez, and to think some critics actually doubted you understand the physical factors behind weight gain.

Hopkins admits the next step of her experiment has proved to be much more difficult. She’s committed to losing the 50 pounds she gained within three months. She has drastically changed her diet and upped her exercise level, all to prove that being thin is as simple as eating less and moving more.

So it’s a simple matter of eating less and moving more! Well, hell, why didn’t anyone ever tell me that during all those years I was making myself ravenous on low-calorie, low-fat diets and spending hours and hours on a treadmill? Clearly I didn’t try hard enough.

“I’ve learned a lot about how it feels to be big, how difficult it is to be big, how horrible it is to have fat sitting on the top of your thighs, and how much more challenging it is just to do everyday life when you’re bigger,” she said.

Hopkins said she still has 35 pounds left to lose in the next two months.

And I bet she’ll do it – because she’s been skinny her whole life and that’s the shape her body will want to resume.  (Simple math says she already lost 15 pounds in the first month; i.e., nearly four pounds per week.) To quote again from my Body Types and Brains post:

Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym … Yup. I’ve known people like that. In order to stay lean and muscular, all they really have to do is not screw up.

So this naturally-thin bubblehead screwed up on purpose by jamming 6,500 calories per day of junk food down her throat, thus overwhelming her body’s resistance to gaining weight, and by gosh, she got fat. So that means anyone who’s fat must be screwing up just like she did. Uh-huh … and if I go back to college and party away all my evenings instead of studying and then wind up with average grades as a result, that means anyone who gets C’s in college is a screw-up who parties too much. Same (ahem) logic.

Ms. Hopkins, you were born on the metabolic finish line and think you won a race. Not only that, you think you’re an expert on how the race is won – because you tied your ankles together and proved how difficult it is to run a race in that condition.

What you actually proved is that you’re a flippin’ moron.

Whoops … there I go, making judgments about someone born with a low I.Q.

Sorry about that.

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A reader sent me a link to this documentary produced by the CBC in Canada.  It’s 45 minutes long, but well worth it.

I only have a few complaints:

1. Despite all the recent research, a couple of the doctors interviewed just can’t help themselves:  they still have to lump fat and sugar together, as if they’re equally to blame for bad health.  They should know better by now.

2. The narrator mentions fruits, vegetables and grains as part of a healthy diet.  Head. Bang. On. Desk.  There’s nothing health-promoting about grains.

3. Since there’s a problem, then by gosh, we need a government solution, at least according to the producers.  No, we don’t.  We just need to educate people about what sugar does to their health.  If they still want to eat the stuff, that’s their business.  All those fat-free foods that hit the market during the anti-fat hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s were the result of consumer demand, not government regulations.

Let me know what you think.

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Yup, that’s me carrying a pig.

The girls are now in charge of two young pigs as part of yet another 4-H project.  The pig-delivery day was last Monday.  That’s one of the reasons Chareva wanted us to buy a trailer sooner rather than later.  She was convinced moving two frightened pigs in the back of her van wouldn’t turn out well for anyone involved, including the pigs.

The pigs were due to be delivered to a gang of 4-H kids at 5:00 PM.  So we drove to the county ag center, trailer in tow, and waited.  And waited some more.  We were told the pig bus was running late, which normally wouldn’t be much of a concern, but the forecast was for high winds, thunderstorms, and tornado conditions — all moving in around 6:00 PM.  I didn’t relish the idea of being on the road, pulling a trailer with live animals in it, when a tornado swept through.

The pig bus finally arrived around 5:45 PM.  Unlike with the goats, there was no pick-your-pig queue.  The kids all drew numbers, which corresponded to numbers on the pigs.

Some of the older kids carried their own pigs off the bus, but the pigs were squealing like crazy and fighting to get away, so I was nominated to carry the squirming loads for our girls.

Before we could put them in the trailer and drive home, the pigs had to be weighed.  I’m guessing they found this a bit unpleasant.

The winds and the heavy rains hit when we were about halfway home.  You know that slow-moving farm vehicle on the two-lane highway that drives you nuts because there’s no good stretch of road where you can safely pass?  That was me during this trip … that is, if you can label a Toyota van pulling a trailer as a farm vehicle.

Chareva wanted us to move the pigs to their pen when we got home.  I thought about that … let’s see, it’s raining, it’s dark, the winds are howling, we’re out in the sticks surrounded by miles of fields and forest, the pigs will be wet, they’ve already demonstrated that they’ll fight and squirm to get away.

I explained that I was having visions of me chasing two panicked piglets across our property in the dark with a tornado approaching, and it wasn’t a happy vision.  All we needed to complete the picture was a little dog named Toto.  She agreed that perhaps we’d best just leave the pigs in the trailer overnight.  She put pig feed and water in the trailer, then we went inside to wait out the tornado that never came.  The thunder and lightning were certainly impressive, however.

Among Bill Cosby’s many fabulous routines about growing up is one that goes something like this:

Every time my mom walked into my room, she became an expert on pigsties.  “This room looks just like a pigsty! Just like a pigsty!”

Unlike Bill Cosby’s mom, my girls’ mom may actually be an expert on pigsties.  Before the pig-delivery date, she spent some time converting the pen that previously held goats.  She reinforced the fence so they can’t dig under it, and added straw and an extra tarp to the hoop-house.  She also built her own trough.

I’ve read that pigs are as social as dogs.  Well, maybe, but these two seem to have an anti-social streak.  They spend rather a lot of time chasing each other around and biting each other’s ears.  If that’s considered social behavior, I’m glad I’m the type who doesn’t enjoy parties.

The girls will show the pigs at a 4-H event in January.  They’re supposed to demonstrate that they control the pigs by walking beside them with a stick.  That should be interesting.  Sara had to chase down and tackle one of her goats at the previous event.  The pigs will weigh well over 200 pounds by January, so tackling one would be a bit of challenge.

After the event, we can either auction them off or keep them and send them to the slaughterhouse when we think they’re fat enough.  The plan now is to keep at least one for bacon, ham, ribs, etc.  It’ll depend on how much pig meat we can store in our deep-freezer.  We’ll certainly be eating home-grown pork by spring.

I like pork, of course.  But this bumper-sticker on a vehicle at the ag center rather nicely captures my feelings about another meat.

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Chareva’s gardens are pretty much done for the year, but she harvested these recently:


This bounty came from a small patch of ground, maybe 16 x 8.  Imagine if we’d grown an acre of the things.  These squashes, along with a book I just finished, got me thinking (again) about what the true paleo diet was and wasn’t.

At one time, I believed Paleo Man was first and foremost a hunter who spent most of the year living on a diet of meat, meat and more meat. Then autumn rolled around, and Paleo Man would eat a few squashes, tubers and fruits during the brief harvest season.  Then it was back to the meat or the fish, because plant foods weren’t available.

Let’s just say that belief has been squashed.  With proper care, these squashes will be edible well into the winter.  That was also the case with the sweet potatoes we grew and harvested last year.  So if Paleo Man knew a little about proper food curing and storage – and I believe he did – he could have been eating squashes and tubers for a good chunk of the year.

I commute to Nashville three days per week, which means three to four hours per week in my car, depending on traffic.  I spend the drive time listening to books.  Blood and Thunder, the book I just finished, is about the conquering (or theft, if you prefer) of the American Southwest. The culture of the Indian tribes who lived there is described at length.  Food sources:  sheep, goats, occasional buffalo, deer, elk and other wild game – there’s that meat-meat-meat part of the paleo diet – but also maize, beans, pumpkins and ground tubers.

Granted, these Indians didn’t settle down and build towns around their crops.  In fact, in one stirring speech recounted in the book, an Apache warrior explained to an American soldier why the Apaches didn’t want to become farmers and send their kids to the reservation school:  you white people spend your lives as slaves, working for the sake of your big houses and your crops, he said.  Your schools teach your children how to be good slaves.  We don’t want to live like slaves, and we don’t want your schools to teach our children how to be slaves.  We want to be free.

But while they preferred a nomadic lifestyle, many Indians of the Southwest – the Navajos in particular – were quite adept at growing plant foods.  They planted, moved around at will during the warm months (herding their goats and sheep along with them), then came back in time for the harvest.   In fact, as the book explains, they depended on their maize, beans and pumpkins to get them through the winter.

Unfortunately for them, the U.S. Army figured that out.  An army general assigned Kit Carson the task of finding and destroying the fields where Navajos and other Indians grew their crops.  Carson apparently had little taste for the job – his first wife was an Arapaho, and he didn’t agree with the policy of herding Indians onto reservations – but he followed orders.  With their plant foods destroyed, the Navajos surrendered to avoid starving to death.

If these Indians were typical of paleo people, then tubers and squashes were part of the paleo diet.  Their diet would certainly be low-carb compared to the sugar-laden, wheat-laden diet of the modern western world, but it wasn’t zero-carb or ketogenic by any means.

You could argue that the Indians of the Southwest in the 1800s weren’t typical paleo people because their lifestyle had been transformed by the introduction of horses.  That mobility allowed them to be nomadic much of the year and still return to their maize and pumpkins at harvest time.   So perhaps the Indians east of the Mississippi – who didn’t ride horses – are a better example.

Well, those Indians ate squashes and tubers as well.  One of the plants we’re considering growing next year here on the farm is Apios Americana, otherwise known as the American groundnut.  Here’s some of what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The tubers were a staple food among most Native American groups within the natural range of the plant … In 1749, the travelling Swedish botanist Peter Kalm writes, “Hopniss or Hapniss was the Indian name of a wild plant, which they ate at that time… The roots resemble potatoes, and were boiled by the Indians who ate them instead of bread.”… The early author Rafinesque observed that the Creeks were cultivating the plant for both its tubers and seeds…  In 1910, Parker writes that the Iroquois were consuming significant quantities of groundnuts up until about 30 years before his writing … The author Gilmore records the use of groundnuts by the Caddoan and Siouan tribes of the Missouri river region, and the authors Prescott and Palmer record its use among the Sioux. The Native Americans would prepare the tubers in many different ways. Many tribes peeled them and dried them in the sun, such as the Menomini who built scaffolds of cedar bark covered with mats to dry their tubers for winter use.

Another plant we’re considering growing is Cyperus esculentus, otherwise known as the tiger nut.  Richard Nikoley has written about tiger nuts several times on his blog.  Apparently they were a major food source for early humans, including paleo Indians in North America.  Here’s another quote from Wikipedia:

It has been suggested that the extinct hominin Paranthropus boisei, the “Nutcracker Man,” subsisted on tiger nuts.  Prehistoric tools with traces of C. esculentus tuber starch granules have been recovered from the early Archaic period in North America, from about 9,000 years ago, at the Sandy Hill excavation site at the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The tubers are believed to have been a source of food for those Paleo-Indians.

I ordered one bag of tiger nuts from Amazon and liked them enough to order several more bags.  They’ve replaced almonds as my watching-football snack.  I enjoy the taste very much –like coconut with a hint of raisin — but it takes awhile to chew them because they’re very high in fiber and resistant starch.  (If you have a constipation problem, I can almost guarantee tiger nuts will fix it.)  I like the idea of growing tiger nuts because they’re apparently quite prolific – some strains are so prolific they’re considered an invasive species.  That tells me they’re not difficult to grow.

It’s clear from the historical evidence that our paleo ancestors ate squashes and tubers.  That being said, I’m not quite as enthusiastic as Richard Nikoley when it comes to white potatoes.  Yes, if you cook and cool them, you get some resistant starch.  That helps to reduce the glucose spike.

But like many other foods we buy today, modern potatoes were bred to be more palatable than their ancient counterparts – which means less fiber and more starch in the case of tubers, or less fiber and more fructose in the case of fruit.  I still believe diabetics and people with genetically low levels of amylase need to be careful not to over-eat those foods.

Tiger nuts are tubers, but they’re not exactly the metabolic equivalent of a baked Russet potato.  White potatoes are low in fiber and fat.  Tiger nuts are high in fiber and fat, both of which help to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream.  Putting numbers to the comparison, if I eat a small baked potato that provides 120 calories, I get 30 carbs of which 3.5 grams are fiber (26.5 net carbs), and 4 calories from fat.  If I eat an ounce of raw tiger nuts that provides 120 calories, I get 19 carbs of which 10 grams are fiber (nine net carbs) and 63 calories from fat.

Think about that fiber content for a second.  I don’t know how big Nutcracker Man was or what his daily calorie needs were, but if I ate 2,400 calories of tiger nuts to get through the day, I’d end up consuming 200 grams of fiber.  I hope Nutcracker Man subscribed to a good magazine.

So yes, Nutcracker Man subsisted on a tuber, but his diet was way high in fiber and more than 50% fat by calories.  Richard listed tiger nuts as 42% carbohydrate, but if I go with the net carbs (the fiber would be converted to short-chain fatty acids in the colon), I get 30%.

So what was the true paleo diet?  It would, of course, vary by region.  But based on what we know about paleo people discovered in modern times (like the Indians in North America) and the foods other paleo people ate, I think Paul Jaminet got it right in the Perfect Health Diet book:  more than 50% fat by calories, with the carb calories in a range of 15% to 30%, mostly from tubers and squashes.  Not meat-meat-meat, not VLC and not ketogenic, but still roughly twice the fat and half the carbohydrate recommended by our national diet dictocrats.

I’ll take meat-meat-meat over the USDA diet any ol’ time  But I don’t have to choose from those two options, so I’ll take meat-meat-meat with a side of squash and some greens.

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