Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm

Thinking Out Loud

What Women Want

Screw pretty. I’d rather be strong.
Pretty fades over time. Strength gets you through the bad shit.
~ Thea Harrison in Oracle’s Moon

Stop Being Stupid

Last Friday night, as a houseguest, I witnessed the following:

A loving grandmother, whose cooking options were limited due to the recent demise of her stove, fed dinner to an 18-month old, a 4-year old, and a 12-year old.  Cereal came out first.  Cheerios and something along the lines of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Cow’s milk (especially for the baby — good god, what is she, a calf?).  Orange juice — oh goody, liquid sugar!  And (blessedly), a salad with black olives.

As soon as the new stovetop was working, Grandmother heated water for Kraft mac n’ cheese.  She usually makes it from scratch, she told me, as if that excused shoveling gut-damaging pasta down the children’s unsuspecting throats.  It seems the grandchildren regularly visit on Fridays, so they always have dessert and “kid food.”

“Kid food,” apparently, is what one feeds to little brats whose parents have been too lazy to feed them real, healthful food.  Or maybe the parents just assume that kids “won’t” eat healthful food, so there’s no point trying.  Or maybe Grandmother just wants to make the little children smile.  Whatever the case, surely anybody in their right mind (even if their only health information comes from quacks like Dr. Oz and the USDA) knows that cheesy hotdogs and macaroni isn’t going to build healthy individuals.

Think the easy, cheap food choices don’t matter?  (After all, they’re young and resilient!)  Just look at the eldest grandchild.  She has fat rolls and weighs more than I do.  Her belly hangs over her waistband and bulges out beneath the hem of her shirt.  She has more than one chin.  She is clearly metabolically deranged and insulin resistant.  Type II diabetes nips at her heels.  She is twelve years old.

Does anybody else feel sorry for this kid?  Does anybody else wish that, when exposed to information about how to effect better heath through proper nutrition, the adults in her life would listen?  Does anybody really believe that feeding her even a single swallow of muffin or juice or cereal isn’t killing her?  Her situation is dire, folks.  Without major nutritional changes, this kid is doomed to a short and painful life.  And how many years will it be before her young cousins exhibit similar symptoms? 

Oh, I know this isn’t all Grandmother’s fault.  She doesn’t provide most of the kids’ meals.  But really, are “treats” that kill really treats?  Are they okay because they kill slowly, over decades rather than minutes?  Is “just a little” french toast drenched in sweet pancake batter and topped with powdered sugar acceptable because it’s…What?  Saturday morning?  Company is here?  We have a new oven?  Am I missing something that would make this decision appropriate?

Let’s review:

Grains create holes in the lining of the small intestine.  The more you eat, the worse it is, but even small amounts cause some damage (worse in some people than others).  These holes permit foreign or incompletely digested substances to enter the body.  There, they aggravate the immune system, resulting in inflammation and allergies, and they contribute to autoimmune conditions ranging from eczema and rheumatoid arthritis to acid reflux and IBS to Parkinson’s and MS. 

Whole grains also feature phytates in their bran.  These substances bind the minerals in the grain (and whatever is consumed with it), making them unavailable for use by the body.  So, while it is true that “healthy whole grains” contain some nutrition, your body can’t use it.  It may as well not be there.  (Get your fiber from a butternut squash, dummy.)

Finally, grains represent a calorie and carbohydrate dense, nutrient poor, food source.  Sure, they’re cheap and yummy and will make you feel good as their morphene-like compounds reach the pleasure centers in your brain, but they’ll also send your blood sugar skyward, demanding the release of insulin to bring it back into a safe range by storing it in the tissues…bodyfat tissues, unless you just completed a substantial amount of high intensity exercise.  As a result, you get a blood sugar crash (and cravings for more carbohydrate) about 2 hours later.  Over time, excessive carb intake and resultant excessive insulin release leads to insulin resistance, type II diabetes, obesity, systemic inflammation, and high triglyceride levels.  Enter cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune conditions.  Hooray!  Just what we want for the grandkids we adore.

So…remind me why anyone would want to feed a child cereal, pasta, and toast.  Anybody?  Anybody???

And if your answer was “it’s all they’ll eat,” just shut the hell up and spare me the whining.  Cut the crap.  Grow a backbone.  When they get sufficiently hungry, they’ll eat real food.  Until then, at least you won’t be killing them with stabs and scoops of their spoons and forks.

Pass it on.

Corporate Fluff

I am not Catholic.  I am pissed off.  I am giving up Monsanto for Lent.

Today is Day 1.


It’s such a huge topic that I scarcely know where to begin.  And so, I will begin with an assumption:

I will assume that you know Monsanto is a massive, politically influential company that sells agrochemicals while engineering and selling genetically modified organisms to tolerate heavy application of said chemicals prior to their unlabeled distribution to the public.

This series will consider Monsanto from as many angles as possible, in no particular order.  Gather them as you would puzzle pieces.  The picture will assemble itself in your mind.

Because crops influenced by Monsanto have found their way into amost every crevice of the modern American grocery store, food will be my most immediate concern during this 46-day Monsanto fast.  Fortunately, my paleo way of eating has already nixed many of the major concerns:

  • Processed foods (nearly all of which contain GM corn, soy, artificial sweeteners, or GM additives such as amalyse, catalase, and lactase),
  • Conventional animal products (livestock is fed GM grain & soy, and dairy contains BGH and/or chymosin, a GM rennet used in most cheeses), and
  • Conventional produce (often GM, and not labeled as such).

Instead, I eat local, organic, grass-fed meats; wild fish; organic dairy (if any); and organic produce (preferably locally grown from heirloom seed).

There are a few items I’ll need to remove from my diet in order to avoid supporting Monsanto.  Canned tuna comes to mind, because it contains soy (often GM, courtesy of Monsanto) as part of the vegetable broth.  I’ll need to double-check the labels on miscellaneous items like hot sauce and vinegars.  Canned tomatoes will have to go organic, pricetag notwithstanding.  And nuts?  I wonder if they’re sprayed with Monsanto’s pesticides.  Better check.

So far, this looks a lot like a Whole 30.  Fair enough.  I was going to do one in April anyway.

Unfortunately, the food is the easy part.  Avoiding Monsanto means doing more than taking extra care about what goes into my refrigerator. 

For example, I hope I don’t have any need to withdraw cash.  Dollar bills are made of cotton.  And cotton is GM.

Clear back in 2003, 73% of the U.S. cotton crop was GM.  By 2007, 43% of the worldwide cotton crop was GM.  I’m almost glad I can’t find a more recent statistic.  Monsanto, of course, is happy to provide plenty of seed — supposedly to reduce pesticide use (1/3 pound of chemical pesticides and fertilizers is required to grow enough cotton for a single T-shirt) — but introducing a variety of new hazards, such as overpopulation of insects not targeted by the GM crops.

I wish I knew more about the health consequences of GM cotton, because we eat the stuff.  Despite being a “non-food crop,” cotton permeates our food supply.  It is used as a filler in livestock feeds.  Cottonseed oil appears in myriad processed foods.  And ‘linters,’ short cotton fibers, are used in a variety of emuslifiers, thickening agents, and fillers.

How about textiles?  Good thing I’m not a fashionista, because it looks like I won’t be buying any cotton clothing during Lent.  Unless I want to go naked, however, I’ll need to wear the cotton I already have.

Back to the cash.  I wonder how I’ll pay at the farmer’s market.  How will In the Night Farm’s customers pay for their duck eggs and strawberry plants?  Are Craigslist purchases out of the question for the next 6 weeks? 

Is it impossible to navigate modern America Monsanto-free?

We shall see.  So far, it doesn’t look good.


Resource du Jour:  GMO Database, courtesy of GMO Compass.  Type a food into the search box on the left (scroll down to find it) and check for updates on its genetic status.

See all posts in the Monsanto Project Series.

I’m Giving Up Monsanto for Lent

I am not Catholic.

But, I am pissed off.

And this is as good a time as any.

For the 46 days between March 9 and April 23, I am going to do my best to avoid supporting Monsanto in any way.

I suspect that doing so will lead me down (ahem) interesting paths as I explore just how deep the company’s claws have sunk into our politics, economy, and environment.

I’ve heard that to control a nation’s destiny, you must control the education of its children.  I’ll buy that.  But if you want an even deeper hold — an even more immediate and desperate one — why not control the food supply?  And while you’re at it, you might as well think big.  Go international.  Do it in the name of Feeding the World.

Enough.  I want to know if we can still escape.  The best way to find out?


So, the rules:

1.  No purchasing GMO foods or food products that contain them as ingredients.  All produce, including canned or frozen, must be organic or an item as-yet unapproved for alteration.  Any dairy must be free of rBGH. 

2.  Insofar as possible, no purchasing other products that support Monsanto.  I’ll share with you as I do my homework, but I suspect this list may include such items as gasoline (corn ethanol?), stocks, household products, livestock feed, and more.  It’ll be interesting to discover whether I still have a choice in these areas.

And, the caveats:

1.  I do have a few non-compliant items in my pantry; my budget demands that I use up what I have, but any new purchases will follow the rules.

2.  I’m bound to make mistakes.  I suspect Monsanto products are more pervasive than I know, so I’ll be obliged to make corrections as I learn.

So, feel free to add cautions to the comments.  Warn me of the places Monsanto hides.  And join me if you dare.


See all posts in the Monsanto Project Series.

Fighting Mad(ness)

God help me, because I cannot help myself. 

I cannot help myself from bringing this up again.

I cannot help walking through this pink-beribboned world with my eyebrows hitched up to my hairline, agog at the depth to which the quest for The Cure has sunk.

Pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Limited edition Kit Kat bars for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Survivor photos on boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Totino’s frozen pizza.

Check out Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Million Dollar Council Elite, which includes such health-promoting superstars as:

ACH Food Companies, proud purveyor of :  Karo pancake syrup (63g carbohydrate/serving.  Good lord!  We haven’t even added the pancakes yet!), Fleischmann’s sourdough bread mix (29g), and Henri’s Light French Low Fat Homestyle Dressing (13g).

Frito Lay, promoting “sensible snacking” on:  Doritos nacho flavor (17g), Cracker Jack (23g), and Grandma’s Homestyle Oatmeal Raisin Big Cookies (25g.  Each.).

General Mills, bringing you:  Haagen-Dazs vanilla milk chocolate bars (22g), Progresso Healthy Classics Split Pea Soup (30g), and Cheesy Enchilada Hamburger Helper (36g.  No wonder that poor hamburger needs help!)

And the ever-popular Yoplait, featuring: Original Strawberry Yogurt (33g), Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie mix (19g), and Cotton Candy/Strawberry Kiwi Trix Yogurt (20g in a satisfying, 4-oz serving for the kids).

It gets better.  Want to know who sponsors the Race for the Cure?  Here’s a selection:

  • American Italian Pasta Company
  • Dove Chocolate
  • Dr. Pepper Snapple Group
  • Freed’s Bakery
  • Pepperidge Farm
  • Otis Spunkmeyer

Processed, damaged, unnatural fats.  Grains.  Added sugars.  Chemical sweeteners, preservatives, and additives.  Addictive “food” products that make people sick.


Sorry, pink people, but any organization that’s willing to slap its logo on any godawful product whose manufacturer wants to cash in on the marketing power of pink — including the very products that help cause the disease said organization supposedly exists to eliminate — has sold its soul.

Read that italicized phrase again.  Ponder motivation.  And draw your own conclusions.


P.S.   I know Komen does some cool stuff, like assisting families with practical needs while their loved ones are in treatment.  But at what cost? 

P.P.S.  You are welcome to disagree with me.  But before you get furious, please take the time to understand my position by reading previous posts on the subject of cancer and its prevention:

Cancer for a FortnightBefore Early DetectionIn the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent Inflammation, Supply Lines:  The Importance of AngiogenesisShort-Circuit:  Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally, Please Don’t Feed the Cancer, Blaming the Victim?, Crap for the Cure.

P.P.P.S.  Great quote from this article:  “If breast cancer could be cured by shopping, it would be cured by now.”  Cheers, Ms. Brenner.


My Medicine, My Food:  Black coffee, 3-egg omelet with butternut, onion, and spinach; steamed carrots, brussels sprouts, and broccoli with pastured butter; raw spinach, tuna, dill pickle, onion, black olives, and fish oil dressing; braised lamb shanks, wilted red chard, roasted onions and garlic.  Green and red teas.  Ume plum concentrate.  Whiskey.

Workout:  1.5 mile walk, plus some light stretching and “baby” calisthenics.  (Hey, I’m only 6 days out from a major soft tissue injury.)

To Have and to Hold

The more you have, the more you have to lose.

We all know the phrase.  We all know the feeling.

For some, it is a roadblock at the starting block.  I’m the other type.  The type that sets goals and confronts challenges head-on.  The type that assumes success is within reach, and makes it so.

…and then realizes that all I’ve gained can also be lost.

It’s the curse of the wealthy, to fear a stock market crash.  The curse of the beautiful, to fear the ravages of age.  The curse of the athlete, to fear debilitating injury.  The curse of the beloved, to fear rejection.  The curse of the lover, to fear loss.

Fear is a crippling thing.  Too often, it fulfills its own prophecy.  Some fear failure, and so never begin.  Others achieve, then become so focused on guarding their gains that they forget to progress and — worse! — lose track of the who they are that got them where they are.

Don’t let it happen.  Consider what is going nowhere, or going south, in your life.  Consider why.  If the answer is fear, cast it off.

Success, like roses, blooms by season.  What is the point of cultivating rose bushes if you spend all summer dreading the fall?  Walk among the blossoms.  Forget tomorrow, and today will be enough.

The more you have, the more you have.


Blaming the Victim?

Billy is eight years old.  His family has just moved into a new house.  The realtor warned his parents that a registered sex offender lives next door, but they liked the house and bought it anyway.

“Don’t play in Mr. X’s yard,” Mother says.  And Billy obeys.

But Mr. X is a cheerful, attractive gentleman.  When Billy wants extra money, Mother suggests he offer to trim Mr. X’s hedges or mow his lawn.  Billy follows her advice.

Sometimes, when she needs to run to the store, Mother tells Billy to play outside where Mr. X can keep an eye on him — just for a few minutes, of course.  So Billy does.

Within a year, Mr. X is back in the court system.  Billy is in counseling for wounds that are unlikely ever to fully heal.

Who is to blame?


Billy is an average guy.  He is trying to make good decisions for his health.  Years ago, scientists warned the medical industry that excessive dietary carbohydrate causes disease, but Big Ag funded them, so they recommend that Billy consume plenty of “complex carbohydrates” anyway.

“Don’t eat too much refined sugar,” the medical industry says.  And Billy obeys.

But sugar wears clever disguises.  When Billy is hungry, the medical industry directs him to eat multigrain bagals with low-fat cream cheese or bran flakes with soy milk.  Billy follows their advice.

Sometimes, when the processed food industry lobbies hard enough, the medical industry tells Billy it’s okay to enjoy snack cakes and soda — in moderation, of course.  So Billy does.

Within thirty years, disease has taken hold.  Billy is in treatment for obesity, cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, or a cancer that refuses to respond to therapy.

Who is to blame?


I’ve taken flak throughout my ongoing cancer prevention series for “blaming the victim” by suggesting that many (not all!) cancers could be prevented by making the right lifestyle choices — if only they weren’t misinformed about what constitutes the “right” choices.  Please, read the posts again:

Cancer for a FortnightBefore Early DetectionIn the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent Inflammation, Supply Lines:  The Importance of AngiogenesisShort-Circuit:  Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally, Please Don’t Feed the Cancer, Crap for the Cure.

Is it really the victim I’m blaming?

31 Things You May Have Suspected

I am shamelessly stealing this post idea from Matt at Three New Leaves.  He’s decided to be more “himself” on his blog, starting with a list of 31 things his readers didn’t previously know about him. 

I’m a big fan of the “visible” blogger.  Information is a fantastic.  It’s the reason I subscribe to over 70 sites.  But my favorite blogs offer something more:  personality.  And so, in the spirit of holiday cheer, here are 31 things you may or may not want to know about me:

1.  The corkscrew shape of those energy-saving lightbulbs creeps me out.  Luckily, wine corkscrews do not have this effect.

2.  I have a master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction.  For real.

3.  Years ago, I made a conscious decision to start saying things that need to be said.  This has pissed off a lot of people, but it has also done a lot of good.

4.  I do not own a single piece of fine jewelry. 

5.  But I do have a nice handgun.

6.  Her name is Annie.  Partly after Annie Oakley, the wild west sharpshooter, and partly because that was the name of my childhood security blanket.  (Yes, my blankie had a name.  Didn’t yours?) 

7.  Somewhere during my transition from “good little girl” to “grown-up,” my favorite color changed from blue to red.  Coincidence?

8.  I’m really, really good at ignoring office treats.  Unless they happen to be homemade cheesecake.  Remember the Healthy/F-Off Scale?  Step away from my cheesecake.  (See #5.)

9.  I have written three novels.  The first one is decent.  The second one sucks.  The third isn’t done yet.  (Okay, so I’ve written two novels.  So far, the unfinished third is the longest.)  The novel is my favorite form, but while I’m a good writer, stylistically, I’m not the world’s best plot creator.  Alas.

10.  I wish children could be born at about the age of seven.  Four or five would be okay.

11.  I am not spontaneous, particularly when it comes to social events.  I enjoy being social, but I must be mentally prepared for it.  I once heard that an introvert draws energy from being alone, while an extrovert draws energy from being with others.  I fall into the former category.

12.  My favorite Christmas story is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  I read it every year.  Sometimes, it makes me cry.

13.  It is my observation that political correctness frequently cohabitates with cowardice and intellectual inconsistency.  Say what you mean, people.  And mean what you say.

14.  Thirty-one things is a lot of to come up with.  *ahem*  …with which to come up.  So sayeth the grammar geek, who notes that the corrected version still ends with a preposition, and that the word “that” is often included unnecessarily.

15.  I deal with blog jealousy, too.  (Matt?  You’re not alone.)

16.  I almost never watch TV, but I can’t help liking I Love Lucy.  Maybe because I wish life really was that simple.

17.  There is no one on the planet more ignorant than I of all things pop culture.  Music?  Movies?  Leno?  Huh???  (Is Leno still on?  See…I told you!)

18.  I treasure my blog readers.  I’m honored that you take the time to read my posts, and your comments often make my day.  Your tweets and likes are like water in a desert.  You other writers know exactly what I’m talking about.

19.  I would no more cut off my hair than my toes.

20.  I am ridiculously proud that I can do more pushups and pullups than most men.  Seriously, who cares?  Probably just me.  But I care a lot.

21.  I used to be slightly afraid of chickens.  Now that I have a dozen, I really like them.

22.  There are very few things about which I don’t want to know more.  Computer programming and daytime television are two of them.

23.  I wish I had a better sense of fashion.

24.  I’m really good at baking bread.  It’s one of the few things I miss since going paleo (the baking, that is, more than the eating).

25.  Nothing irritates me more than people who aren’t willing to even consider ideas that challenge their own.  You don’t have to agree with me, but for god’s sake, take the time to hear — really hear — what I’m saying, and why.  I hope I’ll do the same for you.

26.  Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I know this makes me “one of the lucky ones” in so many ways, and I am grateful.

27.  If I ever have children, I have two names in mind.  Both could be used for either gender. 

28.  My cat likes to be held and adored, but not smothered or confined.  I understand this perfectly.

29.  My horses choose carefully who they will honor with their presence and trust.  I understand this, too.

30.  I am not a math person, yet two of my favorite undergrad courses were “Conceptual Physics” and “Economics.”  Ah, the power of a skilled teacher.

31.  I feel really dorky coming up with these 31 things.  Fellow bloggers, please don’t let me and Matt be the only ones!


Friend the farm on Facebook.