Monday, March 5, 2012

Potions and Concoctions

I'm afraid I may have gone off the deep end.

What started as noticing that Swiffer solution gave me headaches has led to... homemade all purpose cleaning spray, floor wash, glass wash, baby wipes (okay, I've been doing this one for a while), and even... deodorant.

I don't necessarily have a problem with commercial deodorant... it's just that my friend sent me a recipe for it and it seemed like a fun thing to try. And on the days I've remembered to use it, it seems to work just fine. (If I'm pressed for time, I use Se.cret.) The month of August may shed a different light on things, but so far, so good.

I've also been making my own (raw) yogurt, which is really satisfying. It's so easy and so much cheaper than commercial yogurt, plus it looks really cool in my new wide mouth Ma.son jars. I had a tiny bit left over, so I even did a tiny baby food jar of yogurt (thanks Catherine for the donated jar).

To those who are scared by the raw stuff... here's the deal. I won't extol the benefits of raw milk, but just say this: milk can be contaminated at any point between leaving the cow's body and entering your mouth. Pastuerization is just one stop along the way -- it can still get contaminated after this step. It is my firm belief that farmers who know their milk will be consumed raw are all the more likely to be scrupulously careful with their dairy (if not out of concern for their customer than for their livelihood... one bad outcome could put them out of business). Morever, cows who are grass and not grain fed have a normal pH in the stomach, one that does not harbor the deadly E. coli 01H57. So that makes it all the more safe. And is one reason that it is safe to eat grass fed beef more rare than conventionally raised beef.

As I read, calves raised alongside their mothers in pasture don't get sick from nursing on udders that are far less than scrupulously clean (read: tinged with manure) and yet they don't get sick... yet conventionally raised calves have to be pumped full of antibiotics to stay healthy.

Still, I am keeping my own little calf drinking milk from her own species. But she does relish some raw (bovine) yogurt, swiped from mommy's dish. I feel that the benefits are worth the risks.

Other homemade consumables include vast vats of chicken broth (made from pastured, organic chicken), gluten free carrot muffins (made with coconut flour and raw honey), beet kvass, kefir (still trying to work out the kinks on this one), lactofermented cabbage, grass fed beef stew, and many others. I'm finally cooking for myself again, after the many months of pregnancy and infancy where I just couldn't be bothered. But I feel like I need to be a good role model for Calliope, and skipping dinner, or snacking for dinner, isn't what I want her to see. Never mind that I eat after she goes to bed.

Anyway, I'm a little bit excited and quite a bit nervous because I volunteered to be interviewed for the New Yo.rk Ti.mes as a new parent who got freaked about chemicals. After writing a blurb to the journalist, he called me for a phone interview. I'm pretty sure I sounded like a dufus as we chatted while I simultaneously pumped in my office during my lunch break. After not hearing from him for a while, I was hoping that maybe he decided to feature someone else... but then I got an email last week that a photographer was coming to take pictures of Calliope and me. We did that last Thursday.

So, it could be cool to be featured in a national paper... but I really think I sounded kind of idiotic in the interview. I was just scattered and maybe a little ditzy. Let's face it, this is my new state of mind, what with the advent of motherhood.

So I feel this need to warn everyone ahead of time... that somehow, if I tell folks that I know sounded stupid in the interview, I won't feel as embarrassed when the article comes out?

It seems like a dubious strategy, at best, but lacking another one, I'm sticking to it.


  1. You're very well spoken in you blog so I'm sure you don't sound anywhere near as bad as you think. It sounds really exciting and I love the fact that you are trying to live chemical free.

  2. K, Abby, you're my friend and I certainly respect your making your own decisions about your family. But since I'm allowed to comment here, and you have lots of readers, I have to offer a counterpoint on your raw milk reasoning. Please read:


    Marler is the biggest lawyer litigating foodborne illness cases. So he's got interest in finding problems. That being said, he's a lawyer and his facts are well researched and referenced.

    I just worry, for obvious reasons, especially for young children who are so much more susceptible to complications from E coli and other pathogens.

  3. Claire,

    I know that you nearly lost your precious little Fiona to HUS, and so of course the idea of deliberately exposing a child to a dangerous strain of E. coli must sound terrifying to you.

    Please know that i have the utmost respect for you.

    Here is what my holistic health counselor, Hannah Springer, wrote when I shared your concerns with her.

    for more information on her, visit

    "I am way more scared of my kids getting poisoned by pasteurized dairy than by raw! Giant "farms," grain feeding (even when organic), pus, pasteurization plants, etc etc. Bill Marler is a truly awful person in my opinion; I was asked to debate opposite him on WNYC and declined because he is an irrational person who uses inflammatory language to win arguments. He makes his living off of persuading people that it was milk which sickened them when in reality it was likely fast food or food from a giant corporation which is pretty well protected against law suits (unlike small scale dairy farmers). He also seems to make no discrepancy btw milk from grassfed cows and grain fed. It's a completely different food, from a nutrition standpoint and safety considerations. Our family has consumed exclusively raw dairy products since our first son was 3 months old (so over 3 years now) and we are all much the better for it due to the superior nutrition and enzymes it provides.

    People can get E coli from many foods, including vegetables, in our modern age of industrial farming. No one is completely "safe" unless they simply never eat anything which of course isn't an option. The best protection is to know your sources and buy from small farms as much as possible, and to have a healthy gut. Unfortunately many children (I would say the vast majority) have a compromised gut due to formula feeding, exposure to antibiotics and vaccinations, c-section birth, chlorine in our water, pesticides in food, and inappropriate weaning foods like rice cereal and pasteurized dairy.

    Healthy gut flora includes a physiological strain of E coli that protects us against invasion by pathogenic strains of E coli! Part of having healthy flora is consuming enzyme- and probiotic-rich foods like raw dairy, fermented veggies, etc. and also exposure to soil which contains lots of beneficial microorganisms. In addition, high levels of true vitamin A or retinol (found only in animal foods, such as liver and cod liver oil) ensure integrity of the digestive tract and lining; and properly-made broth from bones of pastured beef, lamb, fish, or chicken supply gelatin that nourishes the lining of the gut and enhances digestion.

    By sheltering our children from all the microorganisms we can (read: processed foods and foods that have the life cooked out of them plus loads of antibacterial products and constant washing) we really do their immune systems a huge disservice. Coupled with a diet which lacks bone broth and high-vitamin-A foods (like liver), this leads to the body being more vulnerable to pathogens and less able to heal properly after illness. "

  4. I look forward to reading about you in the Times! I'm sure you sound fine or he wouldn't have chosen you! Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame!