Sunday, November 28, 2010

Northwestern Kansas Pictures - Part I

I never thought I'd actually take pictures of fields and cows! I feel like such a tourist!

But I've realized those of us that grew up in the country are the minority nowadays. Most people have no connection to where their food really comes from; they just buy their food from the grocery store and really don't give a second thought to where it originated from. And many have never been out in the country or to a farm.

So while I was back in Northwestern Kansas for Thanksgiving, I snapped a few pictures. These were taken in Rooks and Ellis counties.

This is "Part I", I'll be posting more pics and little tid-bits when I got back at different times of year, so stay tuned!

Wheat field.
This wheat was planted a short while ago, it will be harvested next year.

Cows in a pasture.
Note the land is rocky and hilly, not ideal for crops.

Cows on milo stubble.
Many farmers will move cattle onto crop land temporarily after harvesting.

Hay bale.
Grass in ditches is cut & baled for animal food.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

"Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."

That is how Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food" begins. A simple concept, an entire book based upon it. Michael Pollan differentiates between "food" and "edible foodlike substances". (The vast majority of products in the grocery store falling into the latter category.)

Michael Pollan discusses "nutritionalism", a trap most of my, myself included, have fallen into. But as I have learned, a food is more than just the sum of it's parts. It's not just what nutrients are in a food, but how they work together. And we as humans simply do not know enough about our bodies and the nuances of how food works for us to replicate the same nutrition in a pill.

That may sound harsh at first, but I know you've seen it: "Eggs are good for you, now eggs are bad for you, now eggs are good for you!" and "Butter is bad for you, now butter is good for you!" Our human arrogance makes us think we can outsmart nature. But in fact, the more people have tried to do things "right" and "eat well", the more unhealthy we've become.

In addition to us being flat-out misinformed (through no fault of our own, we generally think we can trust "the experts", and we've been spoon-fed incorrect information our whole lives), we also have grown up in a society where "pile it up and sell it cheap" takes precedence over quality, both in health and taste, of our food.

I really enjoyed reading "In Defense of Food"; it's packed with information to help make better dietary choices, especially if you are just starting out looking for ways to improve your diet.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Pet Wolves

Yep, you read that correctly: I have pet wolves.

Okay, so they don't look or act like wolves, but they are wolves nevertheless.

Wolf = Canis lupus
Dog = Canis lupus familiaris

What do wolves eat? Not dry kibble or mush from a can. They eat meat.

I'll admit, I was a little intimidated when I first came across the idea of a raw diet for dogs. Intimidated, but intrigued. I toyed with the idea on-and-off for nearly a year before I decided to jump in with both feet.

I was surprised at the change in my dogs after switching them to a raw diet. I was feeding top-of-the-line kibble before, but I guess even top-of-the-line kibble is still processed food! I wish I had decent before & after pictures of all of them, but I only have good comparison pictures of Stormy. The first picture was taken shortly before I switched them to raw, the second picture was taken 4 months after being on a raw diet.

The diet I feed my dogs is called "prey model". The goal is to mimic the prey that they would eat in the wild. This is accomplished by feeding a diet that is approximately 80% meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other secreting organs.

Meat is, you got it: meat. Chicken, turkey, pork, beef, goat, lamb, ostrich, duck, salmon, venison, rabbit, pheasant, quail, kangaroo, whatever you can find. The more variety you can [slowly!] work into their diet, the better; but even if you can only get your hands on a few proteins, it's still a good diet. I try to feed at least 50% red meat; red meat being 'mammal meat', so pork, even though it's called "the other white meat", is actually red meat.

Bones are a little trickier than meat. We've all heard "don't feed the dog chicken bones!", but this actually requires more explanation. It should be "don't feed the dog cooked bones, be it chicken or beef". Raw bones (yep, even chicken bones) are soft and digestible. Cooked bones (yep, even beef bones) become brittle and can splinter into shards. That smoked ham bone at the petstore is actually more dangerous for your dog to eat than raw chicken bones. The main bones my dogs eat are chicken bones, along with a few pork and lamb bones. Note: weight-bearing bones of large herbivores are too hard for dogs, so bones like a cow femur are no-no's.

Bones are also "nature's toothbrush". Dental care is just as important for dogs as it is for people. 80% of dogs over the age of 3 have periodontal disease; which not only is a problem of unattractive teeth, it affects the internal organs of the animal.

My dogs' teeth on a raw diet

Liver is liver. Beef liver, pork liver, chicken liver, etc. That was an easy one!

Secreting organs are *drumroll* organ which secrete. Examples: kidney, spleen, pancreas, thymus, brain. The non-secreting organs, such as heart and gizzards, are fed in the "meat" portion of the dog's diet.

A raw prey model diet does not require any supplements, it supplies all the nutrients required by dogs. I do, however, give my dogs fish oil for Omega-3s to make up for the fact they do not get organic grass-fed beef or much wild game meat.

The amount to feed is based on your body's ideal adult body weight. The starting point is about 2%-3% of the dog's body weight, then adjust as necessary. (It's on a dog-by-dog basis depending on the dog's metabolism and activity level. One of my dogs eats nearly twice the recommended starting point!) I use a cheap kitchen scale to portion out my dogs' food.

Where do I get meat for my dogs?
  • Grocery store - watch those sales!
  • Expired or freezer-burned meat from family and friends
  • Hunting scraps

If you are interested in feeding your dogs (or cats or ferrets) a raw diet, here are some resources to get you started:

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Real Food by Nina Planck

    After a few months of buying "low fat", "light", and other supposedly healthy foods, I wanted to know more about my choices. Which choices were best? Yes, I knew vegetables were good for you, but which ones were the most packed with nutrients? Etc.

    I came across Nina Planck's book "Real Food". I don't even recall exactly how I stumbled across it, but it was the first book that opened my eyes to the idea that the government's "food pyramid" might not be all it's cracked up to be.

    It has been over a year since I last read this book, so my overview will be short, but I do want to give this book a mention since it was a huge turning-point in my philosophy of what I considered "healthy".

    Nina Planck talks about growing up on real food, then how she abandoned the diet she was raised on in search of "virtuous diets" (aka: vegetarian/vegan diets), then her return to an omnivorous real food diet. She advocates eating meat, eggs, and raw milk from pastured livestock; as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables. And she discusses the reasons behind why traditional food is far superior, both in nutrition and taste, to the modern food-like substances that fill our grocery stores.

    I personally was amazed at the nutritional differences between meat from wild/pastured animals and meat from feedlot animals. This book also introduced me to the ideas that fat (traditional fats, such as lard, olive oil, and coconut oil; not modern fats like margarine and soybean oil) and cholesterol were in fact not "bad", but essential parts to the human diet.

    I recommend this book as a great intro book for anyone interested in really improving their diet beyond (or should I say "in contrast to") the current government dietary recommendations.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010


    Welcome to my blog! Quick facts about me: My name is Abby. I'm 27. I grew up on a farm in northwestern Kansas and now live in Kansas City. I'm a K-State grad (Go Wildcats!), majored in Computer Science. I work at a hospital as a web developer. I'm engaged to a wonderful man named Chris, we're getting married in June 2011. We have 3 dogs: Josie, Stormy, and Rufus. I enjoy cooking, eating, traveling, wine, the beach, and hanging out with friends and family.

    Enough about me, let's talk about the inspiration of this blog!

    Up until a few years ago, I never gave a second thought to what I put in my body. During college and even for a couple years after I graduated, my diet consisted mainly of ramen noodles, frozen pizza, Hamburger Helper, and fast food. I'm one of the lucky ones that is genetically predisposed to be thin; so I never even gave what I ate a second thought.

    A year after I graduated college, I decided to get a dog. I had grown up with dogs and had missed having one around while I was in school. Even though I had lived my whole life with dogs, this was different: for the first time in my life, I was solely responsible for another living thing. I went to the store, bought a crate, toys, food and water bowls, just like every new pet owner does. And a couple weeks later, I made the trek from Kansas City to Enid, Oklahoma to pick up my new puppy, Josie.

    I picked Josie up at the house of a woman named Madeline. Madeline was my 4-H dog project leader when I was a kid. She had put me in touch with Josie's breeder, one of Madeline's dogs was the father of the litter (Madeline was also getting a puppy from the litter). We had a lot of catching up to do, and towards the end of our visit, she asked me what I was going to feed Josie. When I gave her my answer (Iams), she promptly stood up and said "Come with me!". I followed her to her kitchen where she grabbed a bag of dog food off the shelf and flipped it over and started reading the ingredients, pointing out what ingredients I should look for in a dog food. It seems like common-sense and second-nature now (now I read the ingredients on everything I buy), but at the time, I had never even thought to read the ingredients on my own food, let alone a bag of dog food!

    And so it began...

    After a while, I realized my dog was eating top-of-the-line holistic dog food and treats that I had to buy from a specialty "all natural pet food" store. I was obsessed with giving my dog a healthy diet.

    But what was I eating? The same ol' crap I had eaten at a poor college kid. So I decided I should try to eat "healthy" too... And I never imagined just how much I'd learn!