If you had to name one important benefit of living an off-grid lifestyle, what would that be? There are many reasons for adopting a more holistic, natural way of life, one that is more in tune with creation and our role in it. However, if one had to stand here and list only a single benefit that made this whole effort worthwhile, it would be the advantages to our health.
There’s just no way that our bodies aren’t affected by the chemicals, additives, antibiotics, and whatever else industrial agriculture pumps into our food supply.
We wonder why our food tastes like cardboard, and why our bodies are breaking down. There’s just nothing nutritious in our food supply and genetic modifications are wreaking havoc with the molecular processes in our bodies.
It’s imperative that we begin to learn to sustain ourselves. This 100 year trial in “feeding the world through a global food train” has derailed itself and is skidding off the tracks.
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Off The Grid Radio
Released: January 6th 2012
Bill: Indeed, welcome everybody. It’s Bill Heid today with Off the Grid Radio. I want to tell you that we’ve got a really interesting guest today. Our guest is Deborah Niemann. Deborah is a homesteader, a writer, a self-sufficiency expert. She’s not only someone who’s researched soap making, break making, cheese making, composting, all the things, but she actually does it herself. She brings about a one-two punch in that she is a consummate researcher as well as someone that’s not afraid to dig in and get her hands dirty and actually do things. Additionally, she’s chronicled her events, in terms of getting off the grid and becoming more self-reliant in a book called “Homegrown and Handmade.” I’d like to chat with her a little bit about that book today and about the transitional steps that she’s made. Welcome, Deborah.
Deborah: Thank you.
Bill: Thanks so much for being with us. Your book, as I read it, I was impressed with especially the introduction. What I want to get at today is, especially the show being aired in January, people will be making New Year’s resolutions. 2012 is a great year to make the decision – because I think a lot of people are going to call this a perfect storm year – I don’t know, I’m not God, I can’t predict what’s going to happen. But there’s never been a better time to become self-reliant than 2012. What I like about your introduction is you go through this business of ‘why’. Everyone needs reasons why. If you’re going to lose weight, you better have a reason why. If you’re going to start going to Gold’s Gym or whatever and you want to add some muscle or tone to your body, you better have some deeply rooted reasons why or you’re probably just going to give up after a while. If we could, Deborah, let’s start with the introduction and what you talk about with respect to this. You go through and you have health and safety. Can you comment on some of those reasons why – we’ll talk about your own personal things later – but some of the reasons why someone should want to become self-sufficient. You mention them at the introduction. Can we chat a little bit about that?
Deborah: Sure. Health really is one of the main reasons. A lot of times when people call us, because they want to buy some meat or something from us, it’s because they just got diagnosed with cancer and started reading and realized that there’s all these things in their food that could have caused it. Or because they have diabetes or heart disease or something. I’ve had so many people who’ve contacted me either to buy meat or to buy goats because they want their own milk supply now, who have recently been diagnosed with something. Sometimes people have even been told they’re going to die and that, of course, scares them into trying to do something – make big changes. But it doesn’t always have to be as drastic as that. It can just be that somebody recently read an article about the health problems associated with our modern diet and it’s finally sunk in. The information is out there all the time, but so many people respond by saying “you’ve gotta die from something … ha ha” – not realizing that diabetes isn’t going to just knock you dead tomorrow, it’s a really nasty disease that eats your body away, bit by bit.
Bill: Deborah, could I just throw this in for a second? Anybody that ever tells you that say “listen, you should go visit a nursing home more often.” You’ll realize, as you were saying, there’s this long period of misery attached to this. I didn’t mean to interrupt you but my wife ran a nursing home for years and we got up close and personal with diseases like diabetes. So continue, but that’s such a valid point.
Deborah: Right. One of the things too that’s important – like with diabetes – part of that is your diet and the other part is the fact that people have such a sedentary lifestyle and aren’t getting enough exercise. One of the good things about growing it yourself instead of just shopping at the farmer’s market, which is awesome, but growing it yourself forces you to get out there and do things and to be active. Of course safety is a really big reason. So many people now – the more food recalls we have, which – I don’t know that food recalls are necessarily getting to be more numerous but the number of people affected is certainly getting bigger. I’ve been on the FDA email list for several years now and there are always food recalls, almost every day. But what we’re seeing now is that they’re getting so much bigger. They’re affecting so many more people. The recent cantaloupe in September, the strawberries in July – you go back and the numbers are getting really big. So when you’ve got your own chickens, you don’t worry about salmonella because you know that they’re not packed in there with half a square foot of living space per bird, they’re outside running around, getting fresh air, not sharing germs with each other. Safety is another really big one that a lot of people are concerned about. Ethics is another one. It’s kind of funny – I know you had Joel Salatin on a few weeks ago who was saying “cheap food is really not cheap,” and it’s not. The ethics of all of this is really bothersome to a lot of people because not only are the animals treated badly but the people who work in the factory farm system are not treated well either.
Bill: Yeah, it’s a case where I think the division of labor – which we enjoy the fruits of some of that, Deborah – but it seems like we’ve beat that horse, that division of labor horse, into the ground and almost everybody loses. I was thinking after I had read your book, you make a good case regarding the ethics of this. But you know? Those Monsanto guys and those other guys are going to say to us “we’re producing more food and it’s so hard for us to measure the … you can look at the big numbers and look at cancer rates and so forth, but those guys – when I have discussions with my friends who are farmers – they have their ethical side too. I was wondering, how is your response to – because you’re here in farm country – you’re here in Illinois, you’re not very far from me. You probably have neighbors that have big corn farms or bean farms. They’re probably your friends at the same time. I’m curious, what’s a discussion between you and some of the larger farmers in your area. What’s that discussion sound like?
Deborah: It’s really funny because they aren’t that in love with Monsanto and those big corporations. In fact, they can get going sometimes and you sit there and I’m thinking “OK, so why are you still buying their seed and planting it and giving them your money if you dislike them so much.” They’re not that crazy about them. The problem is they believe the sales rep when they tell them that they’re going to get more yield per acre and they buy into that. The really sad thing is that they’re not even growing food. That’s the thing that drives me crazy about people talking about how many people they feed. They’re not feeding anybody because those corn and soybeans aren’t fed to people. They’re not making tofu, they’re not growing sweet corn. What they’re doing – 50 percent of it goes to feed animals in feedlots and factory farms, most of which don’t need it. The rest of it gets turned into non-nutritive food additives that you can’t pronounce as well as corn oil, vegetable oil, corn syrup, corn starch and ethanol and biodiesel.
Bill: For those folks – what do they do with their multimillion dollar equipment? It’s hard to talk them back down onto that because they bought – you’ve got big equipment investments and now all of a sudden you’re saying to them – people like you and myself and Joel Salatin are saying “maybe there’s a different paradigm.” They’re looking at you like “what in the heck are you talking about?”
Deborah: Right. One of the things that I think personally, that I think they should do, is stop growing soybeans and start growing kidney beans and pinto beans, because it’s the same plant. It’s the same equipment and everything. It’s just that it’s something people can eat and they could sell it directly to the consumer and actually make a heck of a lot more money.
Bill: That’s a good point. We’re going to take a little break here, Deborah. We’re discussing this book, “Homegrown and Handmade.” We’ll come back in a moment, right after this break.[0:09:50 – 0:14:05 break]
Bill: We are back. It’s Bill Heid. I’m having a discussion today with Deborah Niemann about her book “Homegrown and Handmade” and we’re still talking about some of the issues early on in her book, where she does a wonderful job building up reasons why. We were talking about – we got rabbit trailed, which happens very often on this show, but rabbit trailed a little bit on the ethics side. That’s a whole show, Deborah. We probably ought to move on. That’s a whole show. I was thinking, you mentioned in the safety part, there’s all these new – speaking of ethics – there’s these new salmon that are coming out – the AquAdvantage salmon. Then what’s the other one? Enviropig? Someone actually named a produced Enviropig.
Deborah: Oh, yeah. It’s all about marketing.
Bill: They name something that sounds like it’s natural and whole and good, and it’s something totally foreign. I wonder if anybody has ecopig, Jeremy. Should we get that website? Anyway … will we eventually, Deborah, need to have enviropeople? If they have Round-Up ready crops, should there be humans ready for all these genetically modified things that are coming our way? Won’t they have to create new humans just to eat their products?
Deborah: That is a really good question. It was amazing. When I was doing the research for that part of the book, talking about genetically modified organisms, I really couldn’t believe – the information I was finding, I just kept doing double takes. I had to keep talking to my family about it. It’s like “can you believe this?” Because there are so many things out there being researched and those are the two that are just the closest to getting approval from the FDA to actually go on the market. The rest of them – there’s the field of pharming – spelled with a ‘ph’ – where they’re combining pharmacology with animals. They’re trying to grow animals that will have pharmacological uses. They’re doing it by genetically modifying them. One of the things that really – that I just don’t know what people are going to do with ethically – is the idea of putting human DNA into a cow so that the cow will produce milk that’s hypoallergenic for people. What do you do with that cow at the end of its life? To me it sounds really unethical to eat a cow that’s got some human DNA in it. Sounds like we could also be facing some issues with that. When you fed cows to cows you got Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis.
Bill: Mad Cow, yeah.
Deborah: How do you know what’s going to happen if you try to feed a cow to people that’s got some kind of human DNA in it? You’re really going to increase issues with xenosis??[0:17:07], with cows getting diseases that they can transmit to humans. If we share DNA, it’s going to make disease transfer a lot easier.
Bill: Where’s the gatekeepers here? Who’s going to stop these people? It seems like they’re full of money and then the big ag buys big organic and then we lose that. It just doesn’t seem like – and Washington is easily purchased. It used to be that it took some major bribe money to get these guys. Now, I think, there’s probably most of the congressmen can be – we’ll use the word bought – but influenced, as it were, relatively cheaply. Who’s going to stop this?
Deborah: That’s a really good question. It’s supposed to be the FDA but the FDA just gave something like $1/2 million to AquAdvantage so they could do additional research to prove that their salmon is safe for the human consumption and for the marketplace and for the environment. That doesn’t make sense at all. That’s like paying the fox to figure out how to get into the henhouse. It’s worse than letting the fox guard the henhouse.
Bill: I don’t know how they find time to do that when there’s so many Amish to beat up. You would think that would occupy most of their time. We’ll assume that maybe they’re just going to approve some overtime for people. But not only approve, but to give money to some of these things. Shouldn’t AquAdvantage be funding their own salmon studies?
Deborah: Right. That was what blew me away, was when that news came out a couple of months ago that the FDA was doing that. The stories that were in the media on that were not real explicit about where the money came from. That was really disturbing to me because AquAdvantage is a private corporation that’s going to be making a lot of money off of this salmon if it gets approved. They should be putting all the money into the research and whatever they need to do to get it on the market.
Bill: Sure. I think we should also say that as much as it’s easy to poke fun at the FDA or the Post Office, there’s some Leslie Knopes everywhere. There’s some people that really want to do a good job. It’s just that it’s such a huge thing and it’s just so swayed by money. There’s kind of a revolving door between big ag and big pharma in the FDA to where the people leave these big companies and they go become officers. But a lot of the field agents are good people – good moral people. They’re trying to do a good job and I’m not suggesting that they always are. I’m just saying the intent is good. That’s almost a bigger problem yet, isn’t it, Deborah? In other words, you have public employees, civil servants, that think that they’re doing a good job and they’re trying, and maybe they take some kind of an oath and assume that they’re really giving it their best, but it seems like this greater, big picture, that the grid just gets tighter and tighter, doesn’t it?
Deborah: Yeah. That’s the funny thing, too. All of the people who are working in those fields and everything, think that they are doing a really wonderful thing and an important thing. Even the people in AquAdvantage, they think that they’re doing a great thing by making this fish grow twice as fast so they’re going to help feed the world. Whereas the reality is, 40-50 percent of the food we’re producing now is wasted. There’s a lot we could do to feed hungry people other than inventing genetically-modified foods.
Bill: Talk a little bit about the quality side of food. We say we don’t want to participate in this big system and we start growing our own, there’s some amazing quality issues that you’ve found not only in your research but in your home garden – quality issues of taste, of nutrition. As we move into 2012 and it’s early in the year, how about a garden? Should everybody have a garden?
Deborah: Yeah, I think so. It’s not that hard and you can do it even if you’ve got a tiny yard or no yard. One family that I talked to in Chicago – they live in an apartment – on the roof of their building they have raised beds and they have hoop houses so they garden 12 months a year. They also have chickens and bees. You don’t necessarily have to have a lot of acreage in the country to be growing stuff for yourself. You can also grow things in pots inside of your house or on your balcony. You can get started wherever you are. The quality – that’s one of the things I think that most people notice right away. If you’ve only had tomatoes from the grocery store, you are going to be so shocked when you have a tomato fresh off the vine that actually ripened on the vine. The other thing is, the variety that you can grow. There are literally hundreds of different types of tomatoes. Most people think of a tomato as this red, round thing that is about 10 ounces because that’s what they grow in the big farms in Florida that they ship up north to us here. But, when you grow your own, you can have anything from little one ounce tomatoes up to tomatoes that weigh two pounds. They can be red, yellow, green when they’re ripe, green stripe, yellow and red stripe, purple. The funny thing is, the red tomato actually – every year I have fewer and fewer red tomatoes in my garden because they actually, I think, have the most blah taste. There’s so many other tomatoes that taste so much better.
Bill: There’s a lot of them. Let’s pick that up. We’ve got to take another little break here. We will be right back with author Deborah Niemann.[0:23:25 – 0:27:40 break]
Bill: Well, we’re preparing for the best today. We’re preparing for the best garden for 2012, just in case we get some harsh economic news or trends we can’t control. It’s a great time to have a garden. We were talking about tomatoes with Deborah Niemann, author of “Homegrown, Handmade.” Deborah, talk a little bit about the sustainability side of this as well. That’s something everybody – we may all come to it from different angles. In other words, we talk a lot about stewardship and Joel Salatin talks about stewardship. Some people talk about saving the planet and whatever it is. We can’t continue to do what we’re doing forever. Even our guest, Chris Martenson, had that perspective. He came to it from an economics and analytical perspective. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing. Talk a little bit about how this new way – how can we sustain ourselves?
Deborah: It was an interesting experiment, the whole global food economy thing, was an interesting experiment. But I think we can say now we tried it and it doesn’t work. As the cost of fuel gets more and more expensive, the idea of a salad that came 2,000 miles to get to our dinner table is going to seem really crazy. There’s no reason that we can’t be growing most of our own food locally, especially in Illinois. It just amazes me – Illinois used to be the fifth largest vegetable producing state in the country. Today, we import 96 percent of our food from other states and countries because all of our farmland is being wasted growing corn and soybeans. It’s not feeding people, it’s feeding cattle that don’t need it and then it’s being turned into non-nutritive foodstuff. The idea of shipping food a long distance is really very wasteful when we could be growing it right here ourselves. Also, you have the issue of packaging. It’s funny, I feel like I get followed around by landfills. When I lived up in Joliet, I lived right across I-80 from the landfill. We moved to Livingston County and we didn’t know it at the time but we wound up being about 10 miles from a landfill. Every time I head down south, I pass by a landfill. That’s where all the garbage from Chicago comes from. I’ve watched that landfill grow for almost 10 years since we moved down here. I see hundreds of trucks every single day, driving an hour down I-55, to dump the garbage coming from Chicago and the suburbs. That’s coming from all of those prepared foods and the foods that get shipped for thousands of miles. Garbage is a big issue. I used to be a reported in the Chicago suburbs and as their landfills filled up up there, nobody wanted any landfill put in their backyard. Now they ship it away. The cost of garbage is going to get more and more expensive as fuel gets more expensive because nobody wants it in their backyard so they’re shipping it farther away, out into the country, where there’s fewer people to complain when a new company comes in and wants to build a new landfill.
Bill: Yeah, if you go to a remote place like this – we’re in Carroll County – when they went to build this crazy prison out here, compared to the people in Cook County and the suburbs, there’s no voting bloc out here, so if someone wants to put a state or federal prison where you are, in a more sparse area, you have no populace to stand up and say “no.” The same thing’s true with a landfill. It’ll go to these places that don’t have strong enough representation. The city ends up dictating what happens out here in the sticks and you’re experiencing the same thing.
Deborah: Right. So the sustainability issue is really big. Then another part of it has to do with agriculture. All of the chemical pesticides and fertilizers and everything – they’re petroleum based. And those big tractors take petroleum to run them. The idea of having a garden in your backyard where you’re using compost for fertilizer and you’re walking out there and walking back into your house – it’s not using any other kind of energy except your energy, which needs to get used anyway, to make you a healthier person. It just makes so much more sense to do that than to be eating something that was grown in a field 2,000 miles away, shipped to a factory, turned into something else, packaged and then shipped thousands of miles to go into the grocery store where I have to drive and bring it home and cook it again.
Bill: And cook it again. You’d mentioned this transportation thing, but you have to grow a different type of tomato – one that’s designed and engineered for transportation rather than taste and nutrition. That goes back to the quality issue and the safety issue which are intertwined, but you’ve got that issue too that this food has to travel this distance. What happens to it as it’s traveling? By the time you use it and what’s the shelf life and what did they have to do to that food to make it stay alive, if you will, for that period of time. It’s a different type of vegetable or it’s a different type of fruit than the kind that you can grow yourself. I think it segues nicely also into frugality, Deborah, it’s like we’ve talked before – what’s the true cost of something? What is the real cost when you get rid of the packaging, when you get rid of the advertising that it takes to buy things? A good percentage of that is marketing costs and shelf space that these guys compete over. Talk a little bit about the frugality side of growing your own.
Deborah: Oh yeah, that is definitely – you’re eating for almost free. When you look at what you pay for seeds and then what you get out of it in the garden. One of my favorite things too, even, is fruit trees. We planted four pear trees several years ago. After three years, we got 80 pounds of pears from those trees. That’s a huge – organic – 80 pounds of organic pears. That first harvest right there, covered the cost of the trees, because the cost of the trees was about $80. Organic pears are going to cost you a lot more than $80 for 80 pounds.
Bill: We’ve been hypnotized, I think, a little bit into believing certain things about marketed products. We’re marketers, we have things to sell as well. But trying to convince somebody – just like the UN used to try to convince African women that breast milk wasn’t good for them so that they had to buy this product that was sold through UN cronies to them. I think we’re convinced a lot by folks that are marketing things that growing our own stuff – saying “there’s this problem with doing this … there’s a problem …” – I know you mentioned baby food in your book. It’s just not true. But the baby food people don’t want you to think that you can save money and have a better product by creating your own baby food. They actually sent you a pamphlet or something telling you “warning! Warning! Don’t feed your baby food that you made.”
Deborah: When I got pregnant with my first baby, who’s now 24, I was at the doctor and he gave me this pamphlet that was put out by a famous baby food manufacturer that talked about the – it literally said “the dangers of homemade baby food.” It was about how you might do something to make your baby sick and you shouldn’t risk that. You should just buy their baby food instead because it’s made just for babies. That’s so ridiculous because it’s not that hard to mash up a sweet potato or mash up a banana with a fork and feed it to your baby. It’s fresh and it’s got all of its nutrients intact. Once you process something, it’s going to lose nutrition. It’s going to lose fiber. But of course then they wouldn’t make money so …
Bill: Yeah, and they’ve got to do it. They’ve got a business to run and everybody needs to know when they watch these companies – all of us that have businesses – we have businesses to run. That’s just part of it. Everything is taken with a grain of salt. Let’s move in, because I don’t want to short you on this stuff, let’s move into – you wrote about entertainment, in terms of a reason why. How can we become entertained?
Deborah: It’s funny. I think if none of this was fun I probably would have quit doing it a long time ago. But, a lot of people can relate to the idea that knitting – knitting is a hobby for a lot of people; cooking, even, for some people. It actually started that way with me. I actually always thought cooking was fun. It wasn’t that big of a deal for me. Once I started to realize that what marketers were selling us in the store wasn’t that good for us, it wasn’t that big of a jump for me to say “I’m going to start making my own from scratch.” I viewed it as something that was entertaining. I always look at a plate as an artist’s palette. I want to make it look pretty and that’s actually a great way to eat healthy too. You’ve got your orange, your green, your brown, your white. You’ve got all your nutrients covered there. A lot of people do think that some of the stuff is fun. One of the things we also do is we grow our own fiber which is – we have Shetland sheep – which nobody ever would raise for meat commercially. They also have amazingly delicious lamb. It’s very mild and even people who don’t like lamb have come to dinner at our house and said that it was delicious. One of the ladies in the book said that spinning to her creates a state of Zen. You just sit there spinning and you can empty your mind. In the end, you’ve got this beautiful yarn that you can then knit into something that’s really pretty, that is going to be loved and so much more meaningful than something you just picked up at the store that was made halfway around the world in a sweat shop somewhere.
Bill: That fits in with personal pride. I think one of the last parts of your introduction is where you talk about personal pride. There is a lot of pride in being able to spin your own yarn or grow your own food or the process of raising a pig. It might not sound like a lot but there is a lot of pride. There’s something to be said there that’s missing. In a world that spins right by with electronic media, to slow down and realize what all this is about. If you do take the time, there’s some real benefits.
Deborah: One of the reporters who interviewed me one time said “since I’ve been working on this story, I realize I don’t make anything. I don’t grow anything. I don’t do anything. It’s got to feel so good for you.” Yeah, it does. It feels amazing. When we first moved out here – my plans weren’t even anywhere close to what we’re doing now. We had had a garden in the suburbs. The main reason I wanted to move out here is because I wanted goats for goat cheese and I wanted chickens for eggs. We had no plans even to grow our own meat. I didn’t think we could ever get to the point we’re at today. But the more I did, the more excited that I got. The first time that we sat at the table and everything on the table had been grown here, I just smiled so big that my cheeks hurt.
Bill: I’ll bet you did.
Deborah: “Can you believe we grew this? All of this here – that’s our goats and our chickens and our garden.” It was so exciting.
Bill: Yeah. And if you can – like you’ve done – take your family along down that narrative with you and they can all enjoy it together, there is something special with that. Let’s talk a little bit more about that as we take our last break here. We’ll be right back with Deborah Niemann.[0:40:46 – 0:45:00 break]
Bill: You do need a different paradigm. This is Bill Heid, talking today with Deborah Niemann. You can find more out about Deborah’s book at homegrownandhandmadethebook.com – great place. She also does her blogging – it’s at antiquityoaks.blogspot.com. Deborah, you’d mentioned goats, you’d mentioned moving out there to goats. I want to warn people, this is in your book too. The nice thing about your book is when you’re telling everybody – the stuff we were just talking about in the introduction – that’s all the beginning. Here’s the reasons why. Here’s some good reasons why to move forward and become more self-reliant. What’s interesting is, in your book, as you chronicle and tell everybody how to do these different things, you’re sharing this counting the costs with people before they go ahead so they can gauge whether they can pull this stuff off or not. I’m going to share a quick goat experience with you and then tell you why I don’t have goats any longer. I could not keep my goats contained in any way, shape or form. Houdini would be blush after looking at our goats. Our goats, when they escaped – and this is embarrassing for me to tell you that I’m not that good a cage maker – but when my goats escaped they would walk right past – maybe even run – right past all my trees that I didn’t care about. They would go past worthless trees and scrub brush and stuff and they would go right to my orchard and they would girdle my apple trees and my pear trees and destroy them. Goats, to me – if you say “goats” – you want your own goats – I have nightmares about goats. Goats are killing machines. They have their own personality. They’re evil. They’re from the devil or whatever you would say. Finally, some coyotes got our goats and I just didn’t get any more. But you have better goat experiences, right?
Deborah: Yeah. We kept trying because I really like that goat cheese. We kept trying and we tried different kinds of fencing until we finally found something that worked with about 99 percent of them. But yes, and that’s one of the things that drives me crazy about – I think there’s a lot of books out there that don’t really give you the full picture. I tried really hard to give you the full picture. I cringe every time I see a book that says “you can use electric fencing with goats,” because – uh-uh. It just takes one goat to say “that little shock is nothing compared to that bark on that apple tree over there.”
Bill: You could put goats in Guantanamo and they’d be out walking around on the other side of the fence, with their own little orange goat uniforms on. But I digress … we’re talking about your book and talking about how you write this book. Compliments to you on how it was written from that perspective. What gave you the idea? It seems to me you’ve got – as I said at the beginning – what I like about your writing style is what comes out is you’re a chronicler of what happens but you’re also a passionate researcher. Those are two potent – very potent things. Is that something that was cultivated in you? Were you always like that as a little girl or how did that come about?
Deborah: I wasn’t like that when I was younger, actually. I think this happened as a result of the fact that my mother believed everything. She believed all the marketers in the 1970s who said that Tang was better than orange juice and frozen pizza was just as good as fresh greens from the garden and all that kind of stuff. I grew up sick all the time. The doctor literally told my mother “she’s just a sickly child. There’s nothing we can do about it.” When I got pregnant with my first baby, I started reading. The books that I read about pregnancy all had a section on nutrition and that was the first time that I had really heard anybody say that your diet could affect your health. That was when I said “whoa! What’s this?” Then that opened the floodgates. That first pregnancy, I read 12 books on pregnancy, which was just about every book I could find at that point. Then I started reading dozens of books on breastfeeding and nutrition. It really snowballed from there. I started reading a lot more. When I got my animals and we got the farm and everything, when things didn’t quite work out, it was the same thing – if we had problems with the goats, I started doing my own research. I didn’t necessarily believe what the vet told me, which is a good thing, because one of the things I talk about in there – if I had just listened to the vet and stopped there, we wouldn’t have goats anymore, they’d all be dead at this point. But I did my own research and found my own answers. I think that’s really important. I think a lot of people think that you have to grow up with this and you just know it and everything, but really, you can learn this just like you can learn anything in our world. You also have to be pretty smart. You have to be able to ask questions and to look for answers when things go wrong.
Bill: Don’t you think too – I was constantly amazed growing up around my wife’s grandparents, who were a product of the Depression and who had this built into their lives as a lifestyle – just how smart you had to be. As you went through and wrote this book, did you gain an appreciation of more of this 19th century technology and the ability for these folks to be such amazing jack-of-all trades?
Deborah: Definitely. When we moved out here from the suburbs, my experience consisted of two cats and a poodle. I thought that “this can’t be that hard because people have been doing it for centuries.” The truth is somewhere in the middle. I think a lot of people think it’s way more complicated than it is. I thought it was way easier than it was. The fact is, it’s not rocket science but there is a lot more to it than what I initially thought.
Bill: Again, it sounds like a theme that we’ve had before, it’s nice – your book break things up. You can go through it and parcel out what you think you can accomplish and what you can’t and live vicariously, in a way, through your experiences, in your starting and stopping. You’ve made some mistakes as you’ve gone along and you’ve mentioned those here. That’s the beauty of the book, is we share your experiences as you’ve gone along. There’s some great recipes in there as well. I’ve got another question though that’s almost sociological in a sense, because I’m curious – is your mother still living?
Deborah: No. Unfortunately, she’s not. She died from a heart attack in 1991, after about four decades of smoking. Then my father wound up with diabetes. The interesting thing about that was that he lived the last couple of years with us and I – just by changing his diet, I got him off all his diabetes medications. He’d already had an amputation. He’d already lost one of his legs. Was on three different kinds of medication. Just by changing his diet, I kept his blood sugar normal for the rest of his life.
Bill: Amazing! I’m curious, real quickly, what did you do? How did you attack that?
Deborah: Basically, by feeding him the way we were eating. He ate lots of natural food and I got rid of the artificial stuff and the sugar especially. He had quite the sweet tooth.
Bill: So you had to back that off a little bit. Your parents – your mom … what it sounds like to me, and I don’t want to use the word rebellious because I can’t speak to … but you reacted to your mom and saying “my mom believed everything and I’m a little more from Missouri – you’ve got to show me.” You reacted to that. You’re probably close to my age if you’ve got a 24 year old daughter. Didn’t we both grow up when TV was just starting to come out and that switch from black and white to color TV and then you had all these commercials. Everyone really – and I think my parents as well – just assumed that if somebody said something on TV that it was necessarily true. These were all churchgoing people. It was a different mindset. If somebody said something to you, they just believed it.
Deborah: Right. My mother basically believed everything that was modern was better. My parents had been farmers – this is the great irony. They moved to town when I was three years old so all I ever heard is that farm life was for people who were to uneducated to do anything else. My mom wanted me to go to college and have a desk job so that I wouldn’t have to work outside in the heat and everything. It’s really funny that – yeah, I went to college and I got the desk job and then I realized that I should be back outside.
Bill: That’s really wonderful. Your kids – and I’m always interested in the next generation – are we leaving an earth, are we leaving a place better than we found it. I’m curious, for your kids, are they going to go get the desk job and run away from you or have you sold them on your world?
Deborah: They’re pretty much sold on this. They’re doing different things. My oldest daughter has a degree in electrical engineering and is interested in green energy, like solar and wind. It’s a little different twist on the sustainability issue, but that’s where my husband’s at too. We complement each other really well. He’s an electrical engineer himself. He’s into all the sustainable energy and I’m into the sustainable food.
Bill: You make a nice couple then – a nice family – if everybody’s hitting it from different directions. I think that a lot of our listeners and readers of the site have issues where they’ve come to realizations but they can’t bring their spouse along with them. It seems like people get these Eureka! moments and then we don’t all receive them at the same time. There’s a little bit of an incongruity between what the husband might come up with something – he might stumble onto something and the wife’s looking at him thinking “you’re half nuts for doing this.” He’s sprouting a bunch of seeds in the house and he’s taking what looked like their ordinary home and he’s transformed it into what his wife thinks is a crazy man’s world. She’s not brought along the same way. Do you want to speak to any of that? Have you had any of that at any of the conferences that you spoke with or is it generally people coming together – husband and wife coming together?
Deborah: No. I do see that quite a bit. It’s really sad when somebody is at that point where the two of them are really not seeing eye to eye on that. You’ve just got to hope that at some point the other person will come along. That happens too. I have had people say “he used to think I was crazy,” or vice versa. In one case, it was that the husband got sick and then all of a sudden he was real interested in what his wife had to say about nutrition.
Bill: Sure. Deborah, that’s a great place to wrap things up. We’re running out of time. I want to say that I think your book can be a nice intermediary spot for someone. If you’ve got a family member that maybe you’ve picked up on some ideas that you’d like to move forward – I think your book addresses some things quite nicely. Someone’s going to – if they’ve got that book and read it – they would at least be softened towards this whole idea of becoming more self reliant. I just want to say thanks for being with us today. Congratulations on work well done, Deborah. I know you’re working on some other things so I’d love to have you back sometime.
Deborah: Thank you.
Bill: You’re welcome. You can find Deborah’s information at homegrownandhandmadethebook.com as well as antiquityoaks where you can read her blogs, which are fascinating. She’s done, as I said, a great work here with this book. Thanks for spending time with us today, as always, we do appreciate you.[0:58:21]