FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a gardener. This is my husband’s project. He has a MAJOR green thumb, but he doesn’t have a blog, so I’m sharing his fun project with y’all today!
It’s smart to start seedlings indoors between 4 and 6 weeks before you plan to transfer outdoors. This depends on the plan, so make sure you research the duration of sprouting! Where we live, the golden-rule is to not plant anything outside until Victoria Day weekend (for my friends south of the border, that’s the weekend before Memorial Day). Even if it feels nice enough, Mother Nature will bite you with a random night of frost if you attempt to plant too early!
It is common to start seedlings in peat-pots or the classic plastic-cells. We’re not fans of the plastic-cells, for obvious reasons, but the peat-pots which are a great option, come with a price tag and do require energy inputs into making them. So instead, we chose egg-shells because they are free; they are incredibly environmentally friendly (especially because they were used twice!); they provide nutrients into the soil; and they are really easy to transfer.
1. Collecting Eggshells
We started collecting eggshells in March, being careful to try and crack the egg so that 2/3s of it remained in tact. This allowed for a fairly large little pot to fill with soil! Within a few weeks we had multiple dozens ready to go.
2. Preparing Eggshells and Soil
Once we had gathered enough shells, and the timing was right, the hubby rinsed all of the egg shells, poked a hole in the bottom (to allow excess water to drain and prevent drowning) and filled them with potting soil (ideally organic) making sure not to leave any air pockets. He moistened the soil every day for a few days, before planting, to bring it back to life (his words). Which means, to give any dormant microbes the change to wake up! Microbes are important for everything! Not just gut health!
3. Planting Seeds
Next, he planted the seeds at depth instructed by packages. He watered every day with a misting spray bottle, so as not to over or underwater, or displace the seeds. It takes a bit more time, but it is more effective.
4. Transferring Seedlings
Once the seedlings are mature enough, and when the weather is nice, he will transplant them into our raised garden beds.
Using a garden trowel or your hands, dig a hole large enough for the egg. As you place the egg into the hole, gently squeeze the egg to crush the shell. This makes space for the roots to escape! Gently cover with soil and pat down around the plant, being sure not to break the seedling. Make sure not to allow any air pockets in around the egg (which can result in fungal growth). You can avoid air pockets by firmly pressing down on the soil around the seedling.
(photo coming soon!)
NOTE: If a seedling outgrows the egg, because you planted them too early, or the weather isn’t cooperating, you may have to transfer them into a larger pot in the meantime. While it’s an extra step, the nutrients still go into that soil so make sure to dump the soil from the new pot into the garden when you eventually replant outdoors!
One of the biggest concerns with the current nutrition recommendations are those revolving around fat consumption. Practitioners who are not up to date on current research still advise low-fat diets for weight loss and protection against heart disease. Not only is this information not substantiated by the medical literature, it is actually dangerous. We need fat to survive! It is the building blocks of our hormones, brain and cell membranes – without fat, we will die. It also delivers essential vitamins from our food to our bodies, so if we don’t consume fat we miss out on integral nutrients, and it keeps us full! Low fat diets should be named “hungry all the time diets…”. Luckily there is some movement towards consuming “healthy fats” albeit from plant-based sources, and while some plant-based fats (avocado, olive, coconut, nuts) definitely have health benefits, others are quite the opposite.
(SIDE NOTE: if you want to know about the events over the last century that got us into this vegetable-oil obsessed, fat/cholesterol-fearing mess, you must read Eat The Yolks by Liz Wolfe. Equal parts hilarious and informative, it takes a serious, in-depth look at the history of our current nutrition recommendations.)
What’s the Deal with Vegetable Oils
Well first of all, the term “vegetable oil” is a complete misnomer – although quite a smart marketing move. These oils do not come from vegetables. They come from canola seeds, sunflower seeds, corn kernels, safflower seeds, cottonseeds and soybeans that have been highly processed and treated with chemical solvents to extract oils.
Let’s think about this – if you were to take an olive and squeeze it through a press what would happen? Some oil would drip out! Now if you were to take a kernel of corn, or a soybean and do the same thing, then what? Nada. No oil drips out. So how do they actually get oil out of something like a canola seed? This step-by-step direct from Diane Sanfilippo explains perfectly:
Rapeseeds + high heat processing with hexane (a chemical solvent) = a grey, awful smelling, non-smooth oil.
> grey, awful smelling, non-smooth oil is then chemically bleached and de-gummed
> bleached and de-gummed, awful smelling oil is then chemically deodorized
> bleached, de-gummed, chemically deodorized oil is then dyed yellow and bottled in plastic
Full details of the process (which originated in 1980 btw) found here.
It’s also important to consider that many of the seeds used are genetically modified (soy, canola, cottonseed, corn) and heavily sprayed with pesticides which is a concern both for our health and the health of the planet.
Smoke Point vs. Stability of Fat
One of the claims made to support consumption of vegetable oils are that they have a high smoke point. Unfortunately smoke point is not the whole the picture. What really matters is whether or not the fat in question is stable. What dictates stability? Well that’s simple – it’s a matter of biochemistry!
Stable fats resist oxidation (ie. damage) by the main culprits oxygen, light and heat. Unstable fats are highly susceptible to oxidation. (note: smoke point is the temperature at which oxidation occurs – so it is just one part of the puzzle. High smoke point oils can still be very susceptible to oxygen and light.)
Oxidation of fats, means a double bond on the fatty acid chain has been broken, which changes the chemical shape of the fat and can release volatile byproducts. In order to resist oxidation, there needs to be little to no spaces for oxygen to disrupt bonds within the fatty acid chain. So the most stable fats have the fewest (or zero) spaces available for disruption. Which fats are those? Luckily the science is very clear on this:
Saturated Fats – by their very nature have no double bonds available for oxidation. Every single carbon molecule is fully saturated with other carbons and hydrogens. There are no double bonds present – that is the definition of a saturated fat.
Unsaturated Fats – the term unsaturated indicates at least one double bond is present. That means there is at least one opportunity for oxidation.
Monounsaturated Fats – one double bond is present
Polyunsaturated Fats – more than one double bond is present
Trans Fats – polyunsaturated fats that have been hydrogenated, a process which bombards fats with hydrogen atoms to break up double bonds, changing the consistency from oil to semi-solid. In the process the shape of the fat is completely changed, leading to trans fats which, while less likely to spoil, interfere with thousands of essential chemical reactions in the body. Trans fats have been removed from the FDA’s list of “generally recognized as safe” and are being phased out of production. Trans fats have been shown to harden arteries and increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
So then based on the biochemistry of it all, we should be using saturated fats when oxidation is at risk – ie. exposure to light, heat and oxygen. We should be careful when using unsaturated fats, and very, very cautious about polyunsaturated fats.
NOTE: You can actually experience this first hand by doing the following experiment:
Take a bottle of canola oil, leave it open on the counter for a week. Then go ahead and smell it. It will smell rancid or “off”. You will instantly be able to tell!
Do the same experiment with a bottle of coconut oil, butter or ghee. No change in smell whatsoever. Because the fats found in these oils are stable and not nearly as susceptible to oxidation.
Why Is This A Problem?
Vegetable Oils = Inflammation. And inflammation is the root cause of every single disease our society is facing right now. (personal aside: if I consume vegetable oils, the next day I have global inflammation of my joints, also known as arthritis – I can’t take my rings off, opening jars become challenging and even climbing stairs is uncomfortable)
Unstable (polyunsaturated) fats are incorporated into cell membranes, in lieu of stable (saturated) ones. When this happens, everything starts to fall apart. When I was in high school we learned that the nucleus was the “brain” of the cell, and the cell membrane was simply a fluid wall that held the cell together. By the time I finished university there was a major paradigm shift. The scientific community had learned that the cell membrane is actually the “brain” of the cell. It communicates with the environment; directs the action within the cell; determines what’s allowed in and out; and communicates with surrounding cells. So if the cell membrane is working well, it can talk to it’s neighbouring cells properly, making the group of them work well together. Healthy cell membranes = healthy cell communication = healthy tissues = healthy organs = healthy systems = healthy bodies.
Omega-6 (inflammatory) fats are incorporated into cell membranes, instead of omega-3 PUFAs. Omega-3 PUFAs found in seafood and to a lesser extent grassfed beef, liver and pastured egg yolks, are integral for maintaining fluidity of cell membranes as well. Additionally they are responsible for maintaining an anti-inflammatory environment in the tissues. Too many omega-6 fatty acids (which are especially high in plant-based PUFAs) displace omega-3’s in cell membranes, contributing to further destruction of cell membranes.
To sum this up neatly:
Vegetable oils are highly unstable and prone to oxidation. Consumption leads to chronic inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease. Consumption also leads to a significant decrease in cell membrane integrity, resulting in poor functioning of cells, tissues, organs, systems and bodies.
Food Forms of Fats
Most fats that we consume are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, however there is usually a dominant fat present, so I will classify the fats below based on their dominant fat.
Saturated Fats (great for cooking) – coconut oil, palm oil, butter/ghee, lard/bacon grease (pork fat), tallow/suet (beef fat) and duck fat (NOTE: animal fat must be sourced from properly raised animals – ie. grassfed, pasture-raised, or at minimum organic. Animals store excess toxins in body fat, so consuming conventional bacon fat is not a good choice. Not available? Stick with coconut oil.)
Monounsaturated Fats (use from cold to high heat, depending on the oil) – avocado oil, olive oil and macadamia nut oil
Polyunsaturated Fats (avoid, especially if heated or exposed to oxygen/light) – safflower oil, sesame seed oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, vegetable oil shortening, corn oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, margarine. To make matters worse many of these oils are stored in clear containers in the cupboard (or even worse, heated over and over again in deep fryers). Another PUFA – fish oil – has explicit instructions to be stored in a dark bottle, in the fridge and never heated. Yet vegetable oils have the same chemical structure and are not treated this way.
Trans Fats (avoid at all cost) – hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated fats, found in pre-made baked goods, processed foods and margarines. (NOTE: if the front says “no trans fats” but the ingredient list indicates hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated fats, the food product contains trans fats. Simple as that. The only reason they can say “no trans fats” is it contains less than 0.5g per serving – but if you eat multiple servings, which most of us do, you’re definitely being exposed to larger amounts of trans fats than advertised.)
For a complete breakdown of each fat, and for a handy print out, check out this Guide To Cooking Fat from Diane Sanfilippo.
Wait, are you saying to eat animal fat?
But, but, but – my arteries and heart disease and stroke and…..
Good news my friends, there is no evidence supporting the correlation between consumption of animal fats and heart disease and stroke.
Saturated fat is not dangerous. The unsubstantiated idea that saturated fat causes heart disease is still being propagated within the health community, despite the fact that the medical literature does not in fact support this claim.
In 2010 meta-analysis was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers looked at 21 previous studies involving 350,000 subjects for periods ranging from 5 to 23 years. They concluded that “…there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] or CVD [cardiovascular disease].”
A study in Japan on 58,000 subjects found an inverse relationship between saturated fat consumption and deaths from stroke. So people with the highest consumption of saturated fat also had the lowest death from stroke.
Saturated fat is stable and creates stable cell membranes. It does not feed into the inflammatory pathways the way vegetable oils do.
Saturated fat can be used at high temperatures without being oxidized.
Saturated fat, especially from animal sources, comes replete with 2 very important fat-soluble nutrients – vitamin A, D – that are deficient in most people’s diets. Additionally, grassfed butter carries vitamin K2, a vitamin that has had little to no attention until recently, and now is the centre of some of the most exciting research!
Okay, I’m sold. I’ll make the switch. But how do I know which fat to use when?
First of all, make sure you get rid of all of the vegetable oils in your house. The following is a list of both the obvious and the sneaky sources of seed oils:
margarine – including earth balance, vegan margarines and “olive oil” margarines
mayonaise – even “olive oil” mayo uses canola and/or soybean oil as it’s #1 ingredient, veganaise is included in this list too
salad dressings – again, even the “olive oil” based ones all use vegetable oils
packaged junk – chips (even “healthy” chips!), crackers, baked goods etc. most processed/prepared foods use vegetable oils because they’re cheap and shelf-stable
gluten free and/or vegan treats – many of the so-called “healthy” treats use vegetable oils, especially if they’re catering to the vegan community. Sure vegetable oils and earth balance margarine are plant-based, but it does not mean they’re suitable for human consumption
restaurants – practically every single restaurant out there cooks in canola and/or vegetable oil, so do your best to limit your exposure. There’s no way to 100% avoid vegetable oils, without abstaining from eating out, so instead avoid exposure whenever you can (especially in your house!) and when you do need to eat vegetable oils, increase your seafood intake for the next day or 2 to combat the inflammation
Here’s a list of what fat to use when:
High Heat (searing, high heat roasting, deep frying, pan frying, grilling) – coconut oil, palm oil, butter/ghee, animal fat (lard, tallow, duck fat, bacon grease) and avocado oil
Medium or Low Heat (sautéing, lower heat roasting) – olive oil, macadamia nut oil or high-heat oils
The fats that I have in my kitchen at all times are:
Terra Delyssa olive oil (Costco)
Chosen Foods avocado oil (Costco)
Nutiva coconut oil (Costco)
homemade ghee from organic (or grassfed if I can get it!) butter (health food store, Loblaws)
rendered bacon grease (from my Sunday bacon cook up!)
lard and/or tallow if I have it on hand (can be found at Fresh From The Farm in Toronto, or homemade if you have access to leaf fat either from a farmer, butcher or by purchasing part of or a whole hog / cow – great directions found in Beyond Bacon)
The moral of the story is to stick with the fats that humans have been consuming for thousands of years. Cold-pressed oils, rendered animal fats and butter. Avoid highly-processed, man-made fats that have only been brought into our food supply over the last few decades. Rest easy consuming properly-raised bacon and slathering grassfed butter on veggies – not only are you not going to clog your arteries but you are supporting healthy cell membranes and increasing absorption of essential nutrients! And above all, ditch the margarine and vegetable oil!!
Last Saturday was my husband’s birthday and the previous Tuesday was my birthday – so to celebrate, we spent Saturday afternoon at an open house at a local farm. Doesn’t everyone celebrate birthdays that way??
We have been on the hunt for a local farm that raises 100% grassfed beef and pastured pork, from which to buy a ¼, ½ or whole cow and a ½ or whole hog. Why you ask? Well for a few reasons.
From a cost perspective, nothing compares. When you buy a ¼ cow, it ends up being $4.99/lb for all the different cuts. That means even the steaks are $4.99/lb!
You can select the types of cuts you want and you will get all of the odds and ends, including back fat (for making tallow), bones and organs. (You don’t have to take these bits, but eating snout-to-tail is not only ethical, it’s delicious and incredibly healthy)
It is important to us to support local farmers.
We want to be connected with where we get our food from. It can be hard to “meet your meat” but we believe it’s an important part of the process. If you see the animals alive, you can’t help but be respectful and grateful for the life that was given, to allow you to live your life.
I can’t remember how I stumbled across these guys but oh boy am I glad I did. Harry and Silvia Stoddart from The Stoddart Family Farm are the real deal when it comes to raising animals properly. Two incredibly intelligent people – Harry worked in corporate finance and Silvia has a background in biochemistry – their passion for ethical meat production was inspiring.
Harry calls both Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm and Allan Savory of the Savory Institute his mentors and he has implemented many of their farming practices on his acreage. You might remember Joel Salatin from Food Inc. – he’s the farmer who always talks about allowing the pig to express its pigness! He has developed a rotational grazing system on his farm that not only encourages the health of both the animals and the pasture, but results in an exponential increase in profit per acre because it’s being used so strategically. He sums it up on his website in this creative and intriguing way:
For context, please understand that we don’t do anything conventionally. We haven’t bought a bag of chemical fertilizer in half a century, never planted a seed, own no plow or disk or silo—we call those bankruptcy tubes. We practice mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization with the cattle. The Eggmobiles follow them, mimicking egrets on the rhinos’ nose. The laying hens scratch through the dung, eat out the fly larvae, scatter the nutrients into the soil, and give thousands of dollars worth of eggs as a byproduct of pasture sanitation. Pastured broilers in floorless pasture schooners move every day to a fresh paddock salad bar. Pigs aerate compost and finish on acorns in forest glens. It’s all a symbiotic, multi-speciated synergistic relationship-dense production model that yields far more per acre than industrial models. And it’s all aromatically and aesthetically romantic.
Allan Savory is doing incredible work rehabilitating the earth in Zimbabwe. About two thirds of the earth is not arable – so it cannot be used for growing crops. When we try to play God and manipulate the earth to grow crops on such land, it is an incredible drain on resources such as water, it causes more damage to the earth because fertilizers are heavily relied upon and it exacerbates drought and nutrient-deficient soils because no animals are there to return the nutrients to the soil. According to the Savory Institue:
For centuries we believed livestock were a major cause of desertification, but Savory’s research showed that the cause lay in how those livestock were managed. His solution involved mimicking the behavior of the formerly vast herds of wild grazing animals he had witnessed as a young biologist. He devised a simple method any pastoralist can use to move massive amounts of carbon and water from the atmosphere back to the soil and begin reversing thousands of years of human-caused desertification – on the scale required, which no technology imaginable can accomplish. In the process, we can feed more people and enhance societal well-being.
Both Salatin and Savory are going against the grain – literally. They are combining the wisdom of our ancestors who had to live in rhythm with the earth, with advances in technology to feed the world and rehabilitate the earth at the same time.
According to Harry, there are 3 pillars of raising animals for consumption:
It must be healthy for the animal.
It must be healthy for the human who will consume it.
Every decision they make at Stoddart Family Farm has to be consistent with all 3 pillars and because of this, they raise incredibly healthy animals whose nutritional quality is unparalleled, and their pasture is a lush and diverse ecosystem full of frogs (a major indicator of pasture health), bugs and a variety of plant matter.
Last Saturday they had an open house, and we happened to be around, so we drove the 45 minutes northeast of Whitby to the far side of Lake Scugog. Boy we were in for a treat! Harry took us on a tour all over the farm, including out to all the pastures. It was a beautiful day, we were out there for over an hour, and we loved every second of it! Here are some photos I snapped that day – bear with me, they are taken on my phone.
As we left, we felt incredibly inspired and grateful. We have our very own version of Polyface Farm at Stoddart Family Farm. That night we cooked up some of the most delicious burgers we’ve had in a long time, with ground beef purchased from the farm. We immediately put in an order for an entire cow and pig – which we will be sharing with my parents and some of our close friends. And while I can’t vouch for the pork yet, if the beef was any indicator, we are in for a treat.
If you are currently purchasing grassfed or organic meat at a local butcher, and are finding it tough on your budget, I strongly recommend looking into Stoddart Family Farm. At $4.99/lb you are getting an incredible deal on the highest quality product possible. And most importantly, you will be supporting a small, local farm, whose primary goal is health – of the animal, the consumer and the earth.