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During my trip, I have arranged for some great Appalachian women to guest blog on this site.  Their topic was being a woman in Appalachia.  How has that impacted their lives?  I have women from every age group and varied backgrounds.  Some still in Appalachia and some living away from home.  I am so excited about compiling the writings of this group of women as I believe it is imperative for the women of our area to always have an open arena to have their voices heard.  The women that are going to be sharing their writing this week make an arena for themselves.  I don’t think you could shut them up if you tried. 🙂  That’s why I love them so.

Monday – Marge Fulton (Flying the Coop) www.hazardgal.com

Marge is an artist and writer residing in Hazard, Kentucky.  She is originally from Tennessee, but moved into Kentucky to raise her family.  She is a great member of the community, and her book All Roads Lead to Hazard is finding great success.  Marge is an active member of Writers of the North Fork and Arts in the Mountains, both groups established to help and support writers and artists in the mountains.  She is currently working in the horror fiction genre, and we are all looking forward to seeing her new collection in print.

Wednesday – Annita Lawson (Something to be Proud Of) http://thriftysouthernmama.blogspot.com

Annita is in the throes of motherhood.  She is a avid writer and blogs at the above website.  She is dedicated to natural, frugal living, and has many great ideas.  I have been enjoying her blog for quite sometime and have found in her writing a safe and familiar place.

Friday – Ida Lee Hansel (Appalachian Born & Bred) http://1939blog.blogspot.com

Ida Lee Hansel can now say she is a great grandmother, grandmother, and mother to four children.  She is my grandmother.  She has been a writer all of her life, and deep within her resides the desire to tell the stories she finds so important.  She is a paralegal by trade, a writer by heart, and a geneologist through interest.  Ida is widely published in both poetry and fiction forms.  She currently guest blogs for WSGS, Hazard at the above website in their blog of the past.  She is missing her mountains in South Carolina, but is working hard to leave a mark.  She has definitely inspired and nurtured me.  I am so fortunate to have her, and am so proud to share her words with you.

My great great grandmother was Arizona Webb Walker.  She was a Cherokee whose grandmother was one of the group who escaped the Trail of Tears and hid out to later create the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina.  Arizona’s father was of Caucasian and Cherokee decent and from what we know of him very cruel to his wife and children.  Their family traveled between Indian Territory in Oklahoma to New Echota, Georgia and Walden’s Ridge in Dayton, Tennessee several times.  Arizona’s mother disappeared leaving her older children with their father.  Arizona eventually escaped her father and walked the mountain ridge lines with a badly healed broken leg from New Echota, GA to be with her family in Tennessee.  She was a young girl – alone.  She married in Tennessee and she and her husband moved to Hazard, Kentucky for mining work in the early 1900s.

It is no small thing that I know this story.  I grew up thinking that everyone had met most of their great grandparents.  I thought it was common for people to know which country their European ancestors immigrated from.  I thought it usual that most people’s family members hung onto things like copies of their ancestors’ names on documents like the Mullay or Dawes Rolls.  Until I talked with friends who had no idea where they came from, I didn’t know exactly how fortunate I was to know so well my own heritage.  I owe this all to my paternal grandmother Ida Lee Stacy Hansel, who with friends and cousins has spent years researching and documenting our family history.  She spent hours with her grandchildren in the evenings and throughout the day telling us the stories as many times as we wanted to hear them.  I was so proud of my heritage that I would walk with my head up no matter how I was tormented in my school days.  I knew from where I came.  I knew the strength, wisdom, and faith of my people.

Ida and Matt Horn her uncle... about age 30

Ida and Matt Horn her uncle... about age 30

The more I learn about Arizona, the more I have wanted to tell her story to the world.  Her picture hangs in my living room and I stop and look at it several times a day.  She leans on a garden hoe to support her bad leg, but is tall and lovely.  There is so much raw strength and assurance in her eyes.  Her hair loosely braided and hanging down her back.  I see her in me.

I have decided to write her story as a work of fiction.  I received a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council to do some preliminary research for the historical background of the novel.  They have worked with me as a mother and provided a way for my family to go with me as well.  Starting at the end of the week, we will be taking a trip to New Echota, Georgia and Dayton, Tennesee to retrace my great great grandmother’s steps in her journey to Kentucky.  I will be researching the time in which she lived and the area’s visual appeal in order to create accurate settings.  I’m very excited about this journey.

This journey has come about at the perfect time in my life.  I fully believe in God’s timing for things, though I’m not the most patient person in waiting for it.  I’m not spoiled, but I remind myself of Veruca Salt in the “I want it NOW!” sense.  Our life is coming together in a beautiful way.  As a mother, I feel like I could do so much better in my relationship with my girls.  I do feel like our move back to the mountains was the best thing we could do for them, but I know I need to connect more with female members of my family.  I need to learn from them the critical pieces of womanhood that I have tended to miss in my upbringing.  I need to learn so I can pass them on.  My grandmothers were irreplaceable in giving me any confidence that I had in my appearance and my intellect.  I have a beautiful Aunt Sharon who taught me that common sense should be listened to, and a strong will can work both for and against you.  I have a strong female presence in my life, but it is imperative for me to learn how to foster a strong and healthy mother/daughter bond.  Because I didn’t feel comfortable in my ability to raise a girl properly, I didn’t think God would make me raise one.  I should have known better.  He’s given me two. 🙂

Also, I’m at a point in my life where I need to find who I want to be and what to bring forth from myself in the next ten years.  I’m 30 1/2 years old.  I’m not a kid anymore, but I have so much more to learn.  It is my firm belief that we must know and understand our past in order to bring about a better future.  I have so much to learn from Arizona’s life.  I think fictionalizing the missing pieces will help me bond with her beyond stories being told.  I will have to become a part of her in order to do her justice in my writing.  I am looking forward to that eventhough I know that some of those places will be dark.  The light that pours from her eyes is so much more.

This isn’t simply a vacation or a research project.  It is a chance for my little family to reconnect.  We haven’t been anywhere aside from work related things since before the girls were born.  This is our chance to be fully present for each other.  My grandfather has never seen Ivy.  He will get to see her for the first time when we stop by their house on our way to Georgia.  I will get to show the girls where they started.  Teach them that they come from a people to whom this country rightfully belongs.  A strong people who lived with the earth and used it as the Creator asked us to do – as stewards.  A people who perservered through hardships, created a way to keep records when others were trying to destroy their heritage, and to this day is not afraid to break new ground.  This is a quest for re-creation.  From the past will be brought forth a new life.

I know… corny title, but hey, I have a fog machine in my brain and it is good at pointing out the obvious and that’s about it right now.  I have two things to write about today and I can’t decide between the two, so I’m writing about both.

First, I have to share this website with you.  Why Don’t You Look Like a Fitness Model? I have been seriously thinking about what a naturally capable and fit woman’s body should look like since I wrote the post on A Woman’s Perfect Body and Paleo women.  I found this website and article via a discussion forum I frequent and was really amazed by what this woman wrote and the pictures she posted on the site.  The pictures are of a variety of women athletes who competed in the Olympics.  As she states, you’re at the top of your game physically if you are competing at that level.  Their bodies were as varied as fingerprints and all ranges of gorgeous.  I highly suggest reading the article and looking at the pictures.  It isn’t about trying to achieve the look of someone from a magazine, but the look that is right for you.  There are a lot of factors that go into that.

And now… da ta ta ta… I present to you a new work of art by a blossoming new talent in the world of painting… Deladis Rose.

paintingShe is so happy when her daddy lets her have a piece of water color paper and turns her loose.  She will sit for hours, so focused and poised.  I’m amazed at how involved in her work that she becomes.  I’m thankful for her having the gift of focus.  I can’t wait to see what she does with that.  I’m a proud mama.

painter

As those of you know who visit regularly, we have taken the plunge and gotten a small flock of chickens.  This has been nothing but a joyful experience so far, and with two little girls who love a “full breakfast” which includes lots of over-easy eggs, a cost saving one.  We approached getting our flock as frugally as possible.  The first step was retrieving the old chicken coop (from days of old) out of its resting place on the hillside.  We wanted to use it as a model for our own.

Not sure when this was last used.

Not sure when this was last used.

It was clear to us that it was not to be salvaged, so John sat out to use what he could from it to create a new coop.  We went to Lowes and bought about $60 worth of wood, chicken wire, nails, screws, hinges, and a hook and eye lock.  John spent all of one day and part of another building the coop without a pattern.  He used the old coop as an example.  He enjoyed every minute of it.  Deladis could not wait until it would be filled with birds.  “When it is all done, the chickens will fly out of the sky and into the new house,” she said.  We used two drawers from an old wardrobe for the nesting boxes and the project was ready for its inhabitants.

Complete

Complete

The next step was purchasing our feathered friends.  Our primary use for these birds will be eggs.  We’ll eat them if we have to for whatever reason, but we really value the eggs more than anything.  I had done some research and thought we’d look for some Rhode Island Reds or something similar.  They just sounded like they would be good layers.  We left the girls with John’s mother and went to the stock sale at Staffordsville (Paintsville) in Johnson County, Kentucky.  Now, that is a true hillbilly stock sale.  It was awesome to simply walk through, just like I did when I was a kid.  It hadn’t changed at all.  On one side there were animals, country wares, guns, and ammo.  On the other side they had some produce, bootleg media, and bootleg fashion, along with yard sale type items.

On the side with the animals, there were goats, pot belly pigs, rabbits, ducks, chickens, and hunting dogs.  Everything a good mountaineer needs for a little family farm.  I could have taken home one of everything, but chickens were our mission.  After some looking, and talking with vendors, we were directed by a lady to her brother that had brought some laying hens to sale for their dad.  On the way to visit his spot, John was recognized by some up and coming young old time musicians and their dad.  He played a coupleof tunes with them, then we talked to our man with the hens.

His hens were gorgeous.  He had some Rhode Island Reds, but I had my eye on some he called Golden Comets.  They were beautiful girls and he had a glorious looking rooster to go with them.  He had a good price on them at $12 a piece and $18 for the rooster.  John and I walked the sale to talk it over.  A man offered us a bunch of white hens and a rooster for $50 (6 in all), but they didn’t look nearly as healthy.  We decided we wanted the Comets and went in search for an ATM.  By the time we got back, the man had sold all his beautiful big laying/dual purpose hens.  No Golden Comets for us.  All he had left were a small brood of what looked to be game hens.  He called them small stock chickens.  He said they would lay for us and would be fine for that.  He asked $10 a piece for them.  We dove in head first as the fellow seemed to treat his animals well and looked trustworthy.  We picked out three hens.  Two brownish buff colored ones with a single red comb, and a buff, black, and brown mix.

The man reached in to give me the lightest of the three ladies.  I took her with two hands (mind you I’ve never in my life held a chicken) as I had seen in all the pictures of folks holding chickens.  She commenced to squawking and wiggling.  Soon, she was out of my arms (I still don’t know how that happened.  I know I had her good.) and taking to the woods.  John, the man’s son, and I chased the hen all over that stock sale and across the busy two lane road several times.  The man’s son finally caught her under a brush pile.  🙂  John took the other two ladies to the truck without my help.

The rooster the man had for $18 was too big for our little ladies, so we bought two roosters from the man with the white chickens for $10.  That included the cage.  I figured we could eat the weaker at some point, and keep the healthier for the hens.  They were smaller men and more suited to our hens.  They looked to be of a similar breed.

We got them home and chose the younger of the two roosters to put in with the girls.  The older has been spending the nights in the woods and coming down for food in the mornings.  He seems content enough.  We are trying to lure him into staying closer to home.  The hens and young rooster have settled into the coop nicely and have given us two eggs since Saturday.  I think that is pretty good considering they’ve only been with us two days.  Their eggs are small and white.  One of them had two green speckles.  The yolks are a deep orange.  Yummy!

We have named all five of them.  The one that made a break for it at the stock sale we call Lucille.  She is very vocal.  The darkest one, who’s a bit quieter, but looks so wise, we call Ida Lee.  The other lighter one thinks she’s pretty and holds her own.  We call her Bobby Lou.  They are named for our grandmothers.  The young rooster is Big Sexy.  He fits the name so well.  And our old man is Roy Roo.

John bought the lumber today to build them a chicken run.  I can’t wait to see them out and scratching.  Things are coming together with our little place.  I’m sure this coop is a coup de jour.  I have a feeling we will be expanding. 🙂

The Brood

The Brood

This morning was a time of peace for me, as it seems all the first day home after a trip mornings are.  We visited with family this weekend.  John’s Granny saw Ivy for the second time ever.  I saw my sister and best friend and spent the afternoon and evening watching movies and talking with her.  It was nice.

So, I woke up this morning before everyone else.  I tended to our new flock of chickens, hoed our carrots, went to the watering hole for the week’s water.  Though it may not sound like it, I eased into my day.  I felt fresh, alive and rested.

This is significant for me right now because I’m at a transitioning point in my year, my mothering, my work, and my life.  My health has become shoddy.  The thyroid issues that have plagued my family are starting to creep in on me.  I had to have blood tests done last week to check on all my levels, and to try to get to the bottom of why I can’t rest, why my hair is falling out by the handfuls, and why I feel so anxious.  I have a myriad of other symptoms that point to the thyroid issues as well.  Those symptoms have become something I am no longer able to ignore, but what just plain sucks about it is John and I have no insurance.  It’s part of the sacrifice you make when choosing the arts as your career, and yes… it is a choice of one over the other.  This means that I don’t have many options when it comes to getting well, and I have to research many things myself to make the decisions on what doctors I should give my money to to get results the fastest.  I spent $300 last week and I still need more testing, but it will have to wait.  So far, my way of eating seems to be all that I thought it was – wonderfully healthy.  My hormone levels on the other hand, are not.

In the meantime, I’m researching my condition and trying to figure out what I can do to treat it naturally.  That is taking more time than I want to devote to it.  That is because I have become serious about my writing.  Over the last year, all of my free time is going toward making writing my career.  It makes me nutty when I have to interrupt that flow.  I’ve become kind of uptight about it.  I want to contribute to our income so that we can have more together time as a family, and maybe one day afford some kind of insurance.  When the girls get school aged, I don’t want to resort to a job that takes me out of the home and makes me less present as a mother and wife.  I am committed to those things first.  I also don’t want to go back to teaching full time.  Writing is what I went to school to do, and it is what I will do come hell or high water.  I’m going to at the very least give it all I can give it and see what happens.

My passion is fiction.  I am working on one novel, and will soon be going on a trip to research another (which I’ll write more about later this week).  Being a mother of small children makes my writing time skewed.  Between my commitments to my novels and this blog, I’m growing more and more uncertain of where my focus needs to go.  Realistically, it is unlikely that I will ever bring in an income from blogging.  I enjoy it thoroughly.  I love having readers and getting comments.  I like writing about our life.  But, it takes time away from my other writing.  I’m trying to figure out at this stage in my life and mothering what I need to be working on most to get the results I’m looking for.  Should I devote the majority my time to fiction, or (as I’ve thought about recently) more time to blogging and the realm of personal essay and/or non-fiction topics of mothering and off-grid living?

Time is the big factor.  With all of my responisbilities as a wife, mother, and homemaker, my home tends to be what I let fall by the wayside, when I devote time to my writing.  I can no longer get up earlier than everyone on most days as I have found that I am overly exhausted from my health issues and lack of sleep.  I’ve not had a full night’s rest in four years.  It is so difficult for me to prioritize because I feel things so immediate.  I am impatient.  I see something I want to do, or might can fix, and I want to do it right away.  I become stressed if I have to wait.

Friday, we’ll begin our first non-work related trip as a family since the girls were born.  Well, I’ll be working, but it’s not the same as sitting in a booth for hours in the heat at art festivals.  We’ll be doing it all together.  I have so needed that time with my family.  I hope it helps us renew ourselves.  I hope it helps me prioritize and recouperate.  I can hardly wait on what is to come.  I feel like good things are on the way and I am wondering what form they will take.  I hope my emotional/mental health (thrown off from all the hormone imbalance) is equipped to let me be fully present.  My mind is swimming in a fog.  I don’t know how I can best prepare for the upcoming trip this week.  Do I work on housecleaning, writing, gardening, researching my health and what I need to do about it, or trying to do all of that?  It can be confusing wearing many hats.

I have been working on a post about us building a coop and preparing for chickens. We got our hens today and two roosters. I am so excited I can’t wait for a post with pictures. I have to tell everyone now! 🙂 I will post next week about the planning, building, and purchasing extravaganza with pictures. I’m elated. This made my week.

I love wearing a size 10 shoe.  I love being a large framed woman no matter how much weight I’m carrying.  I love my large hands and my strong, thick legs.  I enjoy being tall, being able to jump high, and run 3 miles through the woods.  I’m glad I can work in the garden all day without it being a strain.  I can have a day of hiking with Ivy on my back and enjoy the physicality of it.  I feel best when I am strong and fit.

I was part of a larger conversation on the topic of how far should a person, in this case – a woman, take physical fitness.  How thin should we be?  How muscular?  Should we restrict and/or enhance our diet to attain results?

I take a natural approach to life in general.  I believe that we were equipped by nature to live the healthiest possible life.  In so many ways, our culture equates a pencil thin body with beauty and often health.  As females, we are exposed to the images of very thin women from a very young age and told by the media and those around us that they are beautiful.  So many of us disregard health to attain this thin beauty.  Healthy is beautiful however, so, the question we should be asking is what is the natural, healthy state of a woman’s body.  A body that isn’t interfered with through processed, sugary foods,  fad diets, or plastic surgery.  A body that is physically capable of survival and has optimal nutrition.

These questions made me ask what were the bodies of our ancestors like?  Not the women of Renaissance paintings or the old photographs in family albums (though there is a lot to learn there too), but the women who had to struggle and work with their physical bodies for mere survival.  I did a little research into the life of Paleolithic women to find out about their general health and physical capabilities.  These women were living in a era of human history before farming and keeping livestock.  They lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  There is even a current school of thought on eating based on this lifestyle.

Paleolithic Woman

Human population density was very low, around only one person per square mile.[6] This was most likely due to low body fat, infanticide, women regularly engaging in intense endurance exercise,[21] late weaning of infants and a nomadic lifestyle.

Overall, they experienced less famine and malnutrition than the Neolithic farming tribes that followed them.

It is also unlikely that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were affected by modern diseases of affluence such as Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, because they ate mostly lean meats and plants and frequently engaged in intense physical activity.

– info from Wikipedia

The Paleolithic woman lived to be about 30 years of age.

– info from Longevity/Health in Ancient Paleolithic vs. Neolithic Peoples

So, from this I can gather that life was extremely difficult for them.  The average lifespan was age thirty.  I am now thirty and I feel like I’m just getting started. 🙂   However, they weren’t malnourished often, nor did they go without food in a famine type situation.  They were capable of long periods of intense activity, but the info from Wikipedia is contradictory.  The intense exercise kept them from diseases that plague modern culture,  but it is also a reason they may have not lived as long.  Are we to assume great physical stress from exercise, or accidents because of the physical activity is what took their lives?

Their low body fat could also have been a contributing factor in the short lives of the women.  These women were carrying children and breastfeeding them.  Our bodies need stores of fat to do these things, otherwise it will pull nutrients from wherever it can find them – like our bones, muscles, and tissues.  In a sense our body will digest itself.  They were nursing children for extended periods of time, likely until the children could contribute to the hunting and gathering of food.  This was probably very taxing on a woman’s body that had little body fat and also experienced intense periods of needing physical stamina.  So, my conclusion is that low levels of body fat is not healthy for a woman’s body.  We can take long distance runners, gymnasts, and some dancers who train to the point of very low body fat and in turn experience an absence of menses as an example.  Though we may be elated by a missed period here and there, it is not a healthy thing for a prolonged time, and it is a sign of the body’s lack of what it needs to function properly.

The articles also mentioned that these women had more leisure time and were treated better by males than women in farming cultures.  They had less children (probably due to lack of menstruation).

My conclusion from all of this is that a woman’s perfect body lies somewhere between Paleolithic women and those voluptuous Renaissance beauties I mentioned before.  I will take pride in having curves.  I will strive to be strong and able bodied.  I will push my limitations of physical endurance (within reason).  I will enjoy my health not because the number on the scale reads as some BMI chart says it should, but because I know my diet and my physical body are in the best possible condition they can be in my current situation.  I will take pride that my body carried two beautiful babies and has allowed me to continually nurse them for going on 4 years.  It allowed me to nurse one daughter through the pregnancy of the other, and still grow an eleven pound infant.  I will be happy that I have been able to educate myself about what I am eating and what I am feeding my family.  I will maintain physical health as a means to mental and spiritual health.

I am raising two daughters.  I have a choice to pass on a heritage of looking in the mirror and being disappointed, or re-naming that heritage.  I can equip them with the ability to make educated choices about how they choose to treat their bodies.  Show them the beauty in the varied and unique forms that a healthy woman’s body can take.  I can show by example that it isn’t about striving to be magazine “perfect”, but happy and well taken care of.  It is my job to help them be secure in their bodies the best way I can.

I was a victim of an unnecessary c-section in August 2005 as was my first born little girl.  We have suffered the consequences of that event in both our physical and emotional health.  Since that time, I have been an advocate for pregnant and birthing mothers and their right to chose a practitioner and healthcare model that will provide them with the safest outcome.

For my second birth, I chose to birth at home.  In the state of Kentucky, as with many states in our country, it is illegal for any midwife certified or not to attend a homebirth.  It is not illegal for a mother to chose homebirth and/or deliver her baby at home.  Unfortunately, in order to serve women and provide them with the option of a safe birthing environment our midwives are often putting their own personal lives at risk of prosecution.  It is shameful that a trained professional cannot offer their services to a paying and educated client.  It is a shame that if needed doctors and hospitals are not supportive of these midwives.

Why do I feel this way?  The c-section rate in the United States stands at 31.8% of all births.  The state of Kentucky stands at 34.6%.  The World Health Organization recommends a rate of between 10-15% nationwide for the safety of both mothers and their babies, and believes that over half of all c-sections performed in the United States are unnecessary.  That means that doctors are performing surgeries on women for no other reason than speculations, convenience of both mother and doctor (they don’t have to wait on labor), and the spiraling out of control of labor inductions and augmentation.  What doctors often fail to tell women is that a c-section is considered a major abdominal surgery.  The mortality rate in the US for mothers is also alarming.

It is an outrage that in a country where we are supposedly medically advanced that obstetricians and the companies that insure them are ignoring the fact that a woman is more likely to have a successful vaginal birth and/or natural birth under the care of the midwifery model at a location where the mother feels safe.  It is upsetting that they ignore the fact that a vaginal birth after c-section is safer than a repeat surgery.  It is shameful that trained and educated midwives can’t provide their services to women without the risk of prosecution.

This needs to be changed!  As women we should insist that our births shouldn’t be looked at as dollar signs or illnesses but one of the biggest events of the lives of the baby and its family.  We deserve to be treated holistically and ethically.  Yes, hospitals are great, as are obstetricians, when a medical emergency arises, but when choosing doctors who are trained to respond to emergencies it makes us subject to them viewing our pregnancies as an illness to be treated rather than a fact of life to be supported.

What can we do?  Tomorrow May 21st there will be a DC birth briefing on Capital Hill.  Let your congress people know that you support midwives and a woman’s option to chose homebirth. Tell 10 friends to do the same.  Visit The Big Push for Midwives to find out more.  In the state of Kentucky, visit The Kentucky Midwifery Taskforce to find out how you can help.

My second birth was attended by a homebirth midwife who gave me the best healthcare I have ever received in my life.  Ultimately, she had to transfer me to the hospital where I eventually recieved another c-section.  A necessary one this time.  The doctor performing the c-section badmouthed midwives to me while he was removing my baby from my womb.  At no time were either myself or my baby in any danger under the care of my midwife.  That doctor was unprofessional and condescending at a time when I needed his expertise to have a healthy birth.  But, it was inconveniencing him.  How did my midwife respond to my needing a doctor’s services?  By recognizing within a healthy time frame that my birth was not proceeding normally and was one she needed a doctor’s assistance with, and trusting that that doctor would take good care of me.  She never left me alone.  She talked to me while I grieved the choice I was having to make and assured me that I was making the right decision for myself and my baby.  Now, tell me who is professional and offered the best healthcare.

Processed, industrialized food is making us sick.  When we took the responsibility of food out of the local economy and started looking for ready made, cheap food, we made a horrible mistake.  In the quest for the cheapest food they could manufacture, the big food companies started adding chemicals to our foods to make them retain a fresh flavor, have longer shelf lives, have a fresh appearance (food dyes), and add bulk in order to use less food in the process.  The following is a list of the ten food additives I believe we should all try to avoid in order to maintain our health.  For many of us, until we achieve a place of sustainability with our own gardens and food sources, we may not have access to health food stores, farmer’s markets, or even the funds to purchase all of the foods we would like to. With a list such as this one, we can strive to keep the most harmful ingredients off of our families’ plates.

Top 10 Scariest Food Additives

  1. BHA and BHT – chemical preservatives for foods containing oils.  Studies conducted by the World Health Organization has shown BHA to be carcinogenic to humans.  Similar studies have produced the same results with BHT.  Both preservatives are unnecessary, and should be avoided.  Read your labels.
  2. Artificial Sweeteners – toxic levels of this substance can lead to mental retardation in the brain (1 in 20,000 babies are born unable to metabolize phenylalanine, one of the two amino acids in aspartame.)  Studies also show it can alter brain function and cause symptoms like dizziness in consumers.  New studies show that drinkers of diet sodas actually gain weight.  It is my belief that diabetics would be much better off without this “fake” chemical sugar in their diets.  Look for natural sweeteners that have a low glycemic index, or stick to naturally occurring sweet foods like fruits and sweet potatoes.
  3. MSGmonosodium glutamate – an additive to many protein rich foods to enhance flavor.  This can cause severe reactions in sensitive people, but all would do well to avoid it.  It is an excitotoxin and causes brain to react in a state of hyperactivity.  It can cause headaches, tightness in the chest, burning in the forearms, and neck pain.  MSG can go under many pseudonyms including hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
  4. Nitrites and Nitrates – Found in many deli style and cured meats.  These chemicals are extremely dangerous and carcinogenic when exposed to high heat (as in frying).  Nitrites are linked as one of the causes of stomach cancer.  Look for meats made without the use of nitrites.  Hormel makes a natural deli meat and Oscar Mayer makes a natural bacon.  Swaggerty’s makes an MSG/nitrite free sausage.  Also, look at the health food stores for additive free meats.
  5. Artificial Coloring – Most of these are synthetic dyes and have been linked to things like cancer and ADHD/ADD.  They have no nutritional value, and should be avoided.
  6. High Fructose Corn Syrup –  This is not a naturally occurring and its safety for consumption is questionable.  Considering that much of the corn product in the American diet is genetically modified we would be wise to avoid all corn that is not organically grown.  The idiocy that spawned the current commercials about it being safe in moderation is laughable.  Read here to educate yourself on HFCS.
  7. Hydrogenated Oils – These are a cheap butter replacement in processed foods… like margarine.  They contain high levels of trans fats which we know are horrible for our bodies.  Read here.
  8. Pesticides – Our conventional store bought produce is laden with pesticides.  We aren’t pests.  We aren’t trying to kill ourselves with our food.  We shouldn’t consume these.
  9. Potassium Bromate – Used as a flour improver, it has been proven to cause cancer, and has been banned in Europe.  It is also linked to hypothyroidism.
  10. Canola Oil – This oil is masked as a healthy oil by the diet dictocrats and companies looking to make a buck off of us.  Learn what it really is here.

Through my research, this is what I have decided to remove from the diet of my family altogether.  There are many others that I could add to this list, but these are ones I consider most dangerous at this time with the information I have.  I believe that being more conscious consumers of food is a must in achieving a more healthy American population.  We have to know that in a capitalist nation we can’t blindly trust companies who are producing food simply to make money.  We need to educate ourselves on what our bodies need and don’t need.

I have compiled this list with the help of information from websites like that of Dr. Janet Starr Hull, and other similar lists can be found be searching “food additives” on Google.  I have tried to link as many of the additives to more information that I could to help you to make up your own mind about these additives.  Please, in the upcoming days, visit The Behrens Family blog to see a list of 10 Foods to Avoid in your diet.  Take a look at The Nourished Kitchen for wonderfully researched and accurate information on food choices.

The sky threatened rain all Thursday, Friday, and today, but it didn’t come.  A gray sky and a humid breeze carried a warm hope that the seeds I planted Thursday would get some water.   I got the garden planted from top to bottom and side to side.  We have onions, carrots, potatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, cabbage, lettuce, sunflowers, and tomatoes in the ground and sprouting.  I took walks with the girls, watched them play in the sandbox, read them stories.

planted

The warm seasons are bittersweet for us.  Bittersweet, as a word, has become cliche, but appropriate here.  With a break from the cold and a promise of days spent in warmth and light, also comes a fact of life.  Daddy will often be on the road.  This is the season for artists and musicians to share their talents with the public.  To bring forth the work of the winter like the trees bring forth their fresh leaves.  As the leaves filter the sun and feed the trees, so the festivals, shows, and opportunities allow us to make a living.  This weekend was one of those.

Eastern Hemlock

Eastern Hemlock

John is traveling for music this weekend.  After Ivy was born, I stopped trying to go with him on the long overnight trips.  Taking both of the girls was a bit much as we often slept in the truck or camped.  The heat can get miserable, and being confined to a booth much of the time is no fun for little ones.  We notice when Daddy is not with us.  Deladis makes it known when she is ready for him to come home.

He came home last night on his way back from Roanoke, Virginia and on through to Morehead, Kentucky where he is recording with Brett Ratliff and The Blind Tiger Band.  He had the band with him and Deladis braved a walk alone to be with her daddy on George Gibson’s front porch and hear the band play.  I was cooking spicy stuffed cabbage for our guests, and thought it would be good for her to try the short walk on her own.  It is funny what missing someone bad enough will allow us to do.  It was her first time going it alone.

todaddy

She sat with them last night as they played in the kitchen after supper, playing some on her little banjo.  She sat there until she was bone tired, falling out of her chair with sleep, her head slumping into her daddy’s lap.  Then, this morning, we ate oats and waved bye-bye as John and Brett set out again.

I’m looking forward to our upcoming trip to New Echota, Georgia and Dayton, Tenneesee (Walden’s Ridge) to research for my novel based on the life of Arizona Webb Walker my Cherokee great-great grandmother.  I want to spend some time – just us, not trying to get ready to work, working, or thinking about work.  I want to enjoy the warmth for awhile before it gets so hot we can’t breathe.  I want to walk with my man and watch our girls enjoy the outdoors.  To be filled with the light the Creator blesses us with each spring.  There will be some time for that on our trip.

blackberries

The wild blackberry bushes have bloomed like they tend to do when Mother Nature can’t decide whether it should be chilly or warm.  I wanted to show John, and encourage him to remind us to take time to nuture the bushes and pick the berries at the first signs of ripeness.  I’ll try to make blackberry dumplings this season.

promise

Today the sky still can’t decide what it wants to do.  Our seeds wait in the ground, covered and warm, to be soaked with the sprouting rain.  Today, we are waiting for daddy to come home.  We’ll take a rest in his warm arms until the time comes for us to miss him again.

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

May 2009
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