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Wednesday, October 14th


The Parable of the Loaves and Reviving Lost Skills

In which I can be accused of eisegesis but it’s worth a shot for the argument for reviving age old skills that have been lost to convenience. This blog post was recycled from a lesson given on the significance of self-reliance. It has gone through multiple edits and some expansion to help clarify some points.

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Something I like to do at the beginning of the year is make a list of skills I want to learn and during the year work on a few of them or if certain skills are out of my league, one of them. Some skills have been on my list for years, and some of them I should had started on years ago. As I have been documenting on this blog, I finally tackled one of them—making bread using a starter culture.

Depending on what part of the world one lives, a starter goes by various different names. In New Zealand it is called a bug, in France it is called levain or chef. In other parts of Europe and in the states it is called a sourdough starter. It is commonly referred to as leaven or natural leaven and is cultivated by souring or fermenting two basic ingredients—flour and water. The following information is from my own implementation and research. Hope you find it helpful.

Purpose—Science—Hidden Benefits

Purpose—the starter acts as a rising agent in baking, although it is more commonly used in making bread. A starter also adds flavor, and depending on the baker’s skill, the starter can be used in its sweet or sour stage to make bread and in turn achieve the corresponding flavors.

Having said this about starters (acting as a rising agent), in Ethiopia their staple crop is teff—which is of significant interest to those on gluten-free diets as it contains no gluten—where it is made into injera, a flatbread. What is revealing about this flatbread is that a sourdough starter plays an important role and ingredient in the recipe. If starters are commonly referred to as a rising agent, then what is the purpose of a starter in the making of a flatbread? This is where learning about fermentation comes in.

Science—the process of fermentation creates a culture of lactic acid bacteria and yeast (already present in the flour and activated when liquid is added); and between the two form a symbiotic relationship: the LAB converts the carbohydrates into starch, and the starch in sugar; which the yeast is then able to metabolize.

Hidden Benefits—this means that when we ingest foods that have been prepared this way, it gives health to the navel. The byproducts of fermentation are beneficial to our digestive tract by introducing beneficial bacteria to the gut. For the nutrients of a grain to be fully released, it must go through fermentation, much like a bean needs to be soaked. This process makes it easier for our digestive system to absorb and distribute nutrients.

As fascinating as the science is, of noteworthy mention is its application: it is made to be shared. Unlike commercial yeast that can only be used once, a starter can be used again, and again, and again. It is made to be shared because it can grow exponentially. I could give some of my starter to you to make your own bread and you could give some of your starter to someone else and so on and continue making bread using that starter without having to buy or use a new one. Having said that, a starter was not something you gave away without first knowing if the person you gave it to knew how to use it.

Parable of the Loaves and Fishes

While observing the various growth patterns of a starter, and how it is capable of growing exponentially, the parable of the loaves came to mind like I had hit on something quite phenomenal. This is not to say that this is how Christ multiplied the bread to feed the multitude but parables as we know have many layers and applications and this is another perspective that has application.

By way of information, the parables are stories that used objects or ideas that the people of that time were familiar with. Many of those ideas however are not as familiar to us as they were to those that lived during biblical times, one of them being leavened bread made from a starter. The noted NT scholar, Joel B Green in reference to the parable of the leaven explains, “Jesus asks people—male or female, privileged or peasant, it doesn’t matter—to enter the domain of a first-century woman and household cook in order to gain perspective on the domain of God.”

Which is why it is difficult to understand what all the fuss about a starter is. We are more familiar with commercial yeast, but the two are not the same; do not taste the same, do not behave the same, do not have the same properties, nor have the same health benefits. It’s not until you cultivate your own starter that you develop a guardian-like attitude like one carefully watching over a child because of its miraculous properties.

Feeding The Multitude

Parables, like many of the stories in the scriptures, are not explicit on details but I think one way many read into this particular story is to think that it happens within a matter of an hour and bang the miracle of feeding is done and everyone goes back to their homes with full bellies because we think that this is what makes it a miracle (that bread magically appears or falls from the sky) without giving thought to the people being referred to here as the multitude.

If the multitude of people are composed of homeless or displaced persons, one must think more critically about how the needs of hunger should be addressed which can only be done with a vision to organizing, teaching and learning that in reality takes time: days, months, even years. To think that Christ is concerned about feeding a crowd of people that simply forgot to make lunch that day is to read into this parable, and what He was about, on a cursory level.

What we learn from the narratives is that the Lord blessed and brake and gave the loaves to His disciples first, and the disciples to the multitude. With this succinct piece of information then, could the “blessing and breaking of the bread” be code for Christ teaching the disciples how to make bread so that they can go and teach the multitude, or before they themselves can be in a place where they can teach the multitude? Here’s another thought, isn’t it better to teach a man to fish so he can feed himself, rather than to always be fishing for him?

Ministry to Address Temporal Needs

The parable of the loaves is narrated in all four gospels each with slight variations. In Matthew we learn that Jesus has gone to be alone after learning about the death of John the Baptist. A multitude discovers Jesus nearby and flock to be near Him because they have learned that He can perform miracles. Rather than sending the multitude away, as His disciples would have Him do so that He can be alone in His thoughts, the Lord instead has compassion on the people and heals their sick. What we next come to learn is that He is about to perform another miracle, that of multiplying the loaves and fish to feed them. This is a ministry where the temporal needs of the people are being addressed.

To highlight this point I remember reading a conference talk by an LDS leader (I wish I could reference it here but have been unable to find it) where he shares an experience as a missionary handing out, if I can remember well, calling cards to passersby. A woman dressed in rags with unkempt hair took a card from him and asked if she could buy bread with it. This experience made a strong impression on the leader as a young missionary that he hones in on that if we care about saving souls, we must address their temporal needs first.

Desert Place

The gospels give contradictory accounts on where the story takes place. In one gospel the story takes place in the desert. In another gospel the story takes place in an urban setting but when the Lord tells His disciples to find food, the disciples respond that they are in a desert place. Whether the later story highlights the interesting phenomenon of Fatigue in the Synoptics,1 the overriding idea is based on the very word that confuses textural scholars. It is the word desert.

The word desert makes a very compelling argument for how we must think about this parable. When we think of a desert, the first thing that comes to mind is arid, dry, parched, barren. Once you place the parable in its historical context and environment you can see how this might apply to one living today. Not everyone today lives in the desert, but the idea of placement can also be a metaphor for need: hunger, poverty, famine, shortage of food—even unemployment, illness, loneliness, addictions, etc. Also, one can be living in the middle of the city but still experience a food desert, not just access to food, but access to healthy food.

Self-Reliance Builds Community

Now back to the Lord blessing and breaking and giving the loaves to the disciples first, and the disciples to the multitude. It is an easy thing to go to the store and buy food for someone, or to give someone money so they can go to the store to buy food. But what can we learn from the Lord’s example when He tells His disciples to not send the multitude away, that they are to give them something to eat? What does the Lord want us to learn from this parable? From Marion G. Romney:

“Without self-reliance one cannot exercise [the innate desire] to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.”

If the disciples of Christ were not in a position to give, or had little knowledge or skills in which to help those in need, then someone had to teach them before they could be of service to others. If we think this parable is about food magically appearing from nothing, we have the wrong idea of what is being articulated by miracle. A miracle also means something wonderful and marvelous and if you put it in the context of providing opportunities for people to provide for themselves, that in itself is a wonderful and marvelous thing.

La Minga: Episode 101 of The Perennial Plate from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

To illustrate, in this video we learn the concept of La Minga, which means community work for community good. Not to be confused with communism, La Minga is an age old tradition practiced by indigenous cultures in South America. A concept that is notably subtle but one that makes a huge impact on the livelihood and sustainability of families and communities. I have written elsewhere about self-reliance and community and how learning to be self-reliant requires learning many skills, but how it makes more sense to learn a few skills and to do them well.

In this video, individuals are starting out by growing 2-3 vegetables each (rather than individuals doing the same thing growing the same vegetables) and sharing their produce. This sharing should not be thought of as giving away for free or working for free, but is an opportunity for individuals to work and provide nourishment for their families with further opportunities for bartering with each other and the possibility of making an income by selling what they grow to the public—as can be seen in co-operatives or co-ops.

Application and Benefits of Fermentation Today

While learning about fermentation methods I came across a number of research papers and published journals from around the world. This is significant because it involves research to help developing countries and, to my astonishment, countries that already have access to modern biotechnology methods. What these papers reveal is the importance of traditional methods of food preparation.

While developing countries lack hygiene and water sanitation to properly implement their skills; developed countries suffer from chronic diseases that could be resolved by implementing traditional skills that have been lost to convenience. The research reminds us how cultures and countries throughout the ages have traditional dishes that involve fermentation—although many that lived during antiquity would not have known the science behind why fermentation was central to their survival—and why traditional methods of food access, storage and preparation may have been seen as miraculous.

What this research does is that it brings this miraculous concept, of indigenous fermented foods (and beverages), to our attention and request that it be given the scientific research and consideration it deserves. In the case of developing countries one paper outlines the significance of fermented foods to national economy in that “locally fermented foods are significant in provision of employment opportunities, market improvement, availability of food supplement and poverty alleviation.”

If there was ever a standard bearer for helping its people help themselves and a perspective for the biblical parable of the multiplicity of the loaves and fishes that has real life application, I think these examples make very compelling arguments to how we have lost touch with where our food comes from and the disconnection to self-reliance and community and why we must turn our focus to the old ways of learning and to reviving skills that have been lost to many.

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  1. Online: podacre.blogspot.com/2010/07/nt-pod-39-fatigue-in-synoptics.html



Monday, September 28th


Menstrual Cups

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What Is that!

No they’re not nipple shields or fingernail extensions, nor is it the pink-eyed monster. They’re menstrual cups and they’re a clean, safe, hygienic and reusable alternative to using disposable tampons and pads. Studies show that they are healthier for you, eco-friendly and economical. Great for women who like to store supplies, especially if you’re limited by space because there is practically nothing to store. For more information on how to use, see Menstrual Cup.co.

Measuring Mense Loss

For women who suffer from menorrhagia, or heavy blood loss during menses, there is another benefit to using one of these—and I wish all doctors knew about menstrual cups before prescribing procedures. Unlike tampons and pads that absorb menstrual fluid, menstrual cups collect it, and if you’re curious about how much you lose each month, or want to keep track of how much you lose, using a cup can help you measure that.

Measuring Quality of Mense

Another reason to use a menstrual cup is to measure the quality of mense. This blog post sheds light on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and how it views the release of menstrual fluid as a way of telling you what is going on in your body. By looking at the chart you can measure the color and quality of mense and what you can do to correct any imbalances. For those treating heavy mense due to uterine fibroids this post at the Weston Price Foundation may prove helpful too.

This post is a reprint from a post I published in January this year.




Monday, August 31st


homemade soap mold, and alchemy

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Artwork: The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse

My husband is a genius. I showed him a pic of a soap mold made from wood and asked him if he could make one like it. This is what he cranked out for me (below). Cost us a couple dollars to make—awesome. Next step is making the soap, and I haven’t said anything about my soap making adventures in this space, I don’t think but I burned a couple stumps to the ground this summer (back when they lifted the burn ban) and with the wood ash will practice some alchemy—turn the wood ash into potassium hydroxide, or lye. I also rendered beef fat into tallow (far below) which I will use for both soap making and cooking. I’ll post more about my newly acquired magical skills later.

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Homemade wood soap mold

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Tallow made from rendering beef fat



Sunday, February 1st


In which the pizza blows up

A couple months ago I made some bread dough that developed into an idea to turn some of it into pizza and storing it in the freezer for future use. I flattened the dough and placed it into the oven to semi-cook the base. When I opened the oven however I was faced with a bloated puff ball instead of the expected semi-cooked flat bread. Weighing the options before me, I decided to cut into the bread and the next thing I knew, I had a couple of pocket bread. A lesson that maybe some outcomes, seen as a case of bad luck, can be an outlet for learning something new.

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I wrote a post yesterday about my period and how I was going to go on the pill to regulate the bleeding. I’ve changed my mind. I have no idea why I have menorrhagia or von Willabrand disease or all these things I get diagnosed with but maybe it’s nature’s way of telling me something about my body. If I didn’t have my period, how would my body tell me if something was wrong. So I’m going to accept what I have and that for the days I need to stay near my room, I will imagine that I am in my moon lodge until I figure out where to go from here.

Artwork: Ophelia by John William Waterhouse. 




Saturday, January 31st


Bloody Hangover

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I have twelve of them a year. I’ve been seeing an hematologist for a couple years now. I suffer from anaemia due to menorrhagia, and I’ve had it for over 25 years. I thought every woman had periods like mine. If I had known years ago that this was not normal maybe I would not have suffered as long as I have. But no-one likes to talk openly about these things. It’s shameful, taboo or TMI. That needs to change.

It wasn’t until my own daughters started having their periods that I realized something was wrong. I was emptying the trash when I noticed that one of my daughters was having her period and that her pads weren’t soaked like how mine usually are and I thought, this isn’t normal. To make a long story short I arranged an appointment for the doctor to see us and it just so happened that I was the one with the problem period not them. So my doctor referred me to a hematologist, although I think she’s an oncologist.

An hematologist specializes in blood disorders. And I like my hematologist, she lets me test other options first than the usual route of blood transfusions, drugs, endometrial ablation. Every couple months I have blood work done, and during those months I will make adjustments to my diet to see if it will affect my iron levels. It didn’t matter how many kale smoothies or liver I consumed however, my iron levels remained the same and at times dropped.

I mentioned menstrual cups in a previous post. With a menstrual cup I am able to measure mense loss. In one day I can lose up to 260mls. That’s three times the amount of a normal mense cycle. Tests were done for uterine fibroids which we found out that I have but are too small to consider doing anything with them. The diagnosis is von Willabrand disease due to low clotting protein in the blood. I’m going on the pill.

Artwork: Flaming June by Sir Frederic Leighton. I’m not going to dig into the meaning behind this artwork just in case I don’t like the interpretation so for now I interpret it as “woman in red (or orange) enjoying a good nap.”




Tuesday, January 13th


Chicken Broth

or chicken stock. The terms are used interchangeably. Some call, what is made from bones, stock; and what is made from meat, broth. And then there are those that refer to broth as a seasoned stock. The way I see it is if it’s made in a stock pot, it’s stock. But for some reason I keep calling it, broth. So I’ll call it broth, that way each word gets a notable mention. Broth that is made in a stock pot.

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Some parts of the chicken are better for making a gelatinous broth than others, chicken feet being one of them. So I use chicken feet, partly because it’s cheap. I have also used leftover bones with success too.

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One thing I’ve learned is that you’ll get better body if you simmer with the lid off, which makes sense when you understand that water evaporates and if you have the lid on, most evaporates back into the pot. Simmering with the lid off will also save on time. Do we really need to simmer 12 hours?

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Many recipes call for vinegar. I think it’s an ingredient only recently added in the last decade. If you look through old recipe books vinegar isn’t used so I was curious as to what its purpose was. I think the idea stemmed from the egg-shell vinegar experiment, that if you put an egg in a bowl of vinegar, the vinegar will strip the egg of its shell and so with that idea, maybe someone figured that if you soak the bones in water with a couple tablespoons of vinegar that it would help speed the leaching of minerals from the bone.

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So I’m going to experiment with my next batch and soak a bone in vinegar for a day to see if it will soften. Other than that I have no idea how else to measure the speed and amount of minerals being pulled from the bone but for now I use it to clean the chicken feet from any impurities and bless myself when I see a clear-like gelatin.




Monday, September 29th


Bread Update

I’ve been experimenting with grains and ratios of different flours. The darker smaller bread is 90% whole wheat flour from a can of hard white wheat that I ground then extracted (I don’t know the exact percentage of extraction and have no idea how to calculate it). It turned out similar to the rye bread I made. Small and dense. I like a well made pumpernickel and rye bread so’ll be something to master although it’s not a bread the family likes. They prefer the 20% whole wheat, 80% bread flour ratio. Not only does it produce a larger loaf but the crumb is light and airy. I should add that I have made pizza from the same dough and it has turned out very well.

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Thursday, September 11th


Bread Making Process Simplified

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about my bread making but I’ve been practicing still and I have Fresh P to thank for helping me simplify the process. Fresh P actually uses the method and recipe from Ken Forkish’s book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, so I guess I should be thanking Ken Forkish too. The only difference between the recipe in the video and mine is that Fresh P uses dry active yeast and I use my sourdough starter. Ken Forkish uses a starter, or levain, too but you will have to buy his book to read more into that. With that said I’m very glad I persevered with my starter because there is a notable difference in taste between yeast bread and a bread made with a starter.




Friday, July 4th


Solar Food Drying

I’ve been looking at solar food dehydrators. Solar because we live in Texas and there’s a lot of sun. A food dehydrator because I would like to sprout my grains and then dry them before grinding them. I know I know, I sound like I enjoy making more work for myself. Anyway take a look at this solar dryer.

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Friday, June 27th


In which I crack the code

Or rather I have sprouted the code for a sweeter smelling, sweeter tasting wheat berry porridge. Remember when I was testing two different batches of wheat berries? And how I cooked one batch and there was yellow scum? To review I rinsed the scum (or whatever you call it) from both soaked batches; cooked one batch and sprouted the other before cooking it. From the first cooked batch, a yellow scum formed but a sour smell still permeated the porridge. From the sprouted batch there was no yellow scum. Instead there was a layer of white almost clear film that got noticeably thicker as the liquid reduced but most importantly there was a sweet delicious smell. And oh did it smell SO good! I want to cry.

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