Thursday, January 31, 2013

Christian Privilege in Queer Space

I am a Pagan.  That makes me non-Christian.  I am also queer, many flavors of queer, from the pansexuality to the transsexualism to the non-monogamy to the kink to the politics.  This won't be that shocking if you're a Jack Warlock fanperson who has held on to my every word since the beginning, but for those that haven't, it's true.

One thing I've noticed as a non-Christian who is also queer:  Queer Christians really seem to think that Christianity is something relevant to my life.  It must be, considering every conference I go to on queer issues has at least one--but usually several--workshops dealing with Christianity, the Bible, Christian ministers and churches, and so forth.  These seek to "prove" that the Bible and Jesus aren't really anti-gay and that gay people still make good Christians.

On the surface this makes a lot of sense because the Bible is very commonly brought up in discourse surrounding things like same-sex marriage.  There are a lot of problems with it too, though, which is what I'm going to talk about here.
  1. The only thing truly unique about Christianity is that it is more common in some countries.

    The sheer amount of airtime this subject is given relegates other religions to the fringes and reinforces the belief that there is something uniquely special about Christianity.  This is an easy thought pattern for a Christian to get into because we're taught from a young age to view other religions as relics to be learned about through "fiction goggles."  We are trained to view the Bible and its derivatives as "religious texts," whereas the literature of other faiths--including religions that are still commonly practiced today, like Hinduism and Buddhism--have "myths."  The story of Noah building an ark big enough to house multiples of every land-dwelling animal in the world is a "religious text," whereas the Epic of Gilgamesh, with a similar story, is a "mythological text."  So the tendency is to view Christians and other Bible-believing faiths as having legitimate religious devotion whereas the rest of us couldn't possibly really believe that.

    When Christianity and other Bible-derivative faiths are the only faiths being talked about, it reinforces this training.  The only thing "unique" about Christianity is that it's common.
  2. The use of the Bible to justify discrimination is wrong, yet we encourage its use by insisting on using it.

    The main justification I see for the overplay of Bible and Christianity-based programming in queer circles is that we need to know what the Bible really says to defend us against people who use it to discriminate against us.

    There are two big problems with that.  The first is that our translations are largely just as useless as theirs, and the second is that we encourage them to continue using religious bigotry to support laws when we do this.

    On that first point, I personally believe that the Bible does say that homosexuality is a sin.  When I read and hear justifications for why the Bible doesn't say that, what I see is people warping what they read in order to get an interpretation that doesn't condemn them.

    The thing is, though, that what the Bible says should have fuck-all to do with our legal system or our human dignity.  People who point to the Bible to justify the illegality of same-sex marriage are relying on the supposed universality of this document to tamper with our legal system... and when we argue with them rather than flat out refuse to acknowledge it, we encourage them.
  3. The Bible isn't a universally relevant document.

    I just mentioned this in passing, but it's a huge deal.  Christians on average feel that there is something culturally universal about their spiritual experiences, that even a non-Christians should be able to find moral and spiritual healing and inspiration in it.  This, of course, leaks into queer circles, but it's a pervasive thing.

    I can't emphasize enough that this isn't true.  I'd argue that most of that book is entirely unrelated to my life... the dietary rules are irrelevant, Jesus's birth and sacrifice are irrelevant (he wasn't the only God to sacrifice himself!), and there are so many things in there that I object to on moral grounds--slavery and subjugation of women, for example--that calling this a morally universal document is not only inaccurate, I am personally offended by the statement.

    Even the Ten Commandments, which people like to promote as basic moral values, are Abrahamic-specific.  The first four are specifically related to belief in and worship of Yahweh, the fifth has been used plenty of times to justify keeping ties with abusive family members, and the seventh is sketchy when you are a polyamorous marriagefree individual.  Ten is pretty obnoxious as a poor person.  So there are basically three that I agree with.  30% doesn't pass an exam... these are not universal teachings and shouldn't be treated as such, not in queer spaces or elsewhere.

    But what about in-religion issues?  Stuff like gays in the clergy?  Those aren't legal issues.  It makes two big assumptions, though:  That other religions don't have queer issues, and that entrance into mainstream Christian denominations is a universal queer struggle.
  4. Queer religious struggles are not limited to Christianity.

    As a Pagan, I recognize that there are some huge issues going on in the Pagan world.  We have women's mysteries traditions that block transgender women, often using absolutely disgusting and bigoted language in doing so, and often in very public displays.  We have people arguing about gender duality in Wicca and related religions and whether or not one can worship the Gods as queer.  There are reconstructionist traditions like Kemetic Reconstructionism and Norse Paganism that argue about whether or not their texts or cultural practices discourage homosexuality.  And that's just Paganism... even the atheist and agnostic community struggles with homophobia and transphobia!

    Are these big enough concerns for a wider community discussion?  Maybe, maybe not... the point is that Christianity is being singled out for representation, but it isn't the only religion in which queer people are marginalized.
  5. We forget that there are alternatives to mainstream Christianity, and in fact Christianity altogether.

    This will probably be my most controversial point, but I'm going to make this case anyway... so much of this discourse is based on anxiety over Christian teachings, but there are many, many other religions out there that either do not have hang-ups about homosexuality or who do not treat their texts as literal truths.

    We don't bring this up because it's interpreted as proselytizing... and perhaps it is, in a way.  I do not necessarily believe everyone should share my religion, but I do believe that non-Christian religions and more radical Christian denominations should be given better representation to provide more options for queer people who do experience anxiety from Biblical teachings.  We should be promoting the exploration of faith beyond the Bible rather than strengthening its position on that privileged pedestal!
Although there will always be queer people who want to be Christians for whatever reason, this isn't an excuse to promote the institution of Christian privilege in queer spaces by constantly bringing up the Bible and what we think it "really" says.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Four Most Common Myths I Hear About Furries

You can't always pick your antlers.
I'm going to write a little about animal spirit work as I haven't been writing as much about Paganism as I assumed I would be by now.  But really I'm writing more about furry fandom, because reasons.  One of these reasons is that an alarming number of my friends are unaware of my involvement in the furry fandom and because of it they have been known to say some chronically wrong things about it, so it's fresh in my mind.  Yuck.

First, what is furry fandom?  Furry fandom is a huge community in which the main thing we have in common is that we have some sort of affinity for anthropomorphized animals.

This includes fursuiters, who dress up as anthropomorphized animals, but it also includes people who have a specific appreciation for anthropomorphic animals in entertainment, therians, fetishists, people who have a spiritual connection to animals, and several others.  Not all people who are interested in these things identify with furry fandom... the point here is that furry fandom is a big thing.

In my case, I have an interest in anthropomorphic animation and love fursuits, but the thing that really got me started was a deep spiritual connection with animals that developed into a core part of my religious practice as a Pagan, including costuming and dance magick.  I was trying to avoid mindlessly yanking things from other cultures to shove into a boiling pot of animal magick, and although I am a spiritual anarchist who does take inspiration from multiple cultures, in my own socio-cultural context many of these things already existed in furry fandom.  For me, the fact that people fursuit is only an expression of a cultural universal.

So I straddle many of these aspects of the furry community--spiritual shapeshifter, person who enjoys anthropomorphic animals in film and art, person who likes fursuits--but most of my friends aren't aware of this.  This leads to passing phrases that are unintentionally insulting, proving that many otherwise-tolerant people really have no idea what the hell a furry is.

For those among you who are in this situation:
  1. Being a furry does not automatically mean you are in it for sex.
    One of the more irritating things about being in the furry fandom without friends knowing it is that it's usually brought up in a sexual context.  People will say things like "Well, it's no worse than any other fetish," or something like that, without realizing that there is a very large non-sexual component to the fandom.
    Last I checked any sort of statistics, most furries have some sort of interest in furry erotica, but for most the main appeal of the fandom is its childlike whimsy and fun.  Those who do have an interest in furry erotica don't necessarily have sex in fursuits, either... in fact...
  2. Being a furry doesn't mean you fursuit.
    Fursuits are expensive, so people like to assume we as a whole are just brimming with expendable income.  Some of us obviously are, but many of us either go with minimalistic suits (like my headband with the ears or a head-only get-up) or, shocking I know, no suit at all.  Most furry conventions are filled to the brim with people who are not fursuiting, many of whom do not fursuit at all.  This is possible because fursuiting is only one aspect of the community.
  3. Being a furry is not the same as being a therian.
    Some transgender friends of mine have brought up furries specifically to make a statement implying we believe we are non-human animals trapped in human bodies.  Somewhere in there it turned into all furries wanting to appropriate transgender struggles by being considered transspecies.
    Furries in general don't believe this sort of thing.  Although our fursonas (furry characters) are offshoots of our personalities, and we may view them as ourselves, most people feel the same about their creations... it doesn't mean we necessarily want to be considered animals.
    Do some furries feel that way?  Yes.  This is due to overlap with the therian community, which is a group of people who believe they are either psychologically or spiritually a different animal than human.  Although I personally strive to accept therians, it does annoy me when people use the term "furry" when what they're talking about are actually therians.
  4. You might know a furry even if you have never seen someone show up wearing a tail.
    I have had this conversation more than once:
    Friend:  [Somewhat-related Conversation]... but I wouldn't know, I don't know any furries.
    Me:  Yes, you do.  I'm a furry.
    Friend:  Really?!The fact that this shocks people suggests that people have this automatic image of what a furry is, and apparently I'm not it.  Somehow.  I think they expect me to wear something like this and make animal noises all the time.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.
So why is this important in the context of my blog?  I wasn't going to write that, because to be honest I consider this my personal "anything goes" blog and I'll write about the Real Housewives of Atlanta if I damned well please,* but I consider this an important issue because it refers to a deeper value of acceptance that I'm not seeing enough of in many of my communities.

What I mean is going to a festival and watching a couple of guys in furry garb get booed at a fetish wear contest.  It was a sex-positive crowd being the opposite of sex-positive.  I mean being really gung-ho about allowing other people the right to self-identify and then slamming the door as soon as a furry comes along, even if we don't self-identify as anything other than human.  And probably most importantly, the furry community has a big overlap between the queer and Pagan communities, so it's likely you will meet more of us, whether you know it or not.  I'm hoping this post will be a stepping stone so that you can learn to open up to more than just acronyms and mainstream people.



* I do not actually watch this show, nor will I, so do not fear that I will start writing about the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Backyard Woodpeckers

Added an extra FDL Big Year bird today (Ring-necked Pheasant).  I didn't see him, but I did hear him.  Still counts!

I took some photographs from my desk, finally having cleaned my window.  My camera had been picking up on all the smudges and extra stuff... yuck.

Downy Woodpecker.

Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Downy Woodpecker Reaching

Some of my Favorite Cold Recipes and Treatments

I have a cold right now.  Yeah, it sucks.  Here are some of the ways I deal with it.  This is not medical advice.  Get vaccinated, it won't give you autism or Down's syndrome.  Take over-the-counter meds (properly) if you're sick enough to need them.  If you're really quite sick, have been sick for a long time, or are experiencing symptoms that are unfamiliar to you, you should go to the doctor.  No, really.  That's not a cop-out disclaimer like some natural healing sites have to save their asses.

But for minor symptoms?  Here are some things that will not cure illnesses, but they do make me feel better.

Eucalyptus and Camphor

These are some of the main ingredients in over-the-counter chest rub ointments.  These are largely herbal remedies; you can use them if you choose, but many people have a problem with petroleum oil.  Luckily, if you have eucalyptus oil, camphor oil, and perhaps some sort of mint oil (peppermint, spearmint, etc.), you can make something similar.  I honestly don't pay attention to the proportions that much... I will use maybe twice as much eucalyptus as camphor, and add it to oil until I feel it's an effective dose.

Another advantage to making your own is that you can make a bath version that isn't as harsh on your pipes.  You can add this to bath salts or alternatively you can just put a few drops in the water.  You can also, provided you don't use any really nasty oils, put this in an oil diffuser.

Gypsy Cold Care Tea

Alright, normally I try to avoid mentioning specific brands, but I have yet to mix my own herbal teas.  If you'd like, you can find the ingredients and experiment, but I personally just buy the tea.  It's made by Traditional Medicinals and usually costs around five dollars a box when I buy it.  It's tasty and really makes me feel better.

Olbas Inhaler

Geez, I'm off my game today, as this is another brand product.  Again, I'd give you a recipe but I don't have one.  This is a nasal inhaler, it looks like a tube of lip balm but inside it has an essential oil diffuser with a blend of menthol, peppermint, cajeput, and eucalyptus.  It lasts for a few months and is basically like shoving chest rub up your nose... but in a way that isn't bad.

Sleep

Do I even need to write this?  Sleep more!

Neti Pots

Yup, that bottle that you shove in your nose that drips out the other.  Once you get used to it, it feels really nice.  I'm not going to put instructions here because I'm sure you can find people laughing about it all over YouTube, but I will say please boil the water for a while (and then let it cool some) before putting it in your head.  There are things in your water you don't want to know about.

Fluids

Another no-brainer.

Newly-Washed Sheets

When I'm sick, I wash my bedsheets and quilt more often, and wash again when the sickness is gone.  The reason is that going to sleep in my own sick fluids, aside from just being gross, has the tendency to make me keep feeling sick, and the more full of my own sick they become the longer I just lie in bed moaning in the morning.

Steam... Lots Of It

One of the things that aggravates my colds in the winter is living in a very dry house.  A humidifier will really help with this, but if you don't have one you can always boil a big pot of water on the stove until it evaporates (the humidifier will probably be a better choice energy-wise, but if you only need it a couple times, that might be different).

Watermelon and Citrus Fruit

Watermelon was something I eventually picked up as my "eat this when I'm recovering from something" food.  If I eat something toxic (like a cheeseburger, not like cyanide) I'll usually follow it with watermelon... because for some reason, it just makes me feel better.

Similarly, it's my go-to food when I have a cold, along with oranges and lemons, especially Meyer lemons.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Little Scoby, and Thick Chocolate Kefir

I'm in a bad mood today.  I'm somewhat sick, got a guilt-tripping letter in the mail, no job interviews yet, and the last couple days have resulted in a lot of binge eating.  How do I choose to heal from this right this minute?  With some nice, thick chocolate kefir.

It took me a while to perfect this, because I learned one of the big differences between homemade kefir and storebought kefir is that when you put homemade kefir in a blender, it entirely changes the composition, so it's more like drinking milk with whatever you put in it than it is drinking kefir.  I'm sure the health benefits are the same, but kefir should be thick!

To get around this, I make a flavored kefir mix... pour a little kefir in a blender, add the flavorings, blend it, and then pour that mixture into the kefir and mix.  It isn't an entirely homogenous mixture, but the kefir stays thick and there aren't the clumps associated with trying to manually mix whey and cocoa powder into a jar of kefir.

This particular jar, which is a quart jar, contains a little under a quart of kefir, two tablespoons cocoa powder, a scoop of vanilla whey protein, and a few drops of stevia extract to cut the sourness a bit.  Of course, all of these ingredients--except the kefir--are optional.

I also grew a little scoby.  I was actually testing something somebody told me... if you leave a bottle of plain, commercial kefir in a dark, room-temperature area (like my closet), cover it with a napkin/coffee filter and a rubber band to keep out the bugs, and wait, it'll eventually grow a scoby.  I bought mine from somebody on Etsy, so I didn't need this information, but I can confirm that this is in fact true.  Right now this little guy is making some green tea kombucha in a pint jar, just to get things started.  The scoby I bought had two daughters already.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Women in Combat and Entry into the Unjust

It was just announced that women are to be allowed combat positions in the US Military.  Women in combat is something that's been happening for a long time, but now that it's acknowledged it means women can receive equal compensation for it.  In addition, although it's not particularly new news, LGB people (although not transgender people) can serve openly, as well.

I will be among those who are not necessarily cheering.  I abhor the cream-thick adoration of war that permeates American culture, indifferently "supporting" the troops with cheap yellow ribbons, ignoring the ever-higher rates of suicide and PTSD, the fact that military recruiting bears a ridiculous amount of resemblance to a video game commercial, and of course, the thousands of civilian casualties overseas that Americans rarely bother to think about.  I do not blame the soldiers for the war, but I will not dehumanize them by calling them "heroes" and I will not feed into the perception that better access to a corrupt institution is the right fight for my community.

However, I should also mention that this is not limited to the military, the involvement in which is just a logical symptom of what fights mainstream liberal activism tends to focus on:  The tendency is to fight for entrance into institutions that have usually had exclusive access.  Marriage has been limited to straight couples... so let gay couples.  CEOs have usually been men... so let's elevate some women.  Women are banned from the Catholic priesthood... so let's change it so they can become priests.

Although this isn't always bad, there is a huge problem with this line of thinking:  We wind up supporting causes without really thinking about whether the institutions we're trying to enter are worth entering, or who else is excluded.  We just assume that because some majority or oppressor party does it, it's awesome and we should get us some of that.

I am not an advocate for same-sex marriage.  Although I will fight against initiatives to ban same-sex marriage, this is not because I think same-sex couples should be getting married.  I feel legal marriage is a decaying, outdated ceremony... it impedes free choice in relationships, it makes it more difficult for people to leave abusive relationships, it changes individuals into relationships.  I often hear people complain about the high divorce rate... I would say a high divorce rate is a good thing!  It means people are letting themselves out!

In addition, making same-sex marriage legal still excludes legal protection for people in multiple relationships or who live together but do not want to get married.  Rather than allow gays into a failing institution, why aren't we working toward sound and readily-available alternatives that benefit all relationships?

And trying to get the Roman Catholic church to ordain woman priests implies that somehow there's something redeeming about the Roman Catholic church.  After covering up sex abuse, hoarding wealth while others remain poor, refusing to provide adequate healthcare to women, shutting down charities when they aren't allowed to discriminate against gays... why is the obvious solution woman priests?  There are other Catholic denominations who do ordain women--and gays, and transgender people, and others--so there are reasonable solutions other than trying to gain entrance into a corrupt institution.

Many of these institutions are only of interest to generally privileged people, as well.  Marriage does little to help a queer youth who is homeless because they were disowned by their parents, nor a queer youth who is being bullied.  Having a woman CEO of a major corporation is great for her and her family, but most women cannot access that status and will not reap those benefits, and it doesn't address aspects of that structure that oppress workers.

Does this mean that all of these access-entry campaigns are a bad thing?  Of course not.  Nor does it mean that, at least in the meanwhile, these aren't important steps.  But we need to really begin to think about what is worthwhile and valuable rather than mindlessly assimilating the institutions of our oppressors, and these can't be the only thing that defines our movements, as same-sex marriage has become.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Handsome Blue Jay

I was looking through my older birding albums looking for pictures to submit to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "Merlin" Project, and I found a picture of the type I normally would remember... but didn't.  What a handsome Blue Jay!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Some Birding Pictures

My Big Year took a backseat to, well, life, but I am still counting and still taking pictures.  I don't have my list on me to update it, but I do have some pretty awesome pictures to share from my last couple trips.

Downy Woodpecker on my deck.

Northern Cardinal in a tree in the backyard.
I was walking toward the deck when another birder told me
there was a Great Blue Heron by it, so to pay attention
because my being there will probably make him move.
He was right!

A pair of American Black Ducks.

Ring-billed Gull.

A pair of American Pelicans who hang out at Lakeside.

Curious Mallard.

A Mallard being pestered by a Common Merganser.

Common Merganser laying on the ice.

An Open Letter About Moderation

I try to be relatively strict with my diet.  This means that aside from a few planned family feast days (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) I try to stick to what I consider good, biologically appropriate food.

Every once in a while a family member, co-worker, classmate, or somebody else will offer me something that is not good, biologically appropriate food... candy, or soda, or pizza, or something like that... and I will decline it, provided I am not already in a weakened state.  People get very defensive when somebody rejects their food, for some reason, and if they know I rejected it because it is not a part of my diet, they often give me this response:

"Moderation is key to everything!  Denying yourself things you love just sets you up for failure!"

This is the sort of common-knowledge wisdom that really grinds at me... because it just isn't that simple when you're a food addict.

When you're a food addict, "moderation" is the perfect way to set yourself up for a binge eating mess.  Food addicts have things called "trigger foods," often sugar and wheat, which flip a switch in our brains and turn us into mindless eating machines, often for days at a time in my case.

While you might be able to look at a pizza, say "I'll just have one slice," eat a slice, and then be fine, if I eat a slice of pizza I am going to eat as much of the pizza as I can.  I will eat until I can't move or there is no more pizza left.  I will race people so that I can eat more pizza.  I have tried for years to just eat one slice of pizza.  When that first piece is down, my brain will lose all rational thought, and I'll think things like "Well, I'll just start over tomorrow," or "Another piece won't hurt me," or "Hey, it's a holiday!"  If I do hold out, it will give me "ants in the pants" cravings until I either sleep it off or find some other awful thing to eat.

This is something that has been going on for a long time.  I have very vivid memories of food addiction getting me into trouble... parents scolding me because I took three cookies at a fundraiser instead of the mandated one, being told to sit in the car at Subway because I kept taking more and more of the communal potato chips, and being so stuffed at restaurants that I couldn't move.

Being surrounded by food that I am allowed to eat is also a trigger.  I can have food around me that isn't mine, and I do not steal it.  It isn't mine, so I leave it alone.  But as soon as you say "Hey, what's mine is yours, you can eat whatever you want!", it sets off a cause-and-effect reaction, and I will probably eventually eat it, as well as everything else.

And you know what?  When you egg me on, saying things like "always in moderation" or "just one!" you chip away at my willpower until it goes away entirely.   I know that you are trying to be nice.  I know that you are trying to be polite.  I know you think it would be just fantastic if I could taste whatever it is you're making.  And I know you probably have no way of understanding what that psychological switch is like.

So I'll give you an example.  I am not an alcoholic, nor am I addicted to smoking.  I am an ex-smoker... barely.  I smoked for maybe three years... in very strict moderation... before my doctor told me to stop, and I did.  I had no withdrawal symptoms, I had no cravings, and I was just fine.  I also drink alcohol, in strict moderation, having binge drank only about once a year for the past five years (by Wisconsin standards, not even close to binge drinking), and I only drink maybe a beer or a glass of wine or two every couple months.  If I get to the point where I am drunk enough that I recognize my alarm system shutting down or feel uncomfortable... I stop.  I rarely accept free booze from people, and never a free drag on a cigarette.

But I recognize that alcoholism and tobacco addiction are very real things.  I've seen friends and family who could not stop drinking once they started without passing out, or who woke up drinking and went to sleep drinking.  For me to tell them they should have "just one beer" or that "moderation is the key" or that they should totally try this flavor alcoholic beverage, knowing this fact about them, would be insanely rude of me.  Similarly, I know that pressuring somebody to have a cigarette when they are trying to quit smoking can and probably will cause a relapse.

All reasonable people recognize that healing from these addictions requires abstinence... you can't just cut down on drinking, you can't just cut down on smoking.  This is something we realize even if we aren't afflicted with it ourselves.

Similarly, please recognize that the fact that you might be able to consume just a small handful of M&Ms and then stop doesn't mean I can.  And there's a good chance that if I do cave to that pressure, it will take days for me to get back on track.

I am fully aware that this is a problem for me.  I recognize that this causes problems for my health and self-esteem.  But it's not a problem I can solve by just eating less without radically changing what I eat.  The only way for me not to binge eat is to avoid eating things that make me binge eat... pretty much always.

I don't need you to babysit my eating habits.  What I do need is for you to understand that the things Weight Watchers and conventional wisdom about dieting tell you do not work for me, no matter how well they work for you and no matter how many self-righteous diet gurus tell you otherwise.  And when you give me this advice as if it were something nobody could ever argue with, you are undermining everything I know about my body.

So if I tell you to stop offering me food... stop offering me food.  If I reject something, accept that it isn't because you're an awful cook or because I don't appreciate the gesture, it's because I know how my body will react.  This isn't something that I can turn off just because your food is somehow special.

Kombucha and Mayo

Some finished fermented foods for the day.

Kombucha 
 
My first batch of kombucha, made with green tea, is fully finished today... and delicious.  I was actually somewhat unprepared for how delicious it is compared to the storebought stuff.  I decided to go with just what I happened to have around, which was frozen blueberries and fresh ginger.  Once you get through the initial fermentation process, strain it (I believe this is optional, but it makes it prettier) put the flavorings at the bottom of the bottle, pour the kombucha until it's about an inch from the top, and cap it.  Let it ferment for one to three days to carbonate it (it took about a day and a half for it to be fizzy).

I rebottled it in an old commercial kombucha bottle.  It's gorgeous and delicious.





Mayonnaise

I made mayo today, which is a really time-intensive thing to make if you don't have electric tools for it.  I tried making it with a hand-powered blender and a whisk, switching off when my arm got tired of the movement.  Finally I went and got my electric blending wand, and it was finished in a few minutes.

The stuff I made today, I added whey and let it sit in the fermentation cupboard for some hours.  With the proper tools, it's very easy to make and requires very few ingredients.

Take three egg yolks and let them warm to room temperature.  Add about three tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar, a half teaspoon salt, and a quarter teaspoon mustard powder (you can use wet mustard if you need to).  Beat it for a couple minutes.  Start adding anywhere from 1.5 to 2 cups light olive oil.  Until it emulsifies (basically, until it looks like mayo) you need to add only a drop or two at a time... be patient, or it won't work!  Once it looks like mayo, you can add more at a time, but don't just dump it all in.

At this point it's done, but if you want to ferment it you can add some whey (I added a couple tablespoons) and allow it to sit for about five hours.  My olive oil wasn't light enough, so to cut the taste I added six drops of stevia extract.  I used to add honey.  Sweetener is not necessary, but you can certainly add it.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Kefir, Kombucha, and Ketchup

I'm getting to the point where it's going to be time for me to switch my kefir operation from pint jars to quart jars, or perhaps just start getting rid of some of the grains.  I'm considering loading them off on Etsy or just giving them away.  I'm not at the point where I can just drink kefir plain, yet, but I've gotten to the point where I am adding a negligible number of calories.  In the beginning my main use for kefir was smoothies, made with cherries or blueberries and whey powder, a little stevia or honey to sweeten it.  During my little vacation I didn't bring either my smoothie blender or anything to mix into the kefir... I tried whole blackberries, which wasn't that great, so I added a spoonful of honey instead.  Now that I'm home with  my pantry, all I need is about six drops of stevia extract, which adds very few calories and no sugar.  One of my favorite things about stevia is that if you don't use a lot of it it doesn't overwhelmingly sweeten what you put it in... it tastes almost the same, but somehow more palatable.  Hard to explain, but whatever the case, I'm liking the kefir with just a dab of stevia.

My kombucha had a daughter, so I bottled the first batch with blueberries and ginger.  This was mostly my "practice batch," so it's in the fermenting cupboard right now while I cool the tea for another batch.  The first batch was green tea--which I don't prefer, but I had some around--this next batch is black tea.  I also just ran out of sugar, so when I pick up milk to make more kefir tonight that's another thing I'll need.

My ketchup is also finished, and delicious.  I don't usually eat things with ketchup, but I'll be making a meatloaf probably tomorrow for me and my dad, and it'll go good on there.  I'll also be making fermented mayonnaise, probably tomorrow because I have class today.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why The Girl Scouts Are My Scouting Group of Choice

I'm not normally one to say you should reverse boycott something, especially something as loaded with bad stuff for you as cookies.  However, if you are in a position where you really, really want to get your buy-a-product-to-help-a-cause fix, and you eat cookies (hopefully in strict moderation), may I suggest the Girl Scouts?
I'm somewhat biased, I admit, because I was a Girl Scout for well over a decade.  I have seen firsthand that this is a good program for girls, and whenever I've noticed them being boycotted I've always found it to be for a reason I actually kind of support.  Long ago it was when the Girl Scout Promise was amended so that girls were able to replace "To Serve God" with whatever deity they wished, or to keep silent.

They are in  many ways the anti-Boy Scouts (and they are not officially related at all), and I have yet to meet a higher-up in the Girl Scouts who wasn't absolutely proud of how not-the-Boy-Scouts the Girl Scouts are.

Some Finished Food Projects

I'll be going to my mom's house for the weekend to bird and relax a bit before school and get my mind off of losing my job (while simultaneously trying to find one that's actually in my field).  I might still blog from there if there's something pressing to talk about, but for now I'm going to write a little about some future food projects (more important now than ever with my reduced income) and some projects that have been more or less finished.

For the future... I'll be making some lacto-fermented condiments.  I am trying to avoid food waste as much as possible, and a couple of the food projects I've been engaging in wind up with large amounts of some sort of waste product.  Making even a few ounces of cheese at home tends to result in not a small amount of extra whey to deal with.  This is a major ingredient in things like fermented mayonnaise and ketchup.  I've made mayo several times before, but never ketchup, so we'll see how that goes.  In addition, although I eat dairy I decided to experiment with making almond milk, which of course leaves me with a lot of almond pulp, which will be made into crackers for the cheese.

Those are my future projects, but what about those that I have already finished or at least gotten the ball rolling fast on?  Here they are:

Kombucha

Not finished quite yet, although it's getting there.  I used green tea, which wasn't my preference but I didn't have any black tea (I have since gotten a big box of black tea for this purpose).  You can see the mother at the bottom of the jar and the faint beginnings of a daughter forming at the top.
Sauerkraut

I pulled this from the cupboard and put it in the fridge earlier than most instructions told me to, because it really tasted good the way it was.  It's really good, and now I have no idea why I stuck with the canned vinegar-made stuff for so long.
 Kefir

For some reason I forgot to take a picture of this, and I don't feel like taking another picture right now.  I got my grains in the mail about a week and a half ago, and it took about five days for the grains to really get moving.  Now it only takes around twelve hours for it to turn into a nice, thick kefir.

Crème Fraîche

I've been eating this for breakfast... it's delicious.  A handful of blackberries, a couple almonds, a dab of honey, and it's a nice high-fat, fermented meal.

Lacto-Fermented Pickles

I made a lot of these.  I made the mistake of adding too many spices, which made the brine and the finished pickles very messy.  I actually strained the junk out and now it's just pickles and brine.  I cut them into different shapes to fit all the cucumbers into all my jars... this is one with sliced cucumbers as I only had one jar left.

Fridge Pickles

I decided I didn't need to commit to just one kind of pickle, so I am carrying on a family tradition and also making fridge pickles.  These are not fermented, they are simply marinated in a mix of dill, lemon juice, salt, and water with a garlic clove, some lemons, and a jalapeño pepper.  The only problem is I consistently want to eat them before they're done, hence why I bought some larger jars.


Almond Milk

I'm a dairy drinker, but I do love almond milk so I decided to try it out.  It tastes very different from the commercial stuff.  Not in a bad way, of course... it's much waterier, there's more almond flavor.  It's one of those interesting cases in which something really tastes good, but you don't know if you like it yet because it's not what you're used to.

So that's my pantry/fridge/cupboard for now.  I'll write more about this stuff when I get to it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Buying Good Dry Dog Food

In my family, the dog food of choice is Paws Premium.  This is not an endorsement.  Out of all of the brands of dog food I have seen on the shelves, this is literally the worst.  I don't blame my parents.  Although they love their dogs, when you are struggling with money it seems perfectly reasonable to buy based on quantity rather than quality.

Well, here's the story of my own dog.  He actually used to be my brother's, and while he was getting divorced and living out of state I took care of the dog.  He wound up with a massive ear infection that my sister-in-law attempted to treat using ear mite drops.  And he was itchy... so itchy, in fact, that several times he would lie on my bed and lick his paws until there was a giant wet spot on the mattress.  And skinny... gosh, was he skinny!  When the guardianship of the dog finally passed to me, my first step was to take him to the vet, who said I should consider switching foods.  I had already planned on this, because as somebody who took basic veterinary science classes I have absolutely always hated Paws.  I switched him to a different food (which I won't mention because I don't want to be a brand-endorser).

You don't have to switch to the best dog food you can find if you can't afford to, but there are some things you should look for when you're choosing a food for your dog so that you can gauge what the best out of the varieties you can afford are.  Here are some of those things:
  1.  Choose a food that actually has feeding directions.
    Again, using Paws as an example of awful food, one of the things that stuck out was that there are no feeding directions.  On the website it says to give your dog only as much as they will eat in a half hour period.  If you search elsewhere you find that I need to give my dog five cups of Paws a day to give him adequate nutrition.  Cheap brands count on you not knowing how much food your dog needs... that's what makes them look so inexpensive.
    On Ike's current food he only needs 2.5 cups a day.  So although it's still more expensive, it's not nearly as much more expensive as it looks.
  2. Actually follow the directions.
    Directions go by weight and in America at least are usually shown in cups.  Don't feed your dog trough-style.  I've known many a family with obese pets who just let them eat whenever they want and wonder how they got so fat.
    This goes both ways, though.  Even if your dog is maintaining a proper weight, it's possible to be underfeeding them because there's more to dog food than just keeping the ribs from showing.
  3. Choose a food for which the first ingredient is meat... preferably the first two or three.
    Don't use that vegetarian dog food, first of all.  Dogs are pretty hardy creatures when it comes to food because they have been bred by people to eat our scraps, so there are many people who do raise their dogs on vegan diets... but dogs aren't herbivores, and so you are intentionally giving them inferior food.  If you're raising a cat vegan, Gods have mercy on your soul.
    Cheap dog food will usually have corn, soy, wheat (especially wheat middlings), or rice as the first ingredient.  Paws is mostly corn, but it hits the motherload of crappy ingredients, including soy and wheat as well.  Feeding your dog Paws is like if you were to subsist off of wheat crackers with multivitamin powder in them.
    In Ike's food, the first three ingredients will be meat-based, and it is entirely grain free.  Do you have to go entirely grain-free?  I think it's a good idea, but you can use your discretion.  Avoid foods that contain wheat, corn, and/or soy especially.  Rice is an OK compromise, but it's still best to avoid it because it's a filler food.  Corn and wheat are often the source of itchy allergic reactions.
  4. Read the rest of the ingredients, too.
    Look for anything suspicious and Google it.  You might find a lot of filler, or you might find that it's just supplemented.  Most quality dog foods will have at least some sort of supplement in them, so don't be too alarmed, just be aware.
  5. Follow the same rules for your dog treats.
    Don't go through all this effort to get a nice low-grain, low-filler dry dog food only to give him fifty dog cookies.  Stick to mostly-meat treats, like jerkies, bully sticks (which are just bull penises), or yam-based treats.  Avoid treats that are mostly wheat, corn, or soy... just like the dog food.
  6. Keep abreast of dog food recalls and complaints.
    When my dog was still my brother's, his wife bought him a chew treat that wound up breaking into lovely shards that could easily have harmed him.  On the Internet I found that these had been responsible for killing a lot of dogs.  Recently several chicken and duck jerky treats were recalled for making dogs sick... a bag of them was on my shelf.  Just as you should pay attention to make sure food you eat isn't a health hazard, the same discretion should be used for your dog.
 It might not be accessible for you to fulfill all of these suggestions, so don't feel bad about that (after all, I don't feel bad about giving my dog dry food when there are other options out there).  But ideally, this is a good way to do the best you can for your dog.

Mainstream LGBT and Corporate Lip Service

If you've been hanging out with transgender people for any useful length of time, you will realize that a large percentage of us do not trust the Human Rights Campaign, despite it being one of the main public faces of the LGBT movement in general.  This is due to a lot of deep, transphobic wounds that have yet to heal.  I'm young, but I'm old enough to remember supporting the HRC only to have them jump through hoops to avoid actually advocating for transgender people.  They are big fans of "incremental progress," which basically means "if it's good for the gays, it'll eventually be good for everyone else," which unfortunately is not true by any stretch of the word.

I'm not talking about that here, but I can't mention the HRC without feeling a burning pit of betrayal.  Rather, I'm going to talk a little about something I saw people write about lately, which is the HRC's corporate equality index.  This guide gives a 0 - 100 score to a company based on its record and policies relating to LGBT people, and one of the criteria is transgender-specific health care.  In other words, it will drive the score up if the corporation offers insurance that covers things like hormone therapy and surgery for transgender people.

Here's the reality, though:  Just because insurance with transgender-inclusive benefits is offered doesn't mean it's actually attainable.  Meaning there are people who used the corporate equality index or some other list of companies offering this benefit and got hired only to find that it was too difficult to pick up the number of hours required for health insurance benefits or, even worse, that the company has a "revolving door" thing going on... they get rid of people and replace them before they qualify for benefits.

It's relatively common for companies to, to put it bluntly, screw their employees in a manner that happens to fit the situation best for the company's bottom line.  For some, it's either firing people or making conditions so awful that nobody ever works there long enough to get benefits.  For others, it's hiring so many people that nobody ever gets the number of weekly hours required to get benefits.  And others go the opposite direction; they hire few people and over-work them so they only have to pay out benefits to those few people.

What does this have to do with the LGBT movement?  The things we place priority on are often, well, horrible.  Most of the movement's effort is being concentrated into marriage... rather than work toward real relationship equality, re-working something that was a flawed institution to begin with.  In the same way, rather than challenge the entire issue of health care in this country and the way it harms not only transgender people, but all LGBT people through a myriad of poorly-funded and poorly-educated health issues relevant to our community, the movement gives little gold stars to try shuttling some of our interests into the flawed health insurance industry... all without bothering to consider whether or not those gold stars mean those benefits are actually accessible.

But Gods forbid you talk about things like government-sponsored health care or even really any legal structure designed to increase access.  Wouldn't want people to think us queers actually want real change, right?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dream of the 1890s

I was posting my glee at filling my cupboard with homemade food goods, and my friend directed me to this: Pssht, I'm not in Portland and I don't have the ability to grow a handlebar moustache.

New Shrine Icon!

I was divined through the Kemetic Orthodox Church, and although I basically severed any official ties I had with the religion, I still stand by the divination their Nisut performed for me... because it was just too perfect.  I was divined as having two Fathers, Set and Wepwawet.

I had a Wepwawet image, but he was tiny in comparison to the Set I had from long before I joined Kemetic Orthodoxy in the first place.  So finally I got one that matches:

 It's hard to tell from the picture, but Set has kind of a patina from several years of being prayed to and oiled up, so they still don't match-match... but maybe in the future.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fermented Goodness and Other Food Projects

I'm no longer drinking much kombucha until I have the ability to make it myself, as I live paycheck-to-paycheck as it is.  Luckily, I am having a SCOBY sent to me as we speak, so in a few weeks I'll be able to drink it again.  The same person is also sending me some kefir grains, so that's two fermented birds with one stone (yuck, that sounded gross).  I do still drink kefir, but at around $5 for four days' worth, it's not nearly as bad as drinking a $4 kombucha daily.  Still going to be nice to make on my own, and much less expensive.

I have sauerkraut and lacto-fermenting pickles in what I'm going to call my "canned storage" cupboard.  They are both doing exactly what I suspect they're supposed to be doing, so that's good.  I already ate some of the sauerkraut along with some red clover and daikon radish sprouts as a tangy hot salad.

Today is going to be an organization (hopefully) and food preparation day.  I finally got around to getting the ingredients and supplies to make some buttermilk cheese, so I'll be making that today.  I'm reducing the amount of cheese I buy as cheese (although there are some small local cheesemongers who haven't sold out to Sargento yet), as well as reducing my cheese consumption in general.

I started a batch of mead, too.  It was mostly on a whim... I have so much honey from years of collecting it, and so I'm using the plastic milk jug method to make some.  So far so good.

I got paid a couple days ago, so I cleaned out my fridge and stocked my freezer.  One of the problems people have on a paleo diet is that we tend get most of our calories from animal products, but most people aren't used to getting more than just beef, chicken, and pork.  I'm a firm believer that you should eat a lot of seafood on a diet like this... so I have several kinds of fish and shellfish on hand at all times (salmon, cod, catfish, bluegill, shrimp, mussels, oysters, herring, sardine, pollock, and there's probably more).  In the poultry department I have chicken, along with a Wood Duck my brother shot sometime last duck season.  As far as red meats, I have some steak, pork hocks, a beef liver, a little lamb, a veal brisket, and probably two whole processed deer.  I don't eat as much of the latter as I probably should; when I gave up veganism, my first compromise was to only eat wild harvested animals, and I overdid the venison so much at that point that I get sick of it easily.  I definitely eat it, though.

This is enough meat to last me for quite a long time, which is one of the benefits of being able to cook and having a whole freezer to myself.  I can think "Hmm, I sure could go for some mussels" and voila, there they are.  It's hard for me to plan what I want to eat in advance, which is why I ditched the whole "Cook all your meals for a month!" technique that's so popular.  It's much better for me to just cook things as I crave them, provided I'm not surrounded by bad food or, alternatively, out of food altogether.

Anyway, I have more paleo diet stuff to write about, but for now that's all.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

FDL Big Year Total: Day 2

No dedicated birding today, as I would like to do some things around the house, but I do have my total from yesterday.  I added nine new birds for a total of nineteen.  Added yesterday:
  1. Wild Turkey
  2. American Pelican
  3. Mallard
  4. Double-crested Cormorant
  5. Redhead
  6. Canada Goose
  7. American Black Duck
  8. Canvasback
  9. Lesser Scaup
Which bagged most of my expected birds.  No gulls, pheasants, or hawks.  The pheasants and hawks don't surprise me too much, but the gulls do... I've consistently seen them for the past few trips prior to that one.  Not a terrible total, though.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Big Year Count Day 1: 10

Which isn't that bad when you consider I never left my house yesterday.  Not even once.  I slept in, looked out my window at the feeder from the bed every once in a while, and then sat at my computer and watched from there.

It was glorious.  The birds included:

1. House Finch
2. Northern Cardinal
3. Downy Woodpecker
4. Black-capped Chickadee
5. White-breasted Nuthatch
6.  American Goldfinch
7. Dark-eyed Junco
8. Mourning Dove
9. American Crow
10. American Tree Sparrow (Life Lister, oddly enough)

Today I'll be off to Lakeside Park to hopefully see lots of ducks, geese, gulls, cormorants, and pelicans.  The last time I went there another birder said there have been sightings of a pair of Bald Eagles there, so I might scratch him off early.  Driving there often takes me past pheasants, turkeys, hawks, and kestrels.  So here's my "wishlist" for tomorrow based on what I expect and what I hope for:

Expected (Seen Recently):
Canada Goose
Mallard
Redhead
Canvasback
Lesser Scaup
American Black Duck
American Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Wild Turkey
Ring-necked Pheasant
Red-tailed Hawk

Hopeful for (Not seen recently, but heard about or was asked about):
Bald Eagle
Bufflehead
Kestrel
Common Goldeneye

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pleasantly Surprising Things About Non-Monogamy

I committed to non-monogamy as a thing quite a while ago after years of being "poly friendly."  "Poly friendly" is when a person seeks out monogamous relationships, but is open to poly relationships should they occur.  About a year ago all of my personal ad websites--and dealings with prospective partners--began making it clear that I am no longer interested in monogamous relationships.

This has led to some effects that I didn't expect:
  1. I am less picky with my partners. I used to have a rather strict five-years-either-way age limit... so at 27, my "bubble" would have been around 22-32, not taking into account things like birthdays being at weird times of the year.  I don't worry about that anymore because if I do pine for somebody closer to my own age, I can go find one.  I used to be less open to dating women, because although I am bi/pansexual I have a preference for men and was always worried that I'd wind up meeting a guy I liked better.  Now that I have given my permission to be with multiple people, I don't worry about that because finding a man doesn't mean breaking up with a woman.  I also don't worry about things like being unable/unwilling to fulfill a partner's sexual needs, or vice versa... for example, there's a woman who I am interested in who is really into age play... something I generally really dislike... and I feel like I can actually pursue that relationship because she can seek those needs elsewhere.
  2. I am also more picky with my partners.
    Wait, both?  How?  The answer is that although I am less picky about things that relate to the "grass is greener" problem or artificially installed preferences, I am less likely to settle for people who I really shouldn't settle for... people who have profoundly different values, for example, or who have serious mental issues that I am not equipped to deal with, or who I know don't actually support my gender identity, or who I am for whatever reason just not attracted to.  The reason here is this:  I have given up the mythology of needing to find that one person who has everything I need, so I don't need to settle for people who have everything I need but also have a lot of stuff I don't want.
  3. I am less stressed out about the concept of long-distance relationships.
    I've successfully pulled off long-distance relationships, although they did involve cheating on the part of the other partner (it actually didn't bother me that much, the epiphany of which is a reason I realized I was philosophically equipped to be non-monogamous anyway), but they involved a certain amount of pain as well.  I'm less worried about that and am more likely to be open to long-distance relationships because we can both find people closer if we have more immediate needs.
  4. I no longer carry the vestigial belief that I can own a person's heart, meaning I am less likely to feel terribly burned by rejection.
    One of my historical problems has been jealousy... not necessarily within a relationship (see number 3 about how indifferent I was to being cheated on), but the first time I ever went to a psychiatrist at an age old enough to understand what that was was because I was rejected by somebody who I was very attached to, who then went on to date somebody I knew.  I was incredibly jealous of her and angry at him to the point of being very, very hurt for a very, very long time and had a very "why her but not me" attitude about it.  That sort of thing doesn't happen the same way anymore, because I'm just less possessive.  I don't fixate on one person.
  5. I no longer believe that there is a necessary time frame for a relationship to be considered successful.
    I am used to hearing people refer to relationships as having "failed" when they end.  A divorce is a "failure."  A breakup is a "failure."  They aren't "failures," though.  Relationships don't have to last forever to be successful.  Because of that change, I feel better about my exes (most of them) as well as the breakups I've been through.
  6.  I am significantly less lonely.
    I had to think about this for a while because I would have expected to be more lonely, being a single non-monogamous guy.  And part of it is probably just incidental... I have better relationships with my friends and family, more hobbies, a loyal and loving dog, so I don't need a romantic relationship to be happy.  But there's definitely a non-monogamous element to it, as well, which is this:  I don't feel like there's one person out there for me anymore, so I'm not always pining over that one somebody.  When I was committed to monogamy as well as when I was "poly-open" but looking for monogamous relationships, I had that mythology in my head and it really made things feel hopeless for me.  Now I'm more along for the ride than in it for an idealistic purpose, and that makes me feel a lot better.
There are more, and I don't mean to suggest that all people should be polyamorous or non-monogamous.  But for me, there have been a lot of pleasantly surprising effects.

Some Home Food Preparation Goals and Startups

One of the resolutions that I made much longer ago than today was to start preparing more food at home.  I do prepare more than the average person (as a mostly-paleo eater it's really hard otherwise), but as I work very long shifts and am also a full-time student, this is difficult.  I wind up eating a lot of meals from the Festival Foods chicken wing bar, a food which I have always considered a "paleo compromise" (like hot sticks or banana chips).  Once in a while, whatever, but they've become staples in an on-the-go lifestyle and I'm just not cool with that.  I am also spending way more money than I should be on it, so I'm looking for more frugal ways to produce food, which means cutting out some middle men between the sun and my stomach and reducing the consumption of packaged food.  In addition, I've been getting into fermenting more food, which has so far made me feel much better.

I also consider it a magickal act, but  I'll deal with that at some other time.

So for this post I'm going to talk about five food preparation goals of mine.  They include kombucha, kefir, sprouting, sauerkraut, and cheesemaking.

Two of these I've already started, the sauerkraut yesterday and the sprouting a few weeks ago.  The other three... well, I have made cheese before, but the other two I haven't.

Sprouting

My current sprouting operation is fairly small and likely to stay that way.  It has red clover, radish, broccoli, and lentils.  Lentils are not paleo, and are gradually being replaced by sunflower seeds.

Sprouting is relatively simple.  I just take Mason jars with screen tops, put the appropriate amount of seed in them, soak them in water overnight, and then pour the water out and turn them up over this grill I have.  Twice a day I rinse the seeds and return them to the upturned state.  In a few days they begin to sprout and I just let them grow until they are big enough to eat.  I use them as a flavoring for other foods, but I generally don't eat a lot of them due to concerns with bad bacteria.  When I do, I cook them.

Sauerkraut

I tried making sauerkraut years ago, and failed because I didn't pay enough attention to directions.  Again, Mason jars.  I chopped a head of cabbage, mixed salt in, and pressed it down into the jars.  If you keep pressing it downward the cabbage will be covered with a brine of water from the cabbage and salt, and the cabbage will ferment over however long you allow it to sit.

The batch to the right is from last night and the brine is just starting to cover the cabbage.  I didn't add any spices this time, but when I get the hang of it I'll be experimenting with it.

Sauerkraut is a good source of probiotics as well as everything good about cabbage.

Kefir

Kefir is a new one for me.  Again, since I'm on a probiotics/gut health kick I decided to go buy some.  It's better tasting than plain yoghurt, but I would like to be able to make it myself.  It's pretty easy; just take some kefir grains (you can buy them or get them from friends, some people give them away on craigslist as they multiply as you make kefir with them), put them in a jar of milk, cover with a cloth, and keep in room temperature overnight.  Then strain it to get the grains out and repeat the process with the same grains.

Also loaded with probiotics.  I love making kefir into smoothies with tart cherries and whey protein.  It staves off my hunger for a very long time.

Kombucha

Kombucha is something I've spent a lot of time making fun of, because the first time I tried it I was absolutely not a fan.  I don't know what flavor I tried, but it was nasty, and at almost $4.00 a bottle, hell no.  I did try two flavors I do like, though, and figure I can probably make other flavors that I also enjoy.

Kombucha is made by taking a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) and putting it in a jar of tea and sugar for a week or so.  I'll probably write more about it when I get to it.  Again, lots of probiotics.

Cheese Making

Finally we have cheese making, which I'm going to take up simply because I really like cheese.  There are a few varieties I have the ability to make, although at home I've stuck with quark, but I have the ability to make a couple other kinds as well.

Yesterday's Birding Trip

My Fond du Lac Big Year started today (Happy New Year!), but since today isn't over yet I'm not going to post the birds I've seen so far.  I will, however, post what I saw yesterday, including two I haven't documented yet.


Another Tuxedo Mallard.

This Mallard reminds me of my dog, playing in the snow.

Mallard eating snow.

Now, I love this picture.  When I took it I didn't realize the
American Pelicans were there, just the Double-crested Cormorants.

Redhead. I came specifically looking for one of these guys.
This is an American Black Duck.  Another one I was specifically
looking for, hiding in waves of female Mallards.