Saturday, September 22, 2018

Another milestone - this one about milk

You might wonder at the title of this blog post, how in the world can milk be a milestone in a life? Well here is the answer, at least in the life I have lived for nearly fifty years.

As you probably know by now if you are a long-time reader of Letters from a Hill Farm, Tom and I are older hippies. We became aware of "real" food in the late 1960s, and have never let it go. We became vegetarians in 1971 due pretty much to a photograph of some words someone said about why he (Donovan or Paul McCartney, methinks) became a vegetarian. He saw a cattle truck, and looked into the eyes of a cow on the way to its death. I can't recall if there was a photo of the cow or not, but I know just where it hung in our first apartment in Boston.

At this point in our lives, we don't know a single person who is a vegetarian or a vegan. Meat is huge now. Somehow it isn't unhealthy to eat the carcinogenic nitrates or nitrites in bacon anymore. People put bacon in everything, and it is rather a food favorite in the world.

Along with giving up meat, we also began to eat whole grains instead of white bread and rice. We learned about foods that are now common in the US but then were as rare as hens' teeth, such as hummus and tabouli. And we learned about raw milk, the milk our parents would have grown up on. When I was a kid, there was still un-homogenized milk and I remember having to shake the milk carton at school. On the occasion when I drink from a carton now, I have to remind my muscle memory that I don't have to do that anymore.

There was a health food store, and a big Erewhon store (the first) just down the street from our second apartment in Boston, and we did all our food shopping there. When my mother died and we moved back home in 1973, it wasn't easy finding the food we were used to. There was a mail order catalogue called Walnut Acres where we bought a lot of items. We made occasional day trips to Boston to pick up other things. And we grew and froze as much as we could. But raw milk we could get right here! There was a farm in town that sold to the big dairy cooperatives, but locals could go right to the farm and get their own raw milk. We brought our own bottles, and filled them usually twice a week. We have done this for all these years, but now the original owners have died, and though their son took over for many years, now it is his time to "give up the cows". He is 63, and said it would be nice to go to a family get-together or an autumn fair without having to get back to milk the cows. He is definitely conflicted though, and the last time Tom talked with him, the last time we got milk, he said he didn't know how he would react when the last ones were taken away. His son is taking over the farm and raising meat (see what I mean - meat is way popular while milk isn't so much) for local markets.

The last of our local farm milk, and yogurt made from that milk, in the fridge.


This change, this milestone hit us harder than we imagined, and not only emotionally. Our milk from the farm cost us $2/gallon! We would keep track of how much we owed and after a while would bring him out some cash, which he preferred because he would put a check in his pocket and forget about it.

When I first went shopping for milk when our last farm milk was gone, I was pretty shocked to see the difference in cost! And I was happily surprised at the variety of milk that is available now. I don't mean the variety of percentages of fat, but in the opportunity to buy raw milk, organic raw milk, organic homogenized and pasteurized milk. As I've written before, we can get just about anything we want right in our Co-op store - a real miracle when we think back on what was available when we first came home.

So now there was a decision to make. Which did we want? I've tried a couple so far.




We haven't made a definite decision but we are leaning toward the Organic Valley. It is organic, but not raw. It says it is from a New England farm, and has the name of the farmer on it. The company must have farms all over the country now. I've been buying their butter and cream cheese for years. This milk is cheaper than the previous picture, but it isn't raw. There is a local farm that offers raw, organic milk in gallon containers, but when I've shopped the date has been too close and I knew we wouldn't drink it all in that short time. I will try that one when I catch it having a later sell-by date. It is more expensive than OV but less expensive than the Kimball Brook.

Before we started making our own yogurt (blog post about it here), I used to buy either Brown Cow or Stonyfield. Now I see that Brown Cow is distributed by Stonyfield. They are both great, and are the same price, but the Brown Cow has more cream at the top.

So there it is. We are lucky, lucky that we are, as they say, spoilt for choice in available products. But there is a sadness in the reason we must make those choices.

Addendum: the money we now spend on milk and yogurt is countered somewhat by  not making a 30 mile round trip twice a week for milk. I also don't have to use the longer wash time in the dishwasher for milk bottles to get them very, very clean. I only use it now when I've got the bread baking bowl in there.

16 comments:

  1. Nan, I'm so sorry that your long time supplier of raw milk closed down, but this post was so interesting to read and I must send my friend Tammy here to read this. She is a vegetarian for exactly the same reason, she won't eat anything that smiles.

    At our old house we were just up the street from a wonderful young couple who we got our hens from and they sold raw milk although legally they had to sell it as pet grade. They had many customers. I drink the Organic Valley whole grass fed milk now simply because of love the taste of it. My husband has to drink the lactose free milk.

    If I could have good wild caught fish all the time I could easily give up meat, I think, but I don't do well without at least fish or eggs replacing it, would that make me a pescetarian or would I have to give up eggs and dairy to be that? So complicated!

    I wish we did have a co-op food store here, but I have to admit that part of the reason for that would be to buy world famous Benton bacon--sorry about that, Nan!

    What kind of flour do you use for baking, if you don't mind telling me? And do you depend on dried legumes for protein source? Those are a staple with us but we combine them with eating cornbread. I think I'm too old a dog to learn many new tricks but I love to hear how my vegetarian friends plan their meals!

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    1. I so love your thoughtful, long comments. Thank you. I use King Arthur organic whole wheat for bread, an organic whole wheat pastry for pancakes and waffles, King Arthur organic white bread flour for popovers, etc., and KA all purpose white for cakes and brownies. We have yogurt each morning and milk each supper. Those are the definite proteins every day. In this time of high protein, we are low protein and always have been. Tom eats cheese. We do have beans sometimes. Thank you for being interested. You can look at the recipes folder under the blog header picture for things I cook for main meals.

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    2. I use KA too. I wish I liked yogurt, never could like it except in baking. I will check you recipes folder!

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    3. Nan, I've pulled your recipe file onto my desktop after finding recipe after recipe that I want to try. I've never noticed that tab before so thank you for calling my attention to it!

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    4. Dewena, you are just the best! I wish we lived closer. I add blueberries and strawberries every day to the yogurt. That might help you! I'm tickled that you want to try some of my recipes!

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  2. This was a very interesting post on your switch to store bought milk. I am sure your farm milk was healthier and I am glad you found some alternatives. And thanks for pointing out your recipes folder, I too had not noticed it before. I went straight to simply corn muffins, which I thought might be close to the corn muffins my mother made in the South, only corn meal, no wheat flour, and no sugar. Which led me to Crescent Dragonwagon and her cookbooks which was a trip down memory lane. My husband and I had both of her Dairy Hollow cookbooks.

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    1. Oh, our mother's recipes! Mine is egg sal sandwiches. I cannot duplicate them, no matter what I do. I am delighted by all of what you wrote. Thanks so much.

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  3. My sister is vegetarian, I have vegetarian colleagues and there are several vegans and vegetarians in my circle of friends and acquaintances. Admittedly, I love a bacon-and-brie sandwich... but I don't need (or eat) meat all the time. Sometimes a week or more goes by and I don't have any meat, so I think it would not be that hard to give it up altogether.
    Near OK's there is a vegan restaurant where sometimes go with friends; the food there is always great.
    Aldi (my supermarket of choice - mainly because it is only a 5 minute walk from my house, and I do not drive) has a wide range of organic products these days, and I hardly buy anything else anymore.
    It is really the end of an era for "your" farmer; I imagine the decision is difficult for him and not taken lightly. My brother-in-law in Yorkshire and his two brothers run a dairy farm together. The milk we get there is almost as straight from the cow as if we'd milked them ourselves!

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    1. It makes me so happy to know about all your friends. I'm sure there are vegetarians around here, but I don't know them. There's nothing like fresh milk, is there?!

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  4. This was fascinating reading, thank you. I was a little confused as to whether you not knowing any veggies or vegans was now or back when you started. I know shedloads of both, including a whole pack of Vegan Runners!

    And I love your nasturtium picture at the top. One of my favourite flowers. Alas, I planted mine in the heatwave and they never came up. I then planted more when the rain came, and both those and some of the original ones germinated, but now it's gone cold and so I've got no flowers!

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    1. I'm happy to know you know "shedloads" and I love that word!!!! Funny summer all over. Hoping for more "normal" for everyone next year.

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  5. You've definitely been getting a deal on your milk! I buy milk at the farmers market (or when they've run out by the time we get there) from a dairy stocked by some of the local specialty markets, and I don't think I've ever only paid $2 for a bottle, unless it's a half-pint.

    When we buy yogurt at the store, rather than at the farmers market, Brown Cow is a favorite, as is Pequea Valley, which is a Pennsylvania farm.

    Your comment about Walnut Acres brought back memories with a frisson of horror. My college roommate and I weren't fans of the school food, particularly that first year. Her dad heard we were unhappy and shipped us *boxes* and *boxes* of food from Walnut Acres -- bottles of juices and bags of bread and many other things that 18-year-old girls don't want to think about, let alone consume. Luckily, she had an aunt on the other side of the family who responded by shipping us boxes of marshmallow peeps in lurid colors, so we had some junk food to combat the health food her father lovingly selected for us.

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    1. Very, very funny story! I'm happy you shared it with me!

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  6. Lovely essay, from another old hippy.

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  7. Fascinating post! These life changes are so interesting. Four years ago, my doctor recommended that I change to a plant-based lifestyle. I embraced the change and haven’t regretted it at all. I no longer eat dairy or meat/fish, and keep oils to a minimum. As a result, I am no longer on blood pressure medications or the statins I was on to control my cholesterol levels. No meds at all! It as the right thing for me, but I don’t talk about it a lot because everyone is different in terms of what their body needs. Your lifestyle over the years sounds very healthy and inspiring, and it was fun to read the story of dairy in your life!

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