Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm Life for my Little Oak Tree

What happens when a dietitian mom leaves the city and starts a farm? Happy 2nd Anniversary Amanda and family. The world is truly a better place with the Mellowsprings!! Thanks for bringing the readers back to earth at this time of year. – Laura Cipullo

 

Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm life for my little Oak Tree
By Amanda Mellowspring, MS, RD, CEDRD, LD/N
Eat from the Earth Nutrition Counseling, LLC
Mellowspring Family Farms, LLC

This month marks the beginning of our 2nd year as farmers. I say it this way because this is just the beginning! This lesson feels similar to being a parent – the end of the first year, is really the beginning of the “two’s”. That is when our journey to becoming farmers actually started – when our little acorn had his first birthday.  Within two weeks of his birthday, we were packed and headed for our farm in the mountains.  Nevermind we had never actually visited the land we were leaving everything for, we just knew that this was what we wanted for our family, namely our little acorn.  Amazing how the world shifts to make room for the potential in the smallest little things, like acorns.

Our decision to start a family farm was multi-fold. We wanted to spend more time together as a family, with shared focus and energy. We wanted to give our little acorn something to grow into. And we very much wanted him to appreciate nature. One of the reasons that I love the basic concepts of food and eating, is because it is so tightly intertwined with nature. The way that we engage with all of our foods can connect us or disconnect us from the world around us.  We knew that we wanted our little acorn to take pride in his process of becoming a mighty oak and that would require living into nature in a deeper way.

Our first year of farming is full of practical lessons & adjustments in things like fencing, gardening our new land (with a toddler – ie. kamikaze gardening!), chicken coops (free range chickens poop everywhere!), fencing, livestock guard dogs (bark all night!), fencing, pigs are some of the sweetest animals (once you get used to the smell, seriously the smell!), free range turkeys (bark like purse dogs!), Jacob sheep (you can literally tell their baa’s apart!), oh and did I mention fencing…fencing! I think farming vastly involves fencing, re-fencing, and moving fencing.  All of this to say, there have been so many lessons. Again this is just the beginning of two city kids, raising a farm boy to the best of our farming ability.

The rewards of this first year have been countless in our connection with nature, our community, the animals, and one another. But, the greatest reward that we continue to experience on a daily basis are the moments that my husband and I look at one another and our eyes smile together because in their reflection our little acorn is living his normal life, his farm life, and doesn’t know anything different. The view from his carseat rivals any good farm truck, with a hatchback full of chickens, pullets, turkeys, lambs, pigs, and dogs at various times.  All the while, he plays with his little toes and sings songs because this is his norm.  He has napped with a LGD pup on his lap en route to the vet’s office and the world paused for a moment in our eyes.  He helps big kids see that our dogs are sweet even though they tower over him and weigh over 100# now by kissing their faces and crawling around on their furry backs. Our dogs guard our little acorn with vigilance and compassion by standing over him and demanding that others keep a distance.

 He runs after the sheep for fun, helping mama and papa corral them in to new pastures, yelling “lambies” and laughing hysterically. He grabs the ram by the horns through the fence to kiss his nose because that’s how papa catches him (and because he isn’t allowed to play with the rams inside the fence during breeding season).

 

He sticks his hands through the slats on the pig paddock to pet the “piggies, snort, snort” as mama goes running to catch up, yelling not to reach into the piggy area!  He talks to the piggies and laughs when they escape into the yard and play chase with the dogs.

 

He collects eggs from the chicken coop and even pretends to lay eggs himself; he even recognizes the special “eggs” sound that the hens make when laying. He also gobbles up eggs for breakfast (& sometimes dinner) and tells the hens, “thank you for your eggs” when he gathers.

 

He knows that chicken and chickens are the same thing. He knows that piggies make bacon (yes, we eat bacon), and he knows that turkey is kind of like chicken.

 

He eats like a farmer, plays like a farmer, and knows how they work together. He leads hikes with the chickens and turkeys into the woods and calls for the dogs to keep a watch. He tastes leaves off the trees and shares these new flavors with friends who may be visiting.  He picks berries and grapes off the land and has them eaten up before we get back to the house. (No need for canning this year!)

 

As we start our second year as farmers, I am so glad that I can look to him to learn what living on the land, in union with our plants and animals truly means. His life is a reflection of the purest loves. His decision to live into this life has helped him to put down deep roots. His life is not a response to the world’s concerns about food sources, food ingredients, or factory farming. His life is about connection, love, and appreciation. It reminds me of one of my favorite thoughts – Notice how a tree sends its roots deep into the earth.  May we also learn to nourish ourselves in ways that are not just leaves & branches meant for others to see.

Breastmilk or Bust

Does the Rocking Chair Look Good Next to the Deep Freezer?
By Amanda Mellowspring, MS, RD, CEDRD, LD/N

Eat from the Earth Nutrition Counseling, LLC
www.eatfromtheearth.com

We all hear stories about “the crazy things” that mothers will do to care for and protect their children. I, along with many of you, also thought I was immune to such craziness despite my big heart…until I actually became a mom myself! Oh yes!

First, I will declare that “crazy” is not the right word for what I will share below, nor for most of the decisions we make as parents. While others may have their own views on our choices, the decisions that feel right in your family do not require approval from others. So, here’s a portion of my story…

In 2012, my husband and I welcomed a baby boy into our lives through adoption. What a powerful experience (which is an entirely separate story)!

As with any parents, our discussions had thoroughly covered a million topics on how we would care for this child. We reached out to only a few family and friends before his birth to avoid spreading the word in such a delicate situation (again another story altogether). One topic that arose as we spoke with another family that had recently adopted a child was feeding. Now, I certainly think most families have some discussion about feeding, so I don’t think being a dietitian really impacted me all that much. My friend shared with me the idea of breastmilk donation. I was immediately in LOVE and curiously asked a million questions about safety, quantity, storage, resources, and networks and then we were off! We eagerly met with pediatricians in our area to find a good fit before the big day and asked for their feelings about our decision to pursue breastmilk donation, at least as much as possible. We purchased a deep freezer for our milk storage & pre-purchased breastmilk bags to trade these amazing mommas who would offer us milk. We nervously contacted our local midwife to explain our situation and ask if she knew any mothers who may like to donate. Interestingly, this was the only thing, aside from one sweet handmade teddy bear that my husband made, that we allowed ourselves to do to prepare for his birth. Again, side story, adoption is amazing and amazingly scary. Everyone approaches this in their own right way.

The dietitian in me did step in the picture at times. We had an open adoption process, and knew that our birthmother was a beautiful gift in our life, but she also refused anything aside from soda and pizza throughout the pregnancy. Now I am not out to bash a good pizza and soda now and again, but talk about checking my work at the door! And, don’t worry I hold onto my own mom/RD guilt about not trying to induce lactation (yes, you can do this & yes, it is super cool), but there were a million reasons that it wasn’t possible in my life at that time. I have always been a strong advocate for breastfeeding, but prior to hearing about breastmilk donation, I had already adjusted my personal feelings about using formula as I had anticipated it to be my only reasonable option. Yes, formula is formulated to resemble breastmilk and provides adequate nutrition, and bonding really comes from love and not from boobs, so I was okaying myself with this. In learning more about milk donation, I also knew that I would most likely supplement with breastmilk donations and primarily feed formula and it would be fine, more than fine. I mean, how would I actually get enough breastmilk from other women to feed him only that!?! So, my dietitian part obviously loved the idea of the nutrition that breastmilk would provide, but I was most excited surprisingly about two other aspects of this endeavor – introducing milk would allow for flavor variation which would assist with food introduction and the development of his flavor palate & I would meet other moms! When you adopt, you don’t generally build the community that you may get from birthing classes etc, so meeting mommas was on my radar!

Beautifully and perfectly, our little guy was born on 9/12/12 and came home with us just a few days later. Over the next 9 months, I fully engaged in my “crazy” & my amazing husband went there with me! I linked up to every milk sharing network that I could find and began driving all over the state (& even other states when we travelled) to meet moms to trade breastmilk for milk bags and fresh foods from our garden. (The Friday evening car rides that took 3-4hrs round trip to pick up donations, the parking lot meetings at Babies R Us, & the coolers that constantly resided in the back of our car may be the “crazy” that I speak of!) Most of the moms didn’t want anything in trade (although milk bags are expensive and I would have bought a million of them if someone had wanted). Just the joy of knowing that they were offering a priceless gift satisfied these amazing women. (It is illegal to pay for breastmilk in the US just so you know, & I never met a mother that would have ever considered it either.) Amazingly, we were able to provide him with ONLY breastmilk from donation for 9 months – and talk about flavor profile with cultural influences from all over Latin America, Asia, Australia, France, & throughout the US! I will just take a moment here to say that the amount of breastmilk that a woman can produce is AMAZING! Seeing all of the milk that my son took in just by standing over a deep freezer packed, labeled, and organized always left me in awe (& usually tears again…a theme in motherhood I am pretty sure.) We pulled back from the search a bit as he started to eat more solids, because we knew that there were more new little ones out there that could benefit from this precious gift. Our little guy had never even had a diaper rash in this time period, so we wanted other babies to benefit from this nutritional gold mine too.

The idea of breastmilk donation dates back, way back, all the way back! Historically women have always been known to wet-nurse or nurse babies that were not their own. It’s just a love thing. But, even still, my protective mom self and my RD part considered what questions to ask women about their lifestyle, their diet, their health, etc. ‘To each her own’ on this topic, I say. I think everyone should be responsible for asking the questions that fit for them. We did not use formal hospital-based milk banks (which do exist) because those generally are reserved for sick children or children with special nutritional needs & there was not one in our area. For me, I can say that I have hugged every woman that provided for my child in this way & that, amongst a few questions here and there, felt right for me. Mind you, that almost all of these women came to me to offer to donate via midwives, other mommas, & friends. I went to their homes, met their babies, and even shared tears for babies that made the gift possible but didn’t live to see the gifts of their mothers in this way. Many women consider the birth children of their milky moms’ to be “milk brothers/sisters”. All of the sudden, I wasn’t just making momma connections; our family was literally growing with every milky mom we met! Thankfully, somewhere in the craziness of the adoption process and becoming a mother, I had the clarity to ask each woman to pose for a photo with our little one. In total, over 30 heart-touching, heart-wrenching photos of love and gratitude have compiled my little guy’s “Moms Book”. His book includes photos of his birthmother, several women (& a man) who were integral to his adoption, over 30 milky moms, & me. Quite a book. And, we are really loving picture books right now anyhow. We look at it together, and I suppose that one day he will ask why I always cry when we do.

Growing and Changing—MDIO IS EXPANDING

Growing and Changing—MDIO IS EXPANDING
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN and Mom

Like our children, adults grow and change in different ways. With my personal growth as a mother and as a professional, I have learned that bringing friends and colleagues together via networks can prove to be a valuable accomplishment. Almost two years ago, I was elected to become the president of the iaedp NY (International Association of Eating Disorders Professional, New York). My hope was to bring together a burgeoning yet independently specialized sector of professionals so that we could work together synergistically to make a greater difference. For iaedp NY the goal is to educate professionals about eating disorders. And we are doing it!! Our membership has grown to include 10 percent of national members, and we currently are hosting about ten educational events per year.

Understanding how effective this model has been, I have decided to transform the website of Mom Dishes It Out from mommy RD blogger to primarily comprise a platform of mommy healthcare professionals (mostly registered dietitians and speech language pathologists) who share the same message I do—“All Foods Fit”—by promoting a positive feeding and eating philosophy. It will be a one-stop educating experience for parents, teachers, and any reader interested in the future of food and nutrition.

 

I come across numerous health sites alleging that all food is “okay” but subsequently propose that certain foods are treats or certain foods are bad/junky. Being a RD in the world of eating disorders, I know this is misinterpreted by many. I hope this new platform will bring together mommy and daddy healthcare professionals adept at using more neutral and less judgmental language. We may not be perfect at putting the message into practice, but MDIO will post blogs in an attempt to adhere to the sensitivity surrounding food and food messages.

 

So—as soon as August 2014, the blog will be expanding. Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitians such as Amanda Mellowspring and Erica Leon have already signed on to contribute. The site will now share mommy health professionals’ personal experience and knowledge relevant to raising children in a positive nutrition/weight-neutral environment. This will be the go-to site advocating nutritional health achieved through self-care instead of dieting or weight loss.

 

I truly hope you share the website with your friends and family, and be sure to tell us what you think!

 

If you or a professional you know (OTR, SLP, RD, or MD) is interested in blogging about healthy habits in your field, please contact MomDishesItOut@gmail.com to be considered as a potential contributor. Moms in the health field or those who specialize in pediatrics are welcome to apply.