Website Launch

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I have made a new website with Weebly. So far I have the soap and goat info up, but I hope to add things like recipes and skills for sustainable living.

I have linked below to the page where you will find information on my soap which will soon be for sale, but you can navigate around the site from there.

http://elcarimfarm.weebly.com/elcarim-farm-goat-milk-soap.html

Enjoy 🙂

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On Fat Shaming

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I’ve had a few posts roll through my Facebook newsfeed today about plus-size models and beauty at all sizes. Every single time I read the comments they are full of fat-shamers putting in their opinions about how ‘unacceptable’ the pictured women are.

Now, as a person who is what is deemed a ‘healthy weight’ it is easy for me to spout phrases like ‘all bodies are beautiful’ and ‘size is not an indication of health’. But I grew up in a family where the number on the scales was an ever-present spectre and everybody talked about ‘when I lose the weight’ or ‘when I get skinny’. All sorts of diets were tried and weight came and went. But the body image issues were constant.

Obesity is a huge problem in the developed world. In some countries, two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Obesity and poor diet have been linked to many life-threatening health problems. Governments and food companies must take a fair whack of the blame for their misleading marketing of processed foods as ‘healthy’ and the laws that allow this. Drug companies are invested in treating the illnesses caused by poor diet. It is a hard battle to fight on a personal level when the whole system is invested in making you fat.

I might not be an overweight person, but I am not a healthy person. I have an extensive history of heart problems, and mental health difficulties on top of that. I eat with the goal of prolonging my life. But there have been times when, due to medications, my weight has threatened to spiral out of control.

The last time I tried antidepressant medication, I got to a point where no matter how I tried, my weight was climbing by about half a kilogram every week. I was probably eating half of what I am now, and exercising, but my weight kept rising. I counted calories obsessively, and even tried going all fruit and vegetables one week. Nothing worked. Until I went off the medication.

So yeah, I can sympathise with people who try everything they can think of but struggle to lose weight. I can also sympathise with people who have great difficulty eating the way they are told they ‘should’ in order to lose weight.

One thing all those fat-shamers lean on is that promoting body acceptance is the same as promoting obesity, and since obesity is unhealthy then promoting body acceptance is socially irresponsible. Think of the children, they say, growing up in a world where they are encouraged to be unhealthy because being fat is okay. They pretend that the reason they want everyone to be slim is because they want them to be healthy.

This is a load of crap. The reason fat-shamers want people to be slim is because they want them to be decorative, and we live in a world with stringently-enforced beauty standards. A world where people who don’t fit that standard are expected to cover up, change their appearance, and hate themselves if they don’t comply.

And what good does that do?

We all want to be healthy. It is easier for some people than for others. We all want to like our bodies and like ourselves. We all have ‘imperfections’. We have rolls and wrinkles and scars and stretch marks and none of these things make us less of a human being.

Even women who are not overweight are encouraged to hate their bodies. We are given a set of Rules that we must adhere to. Don’t be too tall. Don’t be too hairy. Don’t be too old. Don’t be too fat. Spend ages making yourself look good enough, but make sure you look natural. Unless you can follow all the Rules, you are not allowed to feel good about yourself. And even if you do follow the Rules, don’t get too cocky, you’re not that hot…

The idea of women in particular being decorative above all else should be stomped on, crushed and criticised every time we see it. You might see plus-sized models promoted as ‘real women’, but they too are a marketing trick. You don’t see models with cellulite or hairy legs or blemished skin.

We are all allowed to be comfortable in our own skin and happy with how we look. Whether we are old, sick, fat, disabled, hairy or scarred. We do not have to conform to beauty standards. We are good enough. We are valuable. We are beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Because whatever ‘imperfections’ you may have, the person who would shame you for your appearance has a bigger problem. They are probably a self-righteous jerk.

Overweight people exist. In the western world there are a lot of them. Yes, being overweight has been linked to health problems, but does that mean that every overweight person is expected to hate how they look, and if they don’t hate how they look then everyone else is allowed to do that hating for them? What does that achieve? If being slim was easy, everyone would do it, but a huge proportion of the population find it very difficult. The issue is complex. The solution is elusive. But if shaming overweight people made them healthier, we would have no overweight people. All it does is make people feel bad about themselves. People who look after their health are people who feel that they are worth it. Your weight is does not always directly correlate with your health or wellness. And none of these things represent your value as a person.

Oh, and here’s me at the beach recently in a bikini. Old, white, hairy, scarred. I don’t care. I think I look great.

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Giving Up Shampoo – 12 Months In

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no shampoo

So my hair now looks like this.

If I didn’t tell you, you would never know that I don’t wash it daily with shampoo and condition it.

In fact, I wash it about every four to five days. This seems to make it happiest. It makes showering a lot quicker too. Thick hair takes ages to dry.

The regime I settled on was using goat milk soap to wash, and apple cider vinegar to condition. I saw a recipe for goat milk soap with tomato that was said to be good for hair, in particular to brighten your colour. So I made some, and it is great.

The ends don’t split. It doesn’t get static and flyaway. I haven’t coloured it in months.

I would call this project a success.

Making Words From Nothing

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I’ve really dropped the ball in here lately, my writing hands have just gone on strike and I haven’t felt compelled to put anything down in print for a couple of weeks. But it’s that thing about how the more you use something the easier it is, so I’m going to start typing and see what comes out.

It is pouring with rain here and has been for hours. It has rained so much in the last week or so that I have turned on the hoses to drain water from the tanks in the goat areas down and away from their places of shelter. And I think the tanks are still filling faster than I can discharge the water.

The does are very comfortable in the big shed with all the hay they can eat and an indoor water source. The kidding pens have been cleaned out, and just need some straw put down in order to be ready. The two spotty does, Meredith and Juno, are due any time now, but not looking terribly imminent. Kidding is stressful and exciting.

The bucks are not having such an easy time, as their makeshift shelter is smaller and has a dirt floor. I have put down a thick layer of straw and given them a big tub of hay, so at least they an eat and lie down without getting wet.

The chooks have stayed in the big chook house today, it is even too wet outside for them. The ducks and geese, however, are having a grand time.

My cheese fridge lay down and died a few weeks ago, and a part had to be ordered from overseas. I am still waiting for the repairer to come back and fix it. I want to make more cheese!

Yoga has become my exercise of choice, with Hot Yoga slightly edging out the regular Hatha. The heated environment is a great comfort when it is five degrees outside, and the extra stretch afforded by warm muscles is also a bonus. But I think what really attracts me is that slightly altered state that comes from working quite hard in the heat. It takes the mind/body benefits of yoga to a higher level.

I am becoming stronger and more flexible, even three weeks in. I can now do poses that were actually not possible when I first started. I can maintain a full plank for more than two seconds.

My sugarlessness is going well, although pretty much everyone thinks it is a silly idea (there is sugar in everything, do you eat fruit? there is sugar in that, everything in moderation I say), I find it beneficial for me and that is all that matters.

I am slowly adjusting my attitude to fat in my diet, and while I still wouldn’t eat a packet of chips, there are some high-fat foods that I am starting to eat more of and at the same time I am fitting back into my size 8 jeans that I haven’t been able to wear for ages. Something is working.

I had my hair cut by an actual hairdresser and she was very complimentary about the general condition of it. That is six months without shampoo, and going strong. I will need to colour it again at some point, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. The protein hair masque that my sister made is pretty well magic, and fixes that straw-like feeling when my hair gets too dry.

I am yet to go back to the razor, and you would think that if anything would reveal hairy underarms as being a source of unbearably bad hygiene it would be hot yoga, but your argument is invalid because deodorant. I am no more or less smelly than I was when I did shave, so ner to all the people who think hairy armpits on women are ‘gross’. If you don’t like it, don’t grow yours.

I did read an interesting comment about how because women are taught to remove their body hair from the day it starts to become noticeable, many of us have no idea what we even look like with such hair. And I was like, bloody hell, I’m 36 years old and I have no idea how long my underarm hair will even grow if I let it. What a sobering thought about the expectations that society imposes upon us. We don’t even get to see what our body hair looks like before removing it, we just remove it because of imposed standards of beauty and justify it by saying it is our choice.

Maybe it is just a phase I’m going through, but I spent many years not feeling like I wasn’t really allowed to be myself, so now I am trying on different things to find out what it is I really want to do when it comes to my own body. I definitely do not want to alienate anyone who does shave or wax, because there are a lot more of you than there are of me.

There are a lot of things I do or don’t do that are different choices to those that most people make, but they don’t change the sort of person I am. If you saw me in the street and didn’t know me you would never guess that I don’t eat sugar and I don’t watch TV and I wash my hair in home-made goat milk soap and I don’t wash my clothes in detergent and I don’t shave or wax the parts that most women do. You would never know if I didn’t tell you.

I live in a fairly isolated little bubble. The only time I really link with a peer group of sorts is during goat showing season. And my goat friends all understand the pros and cons of an alternative lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what makes us different – what matters is what we have in common, what links us. As I begin to interact a bit more with the local Permaculture group I am starting to feel a little less fringe and a little more like part of something bigger. I hope to extend this link over time.

So now all I have left to do is decide what dinners to make over the next few days. And do a bit of baking and make some yogurt. And do a couple of loads of washing. See, I am just like everyone else.

Shall I Compare Thee to a Piece of Meat? Let Me Count The Ways..

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Another community service announcement about body image.

I consider myself fairly enlightened and self-aware. Yet, there are still a lot of things I do simply because society.

We live in a culture where women are decoration. If you don’t believe me just watch TV or look at any magazine. Look at music videos, adorned with interchangeable scantily clad gyrating dancers. So many publications consider balanced gender representation to be a mix of well-dressed men and undressed women.

Is it any wonder then that women find it incredibly difficult to break out of the mindset that in order to be valuable they must look good? And that if there is nobody to look at them, there is no point making an effort?

In my younger days I was often told that I should wax my arms. Yes, I have hairy arms. No, I did not wax them. I did, however, shave my legs, shave my underarms, pluck my eyebrows and tidy my pubic hair. I still do some of these things.

But why? Even though it makes no difference to my own health or functionality, why do I feel the need to do this to my body? Especially when I don’t have anyone to impress?

I can’t go out in a sleeveless top without hairless underarms because I wonder what people will think. When I had a massage recently I had a moment of panic when I remembered that I had not shaved my legs in weeks and wondered what the masseuse must have thought.

At the pool I tell myself nobody will notice before I leave the change room in my bathers and hairy legs. It’s the middle of winter. And besides, they should be looking at my boobs, not my legs.

We have become so used to being commodified that we commodify ourselves. When I was doing the rounds of online dating I made sure to put up a full-body shot of myself to show that I was not fat. I thought that would give me an edge in a competitive flesh market.

So I resolve to be true to myself and not let the confines of what we have been trained to do to ourselves influence the way I keep myself. No more razors. No more waxing. I will probably still pluck my eyebrows. But the rest of me can grow wild and natural.

As long as I am happy with how I look, that is all that matters. I know that the hair is meant to be there.

Do any of you have the courage to do the same? If not, why? Do you worry about what others will think? Have you convinced yourself that it is unclean… I mean, has our culture convinced you of that? Will your husband leave you if you stop shaving your legs? Will men find you unattractive if you don’t get around with a full Brazilian? And if they do, is that your problem? Your responsibility? Do you really want to make yourself look acceptable for someone like that?

You are not an object for display. You are worth more than someone’s opinion. How you look does not define you. You are beautiful and anyone who judges you otherwise has the problem, not you.

Live for yourself. You are the only person who can make you happy.

 

Eat Like Your Life Depends On It

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This dropped onto my Facebook wall today…

food

… and it made me think a bit more about maintaining a healthy weight.

I read a lot about how most people who manage to lose weight gain it all back and then some. It makes me wonder if I am some freak of nature because I managed to lose 17kg and almost three years down the track I am keeping it off without any real difficulty.

I think a lot of the problem is that people make temporary changes to lose weight, and then they go back to their old habits and the inevitable happens.

When I decided to lose weight I started by cutting out added sugar. I have known for a very long time that my system does not react well to large amounts of sugar. In a situation where I could make my own food choices I found it easy to avoid sweetened foods.

I started looking at everything I was eating and making a conscious effort to eat nutrient-dense foods. Then I started leaning towards more natural and less processed foods. I drank nothing but water.

From that point, it was easy. I didn’t even take up exercise until more recently. These days I exercise because I want to be fitter. I am even starting to actually enjoy it.

So why is it that I could make these life-altering changes with such relative ease when so many others fall off the wagon? Over my lifetime of having a family of yo-yo dieters, I have seen and heard and read many times phrases like ‘lose 12 kilos in 12 weeks’ or ‘drop two dress sizes in two weeks’.

The goals are short term. Nobody tells you what to do when you get to your goal weight or fit back into your ‘skinny’ clothes. So you go back to your old ways and of course, before you know it you are right back where you started.

I don’t count calories, although I did for a little while. I used a calorie counter to find out where I could easily reduce my energy intake. Things like bread and butter, cookies and high-energy snacks were letting me down. With help from the calorie counter I learned how to make food choices that reduced my overall energy intake. Without resorting to ‘low fat’ foods or starving myself.

I’ve had times where my weight started to creep back up. I have noticed it, and stopped it, then turned it back around. It is much easier to lose a kilogram than to lose 12. The end of your diet isn’t really the end. Eating well and exercising is for life.

I also wonder if my motivation is different. These days I eat well and exercise regularly because my life literally depends on it. I have to keep my body in the best condition possible to keep the surgeon’s knife at bay. After two open heart surgeries the thought of a third one terrifies me, and the risks are great. But I have a severely leaking valve, and there is every chance that one day my heart will not be so able to cope with the inefficiency and I will need another surgery. Looking after my body makes me feel like I am doing all I can to essentially prolong my life.

The side effect of being healthy is that I look and feel good. I mix strength and cardio exercise and I like the results. I almost have muscle definition on my stomach. I don’t have ‘tuck shop arms’. I also have plenty of energy to keep doing all the things that I like to do, that in turn help to keep me and my family healthy.

But if this fear of poor health and desire to look and feel good is enough to motivate me, why doesn’t it motivate everyone? Why are so many people content to load up their systems with crap, to willfully consume toxins, acidify their bodies and make themselves sick?

Obesity and inactivity increase the risk of many of the diseases and disorders that kill the majority people every year in the western world. Reducing your weight and increasing your exercise helps you to live longer. Why doesn’t everyone do it?

Do the people who lose their 12 kilos in 12 weeks not feel better for having lost it? Do they not like the results of their efforts? Why, once they have seen the other side, do they go back?

Another prevailing attitude that puzzles me is ‘falling off the wagon’ while ‘dieting’. People say they were doing well, eating the right foods, and then they had a ‘blowout’, so they decide to drop the diet and start again next week. This doesn’t make sense to me, but it may be the difference in the approach.

If you make changes for life, to reduce your energy intake and minimise sugary and fatty foods rather than cutting them out altogther, then eating a piece of cake is not ‘failing’. You don’t have to write off that week or even that day. Just make your next food choice differently and keep going with your changes.

I still love pizza and chips, although I hardly ever eat biscuits or cake any more and lollies quite frankly gross me out. I eat loads of full-fat dairy products, but also loads of fruit and veg. Sugar really does make me feel unwell, and by eating very little of it I notice when I have too much.

I want to see my children grow to adulthood, I want to enjoy the fruits of my labours on the farm. I want to bask in the happiness and stability that I have fought so hard to attain.

Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork. Enjoy good food, but respect your body. If you want to be healthier, perhaps try making life changes rather than setting weight goals. Your life depends on what you eat every bit as much as mine does.

 

Breaking Up (With Shampoo) Is Hard To Do

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In yet another of my idealistic hippie moments I decided to give up using shampoo and conditioner on my hair.

It seemed like a logical step, since I don’t use laundry detergent and I make my own soaps. I also use hand-made moisturiser and almost never wear make-up.

Off to the internet I go, with a quick visit to an equestrian-oriented forum that I frequent for some ideas and advice.

I got a few responses of ‘yuck, I could never give up washing my hair’, which made me realise that ‘not using shampoo’ means the same to some people as ‘never washing my hair ever’.

Of course I still wash it. Because if I didn’t, that would be yuck.

The internet will tell you that if you just wait out three weeks your hair will go from sad and lifeless to beautiful, shiny and silky. It might get a little oily in between as it gets used to not having the oils stripped out of it every day.

It has been three months, and I am finally happy with my hair again. Yes, I need a trim and my roots need a touch-up, but my hair is manageable, has a good texture and I actually like how it looks and feels.

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I think it took three weeks for my hair to even notice that I wasn’t using shampoo any more. I had got down to washing about twice a week anyway. It would go through an flyaway unmanageable day while it was very clean, then settle down for a couple of days, then start to get greasy. Then I would wash it again. If I wanted it looking good to leave out on a certain day I would have to make sure to wash it at least 48hrs before.

I started out doing a bicarb and vinegar wash. Initially this made my hair feel like straw. It rebelled by becoming incredibly oily, but I could manage for a few weeks while it transitioned, I told myself. As well as weekly bicarb and vinegar scrubs I took up rinsing it every second day. This didn’t really help.

But I stuck to my resolve. I bought a good paddle brush, designed to spread the oils through the hair. I washed the brush with soap every second day. That brush cost me $25. If you had told me beforehand that you could even find a hairbrush that cost that much I would have said that such a thing was for chumps with more money than brains. I had never previously spent more than about five bucks on a hairbrush. But with all the money it would save me on shampoo and conditioner I figured it was a trade-off I could live with.

After about six or seven weeks I nearly cracked. My hair felt gross. It looked alright, but I just couldn’t find a balance. It was driving me nuts. I was frustrated and distracted by what looked like the failure of my grand gesture. For a while I was very, very tempted to grab a bottle of Pantene and scrub my head until my hair felt like the dog-fur collar lining of a cheap puffa vest. Don’t pretend you don’t know exactly the fashion item I am referring to.

But I had one more ace up my sleeve. Somebody early on in the project had suggested that I use my goat milk soap for washing my hair. I didn’t, assuming that it would make my hair fluffy, something I was very keen to avoid. In a last-ditch effort to save myself from going back to the high-lathering chemical cocktail, I took a piece of plain home-made goat milk soap and washed my hair with it.

I am pleased to say that it worked. My regime is now a wash with goat milk soap and rinse with apple cider vinegar about every five days. Sometimes I rinse it in between. It combs out easily and sits nicely if left out. I can easily pull it into a ponytail without too many fluffy bits poking out.

My hair is now, compliant, looks and feels clean, and doesn’t get frizzy. It is also the longest it has been in a long time. In the past I have not wanted my hair too long because it becomes a maintenance nightmare. It is incredibly thick, to the point where almost every hairdresser who cuts it gets about two-thirds of the way through and says ‘you’ve got loads of hair’.

I have learned to decipher hairdresser language to a degree (‘nice colour, did you do it yourself?’ is not a compliment, in case you were wondering), and being told that you have loads of hair is a double-edged comment. On one hand, it means your hair is thick and has more body and your scalp is probably healthy. On the other it means that the person wielding the scissors has just realised that it is going to take them a lot longer than anticipated to finish the job.

Since giving up shampoo my hair is probably thicker still. I definitely don’t lose as much as I used to when I brush or comb it. I have not been in for a trim and tidy-up, because I didn’t want to go in with ‘transitioning’ hair and have some scalp-expert assume I was just a grot. I think I am ready now, though. Might make that a job for this week.

My advice for anyone thinking of giving up shampoo? Unless you are really motivated, you probably shouldn’t put yourself through the angst. It could take ages to figure out how to keep your hair nice without all the chemicals. If you have a an actual hairstyle, rather than a longer cut where you can just shove it in a ponytail and forget about it on bad days, you will probably have a hell of a time getting through the transition stage.

If you are keen to give it a crack, get a good paddle hairbrush and keep it clean. Brush lots. Get a trim and have your colour updated before taking the plunge. And if one natural alternative is not working for you, have a try at a different one.