The ongoing journey towards Good. Better. Best.

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Good, better, best, is a motto Dr. Pete Hilgartner uses and one I have put into practice as I travel the road of improving our family’s healthy habits for daily living. I know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging life can get when trying to change how you eat especially when trying to implement the diets and foods from books like Nourishing Traditions, GAPS, The Paleo Approach or The Paleo Solution. Each of those books and their relative authors are just oozing with knowledge and real-life solutions to implement; but where to start? Follow along to hear our journey and some tips on beginning one for yourself.

Positive attitudes in turning over a new lease on life can make all the difference in the difficult world of chasing away the bad habits and convenience of the drive-thru burger joint or the sweet driven coffee shops. How can a positive attitude transform our eating habits? The better our attitude, the more likely good will come out of difficult challenges. By taking the bull by the horns and saying, “I’ve got this. I can do this.”, you make the commitment to change a little each day in what you allow or don’t allow into your diet.

Good.

My family’s first huge commitment was a 6 week challenge of no dairy, no bread, no gluten, no grains in any way, shape or form. We did it, all of us together. Then as our health started transforming we made more changes, conquered more challenges and BAM!, we haven’t looked back because it feels good to feel so good!

Better.

As we work through the good, better, best approach some things in food prep came easier than others to me. After 13 years of working on Nourishing Traditions, GAPS and Paleo style cooking, I recognized there was so much for me to learn. Two areas I really needed help with was fermentation and culturing dairy. It was high time for me to invest in my knowledge base so I signed up to take Monica Corrado’s Cooking for Well – Being Teacher Training, Level 1. I flew out to Colorado in early 2014.

2014 MC Class

Some of the 2014 Cooking for Well Being Class in Colorado. From L to R, Kristen of FoodRenegade, Monica Corrado (fearless leader), Alex of FeedMeLikeYouMeanIt and yours truly!

It was a power packed mind blowing learning experience and I loved it! I felt a little more confident in those areas that gave me trouble. I not only learned the techniques Monica teaches but I had a better understanding of the why. In my enthusiasm I invited Monica to teach a course here at Fields of Athenry Farm. She agreed!

Best!

From June 24th thru June 30th, 2015, I had the honor and privilege of working side by side with Monica, 18 amazing students from all over the country, and my daughter Bernadette. Bernadette was Monica’s side kick and she did a tremendous job in having all of Monica’s needed groceries and utensils ready, preliminary food prep, and so much more.

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Monica starting off the day with energy and laughs!

Monica has an approach to life that definitely embraces the attitude that what you put out to others and into your food, circles back to each and every one of us either positively or negatively.

Monica goes for the positive and is addicting. Food is holy, food is sacred and so are we. We are what we eat and we can either become negative, sick, worn out, wrinkled, OR healthy, more vibrant, glowing, fun loving, energized, full of life. It is up to us. Personally, I choose Monica’s positive way. I spent the week embracing her teaching again and continued to learn more.

Good, Better, Best and still growing, still transforming!

She taught us about saturated fats and why they are good for us. She went into explaining cooking with oils, culturing dairy, making Creme Fraiche (yum, yum, yum!!!!), butter, yogurts, whey. The class involves learning an in-depth knowledge behind nutrient dense foods, differences between meat stocks and bone broths, the science behind marinating meat, lacto-fermentation, preparing deep green leafy vegetables, soaking and preparing flours, whole grains, nuts, seeds. She teaches the why, when, and how all in an interactive way that keeps you craving more knowledge! Knowledge we hope to share with you here at the blog and over at the farm.

Let’s start with Liver Shots.

Yup, you heard me, liver shots! I know, I know, for many the thought of eating liver may seem unappealing, undesirable, and just down right icky. And yes, I could have started with something seemingly easier to incorporate into your daily life. But I’m here to tell you LIVER SHOTS are both GOOD FOR YOU and EASY to incorporate into your daily life. Hear me out.

Liver Shot

The class about to partake in a liver shot!

Beef Liver, Lamb Liver, Pork Liver, Chicken Liver in that order are nutritional powerhouses, chalk full of amino acids, minerals, vitamins and more just waiting to pump your body full of vitality and nutrient goodness. (Just ask the coyotes that go after my livestock why they plunge into the organ meat first when they feed their young! Even they know how rich and beneficial organ meat really is.)

As the fun saying goes this is the OFFAL Truth! Organ meats rock, offering B complex, including B12 and folate (folic acid), trace minerals such as copper, zinc and chromium, Vitamin D, CoQ10 (essential for energy production and cardiac function; pre-formed vitamin A (retinol), vitamin K2 and so much more.

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Me and some organ meat. Just another day in the kitchen!

Somehow we have gotten so far away from the good stuff that muscle meat has become the American food of choice. While muscle meat is yummy, it is organ meat that rocks as the true KING in nutritional value. Silly us. We are missing out on what native cultures who have maintained traditional diets have known forever – that is: eat real whole foods from plants and animals.  Take note these cultures were free from disease that plague our societies today in record numbers (think cancer, infertility, diabetes, depression, heart disease, the list goes on).

See the Westin A. Price Foundation for more, because Dr. Prices studies are phenomenal! Fields of Athenry Farm is a Weston A. Price Foundation inspired farm.

Feeling fatigued – take a liver shot today!

Here is how: Slightly freeze your liver for ease in cutting. Lay the slightly frozen liver on your cutting board and begin to make small, literally pill size, easy to swallow pieces. Place the “shots” onto parchment paper on flat plate or cookie sheet and place in freezer. Once fully frozen, transfer the liver shots to a tightly sealed bag or container.

Single Liver pill

Single Liver Shot – Simple and Easy!

Now the fun part. Each morning or before you go to bed pop one in and swallow with a big swig of water or if you’re really feeling adventurous send it down with hearty beet kvass! And when you do – comment below or send us a message and let us know how you feel. Keep in mind this is an extremely rich meat so don’t go overboard. As my grandmother would say, “moderation in everything keeps us in balance.”

So Beet Kvass, you now ask, what is that? Beet  Kvass, as explained in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions (in my opinion a must have book to fast track to your optimal health) is a drink known for both it’s medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Think about it, beets are LOADED with nutrients making it an excellent blood tonic. A simple 4-oz glass morning and night enhances regularity, aids digestion, alkalizes the blood and cleanses the liver. Just like the Liver pills above, it’s an easy recipe to implement into your daily life.

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A jar of Beet Kvass perfection!

BEET KVASS (recipe adapted from page 610 in Nourishing Traditions)

Ingredients:

  • 3 Medium or 2 Large organic beets, pealed and chopped in quarters/big chunks
  • 1/4 cup whey (use the link to check out a great video from our friend Sarah at the Healthy Home Economist)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Filtered water (no chlorine)

Directions: Place beets, whey and salt into a 2-quart glass container. Fill the container with filtered water. Stir well before covering tightly and securely. Keep the container at room temperature for 2 days before moving to the refrigerator.

The key to this recipe is to make sure you do not cut your beets too small, and certainly do not shred them! Small pieces will cause the beets to create too much juice and therefore ferment too rapidly. You’ll be left with an alcohol similar to “Poitin” – an illegal Irish moonshine! (P.S. that is not the goal here!).

Once your Kvass is ready, enjoy a 4 oz glass twice a day and continue on your path to…

Good, Better, Best.

Monica has challenged me to be the very best version of myself. And I pass that challenge to you. Positive attitude! It can make all the difference in the world when properly nourishing from the inside out.

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The Cooking for Well Being 2015 Class – Fields of Athenry Farm

Additional resources:

Monica Corrado’s cookbook – With Love From Grandmother’s Kitchen

Dr Natasha Campbell-McBrided developed concept of GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) – http://www.doctor-natasha.com/dr-natasha.php

Additional Info and Resources on GAPS – http://www.gapsdiet.com/

The Paleo Mom Dr. Sarah Ballantyne PhD – http://www.thepaleomom.com/

Rob Wolf – Author of The Paleo Solution – http://robbwolf.com/

Alex Lewin – Author of Real Food Fermentation and the blog http://feedmelikeyoumeanit.blogspot.com/ 

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“To Love, To Life, To Family, and the time to enjoy them.” Part 2

“To Love, To Life, To Family, and the time to enjoy them.”

Part 2

Photography by Hay Alexander

It was one of those nights where I was exhausted. I had a million things running through my head. Was Bernadette getting better? Was she going to crash again? Did I write down that last Turkey order? I hope those sly foxes or cunning coyotes don’t find their way into the Turkey pens or I will be in big trouble! And then by some divine intervention, I had some sensation in my breast. So I felt around, like I am supposed to do on a frequent basis when you get to be my age, and something was there. It was in my right breast. There was a lump. It wasn’t there before but it is definitely there now. And it is big! I thought to myself, “How on earth have I not noticed this? How long has it been there? When was my last mammogram?” The stream of thoughts went on forever.

The next morning I woke up and told my husband that I needed to get a mammogram. So I did. Of course they found what I could feel, but they needed to see more. I needed a needle aspiration. I was nervous but there was so much going on around the farm that I needed to stay strong. I couldn’t show my fears. The needle aspiration came and went and then I waited and waited and waited for what seemed like FOREVER!

I did what I could, staying focused on running the farm and all the turkey orders!  November, December, January, and finally February rolled around for when my surgery was scheduled. I didn’t dare tell anyone at that time because my amazing customers are the type they would worry and not want to bother me. I was worried the business would fall off, and we’ve come too far to let that happen.

And so it was confirmed. I have a possible Phyllodes tumor (for more details, also click here) – a rare, large breast tumor. (Par for the course with my family history.) What was next? I began my research.

Phyllodes tumors typically are not cancerous, but if they are they don’t respond to treatment like the more common types of breast cancer and are treated like a soft tissue sarcoma. Not good and either way, it had to come out. The doctors would have to take a large enough margin to ensure they removed everything or it could grow back faster and be more aggressive. Once again, THANK GOD for Dr’s Pete and Lolin Hilgartner who ordered my mammogram, guided me, and kept me calm throughout the process. And for Dr. Lando, my endocrinologist, who got me in with Dr. David Weintritt at The National Breast Center.

With the surgery done, tumor benign, and a huge sigh of relief,  I began to focus on the maintenance and healing of my body once again at a renewed level. I am now monitored on a frequent basis. Tumor regrowth or occurrence in my other breast is my reality just as it is Bernadette’s.  Nothing like a little dose of reality to get me back in line and grounded. I know, you must be thinking: Don’t you drink your bone broth every day?

Welllllll sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I have to admit it gets hard for me to drink a lot of it when I am brewing broth day in and day out. I have to say, I love making “MY BONE BROTH” and touching others in their healthy healing as we ship across the country. This is something really special.

I must also confess it is much easier for me to tell Bernadette and her sisters to drink it! Ha.

Seriously though, in times of stress my approach is to focus on staying healthy. So I discipline myself to get strict in my diet and my personal care: Spiritual, physical, and emotional.

Mary Undoer of Knots

Mary Undoer of Knots

  1. Spiritual: Spirituality has always been of the utmost importance to me. I admit there are times when I feel empty spiritually and it’s more like I’m in a desert. I say my prayers but feel nothing. But here is what I have learned: Do. It. Anyway.

Right now, spiritually, I am in a really good space and I don’t want to lose that. I love this space but sometimes it takes time and repetition to get to. The prayers working for me right now are shared in our Inspiration page.

  1. Physical: Lots of water with lemon, decaf tea’s, bone broth in the morning instead of coffee, lots of veggies, salad and of course, good meat! 

And Oils! I love Young Living Oils. For my breast cancer scare I went deep into using Sacred Frankincense in the months before my surgery and drinking plenty of water with Lemon, Orange and Tangerine oils added in for my belief in their effects in fighting tumor growth. After surgery my oils of choice were Copaiba, Helichrysum and Myrrh. I continue to use a little Sacred Frankincense each week as one drop on my thumb and hold to the roof of my mouth.

I went weekly to Ardelle Baldwin at Hilgartner Health and Wellness for Vibrational Rain Drop Therapy, where oils and vibrations are applied to the body to draw out toxins. It was amazing! This was also something Tara Rayburn had done for Bernadette before her brain surgery.

  1. Emotional: It is easy for one to get caught up in emotions and feelings of discontent. When this happens to me I find that spiritually I am dry, physically I am strapped, and my overall persona is out of balance. The scale is tipped a little too far, one sided.

Mentally I am usually the culprit and not anyone else. This is when I really need to get structured, take time to myself, sleep more, refocus, and remember how beautiful and important my family is to me. I take walks and work more outdoors. This tends to reground me emotionally.

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Peony from the Fields of Athenry Gardens

Each of these areas in my life need continual maintenance, and the fix doesn’t just happen overnight. I am perpetually learning to be patient with myself and with others. This is not something that is necessarily easy for me.  One thing I do know for sure, when I eat right, drink the benefits of MY BONE BROTH I feel strength in my joints, more mental clarity and a soothing way down deep in my soul. I get my act together and regain a new focus and purpose. Check out a favorite summer recipe we use to get our Bone Broth in during the warmer months.

As for Bernadette, she’s also healthy and thriving again. Stay tuned, she’s got more to say soon about what she’s learned about leading a healthy and balanced life.

What are your steps to staying healthy? What do you do to nurture your physical, mental, and emotional sides? Share with us in the comments below!

“To Love, To Life, To Family, and the time to enjoy them.” Part 1

“To Love, To Life, To Family, and the time to enjoy them.”

Part 1

Isn’t this just the perfect motto? This is one of my favorite motto’s, but I have to say, time is one thing there never seems to be enough of. I love it when life goes perfectly smooth but quite honestly that is not the norm. In fact 2014 into 2015 has been quite the “rolly” coaster!

Last summer, 2014, my dear Bernadette decided she was ready to move into a little cottage where she worked at the time, and make life on her own in the big world. I have to admit it was the perfect cottage and not too far from home! At all of 17 years old, it was time for her to move out of our home. In fact, she would be heading into her first year of college come fall, so why wouldn’t she move into her own place? Or so she told her parents.

Bright yellow paint, scrubbed bathroom, successful antiquing for adorable furniture, and even a special place for her dog to sleep (Right on Bernie’s bed!) and she was ready to move in! There was still a smell though. Leave it to Mom’s nose to have forewarned her dearest daughter that the smell coming from the cottage could very well be mold. You see, this cottage dates back to the 1800’s. When you walked into the first floor’s teeny tiny kitchen you might as well have been a solidly drunk sailor navigating on a sloping deck.

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Move In Day with her new roomie! (Bernadette and Molly)

Bernadette was two weeks into living and loving life on her own when I get “that phone call,” “Mom, I am shaky, really shaky. I can’t control my hands and I feel like I could pass out. My hands are shaking like Papa’s hands shake. I can’t even stay on my horse.”

MOLD took her strong healthy body down like a Mohamed Ali blow. Bernadette’s Cushing’s disease leaves her with weakened adrenal glands, immune system and God only knows what else. Bernadette crashed and crashed hard. Her cortisol levels dropped dangerously low and Dr. Howard Lando put her back on cortisol (steroid). We work so hard to avoid the use of cortisol by means of diet and supplements so she hopefully never has to become steroid dependent. There is a delicate balance with the added cortisol. Her body can very easily become dependent on it and could fail to produce cortisol on its own. When her levels fall so low we have to supplement her cortisol to “jump start” her system again. Dr. Pete and Lolin Hilgartner immediately had her back to consuming bone broth every day and on a solid mold fighting regiment.

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Bernadette’s Bone Broth

Strict orders! No if’s, and’s or but’s, from all of her doctors to immediately move out of the cottage and return back home into a mold free environment. She was heartbroken. Brad and I hurt for her too. Nothing worse than living out on your own in the big world, in the perfect slanting cottage, and then having to move back in with your parents! Even Nellie, Bernie’s dog, was devastated, as she would not be treated as the queen bee among our menagerie of farm dogs.

Nellie on Bernies bed

Queen Bee Nellie

Life back on the farm rolled on day in and day out. Fall came, life was picking up, Bernie was back in school climbing slowly out of her mold fog, and we headed into turkey season full speed ahead. I felt tired, but then again I seemed to always be tired. Let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger and besides, there is a heck of a lot going on here at the farm. So I told myself…

FOA WINS NEW YORK!

Would you have ever guessed? Check out this headline from our local paper, Leesburg Today!

“Loudoun Healthy Eating Pioneer Wins National Honor”

Time spent in NYC with my daughter and partner MaryTeresa could not have been more rewarding in so many ways. The inspirational stories of women making their way in business was encouraging.  I am still in awe of the fact that I, representing Fields of Athenry Farm, and all that we stand for in healthy eating, was on the nominee list for the Golden Plow Award. I am humbled and honored. It is with great joy that we can bring joy into your lives through our foods, flavors and love. To win the 2015 Golden Plow Award put me over the top in renewed dedication toward our mission and philosophy.

 Coming home from NYC was a pleasant drive and fun time discussing the HUGE win but even more special was the time alone with MaryTeresa who will be wed this coming October. Yes, we did a little shopping in NYC. We talked about wedding plans, honeymoon, flowers, all the wonderful things a mother and daughter can, alone. Then we sat down together with our small farm staff and wrote our very first press release!

I still can’t believe this! I am so excited to say the least.

FIELDS OF ATHENRY’S ELAINE BOLAND WINS 2015 WCR: WOMEN CHEFS AND RESTAURATEURS’ ‘GOLDEN PLOW’ AWARD

A farmer on a mission to heal chronic illness with food is nationally recognized at NYC gala.

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April 25,2015, Purcellville, VA – On Monday, April 20th, Elaine Boland of Fields of Athenry Farm in Purcellville, Virginia just outside of the Washington D.C. metro area,  took home The Golden Plow Award at the 2015 Women Chefs and Restaurateurs’ ‘Women Who Inspire’ Awards Gala. The Golden Plow Award recognizes excellence in growing or producing from nature’s bounty and honoring a woman whose skill in farming or making artisanal products results in food that graces our plates while respecting the environment. 

Fields of Athenry Farm was always a lifelong dream of Elaine Boland’s, a mother of five daughters who began her journey of providing nutrient dense meats and products over thirteen years ago.  Because of her daughter’s Cushing’s disease, Boland began to recognize the relationship between the foods we eat and chronic disease.  Through this experience she developed delicious, nutrient dense bone broths that included organ meats as a way to help her daughter’s failing organ functions. The WCR recognized those efforts on Monday night by awarding Boland with the coveted Golden Plow award.

Boland remarked; “We feel incredibly blessed to be recognized at this level. The WCR group of women has re-opened our eye’s to see the importance of why it is we do what we do. There truly is power in the solidarity of these women and we are proud and humbled to now be in the WCR family.”

As her family’s health improved, the farm business grew. She quickly went from a personal source of healthy foods for family and friends, to a thriving farm store and home delivery business. More importantly, she became a resource for people looking for both knowledge and ways to feed themselves in a healthy, holistic way. Her work and philosophy on food has been featured in Flavor Magazine, Inspired Magazine, and the Washingtonian.

MaryTeresa Boland, co-owner, commented “I remember when this journey started 13 years ago and learning of my sister’s diagnosis. To have come so far and to have my mom recognized for all her hard work and passion was such an amazing moment. It’s an honor to work beside her every day.”

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Today, Boland continues to sell her fresh, weekly butchered pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free Beef, Lamb, Poultry and Pork from her farm store and is shipping her nutrient dense broths across the country with the demand higher than ever.

About Fields of Athenry: Fields of Athenry Farm (38082 Snickersville Turnpike, Purcellville, VA 20132; Phone: 703.300.5765 Twitter: @FieldsofAthenry) is a family owned and operated farm providing Bone Broths, premium grass-fed, pasture raised beef, poultry, and pork along with other items like Raw Milk cheese, prepared seasonal meals, butter, ghee, and eggs. The farm’s philosophy is a belief in healthy eating as the first and foremost preventative to many illnesses that are a result of a reliance on convenient and processed foods. For more information about Fields of Athenry Farm, please visit our Website or like us on Facebook!

About WCR: Established by Barbara Tropp and seven pioneering women chefs and restaurateurs, WCR is an active resource for women seeking to advance culinary education and gain recognition in various areas of the food and beverage industry. Through invaluable experiences and opportunities, WCR helps leverage the voice of talented women, helping to elevate their position while building a strong connection of industry peers. These connections have influenced the careers of many notable chefs today.

My Bone Broth Journey

I often say, if anyone had told me I’d be doing what I am doing today, I would have laughed right out loud. God certainly had other plans for me. In fact He had majorly different plans than what I ever dreamed I’d be doing with my life. That was my first mistake; thinking or planning the big picture as I thought it should be.

My work comes from His guidance and all that I do is attributed to the fact that He knows the what’s, where’s, when’s and how’s for me. If only I will listen better. I am not going to go all “God and be healed” on you, but I do need to give credit where credit is due, and I cannot fathom what or where I would be without Him. I simply am not capable of ever doing on my own, what I do today.

My journey from childhood to now has been amazing, ever changing, evolving, and full of learning. I have been spoiled with incredible life travels and experiences, and I have experienced devastating losses and long, tough roads. That’s life. I can always look around and see how blessed and lucky I am to live the life I live. While at the same time I can get frustrated, lose hope, and see a never ending pile of obstacles that can get pretty overwhelming. Especially when you have a child or children with an illness no one can figure out.

Being a wife and mother, allowing myself to be crippled by overwhelming thoughts really isn’t an option. While sometimes I would like to wallow in my misery, I can’t allow that behavior to last too long. I have a family. I am the personality type that says, “Pull yourself up by the boot straps, Elaine, and get to work. Do something. Anything! Think big, think out of the box and take some action.” This is easier said than done, but done it must be and relying upon the big man upstairs is the only way I have been able to get past myself and begin moving forward.

In the last 14 years I have worked consistently on two products I can call my own. Two products, whether anyone else likes them or not, I can honestly say I LOVE them! They are my life blood. They are my two labors of LOVE!

Bone Broths and Sushi Stories – Say what? Yes, Bone Broths and Sushi Stories 🙂 Today will be about “My Bone Broths.”

Bone Broths, stocks, what ever it is the experts want to call them, I’ll call them “My Bone Broths.”

Yes, I know bone broths have been made since the age of time and they are the latest and greatest trend right now. The new Starbucks, Red Bull, and Mountain Dew. Except “My Bone Broths”  are the real deal. Nutritiously dense, gelatinous and a delicious super food!

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The road to developing Bernadette’s broth was an adventure I took seriously. I knew there was no way, on Gods green earth, I would get many chances to get my daughters to drink the mystery power drink. If it was nasty, even one time, it would be game over. The road to developing a broth my children would drink like a soda pop, was indeed, a long journey – a little over two years to be exact.

It all started when Dr.’s Pete and Lolin Hilgartner explained to me that the Cushing’s tumor in my lovable, hugable, happy-go-lucky, 8 year old Bernadette, would wreak havoc on her organs, mind and body. We needed to find a way to attack the root cause and not just go after treating the symptoms caused by the over production of cortisol in her tiny, but ever enlarging, body.

The good doctors suggestion; We know it is going to affect her organs so let’s create food medicine to help boost her organ function! She needs to eat organ meat. “HAHAHAHA Yeah Right! You fool!” was what I was thinking to myself.  Meanwhile, trying to keep a serious face and nodding my head, yes, in agreement like, “That’s such a brilliant idea doc’s!”

Dr. Pete then challenged me by involving me in my own child’s health, but at a different level: “You know Elaine, with your farm, you have the organ meats. We really need someone to develop foods with organ meats because it is seriously lacking in all of our diets. By consuming them, they help boost blood cell counts, fertility, support weakened immune systems and so much more.” Dr. Pete went on and on with detailed information that made perfect sense once I stopped and really listened to absorb the crux of what he was teaching me. No doctor had ever explained food as medicine in this way to me before, much less food as medicine alone or in combination with clinical medicine. Food as part of Bernadette’s overall medicine would quickly become part of our daily lives.

I went home scratching my head and thinking to myself, this is too much and way beyond me, but maybe I should keep reading and learning from that book, “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Mary Enig. This great resource was given to me by that encouraging and insistent “The Healthy Habit Coach“, Tara Rayburn and now Dr.’s Pete and Lolin Hilgartner. I’ve learned in my lifetime that when the same something keeps popping up in front of you, over and over, regardless of the channel, I need to pay attention.

Pay attention I did, and playing Bone Broth Chef in my kitchen began. Two years later I had the “soda pop” my kids would drink without a bat of their eyes. In fact, my sweet Bernadette couldn’t wait to have it for her breakfast every morning before heading off to school at age 9. This really was the breakfast of champions! Today, Miss Bernadette is 18 years old – going to college, riding horses, working as a nanny and loving life. Yes, I am proud of “My Bone Broths” I have made over the years. One of my greatest joys has been in developing  “special batches” for many of you, for your family members with cancer, serious to extreme food allergies, pneumonia and more. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed making them for you! I would love to hear how they have worked for you.

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“I tell people that your broth is the most dense, best tasting broth I’ve had! Also, your Bernadette’s Broth is incredibly dense and full of nutrition with all the organ meat that is used.” – Dr. Pete Hilgartner

The Fearless Duo

image3 (1)MaryElaine 

 MaryElaine is our youngest  of 5 daughters – okay “MY BABY” and an employee from the get go – whether she intended to be or not.  Mary Elaine has been working on the Farm since the beginning.  She is essential to our Farm team as she helps whenever we need and with whatever we need.  On Patio Service days, you’ll find Mary Elaine in the shop making sure everyone is getting the service they deserve.  When she is hiding out from work, you’ll probably find her in the barn! She’s actively involved with the horses here on the farm including running the Fields of Athenry Equestrian Business.  She has a special, and frankly rare, quality to work hard and for that I am so grateful and proud. Not only does she work hard but she keeps everyone laughing.  Every Wednesday night after packaging has been done, as a farm family, we sit down around the table and have dinner (It’s our chance to laugh, share stories and enjoy each other’s company).  Mary Elaine is the one who always has the whole table crying with laughter! Between her stories and her comments, there’s never a dull moment! MaryElaine and Bernadette truly have a special bond.

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 Bernie & DadBernadette

You may not see her working  as often in the shop, however she is the inspiration behind the Farm.  Bernadette and Mary Elaine are the youngest employees and have worked since the farms conception and are truly dedicated to our Mission.

Now that you have met the key players of our operation it’s time for Bernadette to share her personal journey. Having had her tumor removed 7 years ago, Bernadette has finally put pen to paper. She is now courageously letting us inside the depths of her Cushing’s Disease in hopes that it might help others to live each day to be the best you can be.

Bernadette’s Personal Journey:

It all started in second grade when I was eight years old. My mom began to notice I was gaining weight. It wasn’t the fact that I was gaining weight, it was the odd phenomenon that the weight was fluctuating along with my face flushing beet red with little to no exertion on my part, leg and ankle pains, overall joint pains, and blinding headaches. At first we blamed it on growing pains; I would gain some weight, then I would grow a little bit, but after a few rounds of this cycle, I just stopped growing. Soon I became the shortest and roundest member of my athletic, tall, skinny, 5’8”+ sisters. My hair was thin and scratchy looking, breaking off at the top. My legs hurt to the point that I shuffled like a little old arthritic man. It was a miracle if I could ever keep up with my long-legged family. This lasted from second grade all the way through my seventh grade year. During middle school my head would hurt so badly and pulse so strongly any source of light would irritate me. When I got these headaches I would get nauseous, but nothing ever came up to relieve me of the sickening feeling. I just figured this is how it was going to be for me. I didn’t expect to feel any better because when I had gotten to my worst that was what had become my normal.

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Between second and seventh grade my mom battled with different doctors trying to convince them that something was wrong. I had many visits to NIH (National Institute of Health) and overnight stays to do testing. I was a case they had had very few dealings with before. I felt like an experiment. They used me as a prop for many training doctors, poking and prodding me like a dummy in one of their college courses. Like I said, I was something they were unfamiliar with. I learned in my experience, that sometimes when doctors can’t solve something, they jump to conclusions which lead to making irrational diagnoses.

Doctors blamed my wacky body levels on my mom giving me drugs or body creams to make me the way I was. They also insinuated that I wasn’t eating properly or exercising enough. Specifically from one doctor, “Could your daughter be taking your birth control pills?” I was only in 7th grade at this point, and being strong practicing Catholics, my mother did not take birth control.

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Let me tell you what family I am a part of. First off, I lived/live on a working farm with horses to ride, creeks to play in, and woods to explore. There are multiple Olympic level athletes on my mom’s side of the family, who if they didn’t eat and exercise well wouldn’t be in the shape or condition necessary to compete on the international level. We would tell the doctors this, but they continued to blame it on me not eating well or eating too much and not exercising enough. After a few years of nothing but dead ends my family and I went to “visit” Grandma in Arizona. This trip was indeed a trip to visit my grandmother but it was mainly a trip for me to see an old retired family doctor friend, Dr. Tawfik Rizkallah, who with one glance at my full heavy body and constant rosy red cheeks diagnosed me with Cushing’s disease. I had all the classic signs but no proof to show for it. None of the fancy machines that hospitals have could find any tumor growth that linked my outward bodily signs to the imbalances within my body. This was about fifth grade.

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By the time I reached seventh grade in 2008, my mother had had enough of me feeling the way I did. She took my health reports and asked her adult endocrinologist (Dr. Howard Lando) to take a look at them. He denied the papers at first saying he only deals with adults and that my mom needed to take me to a child endocrinologist because the child to adult system is so different. Mom did and it led us nowhere again. Mom pushed back and told Dr. Lando she needed him to take a look at my reports. Dr. Lando finally agreed and within a few weeks he had me sent to have an MRI. The hospital said they only wanted to do a scan of my adrenals when Dr. Lando sent the order in to be of both my adrenals and brain. He was furious when he heard the MRI team wasn’t going to listen to his order. He personally called them up directly and before I knew it, the MRI team agreed to his orders, put the rose smelling liquid into my veins and into the tube I went, listening to the clicking and clacking noises like horse hooves hitting pavement. A month later, October, 2008, I was scheduled to have brain surgery with none other than Dr. Joe Watson, a man who reminded me of a very tall and sophisticated “Bill Nye the Science Guy” who had a different pair of glasses on at each appointment. I was one of twenty kids in the U.S. he had ever removed a pituitary brain tumor from for Cushing’s Disease.

Now let me rewind a bit to early fall 2006, the time Drs. Pete and Lolin Hilgartner and Tara Rayburn were brought into my life. These are the people that I refer to as my miracle workers. Tara Rayburn is the woman who pushed my mom to make a product that would help make people feel the best that they have ever felt. She encouraged my mom to study the ways of how people used to raise their animals and how they made their broths and how they lived. She’s the woman who introduced my mom to the Weston A Price Foundation and Essential Oils, both of which help in healing and attitude in ways that I cannot even begin to explain. She’s the woman who introduced me and my mom to Drs. Pete and Lolin who have helped me heal and stay healthy since my surgery in 2008. Dr. Pete is a chiropractor who takes a different look on how to adjust the body, but he’s not just that. He’s a life coach. He has helped me stay strong through teaching me how the body works and giving different perspectives on how to look at things that I go through. He has taught me the power of saying no so I don’t wear myself out and drain my system of the things we have worked so hard to build up again. Dr. Lolin is the nutritionist. She has taught me and guided me to eat well and be well. She’s always telling me to surround myself with happy things; happy books, happy movies, happy people, because it’s amazing how much our body is drained when we are surrounded by negative news, negative people, and bad food. She’s the one who has helped me feel as close to a normal teenager that I can feel. These are the people that I really credit for my post surgery success.

This small, less than an inch, tumor caused my system to produce more than 758 milligrams of cortisol in my body daily. “Normal” people produce about 15-20 milligrams of this steroid daily. This is what helps maintain and support people’s immune systems and bodily functions when they get sick or stressed. After the removal of my tumor, my cortisol levels dropped to zero. I had absolutely no immune system. Nothing to back my system up if I had a sudden crash. I was put on hydro-cortisol for a long time and for any of you who have ever needed to be on a steroid, you know it is not a fun experience. In order to combat the steroid feeling and to help my immune system grow stronger and to help raise my levels again my mom worked on perfecting her Beef/Lamb Bone Broth, which she named Bernadette’s Broth because of the wonders it did/ does for me. This broth is made over the course of two to three days with the organ meat, marrow and soup bones, and spices to create an amazing product that results in energy boosts and immune system boosts. After drinking this broth like a cup of tea every day my levels slowly began to rise and I was on the road to recovery. 1

Between my mom’s Bernadette’s Broth, Dr. Pete’s adjustments, Dr. Lolin’s nutritional guidance, and Tara Rayburn’s guidance on which oils to use when, I have been able to work outside in the sweltering heat to the freezing cold without getting overly drained. I have been able to fall off horses and get back on without needing to be rushed to the hospital in worry that my body couldn’t heal itself after hitting the hard ground. I’m not as tired as I used to be and my joints don’t ache nearly as badly as they used to. That’s not to say that I’m magically rid of my disease because I’m not. My tumor could grow back if I don’t follow the guidance of the four people mentioned above. My tumor could still grow back even while I’m eating well and following the protocol Dr. Lando, Dr. Pete, and Dr. Lolin have set for me, but I also know that if I do follow the holistic path in combination with aids from clinical medicine that is used so often today, I have a better chance of staying strong and thriving and hopefully less of a chance of a tumor growing back. I owe my life to these people because they have kept me alive and healthy since 2008, while at the same time encouraging me to continue to grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I encourage everyone to take that step outside of the box of conventionality, and take control of how you eat in order to control how you feel, because I believe that the way we eat and how we treat our body has everything to do with how we live each day.Bernie side saddle jumpng Tink

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It Takes A Village… (Part 2)

 

IMG_3799Galin- Galin has been around the farm for a long, long time.  As one of MT‘s oldest and best friends she has been here for so many of  our family life’s precious moments, from sleepovers, to Homecoming Dances, to catching turkeys running around the barnyard.  Galin attended James Madison University and majored in Communications (which has been a huge help to us here at the Farm). After college, Galin got into the Sales world ( stayed there for 3 years) knowing it wasn’t her forever job, but that it was a good experience.  Galin and MT worked together as waitresses in Purcellville, Virginia, during the days of Main Street Wings. As destiny would have it for this dynamic duo, Galin offered her services to help MT with our farm’s  Patio Services and slowly but surely she began showing up more and more. This was a gift we will be forever grateful, she stepped up to the plate (so to speak ) gave of herself to help our small farm operation out of true friendship. In addition to volunteering here, she is following her life dream and studying to become an Elementary School teacher. Those are lucky children to have such a brilliant, fun loving women shaping their little innocent lives just as she helps shape us here at the farm with her love and fun for life. She works diligently in the shop, plates food during Patio Services, contributes to Wednesday night packaging and works with MT on our Social outreach.  She brings a tremendous help to the Farm team, offering us support by lending an extra set of hands or offering insight when a project needs to get completed. She is a true treasure, abundance of joy with that right attitude.

 

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Alison- Alison and our youngest daughter  Mary Elaine grew up together in the 4-H Pony Club. They have been best of friend’s and together have been our worker bee’s from the very beginnings!  MaryElaine and Alison have a special friendship – what is said and shared on the farm between them – stays on the farm – no kidding these two have each others back, thick and thin. Alison helps out with everything and never complains, and I mean that, NEVER COMPLAINS no matter how late it can get, no matter how much homework may be ahead of her – especially during tough holiday schedules.  Not only is she the one that -almost always – like 99.9% of the time- hand slices our cheese into their 1/2 to 1-pound packages –  she completes the farm team for Wednesday night packaging (Along with Mary Elaine, Galin & MT), writing your names on the bags for Pre-Orders, packaging chicken to each of your personal request, to staying calm when the going gets tough.  Alison NEVER hesitates to do what needs to be done, she is an integral part to helping everything function smoothly.  You’ll see Alison around the shop on Patio Services days as well as pitching in in the Farm Shop whenever we need her. We are extremely proud to have Miss Alison on our team!