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Preparing for peak oil in NYC: The cow from one end to the udder

The New York City Peak Oil Meetup forged ahead last Thursday with its campaign to educate the public in basic farming skills, undeterred by the fact that the meeting was held in the belly of that most unnatural beast, Midtown Manhattan. As part of its series "Bringing the Farm to You," Thursday's guests spoke about "The Cow From One End to the Udder."

Deb Tyler, a dairy farmer from Cornwall Bridge in Connecticut, talked about growing up in Wisconsin and moving to New England where she came to appreciate the cow's ability to transform sparse grass in a rocky landscape into protein-rich sustenance. Adolescent rebellion took the form of eschewing meat, milk, grapes and an assortment of other foods on idealistic grounds that in the end seemed ungrateful and were anyway driving her crazy.

She returned to cows after getting her teacher's license and tried to come up with ways to bring cows to the classroom or vice versa. She now owns a herd of ten Jersey cows which, unlike the Holsteins most of us get our milk from, have normal pituitary glands that don't overdose us with hormones . Through the non-profit www.motherhouse.us/ she teaches classes in how to milk, "Eggs-perience Chickens," "Get Your Goat" and master a host of other Old Style Life Skills. S he also boards other people's cows from which they can get their own supply of unadulterated raw milk.

The herd is all female. Male Jerseys aren't so gentle and when they get to be a year old, Deb and her family eat them. Most of the cows in the herd are artificially inseminated by Deb herself since her arm is smaller than a man's and doesn't hurt the cow as much. The semen is injected into the unanaesthetized cow's cervix (aagh!) but the cows don't seem to mind.

A woman and her daughter who board a cow with Deb come every day, always in the same dresses or overalls. They also have one dress "for good."

"I thought I lived simply," said Deb, who alludes to Quaker philosophy, "but they've got it down."

Following Deb, Melanie Ferreira, a gourmet organic chef who recently founded the Academy of Healing Nutrition, www.academyhealingnutrition.com/ talked about the health-giving properties of raw milk. Although pasteurization was instituted to stop the spread of TB in the twenties, the TB was more the result of unclean manufacturing processes used at the time rather than a risk from the milk itself. Pasteurization and homogenization rob raw milk of its health-giving properties, Melanie said, going on to warn the audience to beware the word 'organic' which does not always mean what it implies.

She had brought a dozen eggs from 'pastured' hens that eat bugs and worms and are therefore more nutritious. The eggs we buy often come from chickens that have been debeaked since the conditions in which they're raised are so 'cooped up' in the original sense, they would otherwise peck each other mercilessly.

The eggs were a range of colors and sizes including one that was tinged with blue. Melanie cracked one egg open. The yolk was an orange mound, larger than what we're accustomed to, like a dilated pupil. The amniotic fluid was distinct from the rest of the white.

A piece of shell had fallen in. Saying, "The egg loves the egg." Melanie used half a shell to scoop it up. The shell-piece virtually leapt into the scoop of familiar substance, a marvel to those of us who remembered pursuing elusive bits with a spoon.

By way of grand finale in showing nature's versatility, Melanie separated the film that clings to the inside of the shell and placed it on the arm of a volunteer saying, "Nature's bandaid."

Then Deb broke open a bottle of raw milk and, since it's illegal to sell it in New York State, passed around free samples.

The event was organized by Philip Botwinick who is also one of six main organizers of the Energy Solutions Conference to take place in New York City, April 27-29.

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