Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An Interview with Marilyn the Kefir Lady

Marilyn, the Kefir Lady, resides in Ohio on her farm where in addition to making and selling kefir (I purchased all my grains from Marilyn), she raises chickens, mice, ducks and goats (she has 50 adult goats ranging in size from the small Nigerian Dwarf goats to mid-size mini breeds to the giant Saanen). Marilyn, has been making kefir off and on for 35 years, and was kind enough to fill me in on how she got into kefir, and why the "organic" label doesn't cut it. Keep reading to learn more about Marilyn and how she got into all this kefir.

1. When did you learn about kefir? Or what got you involved in making kefir?
I learned about kefir when I was working at Zerbo's Health Food store in Livonia, Michigan in 1975. Back then the brand was Alta Dena. I just loved it. One day one of Mr. Zerbo's customers, an elderly lady, gave me some kefir grains in a jar. She said to put milk over them, strain them out the next day. Use them over. Those were my only instructions. I laugh at all the questions and problems people seem to have with their kefir on account of all the conflicting advice on the internet. They deviate from those simple instructions. I tell people there are a hundred ways to make kefir and unless you understand all about fermentation you could run into trouble. I teach the one best way. Don't deviate from that and you will be successful every time.

It wasn't long before we moved 100 miles away from Detroit to a small town called, Waldron. I thought I had moved to the country because they let you have farm animals there. I immediately bought chickens, goats, and Sheltland Sheepdogs for herding the goats. We had two children, the second one a home birth. I raised kefir grains on the goat milk and sold them to Amish and other health minded people. We raised goats for about 10 years then sold them all. As our two home schooled children got older I realized that I didn't want them around the influence of the children in town, which is part of the reason they were home schooled. I knew I had to move to country. That's when ear candles came into my life and how I made my fortune and be able to afford the place where we live now in Fayette, Ohio.

When this place in Fayette was nearly paid for, the FDA did one of their infamous raids on my business. I went underground after that and for the next four years I sold "birthday candles". What you do with them is your business. That worked without a problem for three years. Since the FDA works for corporations that can't stand competition, they had an undercover agent buy my birthday candles for a whole year gathering exculpatory evidence against me that I was still selling ear candles, which according to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act is an adulterated and mis-branded medical device. The final blow to my candle business came in 1997 when the FDA hired the Justice Department against me. I was done and signed their consent decree stating I would not make, sell, store, distribute and on an on any ear candles or anything that resembles an ear candle.

Now I had all this time and no income. What could I do for a cottage industry? A friend of mine wanted to start drinking kefir and wanted my help locating some kefir grains. I knew exactly where to look. The internet! So I bought some kefir grains from Adnan from Toronto, author of the kefir grain exchange website. Later I bought some from Dom in Australia. Most of the kefir grains I now distribute are the offspring from the kefir grains I got from Dom.

2. What is your favorite kefir drink?
I like it plain, of course. But I also like it with a little orange juice concentrate stirred in. The drink I have every day is 8 ounces kefir, a couple tablespoons of orange juice or cherry juice concentrate, 1 tablespoon each of spirulina, chlorella, Red Star Nutritional Yeast, and Beet powder. I blend it in my Bullet. I also make a whole vegetable juice with frozen cucumbers, greens, soaked dried fruit for sweetness, with kefir as a base. I blend that in my BlendTec.

3. Do you notice a difference between goat and cow's milk in kefir? Which do you prefer and why?
There is a big difference between goat milk and cows milk so naturally the kefir will be different too. Goat milk kefir is always smooth. And depending on the breed of goat, it can be very creamy. I have goats that range from 2% butterfat to 8%. The little goats are the ones that make the denser milk, good for cheese and butter, and very rich, thick kefir. But most goat kefir is quite thin. That's because the standard size breeds don't have the milk solids or butterfat of the small and mini breeds.

Goat kefir goes through the strainer quicker so saves me lots of time when I am straining six gallon size jars of kefir at 5:30 in the morning before the goats come up to be milked. When I had my cow, the process would take hours for that many jars. Sometimes I'd spend ten minutes getting all the thick curds to go through the strainer for one jar. I had a Jersey cow and the kefir was very thick. I am glad I switched to goats. The smaller curd size of goat milk makes straining easy. Some people don't like that goat milk kefir doesn't get very thick. I always say to go by taste, never thickness.

And of course, raising goats is a delight compared to a cow. I like to get people started in raising their own goats. They are so much easier to handle than a cow. The males are not dangerous as are bulls. One of the best things I love about goats is that they are always clean, even in muddy spring weather. I hope not all cows are like this, but my cow didn't care if she laid in mud and there was always mud for her to lie down in. All summer she was in the mucky pond. Goats don't like to get their feet wet, so they stay out of the pond. Goats are also easier on the pasture.
4. Did you notice a difference in your immune system after drinking kefir regularly?
I was born sickly. I got interested in taking responsibility for my own health when I was sixteen when I read the book, "Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit" by Adelle Davis. I had no idea before reading that book that ill health was not genetic. So every change I made in diet and lifestyle made a difference. I started drinking kefir at such a young age that I didn't get to experience any of the drugs people take for digestive issues. I know I prevented tons of gut issues because many of my peers live on Tums until they start drinking kefir regularly.

5. What's your diet like day to day?
My diet is 90% raw, including raw eggs, raw milk, some raw meat, raw cheese, raw vegetable salads, fruit, some steamed vegetables. I also eat cooked chicken, lamb, goat meat, and turkey. I pretty much only eat meat that I raised myself. I use coconut oil and raw goat butter I make myself. I drink kombucha tea and some water kefir. Whatever is in season, that's what I eat. I've been eating steamed asparagus every day for the last two weeks. Pretty soon here I'll be going on a mulberry and gooseberry diet. Not really, but you get the idea.

6. You mentioned you don't trust "organic"- why?
Most of the milk labeled "organic" is from confined cows eating organic grain. Cows should be allowed to graze. They should not eat grain. So I am not impressed that the grain they eat is organic. Also a lot of this "organic" milk is pasteurized at ultra high temps. I call it ultra dead milk. If it was ever organic, it sure isn't after it's been cooked like that. The word "organic" used to mean raised and packaged in a healthy manner.

7. How long have you had your goats and how much milk do they produce? What do they eat?
I milk 12-14 goats every morning. It varies because some still have kids on them. They give me plenty of milk for my kefir grains, cheese and sweet milk.

My goats get dairy quality alfalfa hay, free choice minerals, free choice kelp, fresh water with a radioactive stone in it from They get kefir soaked barley on the stanchion when I milk them, which I call goatiola. I make wheat sprouts for them every day using ocean solutions, which is concentrated sea water for soaking and watering. You dilute it down 100 to one for farming and hydroponic situations. I would like to elaborate on that if you don't mind.

Good health is about getting all the minerals in the proper balance including trace minerals. Most farming methods only put back 3.and they call it NPK. Most hydroponic solutions have about 16 minerals in them. But there are 90 minerals that plants need. The only place you will find all the minerals and in the proper balance is in ocean water. This is why ocean animals do not age or get sick as virtually all land animals do. Every plant takes up a certain variety of minerals according to its nutritional needs. For example, tomatoes take up precisely 56 minerals if given the opportunity. They are always the same ones. But a tomato plant cannot get the minerals If they are not in the soil. That's why the out of season tomatoes in the store taste like cardboard. The winter greenhouse tomatoes are getting precisely 12 minerals. The plants are beautiful and make tomatoes but by not giving the plants ALL the minerals they require makes them have weak immune systems that attract pests and fungus.

It is gratifying to make wheat sprouts for the goats because it just so happens that wheat grass is one of the only plants that take up all ninety minerals. My sprouting method using ocean solutions insures they are getting these minerals. originally contacted me because one of my customer called them asking if their ocean solutions would be good for water kefir grains. In the course of the conversation they discovered my love of gardening, hydroponics, sprouting, and farming. I was already thoroughly familiar with Maynard Murray's work and sea solids. Acres, USA has published a couple books on this topic.

Ocean Grown asked me to become a distributor. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to offer farmers in my area an inexpensive solution to chemical farming. Superior fertilizer in the form of ocean water is now available for every garden, hayfield, pasture, orchard, and farm. I guarantee there will be a huge difference in flavor. Everybody that sprouts for their poultry and dairy animals can now offer the best of the best.

8. What is sweet milk?
Sweet milk is milk fresh from the cow, sheep, or goat. It has not been cultured or made sour.

9. Why is raw milk better than pasteurized milk?
Raw milk is easily digested and comes with its own lactobacilli and other friendly bacteria. Pasteurized milk has been cooked to the point of damaging protein and fats making it very mucus forming and hard to digest. This makes people think they are allergic to milk. But what they are drinking is not milk at all, but adulterated milk product. I'm serious. The way the label laws are written, that white liquid you buy in the dairy section should not be allowed to be called milk because of how it has been processed. They take it all apart and put it back together in order to get skim, 2%, 3.5% also called whole milk. It goes through a heat process several times. It also goes through a process to remove pus because almost half the cows in this country have sub-clinical mastitis. One thing I can say for regular grocery store milk is that there are no antibiotic residues in the milk. They are strict about that. That means if that is all you can get, your kefir grains will do fine in pasteurized milk, prospering and growing and making probiotics for you.
10. Do you need allot of room to raise goats?
A couple years ago I sold a couple of mini-Nubian does to a family in Ypsilanti, Michigan. They have 1/8 acre right in town. They are exercising Michigan's "your right to farm" law. I only have 8 acres and 2 acres of that is a pond. All you need is a small barn for shelter and hay storage, good fencing and goat proof latches on your gates because they love to try to escape. You don't really need that much room for a few goats. And unless you need gallons of milk every day, I'd recommend one of the easier to handle mini breeds. You get 1/2 the feed bill and 3/4 the milk.

11. Any other tips?
Keep your kefir making process simple. Keep your culture jar at room temperature and out of the refrigerator. Cold temps make kefir grains go out of balance. Give your kefir grains the amount of milk they can handle in 24 hours, tasting every time so you can adjust the milk for the next batch. You may have to remove some kefir grains from time to time or they will eat you out of house and home. Seek out raw milk or move to the country and get your own dairy animal. Don't let any man tell you that you cannot or should not drink raw milk. Know your source. Buy local. Support small farms.

Thank you Marilyn for taking the time to answer my questions. It is great to be able to share your knowledge with others!

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