Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Pig Preserve; A Contrast

It seems kind of ironic that the more we become connected the deeper the heartache. As I have been recollecting The Pig Preserve visit, I have received several messages from people bearing witness to truckloads of pigs being transported down the highway, to slaughter. A comment was waiting for me as I logged-in today, saying the hardest think about living in "Kentuckiana" is seeing the constant flow of  transport trucks full of pigs - and then seeing them go, empty. Everyday. Right here. In the middle of a major metropolitan area - Louisville, Ky - the self deemed; Compassionate City. I beg to differ this proclaimed title as I know my pig friends do too. I always wonder, how many people even notice their journey or much less consider their destination. (More on JBSwift Plant here)
The JBS hog-slaughtering plant slaughters around 10,000 hogs a day, six days a week.
Knowing this, visiting a place like The Pig Preserve seems like a foreign land. The Preserve is about 100 acres of land mixed with woods providing refuge for approximately 100 pigs. I had the pleasure of visiting a couple of weeks ago with Uplands PEAK board member, Kelly Cramer. On our arrival we were greeted by three of the resident dogs; Travis, Maxwell, and Big Brown Dog. Apparently, dogs and pigs can co-exist much like dogs and cats, with some monitoring.  One of the things that struck me was the mild manners of  the pigs. They seemed so content and relaxed. Of course, our visit was between meals, SO, we can't 100% attest to that always being the case.
Baby Bella 
 Rich, the owner, graciously took us around the property on his 4wheeler, while Bella, the piglet, ran along side. She stopped when we stopped checking the food bowls and testing the mud holes at each dwelling. Rich made the comment that she "was full of herself" that day. How could she not be, look at how darn cute she is!
 The Pig Preserve is unique in that they have the space to allow pigs to choose their own social group and dwelling. The traditional barn is near the house, there are more dwellings out in the woods, and near the big swimming hole. I would imagine that is why we didn't hear too much fussing that day, they have space. Space to choose how they want to spend their day and with whom. And most importantly, they can live in peace.
Of course, a sanctuary visit is not complete without a group cry! Rich shared stories of friendship and grieving. When Miss Fergy, the alpha female of the Preserve passed, all her friends came to pay respect to her body. He has witnessed pigs laying with a passed pigs friend body while crying. Yes, a pig crying over their deceased friend pig.
We have much to understand about these "gentle giants", as Rich often refers to them. But we also have to stop denying that their lives matter. That they enjoy being in nature. And that they to want to life as a pig should......
We are so grateful to Rich and his wife, Laura for all the time they took with us on our visit. But most importantly, all that they are doing for our pig friends.
Enjoying the woods
Dogs and Pigs CAN get along!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Dose of Reality, In the Bubble

     I have been in a vegan bubble for over five weeks now with the occasional non-vegan visitor. While a bubble can be a utopia and possibly uneventful, it can also provide learning opportunities.  My bubble experience thus far has been eye opening and a great dose of reality. I have learned more than I could have imagined and found questions, that I may not have the answers to just yet.  And while I came here to gain experience and a comfort level with animal care, so much more of what I have gained has been life lessons. My hope is  that I can remember to live them out often without needing much of a nudge.
     Envisioning my own sanctuary, I hadn't given much consideration to the number of lives that would end in our care, and how I might handle it. I am more in touch with this reality, as it is very much a part of  rescuing and rehabilitating farmed animals. Animal who have been genetically manipulated to be a producing "machine".

   During my first week I experienced the deaths of several animals and since then there have been a few more. Two of which, I had the honor of being with during their last breathes, Pansy and Mars, whom both  ultimately died of heart attacks. Witnessing another being gasping for air shakes you to the core. I have been with humans and animals as they grasped for their last breath... and it is no different. Both want to survive, both keep fighting. I am now more keenly aware of the calling to be present to those that may have died alone, without a name, any kindness, peace or love. And understand that that is a part of "sanctuary" too.
    As many times as we are reminded of life's impermanence, we still tend to get caught in the idea that there will be a tomorrow. I have learned, being here, that each day is different and each day is precious. But haven't we all had experiences that have taught us this lesson? Over and over again.   I noticed myself getting caught up in "working" after a few weeks, once I had more of a routine. I have made a conscious effort these past few weeks, to pay attention. To consciously stop throughout my day and take-in the sounds of pigs anticipating their meal, of the sheep stomping their feet inviting play with one another, of the cows mooing in demand of a treat....... one of us may not be here tomorrow. This is the reality,even in the bubble.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Being a Witness for my New Friends

  This week I have been getting to know the Sanctuary a bit, learning the routine, and becoming more familiar with some of the residents. A few mornings, I have been on water duty in the Goat/Sheep and Pig Barns. I have found myself working like a bank robber while changing the water bowls (well more like mud bowls) in the pig barn. Pigs are like cats, they eat and sleep about 18 hours a day. They say at the Sanctuary, that Miss Piggy is like a sun dial, look at which way her belly is turned and you will find the sun. She is SO pink! She loves the sun.

  Besides, the waters in the morning, I have been working in the Medical Building most of the days. A caregiver, Dawnell (who is totally awesome, and such a calm presence), refers to the Med Building as "hospice". There are some roosters, who just have to be separated for the time being, they are raging teenagers right now. There are a few hens that are are waiting to be integrated into the flock. Then there are a few that are being made comfortable for their last days. 

  One of those, is a white bird, Dandy. Dandy is a what the industry refers to as a "broiler" because that was his destiny in the industry. At Woodstock, they refer to them as the white birds. They are chickens, however, they have been so insanely genetically manipulated, that they are also referred to as "frankenbirds".  They have been altered, to grow extremely fast and to have large white breasts, since that is what the consumer desires. Chickens in the industry live for 45 days. No longer.  Due to growing so fast so quickly, and not meaning to live beyond 45 days, white birds tend to have organ issues, are at risk for heart attacks, and mobility issues. Not to mention, they are STARVING all the time, because they have genetically manipulated to eat constantly so they can grow very large. At the sanctuary, they are a a very strict low fat diet, and have measured feedings. 

Dandy in the Med Building Yard enjoying some Sunshine
Dandy, my new friend, is such a calm sweet guy. He has lived some happy days out at the Sanctuary. He started walking with one leg sticking out behind him recently. He has received treatment but it is not getting better. His hock is quite inflamed. He is no longer mobile. He kinda of move  from one spot to the next but it isn't very pretty, and it takes a lot of effort. He can't support himself on his feet at all. Dandy is a very large chicken.

Since he is weak, he is in the Med Building and in a crate (a dog crate) with lots of cushion for comfort. He is on pain medication, as he is in lots of pain. To help reduce the swelling and some pain, he gets cold compressed on his leg a few times a day.  I have been able to hold him the last couple of days for his cold compress for his leg. He just lays snug in my lap for a about 20 minutes, kind of on his side, relieving some pressure on his chest, and I hold the compress on his foot. He closes his eyes a bit. Sometimes he makes a low chirp sound. He always starts to try to turn and flap his wings a bit when he is finished.  

Someone asked me if I was attached to him, as he won't be here for even a few more days. My reply "I am just honored to make his last few days (hopefully) a bit more comfortable..."  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Don't Jump Pigs are Drama Queens

     And it begins.... hand me a rake, pitch fork, and a bale of hay! 

     My first day as a intern at Woodstock Animal Sanctuary was cleaning and lots of it! Mark and I jumped in to lend a hand with the daily chores. We cleaned and prepared a stall for the arrival of two new sheep (more on these girls at a later date). We did poop patrol through the pig enclosure, cleaned out a pig stall, and cleaned and re-did a chicken coop.
Walter and I at Woodstock Animal Sanctuary 

   So, challenge number one, get wheelbarrow through the muddy pig enclosure full of poop without letting a pig dump it over. Yea, they think it's fun. Challenge number two if  "Little Dude" (who isn't little at all) comes towards you MOVE. Challenge number three, get more comfortable with the pigs! Yea, it's a natural reaction to flinch when you hear squeals and grunts coming out of a 300-400lb being. Everyone has assured me the pigs are "Drama Queens". Being a Leo, I totally get it. 
  Ya know, all that talk about how dirty pigs are? Well, their "nests" are spotless, that is where they sleep. And I actually said out out loud today "Pig poop actually isn't bad". Seriously, easy clean-up and not much smell. Well, until the wheelbarrow is full. Just a little more info on "Little Dude", he just gets overwhelmed a bit, as he is almost blind and is deaf.
 The next big job today, cleaning out one of the chicken coops. This involved, removing all the shavings, scraping cracks and the floor with a putty knife, sprinkling mite treatment down, and replacing the shavings. Pretty big task for the afternoon, but add to that a dozen chickens who are totally into your every move! We kept all the chickens out of the coop except one,"Tamulah". She kept trying to make a nest in our piles, and trying to get through the doors to the other areas. I loved having some time up close with the chickens today. One of my goals while here, is to get to know more about the birds.

  When we wake-up there is no going back to sleep. 

I found myself tearing up many times today for no obvious reason in the moment. But knowing that it is a culmination of moments. It is amazing to be here with these animals. For them to give us a chance. To be that human that that they can trust. That scratches that hard to reach place behind their horns. That stands with them in the moment, in complete peace. And all the while, realizing the horrible things that are happening to BILLIONS of other animals, in that same moment. And being very much aware of how much I have to learn, the doubt that can creep in.... and the "Yes" that is even louder - because they deserve better. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Breakfast Cookies

Breakfast Cookies
With the changing of seasons, I am not as excited about my morning smoothie. I am not sure a breakfast cookie is the answer but I came across these as I was flipping through the Living Without Magazine. I adapted the recipe a bit. I don't have much experience with gluten free baking but these cookies are a bundle of fall yumminess! And pack a powerful nutritional punch. 

Here it is - Enjoy! 

8 tablespoons of coconut oil 
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1 serving of Energ egg replacer
1/2 cup of 100% orange juice
1 tablespoon of  ground flaxseed  + 2 tablespoons of hot water (mix, let sit for 5 min)
1 1/2  teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of Oat Flour (you could use any other flour)
1 cup of Oats
1/3 cup of Oat bran
1 1/2 teaspoons of corn starch
1 1/2 teaspoons 
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of dried cranberries ( you could use any dried fruit)
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
1/4 cup of chopped almonds
1/4 cup of coconut flakes

1) Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.
2) In a large bowl, cream together coconut oil and molasses. Beat in Energ egg replacer. Add juice, flax meal, and vanilla.
3) Add flour blend, oats, oat bran, corn starch, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. 
4) Stir in cranberries, seeds, nuts, and coconut.
5) Drop cookies 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. The cookies don't melt, so flat them to 1/4 inch thickness and 2 inch diameter. 
6) Place in preheated oven and bake 13-15minutes. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Super Vegan" Results - You can be one too!

Anyone can be a "Super Vegan". Yes, even you! I just completed a 30 day Challenge at my gym. My coach said that I could keep my main sources of protein but I wanted to give the strict challenge a try. What is "Super Vegan"? It is a whole foods vegan diet and actually is mostly raw. I mainly ate vegetables, fruits, seeds & nuts, and coconut. No, I didn't eat any soy, grains, legumes, or faux meats. Yes, you can make it without soy! For this challenge, I didn't use quinoa either. 

My physical results: 8lbs lost, 4% body fat, most fat lost in thighs (uh, I'll take that), and 4:08 taken off of my challenge WOD time. And the husband, who is in the running to win the challenge : 13lbs lost, 4.25% BF, 4:24 taken off his WOD time. Cha-Ching!

Here are a few observations and food finds:

Awesome Observations

Less is More - Part of a vegan lifestyle is mindfulness. So, eliminating packaged foods, prepared foods, and replacing with whole foods, reduced the impact on the environment. Less packaging = less in the landfills. 

Show me the Money - Buying less convenience foods actually is a cost savings. For me, not eating out, eliminating alcohol, and continuing to purchase organic, the cost for 30 days was the same. 

Hold the Salt - Packaged foods are loaded with added salt. Over the course of the day this can really add up. Eliminating processed and packaged foods dramatically decreases salt intake - Salt and high blood pressure .

Get off the Sugar Merry-Go-Round - When we eat sugar, we crave more sugar, it's a cycle. There is an adjustment period. For me, having a little more fat after a meal, like avocado or coconut, or nuts helped to get me over this hump. 

Even Steven - Eating whole foods, no grains, no sugar, and very limited starches- I noticed a more  balanced energy through the day, less of a spike in hunger levels, and also a less heavy or "blown-up" feeling after meals. 

Challenge Foodie Finds

Sun Warrior Blend (Natural) - RAW PROTEIN - I love this stuff! It's a raw protein blend with a small amount of coconut oil - no additives or flavors! I have a smoothie almost every morning - with water, a small amount of berries, and a green (kale or spinach) sometimes maca powder or 100% cocoa powder. It mixes great and in a pinch is good by itself mixed with water. You can find a deal on Amazon on this too. 

Crispy Green - This snack totally satisfies the "crunch" factor. It is just freeze dried fruit. Low calories and low sugar - much less than dried fruit!! The PINEAPPLE are amazing! I purchased this brand at Fresh Market. I did try the Whole Foods brand, it wasn't as good. 

Coconut FlakesI like the FLAKES better than the shredded for a snack -  little more bang for your buck. I may eat a bit by itself, mix my own trail mix, or add to a sweet potato. A nice, easy, raw treat is to grind in a coffee grinder: coconut flakes, flaxseed, a few nuts, cocoa powder, and a date - YUM!!! You can find this brand at Whole Foods. 

Lara Bars - Perfect on a workout day! My two favorite are Coconut Creme Pie and Tropical Fruit Tart . You can make your own bars but these are nice for convenience and usually about a buck a bar. You can find them at almost any grocery store.

Canned Coconut Milk -  I keep a can on hand for curried vegetables, coffee creamer, and just to drizzle over a bowl of fruit, nuts, and seeds! 

Also, purchase Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier. I bought this book when I started running two years ago and used like two recipes. It was a must have for the 30day Challenge but also for CrossFit in general. There are recipes for sports drinks (awesome on a crazy hot day in the ville), recovery drinks, dinner, etc. The zucchini pasta and marinara sauce is superb!! 

Remember figure out what works best for you! Being "clean" for 30days gives you a chance to notice how your body reacts and allows for adjustments. While for me the 30 day Challenge is over, my husband and I agree that we would like to continue being "Super Vegan" the majority of the time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Making everything "Cheesy"; Giving up Dairy is Easy

I  know, most Americans can't imagine a life without their creamy, casomorphin delivering, comforting substance, Cheese - but it is possible!  Luckily, I was able to make that leap almost a year ago. Now, I am on day 17 of my "Super Vegan Challenge" (Paleo without meat). What is so exciting about any nutritional challenge, is that it can open your mind and taste buds to new foods. In this case, your staple foods prepared in a new way! With the Standard American Diet (SAD) creativity has been stifled by the deep fryer, piling on unhealthy meats, and stuffing with cheese. Food preparation is actually an art, deep frying is so boring and lazy, and actually robs the food source of all its natural flavor and wonderfulness.

I will have to say that with this challenge my cravings for carbs (I think I can live without brown rice) and sugar have subsided and that I have truly been satisfied -unlike other nutritional programs and cleanses that I have done. Typically, I start daydreaming of the end and what the first meal of the foods will be. Vegan pizza, dessert, chips? Thus, wrecking all the work that I have done, and planting seeds of failure. That hasn't happened in this challenge. I am not sure what I will do on day 31. Where I stand today it won't be much different than the previous 30 and maybe I will add a few things back to my diet in moderation. Perhaps, quiona, beans on a occasion, I don't know.... right now, I am enjoying eating COMPLETELY clean, for the first time in my life!

There has been a detoxing and digestive system adjustment  period - I seem to be over the hump!  Thank goodness! When we eat differently our body have to make adjustments and re-balance itself. However, when you are coupling that with new, intense workouts like CrossFit, the effects may be even greater. Be patient. And most importantly, listen to your own body!

Eating in new ways may seem daunting  and a bit overwhelming. When you re-frame it - Isn't it important what fuel you put in your body? Aren't you worth it? Isn't your family worth it? My husband, reminded me this week that not everyone can look at recipes and adapt them to their lifestyle - I get that. It does take a bit of  experimenting and a sense of adventure. FOOD IS FUN! So, how about having as much fun shopping and preparing it as we do eating it?

Recently, a  friend posted a picture on Facebook  of  "Dilly Sunflower Cheese", the recipe can be found on Gena's Choosing Raw Blog.  I was intrigued, having given up my cheese substitutes like Daiya and Toffuti  for the challenge. Since making this recipe, has been a staple in my kitchen. I have adapted the recipe and used it in many ways as it packs a nutritional punch with lots protein and other nutrients like; iron, vitamin E, and all the B vitamins. It is an awesome substitute for cheese! And nutritional yeast, a complete protein with 18 amino acids, adds creaminess and a bit of "cheddar" flavor to any sauce, dip, or dressing. Giving up cheese is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the animals - read more about why here: Why Dairy is Bad for You.

Italian "Cheesy" Spread  - yields 6-8 serving

Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving = 8 servings

Cal: 184   Fat: 15 g   Protein: 8 g

1 cup sunflower seeds soaked at least one hour
2 tbsp lemon juice
3/4-1 tsp sea salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup water depending on desired thickness
6-8 fresh basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic
3 Tbsp of Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp of onion powder
8-10 dried tomatoes (I used "Just Tomatoes" they have no added flavor or oil)

1) Place soaked seeds, salt, and lemon into the bowl of a food processor and let it run till they’re broken down.  You will need to scrape the sides of the bowl several times.
2) Pour water slowing into the food processor so that the sunflower seed cheese becomes light and creamy.
3) Add nutritional yeast, basil, tomatoes, and garlic and pulse until combined.

 This is also a great recipe to DOUBLE and keep in the fridge for the week!


  • Stuffed in Grilled Baby Portabella Caps (grill caps with minced garlic inside then stuff with "cheese")
  • Salad Topping 
  • Raw Vegetable Dip
  • Spaghetti Squash Topping with Chives
  • Substitute any herb for Basil