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

Monday, May 7, 2012

Vegan Paleo Challenge - Recipes Included

On the outside looking in, it could appear as if I have an attention span disorder when it comes to food. It's possible. Constantly, seeking out information about food and nutrition - GUILTY.

As I posted previously, I did investigate and try out the Engine 2 Diet for 28 days, well with several cheat meals. I will still be posting some of the tried recipes and costs in future.  I loved all the recipes that I tried and will still use some of them. It did widened my perspective on reading food labels. I didn't realize that so many foods have added oils. For instance, a bag of just plain ol' soy nuts - added oil. WHY? Well, my theory with added oil, salt, and sugar is it is cheap but it also keeps you coming back for another bag - PROFIT. That is the great thing about whole foods like broccoli, the ingredients? Broccoli.

My diet had taken a change of course for the time being.  My husband and I joined a CrossFit gym about a month ago. Our gym started a strict Paleo Challenge May 1st for 30 days and we couldn't resist! Fellow vegans may immediately scratch their heads. The Paleo-Diet, also referred to as the Cave-Man Diet, prescribes meat. However, I agree with most of the nutrition: VEGETABLES, healthy fats, seeds, nuts, some fruit, and no sugar. In case you didn't know, being vegan and living without grains and beans may be an epic feat - but I am up for the challenge. Most importantly, I want to notice. Notice, my thoughts around not having those foods, notice my energy level, notice any differences in my composition or functioning, etc.  And we'll see if it will be a lifestyle change.

Of course, in my research for ideas on foods, recipes, and inspiration, I have found that other vegans are attempting this lifestyle as well. However, many are still incorporating some soy and grains. Why? It seems to be for the protein. Which I find very interesting. As a vegan have we not changed our own thinking around the protein issue? Do we need grains and soy for protein? I don't think so. I am tracking what I eat daily on LIVESTRONG. It's not necessary for the challenge or for the Paleo Diet. However, I was curious. Curious, to how much fat, protein, carbs, and sugars I am taking in on the challenge. Everyday for the last 8 days I have exceeded my daily recommended protein amount - just like every other American. Even without meat, soy, legumes, or grains. 

As I continue to take on this challenge, per request, I will post recipes and the approximate nutritional information according to LIVESTRONG - for the purposes of the grams of protein.

Coconut Lime Curried Vegetables and Creamy Garlic & Chive Mashed Cauliflower

Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: 

Calories 246.79   Fat 11.89   Protein 16.21

Serves 2  

Creamy Garlic & Chive Mashed Cauliflower
1/2  Head Large Cauliflower, Steamed
 4-6  oz of Vegetable Broth,
 Low Sodium (adjust amount for  desired thickness)
 1 Clove of Garlic, Chopped
 2 TBS of Chives
 2 TBS of Nutritional Yeast
 Salt and Pepper to Taste 

Puree Cauliflower, Vegetable Broth,   and Garlic in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into bowl and add Chives and Nutritional Yeast. 

Coconut Lime Curried Vegetables
 1  Head of Broccoli
 8  oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, Sliced   
 1 Red Pepper, Cut in Chunks
 1 Cup of Vegetable Broth,
  Low Sodium add 1/3 cup of  the
 1/3 of Dulse
 1/3 of Coconut Milk
 1/2 TBS of Curry Powder
 1 oz of Sliced Almonds
 1 Tsp of Lime Zest

Saute Vegetables with 1/3 cup of Vegetable Broth. Add 1/3 cup of Vegetable Broth, Dulse, Lime Zest, and Coconut Milk - let simmer for 5-7  minutes. Garnish with Almonds.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Food Experience- The Food Literacy Project

Are you missing out on awesome programs in your community? Well, apparently I have been. This weekend I learned about an awesome program - The Food Literacy Project - My husband and I spent the morning volunteering in their garden. They have been around for six years and according to a staff members, have a thriving school field trip program.

The opportunities that the Project provides is for the "next generation" to get their hands dirty and learn about healthy foods - from planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and eating. In addition, they have specific programs to learn about things like composting and the benefits of worms. The five senses garden and educational program is very cool, as they use herbs like fennel and rosemary with various textures and smells - to entice the young ones.

In the world of concrete, hand-sanitizer and nutritionally lacking food, programs such as these are imperative for the "next generation" to learn about "real" food and connect with the earth.  However, it is not just about them, there are plenty of adults with much to learn about healthy food as well.  Most of us city dwellers have a learning curve when it comes to gardening. And as we set out to  include more vegetables in our cooking repertoire we are bound to come across the unknown and unfamiliar like - Kohlrabi and Daikon Radish. Graduating beyond potatoes and corn is very exciting!

Garden and Rain Barrel Shed

The focus on sustainability was also very impressive. The garden has a rain catcher shed which fills four rain barrels used to water the garden.

Barn and Mulch Pile

The mulch used for the garden is from trees on the property that have been chipped. The mulch was very rich with lots of crawling critters.

Outdoor Kitchen


My favorite feature was the outdoor kitchen! The kitchen is used to prepare foods like salads and pizzas with only ingredients harvested from the farm.

You can schedule a visit, participate in the Family Programs, or volunteer. I definitely recommend taking the time to check them out and bring a little one if you can. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Veggie Lasagna- helping kick dairy to the curb!

  Want to lower your cholesterol and lose weight while eating awesome food? Well you can by following the Engine 2 Diet . I became intrigued by a whole plant based diet without added oil when I watched "Forks over Knives" . Yes, I already eat a plant based diet, however, I did have to try every vegan dessert and other vegan treat upon becoming vegan. Now, having that out of my system, I am ready for more structure and discipline around food again.

 I purchased  The Engine 2 Diet Book  and began following the recipes about a week ago. The plan is a 28-day "Save -Your-Life" diet that lowers cholesterol and burns away pounds. That is not the reason I am following it. I actually have stellar cholesterol numbers. Personally, I feel more at peace with some structure and discipline around food. While The Engine 2 Diet is a plant-based diet, it does use honey, which does not make it vegan, so be aware. Do we need to go over why honey is not vegan?

 So far, we have eaten all our meals at home, cooked for every meal, and have eaten very well! I will be blogging some of the recipes as well as tracking our spending. Eating healthy is suppose to be expense, right? I will let you decide. I think it is important to remember that you can substitute ingredients, sometimes frozen is a less expensive option, and sometimes you can omit an ingredient as well.

 One of the things I love, is that on the Engine 2 website under "Tools and Support"  you can select 1 of the 4 weeks in which a menu is planned with a generated grocery list. How easy! Or you can create your own weekly menu and generate a grocery list for each recipe you choose. Regardless if you want to follow the plan, there are some amazing plant based recipes to try!

Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna  (serves- 10-12)



1 onion, chopped
1 small head of garlic, all cloves chopped or pressed
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 can of corn, rinsed and drained ( I used frozen corn)
1 package of firm tofu
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 jars of pasta sauce (see E2 approved Foods ) no added oil or sugar
2 boxes of whole grain lasagna noodles
16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
1 cup of raw cashews, ground

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees. Saute the onion and garlic on high heat for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until the onions are limp and the mushrooms provide liquid - this never happened for me, so I added a bit of veggie broth. Remove them and add to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. You may need to add more broth to your pan. Saute the peppers and corn until just beginning to soften. Add them to the veggie bowl. Drain the tofu by wrapping in paper towels. Break it up directly in the towel and mix into the veggie bowl. Add  spices to the veggie bowl and combine.

To Assemble: Cover the bottom of a 9X13 in. casserole dish with a layer of sauce. Add a layer of noodles. Cover the noodles with sauce. This will save time and energy, as the noodles will cook in the oven. Spread the veggie mixture over the sauced noodles. Cover with a layer of noodles and another dressing of sauce. 

Add the spinach to the second layer of sauced noodles. Cover the spinach with mashed sweet potatoes. Add another layer of sauce, the final layer of noodles, and a last topping of sauce.

The pan will be very full! Cover the lasagna with thinly sliced Roma tomatoes. I added a bit more seasoning on top of the tomatoes.


 Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the cashews, and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before serving. 

This recipe makes 10 hardy servings. We had it for lunch for a few days and froze the rest for weeks to come. It was AMAZING. I promise you won't miss the cheese in this one!

I used all organic ingredients. The total cost was $28.62. For 12 servings the cost is $2.39 a serving. While, you could shave some cost of by omitting the cashews in this recipe - don't - it gives it a nice creamy flavor!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Heart Belongs to a Cow

I am not sure that vegan's are suppose to have a favorite animal. As a vegan, I am trying to save them all, as well as you and I, and the planet. In this lifetime. However, cows have stolen my heart, busted it wide open, and essentially changed my life.  My bias may come from my own guilt and thus redemption seeking for all  those years I spent uninformed, drinking milk, eating ice-cream, and gorging on cheese. Regardless, they are the beings that lifted the veil from my eyes, spoke to my heart, and called me to action. For both reasons, I am forever indebted and grateful.

We are fed  pictures of happy, healthy diary cows with their babies on bright green pastures from the billion dollar dairy industry. However, this is far from reality. This is not the reality for the mother nor her calf. Dairy cows are constantly impregnated artificially, to birth a calf so that humans can consume and profit from her milk. More disheartening is that the calves are taken away from their mothers immediately after birth. This causes severe distress for the mother as well as her calf. And this happens, over, and over, and over in the industry.

In October, I attended the first ever National Conference to End Factory Farming. A Veterinarian, Holly Cheever, shared a story of a pregnant cow. When she first became a Veterinarian, she worked on a dairy farm. One night she got a call from the farmer. The pregnant cow had given birth to a calf. However, when she came in to be milked in the mornings, she had very little to no milk.  Of course, this puzzled the farmer. At this time, this particular farmer, allowed the cow to give birth in the field, as it was more sanitary.  Within a day or so, the farmer discovered that the mother cow had given birth to two calves. This cow had been impregnated many, many times over her life. And each time, her calf was taken away. This time, she had two. She decided to keep one hidden in the woods, to go out and feed him daily, and she would let the farmer take the other calf.  Of course, Dr. Cheever, begged and pleaded that the farmer allow her to keep her calf , just this one time, after all the babies she had to see taken away.  But the farmer didn't agree,as this is not a matter of the heart, but of profits. While this story is heart breaking it also provides a glimpse into the maternal affections of a mother from another species.

This is not the only story of its type. There are many other stories of mother cows on dairy farms bellowing out wildly to try to find their babies and running after cattle trucks as they take their babies to separate farms.
Babies are taken away from their mothers everyday, so that humans can have milk. The males are sold as beef, veal being a by-product of the dairy industry, with about one million calves being used for veal. Female cows are kept to take their mothers places once she is worn out and her milk production declines.

Drinking milk, eating ice-cream, gorging on cheese - is what keeps this cycle of misery and torment going round and round. It brings up several questions we should be asking ourselves - who are we as humans, to impregnate another being? Impregnate yearly, take away her calf, so that we may drink the milk instead of her baby? Further, why would we wean ourselves off of our mother's milk to then become dependent on milk from another species? Milk which actually does not do our body good - understanding the downfalls of dairy.

For me, the answer is simple - we do not have the right to enslave, impregnate, and separate mother and child, for any reason. Especially, for a calves milk put into a glass for human consumption.  

 Watch this heart warming reunion!

Monday, March 5, 2012

extend your compassion by millions and billions!

Tufted Titmouse
One of the things we have always loved most about our home, is the screened-in deck, that extends off the dining room. However, there are times, like this morning that the love wanes. A tufted titmouse, a bird I enjoy watching, was trapped inside. While there are two doors that lead to the outdoors, the large (12X12) screened area and high ceiling can be quite tricky to a bird. Luckily, after several failed attempts to help, the bird found the doorway to freedom. I cheered the bird on as he/she flew to the highest treetop.

Most all of us are very compassionate when it comes to one being that is in distress or discomfort. It has always baffled me though, how our compassion seems to lessen as the numbers increase. We can detach when large amounts of individuals are involved since our brains cannot wrap itself around massive numbers. As we try to visualize hundreds of thousands, millions, billions - we just shutdown.

I have been following the recent incident of the 50,000 hens that were left to starve to death. It is my hope that they did not live or die in vain. For me, this story brought home the realities even deeper of  what I already knew about factory farming -  it is cruel without doubt or exceptions. The contrast is vivid as you watch the rescued hens able to scratch dirt, build nest, dust bathe, bask in the sun, and perch for the FIRST time ever! Doesn't that sound odd to you? The natural behaviors of a being, the very behaviors they were built to perform, denied for their entire lives.
  Animal Place and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary coordinated the largest farm animal rescue in California history. More than 4,400 hens were pulled from A&L Poultry in Turlock, California after the owner left the hens without food for more than two weeks. Sign the petition to prosecute the Owner, Andy Keung Cheung
In factory farms, hens are placed cramped and crowded, in  battery cages. Sharing the cage with other hens this give each individual the the space of a sheet of paper (8.5 X11) which is actually ONE FOURTH the MINIMUM space they require (4 square feet).  So, what kind of space would 50,000 hens need as a MINIMUM to perform their basic natural behaviors? 250 acres or 100 city blocks. But yet, they are crammed into a shed. Additionally, they are not able to spread their wings, peck,scratch the earth, and never see or feel the light of the sun. These types of denials cause beings to go insane, literally, as it goes against all they are genetically made-up to do.

Can you imagine spending your entire life with your arms folded or legs crossed never able to extend them? Would you allow your companion animal to live in a cramped cage, not able to turn around, stand up, groom itself, never seeing daylight? NO! Because it is beyond cruel. Yet, we allow these acts to happen in our country, to BILLIONS of animals daily as they are raised and slaughtered for food.

Unfortunately, there are no federal laws to protect farmed animals from cruelty. The industry makes it's own rules and their practices quickly become industry standards and norms. Cruelty cases such as the 50,000 hen's case are not rare - they have become the industry standard.  As consumer's we give a "thumbs-up" to cruelties such as these every time we make a purchase of an animal based product. Supply and demand. Choose an alternative, extend your compassion today, and consider a plant-based diet. You can  Get a Free Starter Kit to help you begin. All individuals have the right and are deserving of living out the lives they were built to live; whether that is wagging their tail, folding their arms, bathing in dust, or flying to the highest tree top. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Stewardship of the Woodlands

 One thing has always been clear, there is a connectedness, a sense of the the past and of the future, a sense of home - when you are in the woodlands. I am not a Girl Scout. I grew up in the city, well, Louisville, KY. I wasn't taught about nature, wildlife, or forestry growing up, so when we considered having our land logged, we had to look for help. In order to be the best stewards of our land, we took the first step of consulting with a "Landscape Restoration/Manager" (he is managing the restoration of about 700 acres of previous field to woodlands), and walked our property to learn and identify some of our trees and plants. Not only did we learn about our plants and trees, we learned some other historical facts about the area, that led to a greater connection to the land.  This made the thought of cutting down any trees, even an "improvement cut", all the more difficult.

Our property is located in the Hoosier Uplands , much of this area was cleared for fields of corn crops, thus leaving few trees. One side of our property, was a field not so long ago, and now has filled in with cedar trees. There is a dried up pond, with a very small shelter for a farm animal, and rusted bound up bob-wired fencing. We learned this was home to pigs, as pigs are often prescribed to repair a failed pond. Since pigs root in the mud with their noses, they can potentially work the clay, and repair the leaky pond. Pigs are not only smarter than dogs - they repair ponds! How awesome are pigs?

The other half of our property is untouched, healthy, woodlands. My husband and I knew this area was special, as we had already referred to it as "park-like".  Healthy woodlands also means diversity.
We learned that we have the following trees on our property: Sycamore, Black Walnut, Tulip Poplar, Red Cedar, Black Cherry, Elm, White Oak, Red Oak, Dogwood, Beechwood, Hickory, Persimmon, and Sugar Maple. There are not many Hickory or Oak in Indiana, even though that was the composition of the native woodland. When the forest were cut down originally, these slow growing trees were squeezed out by the faster growing Cedar, Beech Wood and Sugar Maple, which are able to sprout even in the shade. The fact that we have many Oak and several mature ones, I feel very blessed. I am grateful, these were passed on to us, and that we will be able to pass them on to future generations.

Our intent is to be stewards of the woodlands. Stewardship involves managing the land with respect for all parts, the trees and all the inhabitants. Therefore, it is important to consider nut and fruit bearing trees and plants for wildlife.

The consultant hesitated to offer any advice towards removing trees and explained the process would be somewhat "ugly". However, he did share that if we were to remove any trees that from his perspective in restoring landscapes to the original Indiana Woodland - he would keep the Oak and the Hickory which would mean removing it's competition, Sugar Maple and Beech Wood - but not entirely.

Finally, he recommended taking two steps in the logging process to ensure the greatest integrity and a separation of interest.  1) Have a Forester mark your trees to be removed  2) have a Logger remove the trees. We actually took a third step by hiring the consultant and we are better off for it. We have a greater perspective of all the life on our land and how our decisions will impact the landscape now and in the future. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

What can be?

Vision, it is a gift.  It's a gift that allows someone to look at something (potentially hideous and risky) and see the possibilities. That is what I see when I view the following pictures - possibilities.Possibilities of rescued farmed animals living a life of love and freedom. Possibilities of people discovering the sentience of all creatures, connecting with nature, and opening their hearts.

So, we begin the first steps toward possibilities, preparing the facilities and grooming the land.

These photos are the "before", stay tuned for updates.......

Garage that will be transformed into an animal barn
The inside of the future barn

a wood burning pile with many extras added

two additional junk piles near the "barns"

The House

Monday, February 20, 2012

Turning Vegan - "change happens"

Sometimes we set out to make changes in our lives. Mostly, because we think it is something we should do, or something we shouldn't do. We change jobs, go back to school, get married, start exercising. The list goes on and on. But sometimes, change happens without any thought at all. Something or someone speaks directly to our heart and there is no need for a "decision". Our lives are immediately different. That is how my life changed, I read a book without having any inclination of what the outcome would be for me.

I had been a Vegetarian for over five years. It started really through a New Year's Detox which consisted of beans, rice and vegetables (if I remember correctly). The Detox was for 2 weeks which at that time in my life, um, let's say I was not the poster child for healthy living. At the end, I just noticed, that I really didn't miss animal meat. WOW! You mean, you can actually have a meal that does not consist of any type of meat. YES! So, I shared with my husband that I was not going to start eating meat again and see how it would go. He of course declared "Well, don't expect me to not eat meat!". So it began. As time went on, being an animal lover, I felt pretty self assured that I was doing enough by not eating animal flesh. However, I was never compelled to dig deeper. Vegetarians were few and far between in my life. God only knew what a VEGAN was - I had never heard the word!

In April, I became familiar with the term vegan. Living dairy and egg free seemed like a very noble cause... BUT why would anyone give up dairy? I mean, the animal gets to live. No harm no foul, right? WRONG!
My vegetarian self-righteousness all came tumbling down the moment I decided to read Farm Sanctuary - Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food , May 28th 2011.
In Farm Sanctuary, Baur provides a thought provoking investigation of the ethical questions involved in the production of beef, poultry, pork, milk,and eggs -- and what each of us can do to stop the mistreatment of farm animals and promote compassion. He details the triumphs and the disappointments of more than twenty years on the front lines of the animal protection movement. And he introduces us to some of the special creatures who live at Farm Sanctuary -- from Maya the cow to Marmalade the chicken -- all of whom escaped horrible circumstances to live happier, more peaceful lives. Farm Sanctuary shows how all of us have an opportunity and a responsibility to consume a kinder plate, making a better life for ourselves and animals as well. You will certainly never think of a hamburger or chicken breast the same way after reading this book.
While much of the content was upsetting for me, there were the stories of hope, of the animals that had been rescued and rehabilitated.  Despite being upset, I could not put this book down. My mind was hungry for the truth and my heart was hungry for healing. I cried quite a bit. I ranted even more. Some of it was shock. Some of it was guilt. Some of it was shame. Much of it was heart break. However, one thing was FOR CERTAIN, in the midst of reading this book, I was NOW a VEGAN FOR LIFE! What does that even mean? Being vegan is not a DIET. It is not some exclusive club for hippies eating granola. It is a lifestyle.      A lifestyle of practicing mindfulness, compassion, and of causing the least harm. This is a work in progress as is anything in life. However, it all begins with being an informed consumer and aligning your values with your behaviors. Shaved armpits are optional.

Friday, February 17, 2012


VegaFarmista is about my journey past, present, and future. The journey of  veganism and how veganism is the spark that changed and continues to transform my life. 

The journey of transforming our 19 acre property into a Sanctuary. A Sanctuary for rescued farmed animals to find rehabilitation, compassion, life and love from humans. Also, a Sanctuary for people. A place where people can experience the sentience of animals, be in nature, learn about sustainability, and eat natural vegan food.

The journey of becoming a self-sufficient farmer and caretaker for farmed animals. There is bound to be many humorous stories as I take on this new way of life. However, I am up for the task!

I am excited to be chronicling and sharing this journey with you. Most of all, I am excited to be taking this giant leap off the cliff in faith! Saying "Yes" to my hearts desire, along with my husband, and to be working with animals and helping others connect with them. This is where I feel most connected and most alive. They are the mirror of our goodness, our innocence, our unconditioned love. They are our way home.

Up next: Turning Vegan.