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.