All the Animals (the peaceful farm sanctuary)

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She was three days old.  Bouncy, adorable, and everything one would imagine a baby goat to be.  She nibbled on the geraniums, went to inner city schools with me when I went to speak, played the piano, and loved her bottles.  She stayed next to me as I read and thought herself a cat.  She rather enjoyed rides in the truck and loved everyone.

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We often have to learn things the hard way to realize what our true beliefs are.  I had been vegetarian for twenty-five years and then vegan for an additional two years when we entered the farming scene head on and fell into line with all the other small farms around us.  We started a small dairy.  We increased our chicken family.  We had many animals who all had to “earn their keep.”

Elsa got pregnant too early.  When she gave birth, we took the baby away. (That is how people get the milk and not the infant) (and we were so thankful it was a girl because boys get killed in the dairy industry.  Period.)  She got mastitis and scabs on her udders.  Instead of letting her heal and giving her another year, I quickly sold her to a family who ushered her into their minivan and were gone.  For $250.  It was only then that I realized in my farming fervor that I just sold our baby girl.  Roosters I couldn’t get myself to eat came home plucked and beheaded for little reason.  I have too many recipes out there that need to come down.

Many folks deter squirrels with cruel spinning feeders and squirrel proof this or that.  We had a squirrel years ago that would throw his food bowl if it was empty after getting our attention!  They are quite fascinating and sweet animals.  Our life is certainly richer watching them play.  They come quite near to receive their goodies.

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Birds of all sorts gather around our third of an acre in the middle of the city.  Scores of blackbirds, owls, hawks, eagles, sparrows, finches, and silly blue jays.  Hummingbirds drink the nectar from the geraniums on the porch.

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The chickens are named and are actually included in our holiday cards.  They all have very different personalities, just like cats and dogs.  My friend’s young turkey was killed.  A few weeks later, the mother of the turkey died.  She was depressed and had stopped eating.  There is no difference (and it is only humans that have determined who is more worthy, who is food, who is equal) between the dog, the cats, the chickens, the squirrels, the blue jays, even the mice that steal a nibble here and there from the birds’ food bowl. They all have a right to live and be and I have no more right to be here than they.  We are all walking upon mother earth.

At this time that we wish for peace on earth, let us remember these things.  Not only will your health drastically improve, but your emotional state will be happier,  anxiety disappears, your impact on the earth’s resources will lessen, and the very number of lives you will save and improve by not eating animals and by putting out some bird seed will be significant.  That is how we get peace on earth.  One life at a time.  This mini-farm is a sanctuary, for me as much as them.

 

Recommended Reading:

The Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery

Happily Ever Esther by Steve Jenkins

Living the Farm Sanctuary Life by Gene Baur

 

 

 

How to Accept the Challenge of Living Fully and Embrace Destiny

ninjaThe biggest challenge is living life in the fullest right now.  To be neither in the past nor the future.  To face fears as one experiences them.  To constantly reassess one’s temperaments and ideals, perceptions and reactions to become a better, kinder, more graceful person who lives with great compassion.  To find what destiny was designed for us and follow the cues of passion and interest to find where we make the very most difference in the world.

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Writing a memoir was a profound experience for me because I was able to start at the beginning of this life journey and walk through it.  I saw myself at three years old, at eleven years old, I watched as I experienced bliss, intense sadness, confusion, joy, and I nodded at each character that has helped mold me in my life, from my mother to my mentors.  I was able to see, understand, forgive, embrace, appreciate, and release.  I highly recommend that you purchase a journal and begin telling your tale.  Everyone has a message and a life of lessons to share.

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When one finds themselves fretting about the future or reliving a memory in the past, try to pull yourself to this moment.  I believe the reason I love great food, cooking, and the mysteries of wine is because it makes me grounded.  It forces me to use my human senses.  Otherwise I am always flitting about spiritually or stuck in my head.  Balance is needed.  Try to close your eyes and smell, hear, touch, breathe, taste.  Hear the birds.  See the colors of nature out the window.  Feel the breeze on your skin.  Taste the tannins in a cup of tea.  Feel the air fill your lungs.  Put your hands together in front of your heart and feel gratitude.  This acts as a reset and brings you back to now.

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In my book, The Making of a Medicine Woman; the Memoirs of Bird Woman, that is soon to be released, I experience facing fears.  You will always have to face your fears.  They will keep coming until you do.  My fear has always been of ghosts and bad spirits.  Nightmares from when I was very young and stories that haunted me (I should not have watched “The Exorcist”) through adulthood kept me from doing the work that I do.  I lived in haunted house after haunted house and had experience after experience until finally I turned around and realized I wasn’t afraid anymore.

What are you afraid of?

On my birthday I posted some crazy what-if’s.  What if I stopped writing out a to-do list, what anything get done?  My fear of not being productive enough prompts me to write elaborate lists.  I stopped writing them for a week.  And sure enough, not a dang thing got done!  So the lists are back, just smaller.

I wondered if I stopped worrying about money if it would come easier.  Our income didn’t increase but once I stepped back and stopped worrying, I realized we make enough.

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I wondered what it would be like to shave my head.  It felt like a beautifully symbolic new beginning.  A spiritual oath.  A bit of freedom (from tangles, hair products, and dye).  But what if people thought I had cancer?  (White girls with shaved heads are unfortunately assumed to be ill if they have very short hair, it turns out…)  Well, sure enough, lots of messages came pouring in and strangers walked up to me and asked if I were ill.  I dealt with the fear straight on with a smile.  And I LOVE my hair.  I don’t look in the mirror much now.  It certainly is freeing.

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Challenge yourself!  That is another way to live fully.  What do you want to do with your life?  How can you become a better person?  How can you live more compassionately?  How can you spread your light to the world?

Maybe open doors for people.  Give some leeway on the highway.  Give hugs, compliments, forgiveness, and small gifts.  Give of yourself.  Laugh.  Notice.  Be here.  Follow your desires.

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If you are not happy, figure out why.  It’s time to live your destiny and your birthright of joy.  Joy follows when you are following your highest self and living for now.

 

What If? (a birthday pondering)

DSC_6435My birthday is Saturday.  The years fly by in the breeze faster than I can blink but I am grateful for each and every year that I get to celebrate being on this beautiful earth.

New Year’s makes me ponder how I can do things better and makes me set lofty financial and personal goals.  Autumn makes me rethink what I need and what I don’t need.  It is a cleansing of sorts.  My birthday makes me think of ways that I can live.  How can I take in each day more deeply?  How I can be more present and more compassionate and more alive?  It makes me think…what if?

What if I stopped making a to-do list?  Would anything actually get done?  Instead of cramming sixty-two things into one day, what if each thing was done as I thought of them.

What if I stopped counting every penny?  Would money begin to flow in after I loosened my grip on worry?

What if I stopped circling back every time I began to move forward in my work?  Can I let go?

What if I got a Buddhist hair cut?  Would people think I was sick?  Or ugly?  What if it didn’t matter?  What if I released my appearance and symbolically started anew on my journey?  How fun would that be to not do my hair.  Or to not have a headache every night from hair ties?

Why is cutting my hair or releasing worry or moving forward or not having a to-do list so monumental?

What if I took more time to do yoga and to sit in coffee shops writing or got a bicycle and rode around town?  What if I spent more time in the garden or with my children or reading?  What if I had tea time every day at 4?  What if I cut my hair?

Maybe this is the year of boldness.

Of courage.  Of peace.

of living.

Finding Your Passion and Current Purpose-part 1

20180128_141816-EFFECTSHave you ever wondered what is next?  Where your path is leading?  What you will become next?  Some people work a career their entire life and then retire.  Some raise children and become entrepreneurs, like myself.  I have reinvented what I do so many times because I have so many interests but they all really dance around each other.  They are all interconnected.

I breathe in the cool morning air as the sunrise reaches rose pink across the winter sky and crows hover about.

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I lead an enchanted life of miraculous happenings, unusual animal and bird sightings, healings, and things happen to us that just do not make sense in the cookie cutter mind of our world.  This thrills me.  But there must be a reason why I see these things.  Experience these things.

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I have an influential voice.  That comes with responsibility to make sure that I am speaking and teaching what is compassionate and what is beautiful and what is real.  Before bed I ask my ancestors and friends to help me see answers to what is next.  The pictures in my dreams are always of me leading a group.  Or of me being a type of Martha Stewart with a compassionate twist.  I love creating; whether it be gardens or art or words or great food or inspiration or encouragement or a new life.

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The Universe has seemingly freed up some time for me.  I have time to do something.  I teach herbalism courses and shaman courses and I write and help with the shop and answer the apothecary phone and help people.  I’ll be on a radio show next week talking about my herbalism and plants in homesteading and promoting my book, Homesteader Pharmacy (click to see on Amazon).

There is more though.  I am on the cusp of something.  I am not just an herbalist.  Our goal is to pay off debt this year.  I want to work towards getting a farm and animal sanctuary in the future, but in the here and now….ideas swirl overhead like dust devils but don’t quite land.

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I fill my time just fine and come summer I will be really busy with gardens and wildcrafting and markets but there is just something below the surface that ties in everything that I do.  Something to give me purpose.  I have been working on a book for the past year.  I put it aside in order to write a novel.  I wrote said novel but I can’t say I am a great fiction writer.  I am a non-fiction writer.  This book keeps bobbing to the surface.  It just needs some dedication.  Writing a few hours a day has to make the to-do list.

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I know I am more than just an herbalist.  It used to consume twenty-four hours a day for me but my daughter has taken on most of the work.  Finding my other passions and moments of inspiration are what I need to ponder.  Something to tie them all together…

Now, where are you on your journey?

The Real Face of Farming and How to Change the World

elsaWe fell in love with her instantly.  She was so small, adorably white, and cuddly.  I gave her a bottle full of milk which she took with relish and snuggled into my arms to sleep.  Her name was Elsa.

A friend of ours gave her to us out of sympathy.  Our first two goats were Katrina, who after giving birth would not have anything to do with us and we were not able to milk her, who went to live with someone new, and Loretta.  Loretta was a rotund black dwarf who came to us pregnant.  We did not know this at first.  She loved my husband.  She followed him incessantly, attempting to help him with chores.  She just adored him and we loved her too.

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We were excited, as new goat farmers, that she was pregnant.  We would make some money off of her babies and then milk her.  The buckling within her womb was too big for her and his foot punctured through her uterus.  She died a rather painful, screaming death.  Instead of deciding that perhaps animals shouldn’t be used for milk, we decided to get a gun in case we needed to put future animals out of their misery.  (We sold it a year later.)

Elsa was placed in our arms.  A three day old doe will melt anyone’s heart.  She loved to ride in our truck, windows down, music playing; she was like a puppy dog.  She went with us to speak at inner schools.  She introduced dozens of children to farming and the joy of goats.  She pranced about the living room.  She ate geraniums and loved farmer’s markets and attention.  We loved her.

Here’s the thing about farming-even sustainable, humane, compassionate farming-it’s not any of those things.  No one was more compassionate and affectionate as my husband and I, yet when you have a farm, your perceptions change.  Animals are expensive to keep, and there comes the mentality that animals have to earn their way.

IMG_0801We bred Elsa-because we had a small dairy- and she gave birth.  We whisked the baby away.  She cried and we told ourselves that animals don’t feel the same as humans, she won’t even miss the baby.  She got mastitis and huge scabs on her udders made it so that we could barely milk her.  I had to hurry because if she was in milk she was worth more than not.  I sold her for two hundred and fifty dollars to someone who drove out from New Mexico, loaded her into the minivan and was gone.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that I just sold and got rid of our beautiful Elsa.  It is not that we were heartless, we just fell into the perceptions of a small farm.  Our friends all had the same mentality, and it was just the way things were.

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The roosters were friendly.  All of our chickens were.  They had all been kissed and carried around by us or our children since they were two days old, freshly home from the feed store.  But they were not kind to the hens.  Their roughness trying to mate the chickens caused gashes in the hens’ necks and a lot of stress.  There is only one way to get rid of a rooster.  We placed them in dog kennels and took them to a nearby freelance butcher that would take care of them.  We joked and laughed and said they were heading to freezer camp.  We put up the filter, the barrier, the wall, the ignorance, that all farmers put up.  Two living beings were about to be killed.

My husband drove by and saw that they were still in their kennels two days later.  No water.  No food.  They were delivered to us in plastic bags.

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We thought chickens got their heads cut off and it would be quick and easy.  But that is not so.  Chickens are bled out.  Upside down they hang while their necks are slit.  The blood runs across their face, up their nostrils, into their eyes, until at last they succumb.

Laverne was a beautiful black hen, whose feathers shimmered green in the sunlight.  She loved to sit on my lawn chair next to me as I read.  All chickens have personalities.

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“The animals die quickly,” we told ourselves.  Hanging by one leg, having their necks slit, fearful, swinging from overhead, not understanding.  We could hear the cows lowing frantically a mile away at the slaughterhouse.  Not even the few that are dispatched by gunshot die quickly.

I had been vegetarian for twenty-seven years and vegan for two years.  I was fiercely passionate about animal rights.  We dreamed of living in the country and our friends around us all had small, sustainable, compassionate farms.  We started drinking goat’s milk.  We got our own goats.  We prayed for all girls.  Because there is no other use for male goats.  Most don’t even become dinner, they are killed and dumped in most operations.  “I don’t want to hear if the males are becoming meat!” If you knew how many times I have heard that from goat farmers.  Ignorance makes us lose our empathy.  It makes us lose ourselves.

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It is easy to put up walls so that one cannot see the personalities or the lives that are being taken in the name of country and farm living.  I told myself that it was hypocritical to be vegan because everything causes harm.  Our ancestors ate meat.  So and so is ninety and he’s fine!  Oh the reasons we come up with.  And there we were eating meat.  And in that time I watched our health flutter downwards in a spiral that could not be blamed on anything else.

Many people will decide that gluten is actually their health downfall.  Perhaps it is chronic disease, inflammation, hereditary.  I have found as a Clinical Herbalist that there is not an ailment out there that cannot be benefited by adopting a plant based diet.  In fact there is not an ailment out there that is not caused or worsened by eating meat.

But the idealic countryside of cows grazing in the hazy dawn of a country morning would not exist.  Farm animals have many good days and one bad day!  It’s the circle of life.  It’s healthier.  I never really believed the last statement as my lymph nodes grew larger and larger but one does tell themselves many things in order to justify what is not right.  I have been on both sides of the spectrum.  I can see the romanticized farming lifestyle.  But I can see and feel the karmic and physical and emotional and spiritual disaster that inevitably follows by consuming animal products.

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You see, the mothers do cry for their young.  The cows do wander out of the fields and down the street looking for their babies.  We get upset that kittens are boiled alive in China for food but not when a lobster does.  Society gets upset over a dog being eaten, but doesn’t bat an eye at lamb.  When the word cow becomes beef and sheep becomes mutton and we begin to make them less than sentient beings in our minds, we begin to fool ourselves.  We might be outraged that dogs are experimented on for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals but then feel hopeless and be a consumer anyway.  We may not wish to harm any animal but then feel overwhelmed and purchase the packaged, bleeding, unnamed meat in the grocery store.  Or maybe we buy from a sustainable, humane, compassionate farm.  Well, now you know how that turns out.

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It took me four years to realize what I was doing and what I had done.  The word “vegan” has a negative connotation to it and I thought I’d rather be ignorant than angry.  But it is not anger, you see, it is compassion.  It’s realizing what is actually going on.  It is realizing that our health and our spirit and our life will be more peaceful, and more beautiful, and healthier, and more vibrant once we let those illusions leave and let the wall down.  But I will warn you, you will begin to see things with new eyes.  You may be horrified, angry, empathetic, passionate, saddened, but we as humans were never meant to murder.  Imagine telling a small child to kill a rabbit.  It does not come naturally to us.  It is time to let the old myths go and the excuses and step into a more enlightened way of living.  Just wait and see how it changes you.

The Meat Dilemna (what’s a nice vegetarian girl gonna do?)

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There has been a huge gap for me to cross.  One that I started in my heart when I was a child.  Not wanting animals to suffer led me to becoming a vegetarian.  Outside of a few times when I was a teenager, I have been a vegetarian for twenty-seven years.  When I was fresh out on my own that looked like Hamburger Helper without the hamburger and other processed foods that resembled sustenance.  As I grew more conscious I then created two vegetables, a grain, and a veggie meat dinner.  Better, I am sure, but the canned vegetables and “whole wheat” breads of my youth were growing old.  Then Doug and I started eating fresh vegetables, or ones we canned, along with homemade bread, and veggie meat.

food incOur entire reason for being vegetarian was to lead a more compassionate life, to assure that no animal would suffer because of us.  Sickened by the documentary “Food Inc.” we became vegan.  Suddenly aware that we were living a lie this whole time, we quit all animal products.  Being vegetarian includes dairy.  Dairy comes from milk cows who are repeatedly bred, who live in an enclosure, who lose their babies immediately so that we can have the milk, then are slaughtered a few years later for meat.  Cheese is made by using rennet.  In other words the stomach lining of a calf.  Being vegetarian is not being vegetarian at all!  So we bought vegan products, and ate pretty good, I suppose, but we still were eating a lot of veggie meats and processed foods.

We got our own chickens and started eating eggs again.  Our own.  Delicious and far better than anything at the grocery store. We tasted some of Nancy’s goat milk a year or so back and loved it.  We decided to get a milk goat.

I started to wonder about the meat and dairy substitutes.  Each one had slowly been bought up by larger companies.  The ones that promote mass feed lots, genetically modified ingredients, and hormones.  I noticed that the veggie meats and non-dairy milks had a lot of ingredients that I did not recognize.  A lot of items that were listed were not organic.  For instance, Silk says they don’t use genetically modified ingredients.  White Wave used to own them and did use 100% organic and non-GMO soy, but Dean Foods owns it now (they also own Horizon organics) and their organic line is something to be desired with their heavy use of feed lot techniques and they do not promise not to use non-GMO ingredients. Coconut milk, cheese substitutes, and veggie burgers have their own lists of unknown products.  I began to question how healthy these items really are.

I started to look around at my friends’ farms.  John hunts and in one fell swoop can take down a deer.  Not fifteen, just enough to feed his family.

My friends have their cows slaughtered by a single shot to the forehead.  The cow never sees it coming.  This comes after living a pretty cushy life out in the pastures grazing in lush grasses and eating delicious hay.  Cows probably shouldn’t grow old.  My joints kill me as it is in the winter, can you imagine carrying that much weight and getting old?  Wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

chicken picSimilarly, chickens are running around one second, beheaded the next, never knowing they are about to meet their maker.  Other poultry the same.  As Suzanne McMinn says in her book “Chickens in the Road”, they have a lot of good days and one bad day.  That struck me.  We will all meet the Creator at some point, be it by car accident, cancer, or some other way.  We will all go.

I wonder though what right I have to take a life.  Life is sacred.  I could no more smash a butterfly then kill one of my chickens.  My cat can swoop up a mouse (or hamster unfortunately), kill it, and not feel a smidge guilty.  Same with coyotes, foxes, owls, any other predator.  I used to tell people that we are not predators.  Imagine running naked after a rabbit, actually catching one and eating it bare toothed.  It creates a vivid image, and one I used to prove my point that we are not meat eaters.  But, flea beetles met their match in the garden with me.  I’m fine with wasps killing larvae for me.  Everything else can do my dirty work.  I don’t think about big fields of vegetables and the animals that were displaced or worse in the process.  Ignorance is sometimes truly bliss.

We could live on lentils, beans, and nuts.  We can grow a small amount here, so I have to depend on the farmers that are growing them to not kill any animals in the process.  I can eat only vegetables and fruits from my garden.  Or my friend’s garden.

One day, I gave up.  It is hard to give up something you have actively advocated for the better part of your life.  Not to mention that Doug and I feel so strongly that veganism is healthier than meat eating.  There is solid proof that animal products cause many of the top killers; heart disease, stroke, cancer, toxicity in the body.  We began to analyze these things though.  I have no doubt that the way that animals are treated in factory farms, the way they are abused in slaughter houses, the hormones and anti-biotics they are pumped with throughout their lives, the genetically modified grains they are fed, and the dyes that are often added equal one heck of a cancer dinner.

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Our forefathers ate meat. Not as much as current society does, but they did eat meat.  Their own meat.  Their own pasture fed, free roaming animals sans anything extra meat.  They ate everything organic.  The chemical revolution that was disguised as forward thinking in farming post World War two with all its extra chemical warfare to do something with had not yet arrived.  Homemade breads and fresh vegetables and humanely provided meat started to appeal to me as a much more natural existence in this farming life we have chosen.

John was overjoyed that we had come to our senses and gave us a pork roast, some chops, and a huge hunk of venison, that I can only imagine (but tried not to) was the shoulder.  Debbie brought us some of her fresh beef.  We bought organic chicken raised in Boulder from the health food store and it felt oddly satisfying and comforting to have a freezer full of vegetables and meat.  Not an emotion I ever thought I would have.  Now, once a month we go to the store and stock up on organic meat.

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Then came the question of what happens if we have a boy duck.  I started out by saying, “We can pay someone to….”  Doug interrupted me hurriedly to finish my sentence, “to take him to the animal swap?” We are not really ready to slaughter or pay someone to slaughter our animals.  But, why would I take a perfectly healthy, likely spoiled rotten, organically fed plump duck to the animal swap, then go buy an organic one from the store that I do not know how was raised?  This is getting silly, really.  Are we going to eat meat, or not?  At some point we will have to learn how to provide our own sustenance.

I am getting ahead of myself though.  Hell, two months ago we were vegetarian.  Tonight we eat organic pork chops with mashed potatoes and carrots that were from the garden.  A loaf of homemade French bread from organic grains.  Local wine.  I am getting closer to what feels like a healthy, natural way of eating.  Farming does that to you.