Please, let us help you make the connection.
I have spent a little time with pigs. I have read, researched, watched and visited. I have done so much learning about animals humans use for food. I have sobbed and screamed about how they are abused and murdered. I changed my entire life because of what I have learned. But nothing could compare to the few minutes yesterday morning when I sat with Penelope having coffee while she ate her breakfast next to me. Day two with a pig in my life. I know that pigs are extremely intelligent (although I try to refrain from judging intelligence or any other ability based on human assumption), I know that they are social, emotional, affectionate and very communicative. But it brought me to tears yesterday, sitting with Penelope watching her eat. How she would take a few bites of food, then a drink of water, how she has so many different sounds and communicates with me so clearly, how she gets bored even in her very large area out in the sun with dirt and things to do and room to run, how fast she can run, how incredibly intelligent she really is and how we can not possibly understand how much we don’t know about pigs, how we had to just move her a few inches to close a gate and just that little bit of restraint was clearly upsetting to her, how she likes to feel safe and covers herself in her straw and blankets to sleep at night, how she needs someone else to snuggle up with, how she loves to lie in the sun and feel it’s warmth and how she needs attention. And all I could imagine is the millions and millions of other pigs just like her born on farms with the only intention of bringing them into this world to be killed when still babies and eaten by humans. They are tortured and abused, crammed into gestation crates, unable to turn or move at all for their entire lives, never able to run, feel the sun on their skin, dig in the dirt, root for delicious food, love their children, burrow into warm hay, feel a loving touch or play. When the torture chamber is over they are brutally slaughtered and then consumed as human's beloved bacon or ham. I cried yesterday sitting with Penelope. The reality was so overwhelming. She is one. One of billions of animals who face this life every year. But one who can be an ambassador for the others. Perhaps each person who meets her will make the connection and change for her and for them.
Please, let us help you make the connection.
I just returned home last evening from my annual sister's weekend away. We visited Galena, Illinios and had a wonderful time (despite the apparent presence of ghosts which haunted me more in my head than in reality! :) ). Our last stop yesterday afternoon was a tour of the home of Ulysses Grant. The home sits on top of a hill. After our tour we were walking the grounds and saw a little dog running around near the bottom of the hill. There were many houses near but no one out with him. We were curious but assumed he had a family nearby who would call for him soon. We walked a ways around the grounds and a little while later were greeted by the little guy who ran right up to us. Beckie, my sister scooped him up. He snuggled right in, happy to be warm. He was very sweet, friendly and smelled like he had just had a bath. No collar and no family around. We had planned to leave, needed to get home and weren't sure what to do. We went back to the Grant house and waited outside the door to talk to the tour guide and see if perhaps they recognized him. While we waited, another family arrived for a tour and hearing about the dog quickly stepped in to help. Also tourists, none of us knew who to call. The gentleman quickly got out his phone to search for area shelters and veterinarians. All were closed on Sunday. The family offered to help in any way. A few minutes later the tour guide arrived and we asked if they knew the dog. No, they did not but he had been hanging around a while. She called out another employee who was very concerned and being local had some thoughts on who to call. After some consideration she called the local police who sent an officer over right away. He was kind and said he would take him to their holding facility for the night and take him in the morning to see if he was microchipped and hope his family would call. Except the holding facility is outdoors. This little guy was shivering already and would not be able to tolerate a night out in the cold. He had no other option. A few minutes later a second officer arrived who also had no other suggestions. By this time we had a crowd of concerned and wonderful people on the porch all considering what to do for the little dog.
Earlier in the day we had visited a pet supply store in town and had a great chat with the woman working there. Beckie suggested I call her. We looked up her number and I called. I got voicemail and started leaving a message telling her who I was and our situation. She quickly answered and told me she would call her boss who was the owner of the shop and would be able to help us. Within five minutes, Gail (the shop owner) was on the phone with me arranging a space at her rescue for the little guy. All the while, the employee, police and other concerned humans waiting patiently with us as we worked through how we could best help him be safe and hopefully find his family. Being a visitor to town I was unfamiliar with the location of her rescue so the police officer offered to lead the way. So it was with a police escort that little Ulysses (what we have been calling him) made his way into gentle arms and warm place to await his family. We are hopeful they will be reunited but if not, Beckie has fallen in love and will happily take him into her home.
It was such a heartwarming reminder of human goodness and the power of community and wonderful people coming together to care for one little dog.
I wonder... what would have happened if it was a pig? I truly believe it would have happened the same way. When met as an individual, connections can be made and compassion can flourish.
We were contacted last week by a friend asking if we’d be interested in helping a family move a colony of bees. I contacted the family who explained that a swarm of bees had moved into a tree in their yard, close to their home, about two years ago. As much as they like the bees, their daughter is allergic and the hive too close. The bees were always on the house, deck and hummingbird feeders. The tree that the colony lives in is an old dead oak and they planned to cut it down, but were kind enough to want to save and move the bees. The bees were strong and abundant in late fall. We were excited about the possibility of helping and went to look at the tree to get a better idea of the project ahead. The hive entrance hole was approximately 24 feet up and we had no idea how deep into the tree the bees were living. There is essentially no humane and guaranteed way to remove the bees. We decided that we would like to give our best effort to remove the entire section of tree that contained the hive. The dangers we needed to consider were how to cut the limbs and cut the trunk above and below the hive without cutting into the hive cavity. The tree was hollow and could break or collapse on the hive. We hoped to keep the hive upright so as not to damage the comb and also wanted to do our best not to jar the bees unnecessarily. We worked with the family and arranged a plan!
Jon, with the help of a 24-foot extension ladder, tractor and boom truck being controlled by Rodney on the ground was able to get high enough to cover the hive entrance with screen, cut the limbs above the hive and then secure a chain around the tree above the hive for lifting. They tightened the chain and began to lift while Jon cut below the hive. We made our best estimation as to where to cut and had a board, bee suits, containers and plans prepared in case we accidentally cut into the hive, the tree collapsed, fell or any other issue arose. Luckily, no hive was cut and the tree hive remained intact and was lowered by the boom truck and maneuvered into our trailer. The section of tree is approximately twelve feet long and twenty-inches in diameter. We unfortunately did have to lay the tree down to safely transport it in our trailer, risking damaging the hive. We secured the tree and were off. There was certainly some jarring and movement along the way and we are hopeful that the comb did not break and no bees were hurt.
We arrived home and had a plan to lift the tree hive off the trailer, stand it back up and secure it onto a stump to keep it off the ground and help prevent rot. Our little Kubota was not big enough to handle lifting the tree off the trailer so we called in our fantastic neighbor with the big tractor! Eugene made his way over and between the big guy and the little guy were able to life and maneuver the tree hive into place! We secured it with cables and attached the roof to prevent moisture from pooling in the top and removed the screen.
Through the entire process, we did not hear from the bees. We certainly thought that with all our movement and noise we would have seen or heard them but knew that the cold temperatures may hold them indoors. Even when I put my hand on the hive and ear to the entrance I heard and felt nothing. We are all afraid that this may have all been for nothing. But it’s not nothing.
This was a beautiful reassurance of kindness, compassion and goodness. People; strangers coming together, working side by side in an effort to do this for only one reason. The bees. It was all in a grand effort for them. Now we wait. Wait with hope and love for the next warm, sunny day and wish for the bees to emerge, safe, strong and healthy. And the bee tree will remain a symbol of our commitment to and love for them.
We’ve had these two incredible little ones with us for less than a week and I am again reminded of the sadness and cruelty (although often unconscious) in animal “industries”. Cruelty is inherent and unavoidable in any venture that capitalizes on another life. These babies, like most other animals in agriculture (or being raised and sold as pets) were separated from their mother very early in their lives. Meant to be traded or sold at an animal swap, they were taken home by two very caring gentlemen and bottle fed and cared for. Almost all animals being raised by humans are “weaned” from their mothers with human intervention at an unnaturally young age. This was one of the first common practices that we encountered raising alpacas that we began to question and that led us to where we are now. When we brought alpacas into our lives, it was our intention to raise them for their fiber, breed and sell them. We took many seminars, classes, read books and talked with multiple alpaca farms and began by following what we were taught. The first cria born here was Helios. Pax came to us already pregnant and an experienced mother. It was a joyful, exciting day watching Helios arrive and Pax, as well as the rest of the herd, welcome and care for him. It is truly amazing to watch as the baby knows exactly how to stand, take his first steps and begin the search for nourishment in his mother’s milk. It is the most beautiful and natural thing in the world. All mother mammals produce the perfect food for their babies upon giving birth and the babies instinctively know how to find and nurse from their mothers. Of course there are occasions when something unusual happens and they are unable and if we are caregivers, our intervention is required. But, for the great majority it is perfect and natural. The nursing process provides food, love and bonding. Naturally, the mother will feed her child until the child is at a certain stage in his growth and has also been taught to access food and water on his own. This is a gradual process and the mother and herd teach them along the way, how to find hay and water, where their place is in the herd and how to care for themselves.
The information we were taught was that crias need to be weaned from their mothers at around six months of age. Weaning in this sense means interference by humans, separating mother and child and forcing them to stop nursing from their mothers. This is a terribly upsetting process for both the mother and child. We tried weaning Helios in the ways we were taught. Pax cried for him, he cried and paced along the fence and I cried. We changed our mind and put them back together. We were admonished and told this was a bad idea. He is of course a male and in with the herd of females and although alpaca males do not reach sexual maturity and the majority are physically unable to reproduce until much older (commonly 18 months to 3 years) we were told that having him stay in the female herd was risky and not acceptable. We waited until he was ten months old and caved to the fear and weaned him from his mother. At this point he was certainly more independent but the weaning process was still traumatic. When I asked and looked for information as to what age crias naturally weaned in the wild, no one knew. Certainly, they had no human intervention. After Helios was born, we had four other crias born here. We were more confident and certain that we had no place in the weaning process. The next baby was born with deformities and was unable to nurse. This was a tragic story and the hardest time we have had to face. I will tell the story of Megan and Jewel another time but…
When Jewel was unable to nurse on her own, Megan was completely distraught. Meg is our most fearful, shy alpaca and we are not allowed to touch her. In the time that Jewel was with us, Megan and I spent the hours together. Me holding Jewel and helping her to find her mother’s milk. Meg standing anxiously and afraid for her baby, letting me guide Jewel to try to nurse and even to milk her so I could syringe feed her baby. The love of a mother and need to nourish and care for her child crosses all species.
The next three babies were left with their mothers who were allowed to care for and wean their children completely on their own. The earliest was about 10 months while the others were well over a year. When the process was complete they were healthy, well, independent, fully adapted to the herd and no one was traumatized.
There are so many pieces to the cruelness inherent in raising animals as “products”. Most people having the best intentions but not consciously looking at the truth. These little goats, Morty and Marty, orphaned too early, raised by loving humans, look at me with wide eyes, cry when I leave and snuggle together for comfort. I cannot replace the lost connection between mother and child. They had been weaned from the bottle before coming here but are still being given bottles with warm water and supplements to help Morty’s muscles and when those bottles are in our hands they beam and suck with such force and just can’t get enough. We decided that they perhaps were not ready to be on their own and picked up some milk replacer for them. A warm bottle of milk in this cold weather would certainly be welcome for their little tummies. We moved them up into the garage so they are warmer and closer to us so we can spend more time with them and be here when they need us. Their little tails wag like crazy drinking their bottles, they climb into our laps and snuggle each other, they just want us to be with them. We are no substitute for their mother and it breaks my heart knowing that by far, the huge majority of all animals being raised by humans suffer through the severed bond of mother and child.
As I feed these little ones milk replacer to help nourish their little tummies, I think of the dairy cows. The grieving mothers and crying calves. The dairy industry is built on separating mothers and babies. The milk intended for the calves taken for humans. Calves taken from their mothers within a day of birth so the mother’s milk can be marketed for human profit. The calves crying and suckling, being fed milk replacer, the mother cows crying and grieving for their babies while their milk is mechanically stolen from them. It is a sad, unnecessary industry and my heart hurts for each and every one of them.
As I look at these little loves I think… how did you find your way here? Does it make a difference that we can do something different here? For a few? How did we come to this place as humans? What can we, the few, do to make change for them? I cry and hold them and think...
At least we have become aware. At least we can share the message and hope to lift the veil of unconsciousness in others. At least we can love and care for the ones who find their way here and continue to question. At least we can hold these babies and tell them we are sorry and are trying and hope that someday it can be different.
After spending last weekend at the Factory Farm Summit we came away feeling discouraged and yet compelled. The summit was, for the most part, focused on the environmental and human health issues of factory farming. The audience consisted predominately of people who have been impacted by a CAFO or CAFOs near their home or the possibility of one being built near their home. The speakers were varied, very knowledgeable and passionate. The message was clear. CAFO’s are not farms and are devastating to the environment, our water, air and human health, not to mention the animals who are forced to spend their short lives in horrific conditions in them. I went into the weekend hoping to come away with a powerful message and some encouraging and hopeful information. What I heard was that people have been fighting CAFOs all across the country for many, many years. Strong, amazing, committed human beings, spending their lives trying to stop the factory farm from moving into their neighborhood or to hold the CAFOs accountable for polluting their water supply. There were some small victories and we were encouraged to focus on those. However, over and over again, I heard the same message: Factory Farms are spreading like a parasite all over our beautiful country. Corporate interest, money and greed win over human and animal health, well-being and life. I heard passionate presentations about the devastating effects of CAFO’s polluting our water, spreading disease, being the top cause of greenhouse gas, creating resistant bacteria, a token mention of animal torture, deplorable work conditions for the human’s employed in the industrial animal ag industry, manipulation and fear based control over farmers contracted to grow animals for the industry and the list goes on and on. There were multiple grass-roots organizations standing up and speaking up, working countless hours to become educated in the laws and environmental standards in order to find some point to hold the corporations accountable and expecting the environmental and governmental institutions to protect us and our right to safe water, clean air and healthy food. And almost in every instance we were failed, betrayed and devastated again and again by the system and those with the power to do something. The CAFO industries keep building, dumping waste, polluting, torturing animals and humans and our protection agencies are powerless to stop them because laws were put in place to protect the agricultural industry at all costs.
I felt angry, sad and hopeless. I came away feeling as if there was nothing I can do. My best thought was that we had to wait and watch the industry kill itself because it will. It is destined for failure, but at what cost along the way? I did feel a sense of coming together and with that a bigger power – the different groups working independently, supporting each other and building alliances is a great step in the right direction.
What I did not hear mentioned once during the weekend was that it is imperative to reduce consumption of animal products.
Family farmers were represented and applauded and while this is a certainly a better alternative, the fact is, if humans continue to consume animal products at the current rate (and the expected increase), family farms will not be able to meet the demand. It’s a simple case of high school economics; supply and demand. We don’t want factory farms in our neighborhood, we want clean water, we want to support our local family farms, but we want to continue to eat cheap meat, eggs and dairy products. And, the system is set up to encourage and support this fully with government subsidies, miseducation (brought to you by the meat and dairy industry), unconstitutional law and corruption in our government. So most continue on, unaware of what a factory farm is, what the industry is doing to our Earth, our health, the lives of billions of animals and the future of our children and grandchildren. We prevent a CAFO from moving into one neighborhood so it can be built in another, we decry the horrors of factory farming and then purchase the ninety-nine cent eggs at the grocery store or order a double cheeseburger at the fast food joint.
We have been lied to, misled, coerced and manipulated. It is time for all of us to be educated and become aware of the truth. There is great power in truth. There is greater power in personal responsibility. Each of us needs to take personal responsibility to become educated and aware and then to make the responsible choice in each moment. Only when we collectively stop asking for the cheap meat, dairy and eggs and tell them we do not want it, will we actually be able to stop the factory farms.
We have all been indoctrinated with a cultural belief system surrounding the consumption of animal foods. We have come to believe that eating animals is normal, necessary and natural.
This is actually far from the truth and there is a better way.
There is a beautiful, life-affirming, kind, gentle, exceptionally healthful, affordable, simple solution.
Jon and I are certified World Peace Diet Facilitators, we have spent years of countless hours, dollars, and energy educating ourselves, researching, attending seminars, reading, talking with others, crying, screaming and above all changing our entire lives as an effect of what we have discovered. It has been, and is, the most incredible journey of our lives. It is our purpose, passion and obligation to share what we feel is the most important message of our time.
When you visit our Sanctuary, please keep in mind that this is not a petting zoo. In fact, here we would like to offer a shift in perspective. One where the animals who live here are not here for us, nor do they serve a purpose for us. We do not force them to behave in ways unnatural for them or take from them. We are often asked why we have them. Why do we have chickens if we don’t eat eggs? Why do we have turkeys if we don’t eat them? What do we DO with the alpacas? Do we milk them? Do we eat them? The answer is simply that they are here for themselves. To live their lives just like you and me. This is their home and a safe space where they are treated as we would wish to be treated in our own home; with respect, care, love and kindness. When visitors come into our space we do visit the animals but ask that visitors listen carefully to us, be kind and gentle with the animals and above all, respect their space and wishes. Not all animals enjoy being touched or even the company of humans and we do not push this on them. For the comfort and safety of the animals and visitors please remember that they all have different personalities, desires, history and needs. We will share their stories with you and ask that while you are here please try to see things from their viewpoint and follow the golden rule:
“Treat others as you would wish to be treated.”
Earlier this summer we had a terrible time with a predator or predators attacking many of our chickens, guineas and turkeys. Although we feel we have things mostly under control we continue to be vigilant and concerned. Because it is our philosophy that the animals who live here be given as much freedom as possible, sometimes that involves risks of living in a world where they are prey for others. We know and honor the circle of life but our hearts break each time we lose a beloved friend to the natural consequence of free living. The feathered ones who live here are offered their safe houses to roost at night and are closed in after dusk. They are let out every morning to forage, roam and fly as they wish. Occasionally we lose someone before they are safely in at night or even during the day. The felines who have found their way to us are given the choice of where they want to live. Some choose to live in the house with us, content on our laps and never ask to be let out. Some live indoors but love to lay in the grass and sunshine outside and others choose to live outdoors and in the hay shed. We recognize the danger involved and honor their choices. If you know them, it is clear who longs to hunt and explore and who prefers a couch or a lap. When we were asked to take Pandora and Prometheus into our family, it was clear that they loved the outdoors. Especially Pandora, the mighty huntress and most beautiful wild one. Although they love being free, they also love us and greet us affectionately, always snuggling, rubbing and purring and we look so forward to seeing their gorgeous faces every time we are down at the hay barn. They are most often there to greet us but sometimes are out on an adventure and we miss them for a day or so. We worry when we don't see them and check back often. But, earlier this summer, Pandora wasn't there when we looked for her. She wasn't there the multiple times we checked and as the days went by, I wished for her to return safely. I walked looking for signs of her and have not found anything. It hurts every time we lose someone, but somehow, this one has been exceptionally difficult. Maybe because I don't have confirmation of what happened and hold on to a little hope. Maybe because I love her so much and wasn't ready to say goodbye. But, it is time for me to finally say goodbye to my friend Pandora, my love and the most beautiful cat I have ever met. Be free my love. Run and be the wild, magical one that you always loved to be. We will miss you always and love you so, so very much.
We just returned home from a ten day trip out west. We were able to spend time with so many beautiful animals and amazing natural wonders. It gave us time to contemplate, to wonder and wander, to remember and to return home, thankful, knowing we are right where we should be, doing what we should be. We missed our four-legged and feathered family and they missed us. We saw the beauty and power of our beautiful Earth. We saw the magnificence and the suffering. We watched the animals and the humans. We saw the majestic mountains and were sad seeing the miles and miles of prairies turned to cattle ranches. We saw the raging rivers and gently wandering streams and watched as they shut down the Yellowstone River due to massive fish death. We saw fields of sunflowers and huge CAFO's all along the interstate. We watched livestock truck after livestock truck pass by, one after another, after another. We noticed that the food menus along the way were all the same. It was terribly difficult to eat real food on the road. It was majestic to watch the bison roaming and at the same time heartbreaking to know that they are "managed" by death sentence to maintain the herds for human greed. It was joyful to listen to the adorable prairie dogs as they sqeaked and popped out of their holes and rubbed teeth in apparent kisses and then to read the signs warning of the plague they carry, another death sentence for them and the already endangered black footed ferret for whom they are food. The whole experience was bittersweet and yet confirmed the urgency we feel to share our message, to make change and to do it now. We are grateful that our children were able to experience the splendor and fragility of some of the Earth's most precious places and that they are aware and will help to make the necessary changes so their children have the same opportunity. But, it is abundantly clear that the change needs to come from all of us and it needs to come now.
An extra special thank you to our wonderful friends, Mona, Steve, Zain and Eli and my parents for watching over our family at home while we were away, and very warm grateful hearts to come home to happy wagging tails, purring faces, hollering goats, turkeys and chickens running to greet us, the gentle relaxed energy of the alpaca house - even they, who don't often show affection, were clearly happy to see us. It's good to be home.
Because there is no difference.
There is no difference between a dog, a chicken, a cat, a cow, a horse, a pig, or a human. Because we all feel love, we all feel fear, we all feel pain, we all wish to be loved and we all wish to be free. We all share the same spark of life and we all want to live. The animals who have been chosen to be raised for food and other human purposes are the most widely abused and by far the least represented.
This is why we choose to speak for them.
Over the past few months we have been “testing the waters” so to speak, with our conversion to a farm animal sanctuary. Checking in with ourselves to see if this is something we are truly ready to take on, looking to see if there is a need, feeling out if we will have support, making connections and continuing our personal education. What we have found is that in our hearts, our desire to work for the animals only continues to grow. In the past 2 weeks we have been contacted to help in 3 rescue situations indicating that there is clearly a need. We continue to meet amazing people and are re-inspired each time we are able to plant a seed or see another heart open. Yes, this is truly the direction we need to take and it is time for us to take the next steps. Up until this point we have been funded solely by our family and a few donations from friends. In order for us to safely provide the best life and care for more animals we will need more funding sources. We are beginning the process of becoming a non-profit. This will open up more opportunities for us for funding and credibility. We are ready to create more space for animals in need. Jon and I continue to educate ourselves. We wish to inspire a shift in perspective. Caring, advocating, educating and mentoring for the animals through making connections, empowering hearts and opening minds to make conscious and compassionate choices for the animals, the Earth and ourselves. We are planning more opportunities for community, visits, volunteering and connecting. We are asking for your help. Please consider donating; your donations will help fund expansion, supplies, food and medical funds so we are able to help more animals as well as the funding of our non-profit set up. If you are interested in volunteering to help with building, with the animals or with our compassionate fiber project, please contact us. Donations of building materials, fencing and supplies are greatly appreciated – please contact us if you have something you would like to donate. Ideas and support are also essential! Do you have experience or ideas you would like to share? Suggestions for fund raising? We’d love to hear from you. Please also share this widely. We can do this together! For the animals, the Earth and ourselves.
Thank you for your support!