Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starting to get excited

I'm getting beyond excited about my journey beyond school.

When you work so hard for so long, to the point of exhaustion, burn out, dismay, and disbelief. It's rather a surreal experience to actually think of the possibility that there is life beyond this chapter.

My biggest task right now is to stay focused, to not get too excited, stay present.  Because the more I can focus on school, the closer I will be to finishing. And finishing soon! I have roughly six weeks to get everything compiled to send out to my committee! I can't even believe it. It's completely unreal.

My journey after this, is unknown. But on the horizon are some prospectives:

Travel to Denver Colorado, a once dairy farmer is transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, and way of living.  In the process, setting up a sanctuary for the animals. This can be a challenging process but absolutely possible with a management plan going ahead. I'm not sure if I can assist in this process, but we'll schedule a time this winter to take a look at the property, see what's locally being produced available, investigate high value crops that may do well in the area, and alternative business plans to help get the sanctuary on their feet in terms of obtaining funds necessary for the goals.  I'm so excited about this, because it's definitely something I believe in, and with the amount of studying that I've done, I feel it's time to make good use of it! And of course all of this work would be pro bono.  As long as I am able, contributing to these kinds of causes is, as far as I'm concerned, what I'm all about.  They currently have a indiegogo page, it's called, 'Saving the Sanctuary, and Broken Shovels Farm'

I've been invited to Iran by a friend who is seeing the problems in Iran among farmers.  Their cancer rates are sky high, and they don't get a lot of support with sustainable farming practices.  This problem could potentially be multifold.  Which likely it is.  1- Getting leftover pesticides and herbicides which are not allowed in other countries 2- Never being trained in the safety of using chemicals on fields 3- Not knowing about any alternatives. 4- Not acquiring adequate nutrition from diets, making diseases and cancer more susceptible to the population.  5- Pollution in the water, and in the soil, built up over time, exacerbating these issues.

There are some processes available to help buffer pollution in water and the soil, like growing specific organisms and plants to clear/filter the toxicity, funneling water through natural areas for filtration,  but it's also possible that more complicated solutions may be needed.

Limiting dependence on agricultural chemicals, is definitely feasible with more sustainable farming techniques, teaching more appropriate handling methods of chemicals, and then of course eating a more nutrient dense diet, some of these things may be able to make a dramatic impact on the lives of these people affected by these circumstances.

Of course, whether I will be able to go, will be dependent on visa accessibility. Iranian and American relations aren't currently the best, however the more we can interact with each other in positive ways, perhaps the better for both countries. Breaking down these social barriers especially of images that media transmits that build animosity between people, isn't exactly a straightforward process, But it seems we need to try! Let's build a positive world culture, with helping hands at every turn. That's what I believe in anyway!!

3)There's also a friend in Peru, working with indigenous people, attempting to make a meaningful bridge and friendship between indigenous tribes and tourists. They are building a center there, in order to connect these people in a meaningful way. It's so inspiring to me because it's something the modern world is often so behind in, simple living, connecting with the earth. And it also gives a way for indigenous populations to interact in  a way that is respectful to their tradition and their customs, while also gaining monetary support in this process allowing them more freedom as a people to their land and their rights. I would love to explore this relationship more fully, and have also been invited to take a look at their soil ;) see if anything can be improved on that front.

4) I would love to visit Sadhana Forest in Kenya, I know I've written a lot about their organization on my blog in the past, but with everyday the locals and the officials in the Kenya are taking notice to what is happening and the positive shift seems to be dramatic. I'd love to spend some time here and further explore the way Aviram organizes these things with so much success.

5)A bit of a divergence, but what I'd love to learn more about it, is animal communication. Specifically from Anna Breytenbach in South Africa. Whether or not I'd be able to learn the skill, I have no idea, but it definitely seems like something that more people on planet earth should at least be trying to understand. The more we can connect with animals on a deeper level, the more I believe we can open ourselves up to broader compassion for those beings who are more vulnerable than us.  And may hopefully strike passion and drive in people to also want to expand their hearts to include animals. Not using animals as food, and resources, is helpful on so many levels on planet earth, letting go of conditioning, opening up to new creative ways of being and living that doesn't subject others, improving quality of air, water, soil and other resources, opens up possibility of living more connected to others, having more available resources for everyone.

Apart from that, I'm also looking forward to just being. Being present in life, opening myself up to the possibilities.

Just felt like sharing.

Have a great day!


Monday, October 19, 2015

Feeling disgusted

I'm rather livid right now. I can't handle the blindness, I know I should be compassionate in this situation, but I have the hardest time, trying to open the minds of these people who are systematically lied to by our culture and I'm exhausted of how narrow scope human beings are able to comprehend. I know I'm supposed to be positive, but I think we all reach our maxed out, angry point at times.  This was my response to someone commenting about humans are at the center of the universe, therefore we do what we want and use animals.

It's unfortunate but I see this all of the time. People claiming that human beings are the apex of all of creation.
So ultimately we humans believe that animals are resources, how is it then, that most find animal factory farming monstrous then?
Some claim humans have been using animals since the beginning of time, and why should we ever think about changing?
Do you really believe that if we have always used animals for, food, shelter, clothing, that that justifies it as sane or good? In the face currently of ecological collapse on multiple fronts --oceanic and all lands?
Humans have always been at war with one another since as long as we are aware of, does that make war good or sane?
Humans have traditionally had much lower life spans, about half of what we have today, does that make shorter life spans sane or good?
Today, our extent to animal manipulation is much more than it ever has been, are you then against this? Animal testing for pharmaceuticals, make-up, house hold products, random experimental designs for 'science'.
To what extent do you believe animals more resemble plants or rocks than they do humans? To what extent do you believe that animals have no capacity to care for themselves or others or their life? To what extent are Humans more aware, more conscious, more able than animals?
We just happen to be really good with tools, apart from that, I only actually see animals being often times, much more intelligent than us. We are the only species, who has managed to shift the ecosystem so much, that not only are we annihilating our own species, but we are bringing just about every other species down with us. If that isn't a huge failure of intelligence, I'm not sure what is.
Just because something is weaker than us, I'm not sure how that justifies us, making full use of it. It's the patriarchal mindset, use what can be used for your own means. Use other races for slaves, because you can, use woman and children for sex and labor without their permission because you can. Use animals for all of your needs, because you can. Use the world and its resources for your needs in excess because you can, Take from the poor, the sick, the helpless and the weak, because they are vulnerable, and it will keep you in power.
This is the mindset of many of the dominant cultures of the world today, They have hidden the messages so cleverly, yet they are still so bold and vibrant since, these are the actions unfortunately much more common among humans than the choice of compassion on this earth.
Our societies have successfully taught humans that this is the normal way, the only way, to gain strength, to gain fortune.
However, what is true compassion, what does living in an ecosphere mean. What is true connection. We live in a world that hardly anyone dare enter, or attempt to understand. We are trapped in the mundane everyday existence of cleaning, working, driving, using our gadgets, absorbing ourselves in made up stories projected onto screens. We are numb. Yet the mystery of the universe, the divine in all creation is here, waiting to be discovered in the minute occurrences that we too often ignore on a daily basis.
Yet, if we choose to listen, if we choose to be present, we can find this unshakable propensity of wisdom, in nature, we are not limited to the spoken words of humans throughout the ages, of course they would be telling the story with the creature of their choice (their race, gender and religion of human) in the center, but that hardly is anything but a boastful lie, to imagine the world as only full to the extent of that one component. Humans can't exist without the functions of the ecosystem on planet earth, we are hardly important.
We in fact, are so weak, so fragile, so small in the grand scheme of things. To believe humans are at the center of the stage above and beyond all other life. It's the same mindset as the belief that the Sun rotated around the Earth, claiming everything is only about us. So arrogant, so boastful, so untrue.

Monday, October 12, 2015

For these souls..

hmm okay, so maybe I will still periodically post when the inspiration comes. 
After viewing this picture of this animal, who has had their teeth, testicals and their tale ripped out without euthanasia, these were the words that came to me.. 

These are the souls we ruin for our mere taste buds. that's it. Our mere laze in not wanting to change. Take out salt, take out the smoke, take out the cooking from bacon and all it is a piece of dripping flesh from this animal. It's so easy to make that taste in any other food without using this animal's insides.
In fact, most commercial bacon bits, are actually vegan. Soy, smoke flavor, salt and cooking. Something juicy can be made with tempeh, eggplant, coconut, mushrooms, even jackfruit. I make it all of the time and it's wonderful, and I can eat it with a pure conscious because a being like this, didn't have to suffer so I could get my 'fix' of smoke, salt and cooking.
That's it. It's no meat fix, because once you give up meat, you realize that you don't even miss it. You miss the tastes and the flavors and the textures associated with meat.. but those can all be absolutely replaced with plants. In fact, we make meat to appear more like plants than it appears to be meat. If it appeared to be more like meat.. We would salivate by looking at this picture. We would eat what was in this picture as is, we would eat the feces on its skin, we would eat everything, including the bones. That's what real carnivores do. If we are actually part 'carnivores' we are the saddest 'part' carnivorous species I've ever seen.
We have to use tools to kill our prey. And mostly we don't have the capacity to chase them down, we must use tools that can aim at long distances. Even that is too much of a hassle for most of humanity... we actually need to pay someone else, to not only kill animals, but to breed them in small confined spaces, so that there is actually no chance for this animal to escape, even if it was otherwise one of the strongest species on the planet. No, we are the most pathetic part 'carnivores' I've ever witnessed. In fact, I really don't think we are 'part' carnivorous at all. Given that most people are truly disgusted witnessing a butchering event.
Most don't want anything to do with it. And not to mention our guts, we have the weakest guts as well, when we eat raw animal we get sick. We get obnoxiously sick, and many people die. Cats and dogs have the acidity in their guts to deal with the bacteria. we don't. Not even close. We also have long intestinal tracks just as other herbivorous creatures have, to slowly extract nutrients from plants. Cats have short intestinal tracks, so they can quickly eliminate all of the rotting meat in their guts. What happens to the rotten meat in our guts... well constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, noxious gas... bloating. It's not worth it. taking these lives just isn't worth it, not for our health, not for them, and not for our environment.


School has currently been taking up much of my time, I'm in my final semester, so I'm in full writing mode for my thesis.

Once January hits, I'm planning on traveling more with my husband, visiting more farms and eco communities, soil testing, and sharing what I learn here.

in the meantime, I do post a lot on fb.

All the best,

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Veganism: And the problems of being largely misunderstood

I started this blog last year, basically I just needed a place to start putting all of my writings on veganism, where I would respond to online threads and conversations. I was involved with multiple discussion boards, and I was also investing a lot of time in typing up responses. Often I was finding myself writing the same responses or very similar ones, repeatedly, and also having to re-find articles and links to back up my information.

This spurred a platform for me to compile everything in one place. Every time I felt I was addressing a different type of question or response, I would make a new category.  After several months of this, I felt that I roughly had the bases covered on addressing arguments against veganism. I'm still updating it as comments roll in and responses roll out, it's just less frequent.

My latest post was on, the claim that 'diet is like religion keep it to yourself' and 'the problem with vegans is that they think they superior and enlightened'.

I felt these were really great comments to address because it is a slightly common perception that vegans have to deal with daily. Some vegans actively avoid confrontation because it's exhausting, it's exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally.  It's not easy constantly having to defend your choices in a way that doesn't make people feel bad, ultimately humans largely care about the same things. We largely care about treating animals with respect, having a clean home for our children, having safe drinking water for our communities, having food security in the years to come and having fresh air to breathe.  As vegans taking on the personal actions to promote some of these aspects of life on earth, they can easily be misunderstood as on a high horse, when in fact, it feels good to them to do. And human nature, is really to communicate to others what has worked for us. What makes us feel good.  Unfortunately because of the depth of our mistreatment of the natural world, many people feel totally overwhelmed by this burden, hence lash out at people they view as contributing to the problem. The truth is, we are all contributing to the problem, yet at different degrees. It just so happens, that making dietary changes, can dramatically change the degree to which harm is inflicted to other beings and the planet.

If this message came from a non-vegan, perhaps the message would be less intimidating, the person receiving this message could feel that they were on the same page, that this perhaps is beneficial to living systems, yet they aren't alone in facing how complicated those steps seem at face value.  It is huge, it's huge to remap your brain to it's tastes and it's preferences, your cells, stomach and body to obtain a fuel source which is a little lighter, a little more nutrient dense.  No one said it was easy, it becomes easier, and it becomes increasingly a joyful decision.  Most vegans I speak to, say that their biggest regret is not plunging in sooner.  If someone is really active fit personality, and they speak to you about how being more fit has changed their life and how they are using less fossil fuels because they avoid elevators and cars, because they enjoy taking their bike and the stairs whenever possible. Can people take offense to this? Sure, if they are in a situation where they feel it's not possible for them, or they feel the person is judging them for not living this way.  Does that mean it's the absolute truth?  Not in the slightest.  It all happens in the minds of the people taking in the information.  Someone could hear this athlete talking, and feel inspired, inspired to take small steps to live more actively for their health.  Someone else could interpret it as such a favor for them to speak up about their passions, igniting them to also follow their passions whatever it might be.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  It has little to do with the messenger, it's how the message is chosen to be received.  People like to relate this stuff with religion.  But in fact veganism has more to do with science, more consumption of a variety plants leads to higher immunity, animal studies have shown more and more intelligent animal behavior, social structures and sentience, global warming is more and more connected to animal farming in tropical areas.  These are logical assessments of the world we live in.  They can be actively researched online, in the form of peer reviewed journals, and you will find that it's all there.

Here are my responses to the comments on vegans being perceived as thinking they are superior and that diets are a personal choice:

The problem is that we are all affected by the dietary choices we make. Animal farms contribute more to global warming than any other industry sector including transportation. We are all affected. If you met somebody who ate humans... you probably wouldnt think that was a personal choice would you? Animals may not be humans, but like humans they feel pain, they have complex social orders and natural inclinations. If we have a choice to promote the wellbeing of those who have little choice in the matter, that goes a long way in making the world a more peaceful place. A little less suffering. It's not a matter of 'holier than thou', because of who anyone is... it's a matter of each individual being able to make a choice in every moment to create a little less suffering on planet earth. And that option is open to everyone, no one is excluded from that option, therefore no one is better than anyone, because the potential of making the world a little more peaceful exists in everybody. Believing that humanity doesn't have room for improvement or believing that no human can take choices to promote peace, basically affirms that cruelty and less peace is a personal choice of those individuals. I guess for me I tend to believe that this really isn't the case for most people. Maybe there's a disconnect from those who promote messages of peace and those who ultimately want less suffering. This stuff though isn't just made up, with no substance, there are many actually studies that have been done correlating pollution rates, factory farms, nutrition from dairy and meat and diseases, animal intelligence and animal cruelty ... don't take anyones word for this stuff. The best that can be done.. is actually research it.. .google it... look up articles for this stuff... It's amazing the information available and actually how this isn't a religion, it's a logical approach to working with natural systems. "Cowspiracy" is a really great documentary, along with "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" "Forks over Knives" ... This stuff is really inspiring and is life changing. Personally I've reversed my own challenges with cancer cells,acne, low energy, and other illnesses through this lifestyle


It may come across that way, since a message is trying to be conveyed, but think about it this way: everyone is a genius at something. When it comes to an electrician coming to your home to fix some connection, there wouldn’t be judgment as to why they are trying to do this, or explain something to you about how to properly maintain something. Largely, vegan information has been stifled by big business and governments regarding the benefits of a plant based diet in our world and for our health. Just like anyone else who is passionate about a topic, vegans are adamant that this information is a human right, that all humans ought to have access to important information regarding their health and happiness in order to make the best choices to what fits their values best. A lot of people are pretty disgusted to see the cruelty we commit to other members of planet earth, as well as our tax money going into subsidies that ultimately add to lack of environmental regulation of CAFOs and the pollution which regularly flows out of them. There’s no doubt in my mind that you are a genius at something, and that when people talk to you about that thing, you lighten up, you want to share your experience to improve their understanding in some way. We are all guilty of this. For some reason, information regarding public health, is seen as a threat to the patterns and habits we’ve developed over a lifetime. It doesn’t help to shoot down the messenger… the problems will remain. Whether or not anyone speaks about this stuff… we are continually affected by it. In ways of pollution, in ways of health care costs, in ways of cruelty to beings who have not done any action directly against us.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Vegan on a budget

10 Tips for the Cost Efficient Vegan

Vegan meals don't have to be expensive, but they certainly can be.  Vegan gourmet restaurants, vegan processed foods, vegan specialty products.  These can certainly add up.

Here are a few helpful hints on making veganism as affordable as possible.

My last year of college I actually saved significantly on my food bill by eating vegan.

Granted, I didn't eat packaged foods, at all. Everything I ate was made from scratch every day.  Every morning I would wake up 1-2 hours earlier to prepare my food for the day.

Helpful Hints:

1- Avoid foods that come in cans, boxes and jars as far as possible.

2- Get to know your local farmers market.  Even better, make friends with the farmers.  Talk to them about their culls.  Most farms end up throwing out lots of food, not because it's necessarily bad, but because it may not be 'aesthetic' enough to sell. Farmers markets are certainly more lenient than supermarkets, but typically most farms have a serious amount of veggies and fruits that they end up giving largely away to employees or go to the dump.  Find out if farmers are willing to work with you -- maybe they would be open to you coming and picking it up from their location on their harvest days, or perhaps you can buy these foods in bulk from them for a reduced price.  It's possible that they may be quite happy to work with you on this.

3- Some grocery stores, have a section of fresh foods that are going at a reduced rate, they may have been on the shelf a bit longer, with perhaps a few spots, but these foods are still edible and can often go for half the price of their shelved counterparts, if not more.

4- Grow herbs in your window sills, basil, parsley, chives, sage, cilantro.  If you have space on the patio or garden, it's possible to grow tomatoes, green leaves, salad, radishes. Experiment, find out for yourself how much you can fit in the amount of area that you have. One seed packet, can grow often 7-8 plants. Each plant can harvest several servings.  It's definitely the most bang for your dollar.

5- Some communities have community garden plots.  Sometimes these small plots of land are free to grow whatever you'd like on them, and sometimes it may cost a small amount of money for the season you grow something.

6- Get to know if your area has CSA shares. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Basically at the beginning of the growing season the farmer sells shares of his produce for that season.  How this works is you may pay a one time installment of 300-400$ depending on the size of the share (often half and full shares are the common features) in order to receive a fresh fruit and vegetables from that farm on a weekly basis.  I get a CSA share from the University campus organic farm. I paid a little over 300 dollars in the spring, in order for a weekly share of veggies that I pick up every Tuesday for about 4 months (if not a little more). In each share of veggies, I get whatever was in season for that week.  Recently the shares may look something like:
1 bundle of beets
1 bundle of kale
1 bundle of basil
1 bowl of raspberries
1 small bag of edamame
1 bundle of swiss chard
1 bundle of parsley
2 heads of lettuce

As the season moves forward the shares have more food,
they start including tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplant, onions, garlic, etc.

It can sometimes be difficult to finish all of the food, I only receive a half share, but it's really ample amount of greens for the week typically. In some cases volunteering at a CSA may mean bringing home lots of extra stuff, either culls, or extras or in some cases the CSA provides volunteers with free shares.  CSA shares definitely can save a lot, especially when it comes to organic produce.

7- Find others who are into foraging and wild food collecting. There may be local meet up groups, or field days hosted by local universities about wild plants, check local events pages.  The cost of wild food is basically the transportation that may be involved in getting to a place where you can collect. Common wild foods (at least in the intermountain west): Amaranth, wild lettuce, dandelions, plantain, sorrel, clover, grass -- actually wheat grass is such a craze in the health food movement, but actually all grass is edible and full of nutrients, the only part of grass that wouldn't be good for health is a black mold that can sometimes be found in a seed head.

*Note: Do learn the common poisonous plants in your area to make sure there aren't any edible lookalikes.  Wild foods do tend to have more bitter qualities than their store counterparts, but on that same note they are also typically much higher in nutrients such as calcium, iron and other essential elements.  These should be slowly introduced into the diet, so to not be too overwhelming for the body, large quantities of new foods can sometimes be a little hard on the stomach, but overtime adjustment will happen.

8- I haven't personally tried this cookbook but Robin Robertson has written a cookbook specifically for vegans wanting to save money, "Vegan on the Cheap", there is also a book by Ellen Jones, "Eat vegan on 4 $ a day".  Both having fairly good reviews on Amazon.

9-Also, just remember that by eating vegan, you are saving some pretty hefty expenses that may not occur later on, because you are amping up your immunity through fresh foods.  To learn more about this, please refer to Primitive Nutrition series on youtube, where multiple first hand scientific journals are reviewed on basically the health benefits of a plant based diet. Other helpful resources: (films) fat sick and nearly dead, forks over knives, healing cancer, eat, and simply raw,  (books) nutritarian handbook.  You may find that medications you once needed, may begin feeling less useful, once your body really begins to adapt and thrive off of whole fresh foods.

10- Cooking/Uncooking tips:
*Note: these tips are largely for those living in the US, some of these may be helpful tips in other locations, however depending on the region food selection and prices will vary as local foods will tend to be more available hence cheaper than imported food.  On that note, no matter where you live, buying local foods will most likely be the best value for your money.

When using online recipes or recipes from books and you want to maintain the same quality yet not use such expensive ingredients, here are some go to ingredient swaps that can make a nice difference in your pocketbook.

  •  Cashews and pine nuts -- cashews can certainly be expensive, often over $10 for a bag (and much more for pine nuts), and same with almonds.  Try sunflower seeds, often they sell for $3 a bag, being a dryland crop they don't take a lot of resources to grow.  In fact, they often grow as 'weeds' in many arid regions.  You can make cheeses with these, creams, even milk.  
  • Cereal -- cereal adds up, especially boxed cereal.  The best savings is to have oatmeal instead of cereal, or something else home-made instead of oatmeal. 
  • Vegan meats, cheeses, yogurts, ice-cream and other specialty products -- this is where the costs of vegan can really hit the pocket.  A lot of these products are 5 dollars each, sure maybe they taste amazing, and maybe they are great for special occasions, but for everyday fair, it will certainly add up.  Also many of these products can be made at home, vital wheat gluten is a common ingredient for vegan meats, cashews or tofu are common in cheeses -- however cashews can be substituted by sunflower seeds and tofu can be substituted by chickpea 'tofu'
  • Tofu-- I just listed this above, but figured it was worth mentioning in it's own bullet.  Not that tofu is that expensive, however making your own from chickpea flour is cheaper, 
  • Berries and exotic fruits -- of course these are so good for you, however they are often expensive, apples, oranges and bananas are typically the most cost effective fruits. 
  • Basil - Basil is amazing, and every now and again I may spend to get some, however, other herbs are much cheaper.  Cilantro and parsley for example typically sell for a fraction of the price that basil does.  Cilantro pesto is awesome-- and is personally my favorite, and much cheaper to make than basil pesto. Some people prefer the taste of parsley over cilantro, in that case make pesto from parsley.  
  • Ready made sauces -- to be avoided, the only sauce that is fairly useful in vegan cooking is tomato sauce, for some reason blended tomatoes don't always give the same rich texture that canned tomatoes do.  For all other exotic and fun ready made sauces, just skip them.  Healthier sauces can be easily made at home.  Tahini and peanut butter are packaged foods, however if used sparingly within recipes can go a long way for the investment.  Tahini often goes for $10 a jar, but will last months in the cupboard, and is great in so many recipes.  I've even made my own milk from 1 banana, 1-2 tbsp tahini and 2-3 cups of water blended.  It may be acquired taste, but for the time I had little time I wanted to invest in actually making a nut milk, this was a perfect solution for me.  
  • Supplements-- don't worry too much about this, B12 is important to have but apart from that as long as you are getting plenty of greens, and calories in general, you will have the nutrients that you need from a vegan diet.  
  • Pickles -- organic pickles can be pretty expensive.  Try buying a cucumber instead, slicing it thin and marinating it in sugar, salt and vinegar.  It may add the right amount of tangy crunchiness to your sandwich that you may not even miss the jarred variety.   (
  • Olives -- Sometimes there are sales on organic olives, but incase it's not happening, capers are generally more affordable.  
  • Bread -- If you are really looking to save money, buy flour not bread.  You will get 6-7 loaves for the price of one, if you make your own bread.  This can be time consuming, so again it really depends what level of cost saving you are interested in. 
  • Junk food -- I know it's tempting, but chips, cookies, cakes, sugar and fat filled things only serve to deplete the body of nutrients, keeping up the vicious cycle of cravings and hunger. The more quality rich food you have the more full you will be, hence the less you will buy.  Raw food recipes are especially great at satisfying cravings.  Try a raw broccoli soup, you may be surprised at how quickly your nerves and cravings stabilize.  
  • Dates, agave and maple syrup-- in the US, alternative sweeteners can be pricy, these are common sweeteners in vegan cooking.  Alternatively you can buy stevia -- upfront costs may be more, however the quantities needed to sweeten are very very minute, hardly a few grains.  One small container can last years -- mine certainly has.  Raisins can also be used, these are much cheaper than dates and can easily replace dates in many raw food recipes.  If neither of these quite fit the bill, agave is certainly cheaper than maple syrup, and can be used sparingly. 
  • Buy in bulk, go to the bulk aisle and get everything you want in dried version, cans of beans definitely add up in cost.  Pre-made rice in bags or boxes give you much less value for your money.  Load up on dried bulk food.  *if you have never cooked dried beans, it's less intimidating than you might think, throw them in a slow cooker for 8 hours while you are at work with ample water alternatively soak them in water overnight and simmer them for 1 hour until they are soft. If you are interested in foods that cook faster, try millet instead of rice, try lentils instead of beans, they don't require soaking or an hour. They can be done in 20 minutes, sometimes a bit longer, but at minimum about 20 minutes.  I have never been brave enough to use a pressure cooker, but that is another way that these foods can be cooked much quicker.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cat Fostering: Best Practices

First of all, thank you for your service to the world and to animals!  If you have never owned a pet before, this is a great way to start, to gain experience without making the life-long commitment yet also experiencing the same joys that many long term pet owners get.  Many animal shelters are saturated with animals, and they need as much help as they can get. This is a great way to get involved in your community, give exposure to animals to what it's like living in a loving home, and ultimately being part of the process in giving permanent homes to many animals.

Bringing your first foster animal home for the first time can be exciting.  Or at least it is always for me.  It's the start to a new friendship, that on that first day, you really have no idea what's in store.  This can be both intimidating yet intriguing.

Tip number 1:
Be prepared before the animal enters your house.  If you are limited on a budget, then don't worry about these things, the things you get along with the animal should be enough to take care of the animal, these extras are just basically help the animal feel a little more comfortable a little faster.

Items that can help to have in your home:
1- Cat treats: Although many cats arriving to a new place are too nervous to want food, it's at least a good way to show your cat that you doing the best you can to make him or her feel more comfortable.
2-Canned cat food: At the shelter they are fed dry food, which is fine, and feeding them dry at home will most likely make the transition easier for them anyway. However having canned food on hand will be helpful if the cat you have brought home is mostly avoiding food.  The canned food definitely has a stronger lure on the animal and may help in getting them to eat.  
3- Leash and halter: These things are definitely not necessary, but I like to use them to see how comfortable the cat is being outside, without the risk of the cat running away.  Although the cats so far I've watched have been moderately scared of the outdoors.  The leash can also double as a cat toy, to drag around the house :)
4-Wide cat tray, clumping clay kitty litter -- the shelter may or may not provide this, the first cat that I fostered, for some reason wasn't too fond of the kitty litter box I got from the shelter.  So by my 2nd cat I made sure that I followed the best practices to see if it would make a difference.  Basically cats typically prefer the clumping clay kitty litter, I was too excited when I saw wheat and corn based kitty litter but the reality is my cats began using them as beds or eating it.. they didn't realize it was a toilet!  I think if you get a kitten it would be easy to train on anything, but if you are getting a cat from a shelter, make sure you find out what kind of kitty litter they are using, and try not to veer from that.  Cats a super particular about where they go and if things change too much on them, they are capable of peeing in inappropriate places.  Having a big tray, can also make a cat feel more invited to go inside of the kitty litter box, uncovered is typically preferred as well.
5- Scratch post or layers of corrugated cardboard equipped with catnip. Cats typically really enjoy this. Entering a new home, it's impossible to know what they may like to scratch, this will help get their clawing tendencies out on something they are supposed to, to help save your furniture.

Tip Number 2:
Set a room or portion of your house designated for your cat. This will be the place your cat can go when you are out of the house, and at night. You will be able to put the cat's bed in here, along with kitty litter and food and water. Make sure you keep the food and water and the kitty litter on opposite sides of the room.  Cats don't like to go the the bathroom in the vicinity of their food.  And they may instead choose to hold it, or stop eating/drinking.  If you know they are potty trained it could be a room where there is carpet, however if you are unsure, it could be a bathroom or maybe even an organized storage room.

Tip Number 3:
Just like when  guest enters your house and you welcome them and pay attention to them, your cat needs similar treatment.  Coming to a brand new place can be scary.  It's good to help them feel that you are taking care of them, and they will be okay. They need lots of reassurance, we may or may not know their stories or backgrounds but they could be from abusive homes or were neglected, or just from the streets.  Don't assume that the cat will feel comfortable in its own time, you need to go out of your way in the beginning to attempt to pet the cat, play with the cat, talk to the cat.  This will open the cat up so it feels more comfortable in this new place.  Chances are, your cat will remain in the carrier box, or find a really good hiding place straight away, or continue to find hiding places the whole while. This is perfectly normal behavior, but don't forget about them. These animals not only need food, water and shelter, but also human contact to help them feel more comfortable.  Coax them out of hiding with a toy or a gentle hand.  Don't expect them to be super cuddly at first, or want to be held or carried. they typically don't in the beginning. They take their own time as to what they are comfortable with.

If you are away from multiple hours, try to spend at least 15 minutes of quality time with them in a place in the house they are most comfortable.  Pet them, and try to play with them.  Sometimes if they don't get this attention to begin with they will take much longer to adjust.  As you give them attention you might notice that suddenly they will go for food, or maybe they will feel comfortable to go to the litter box. Reinforce this behavior, by staying still or letting them know they are doing a good job. It sounds weird, but sometimes they will start to do a behavior, and they are waiting for you to tell them it's okay or not.  Mostly these animals, just love having you around and love getting attention.

Tip Number 4:
Make sure your actions are slow and steady. This way to limit the chances that the cat will want to go into hiding.

Tip Number 5:
Keep doors closed that are off limits to the cat, over time they may be allowed into all rooms, but to begin with, it's good to keep bedroom doors closed, to keep the cats out of personal belongings and perhaps even accidents that could happen. This is really important because as you and the cat are learning each other, rules are also being learned, and opening up the entire house at once can end in a really bad situation for everyone if the cat does something its not supposed to.  Until trust has been earned, a cat be limited in its access to different areas of the house.

Tip Number 6:
Keep the litter box as clean as possible.  Just a good practice to have to make sure the cat knows you are taking care of them, and keeping them in a sanitary place.

Tip Number 7:
Enjoy the time you have with them, take lots of pictures, videos and write about the animals. These are all very valuable feedback to your local animal shelter and really helps these animals get adopted to their final homes :)

Animal rights and Sustainability

So many of our systems largely depend on animals, and this has created many negative repercussions.
1- We treat living beings as machines, their food and shelter are inputs, and their body parts and secretions are outputs. Our educational programs are about optimizing and cheapening the inputs for more and more 'efficient' and commodified outputs.

2- Destruction of our ecosphere.  Depending on organisms further up the food chain, makes us less efficient in our use of planet earth.  Is the biggest contributor to global warming, ocean dead zones, ground water pollution, soil compaction, destruction of rain forest.

3- Animals without homes, sentient living beings with personalities, emotions, wants and needs, treated as objects, tortured, killed, contained, and homeless.

Something that can significantly help in our wrongs we have committed to the planet and fellow beings is being vegan.  Choosing to refrain from eating and using sentient beings and higher trophic organisms, for any purpose.

But just as the human family has done many atrocious things over the years, merely 'stopping' doing something, isn't always enough. we need to take an active effort in undoing and fixing what has been wronged.

For example, merely ending slavery for African Americans living in the USA, although an important step isn't enough. Support is needed to help balance the power/control/patterns that had been created for so many years.  Active involvement and participation needs to be taken on all levels to adequately provide buffers to subjugated peoples, in order to level the playing the field.

Basically we need to take responsibility for the wrongs that have been committed and do whatever we can in our power to not only stop the actions that subjugate, but also support to the extent that is beneficial and distributes equality among all living beings.

So in taking these animals off of our plates, out of our clothes and household products. As far as possible each of us, needs to take consideration how we can further support equality for animals.

Sustainability is important, and to me sustainability includes how we can care for all of our current living being adequately.  This doesn't mean to live lavishly, but to reduce our own consumption as much as possible and share our resources as much as possible with those without power to obtain resources, or those with little power.

This means to donate as much as possible to worthy causes. Ideally causes that address multiple key issues at once.

For example, Sadhana Forest, is a vegan community who also delves into local food, water and sustainability issues.  In Kenya, they work with communities in helping them plant and maintain trees, become more food sovereign, raise ground water, provide alternative energy to the community.  Several issues are being tackled at once, these are awesome programs to support.

Also contributing to wildlife reserves, to help pay for security guards, wildlife rangers, etc.
In supporting locals to protect the area and support wildlife aids local communities by all of the services provided by wildlife -- rainwater capture and filtration, medicine, food, etc.

Contributing to organizations working in animal rights, Animal Defenders International, who work in several countries rescuing and lobbying against animals kept in abusive situations, zoos and circuses.
Animal rights organizations, and all and any type of animal sanctuaries, where abused and neglected animals have the ability to live out the rest of their lives in peace.

There are other ways to contribute, when cash is low or you just want to do something more.

Organizing vegan meetups, establish a community in your area.  Hold pot lucks, host vegan videos to share the message, contact restaurants on vegan options.

Another way to support animals is to stop buying animal breeds. This one often is not spoken about enough, especially among people who adamantly 'love' animals.  Cat and dog breeding only adds to the 7-8 millions of abandoned pets every year, and that's only in the USA.

We need to be more responsible with the way we think about animals.  They are not objects, they are not status symbols, they are sentient beings with their own personalities.

The best thing we can do for animals is to adopt from animal shelters.  And if you are fond of a particular breed, many times those breeds end up in shelters, may take a bit of scouting, but you will probably find what you are looking for.

Consider adopting an older animal.  Babies are usually the first to get adopted out.  But animals of all ages need home and love.

If your lifestyle is such that adopting an animal is out of the question, consider fostering an animal for or a week or two when you can.  You will learn the joys of having animals around, and you can also see just how supportive that action is for your local animal shelter.  Many animals in shelters just don't get the personalized attention that they need.  And is really crucial that they learn to become social and used to households, it really increases their chances of being  adopted out, especially as the shelter can learn more about their personalities through you!

It may seem weird to have the animals for a short amount of time, but as a community, I envision that our society can collectively take responsibility for the pain and suffering we've inflicted on animals for so many years, and open up our homes to either permanently or temporarily care for animals.  I think it's the least we can do as a community to help the situation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kitchen Permaculture

My friend Nandini in Delhi, I recently had the opportunity to visit. It's always fun staying with her, plus the food she makes is awesome.

She and a friend have recently put together a cookbook will be published this spring. It is international vegan food.  They've organized it in the form of menu's.  It sounds amazing, so far I've tried one item in the cookbook which is awesome.

It was a gluten free, oil free lasagna.

Basically it's made of steamed veggies which have been cut into strips, carrot, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, and in between the layers is put a tomato sauce and a fermented cashew cheese.

The cashew cheese tops it, and I could not even believe that after baking it, the cheese even became crispy on top!  It was so delicious and I am certainly looking forward to their cook book coming out :)

An interesting thing they do with their orange peels is putting them in a big bowl of water to soak. This water than became very fragrant, and makes an awesome floor wash!

She also showed me her rooftop garden which was lovely, all of her kitchen scraps get placed in the top clay pot, mixed with leaves and then slowly the pots move down the line, until it becomes finished compost at the end. The compost then gives back to her garden in pots :)
She is growing spinach, sprouts, radishes and others.

She was having a hard time with aphids, and someone came to help her switch out all of her soil for new soil, and this seemed to clear up the problem.

All Creatures Great and Small & Naz Foundation

I recently had the opportunity to visit the animal sanctuary run by Anjali Gopalan.

I was contacted by Claude who is in charge of composting at the sanctuary.  They have a something like 1/2 an acre of a vegetable garden from which they feed their staff and center for children who are affected by HIV in Delhi.

I came to test the soil, which the results should be coming out soon, for general nutrients and also testing for heavy metal contamination.

The organic farm/animal sanctuary was beautiful. It was so touching to see all of the animals taken such good care of by Anjali and her staff, the animals are visited weekly by the employed veterinarian.  The animals that make their way there are typically in critical condition.  They may be missing limbs, or have broken bones, orphaned, blind, etc.  They had a small monkey who was paralyzed they were feeding, I also saw a calf who was rather disoriented as he was blind. A small pup couldn't quite keep his tongue in his mouth, he was missing a part of his jaw.

I asked Claude, is it possible to get prosthetics for these animals, is there such thing as a prosthetic jaw?  Claude looked at me and smiled, "Well just because they may look a little funny, doesn't always mean that their quality of life is any lower or they are less happy.  This one still eats normally and plays normally, just because he looks different doesn't mean he hasn't the right to be, or shouldn't deserve to be around."

Of course I didn't mean it in the sense that something ought to be done or else. But it's always a good reminder, for us all when we are ever seeking perfection and improvement.  I guess there are those who feel that way, that a dog with three legs may not live a happy life.  I didn't get that impression from the animals here. Their very presence really touched my heart.  You could definitely tell they had a good life, and had so much love, they were love. And it was beautiful to be there.

 They had many animals, they had donkeys, horses, cows, one camel, emus, baby monkeys, over 200 dogs, cats, peacocks, chickens, and baby deer who were very very adorable.

They also had a pond of fish :)

 They also had such a beautiful big and open kitchen

They recently purchased more land so they could expand the amount of land that the animals could have.  Claude is very keen on integrating as many permaculture principles as he can into the design as well.

As of now his compost his a mixture of old farm soil, ash, compost/fresh greens, straw and newspaper.  The crop looks awesome, he bought some simple soil pH tests, which indicated that the soil and the compost were rather alkaline -- about 8.0

Our thoughts were to maybe decrease the amount of ash used in the  compost.

Yet, it will be interesting to see the results from the soil lab because we also don't really know how accurate those tests might be.

In this picture you can see their system for watering, they put in these tubed pipes so that they only need to water into the tube, so the plant receives directly the water that it needs.

I am a little apprehensive about this method, just because watering the soil isn't just about making sure the plants get the water that is needed, it is also important to take care of the soil itself and the organisms that break down organic matter for the plants.  It would seem like a good idea to water the soil periodically to keep the soil itself alive, but I guess if there is limited water on site, of course the plants themselves will be prioritized.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Assam, India

I am currently in Assam, India.  Upon arrival we drove through Guwahati, where we would be staying as well.  My husband is doing a 2 week project with a company located in Assam, and we will be travelling around visiting their different sites.  Mostly I’ve been room bound, since I’m working on school stuff.  My advisor has been generous enough to let me come to India and work on write-ups for my project.

 Some pictures from the road :)

I did manage to visit a museum in Guwahati.  It was actually one of the cutest museums I’ve ever visited. There were 4 floors to this museum many artifacts, most likely more than one hundred, however they had no descriptions posted for any of the items. It was anybody’s best guess what the items could have been used for, some of the items had a single name, and perhaps it was listed what the item was made from, often it was cow dung, hair, etc.  Amazing all of the things you can make with cow dung. I had no idea.

The most interesting part was 2nd level where they had put mannequins out with all of the traditional styles of dress from all of the different communities. I had no idea there was such diversity among the people in the way they dressed themselves. Assam is in the Northeast region of India, quite close to China, Bhutan, etc.  It was interesting for me to see how politically we have drawn borders between countries, but how culturally borders aren’t so defined.  It’s observable in the styles of clothes that can be seen as well as in the bone structure of the face and shape of the eyes.  It’s interesting how the mixtures of characteristics typically defined to certain regions, take on a very unique form of beauty when they are blended with another 'country’s'. 

Afterwards our driver took us to the only ‘male’ river in the world. At least in the hindi language.  It was explained to me that the river looks very gentle from the outset, however on the inside the river is raging.  If anyone were to fall in at any point in this river, they would be absolutely done for.  Whether or not this is true, I don’t know. It was a beautiful river. 

We were supposed to go the next morning to a temple. The most famous temple in Guwahati, it is said that anything you wish for will come true when you are there.  Apparently this temple is supposedly a representation of ‘mother’s’ or ‘mother earth’s’ vagina.  I know it’s a bit strange sounding.  They even close the temple 3 days in the year to allow for the ‘temple’s’ menstrual flow.  Whatever that actually means, I don’t know, but apparently they figure it out with complex astrology.  It’s all very interesting.  I was told that inside the temple there is nothing, it is barren.  My husband looked it up, and found pictures of menstruating goddesses, in rather provocative positions with painted red all over.  Seemed a bit intense.  The last straw that really made us uninterested to visit the place was the continued presence of sacrificial killings of animals.  Goats often were the subjects. 

I made up my mind, no way would I be interested in visiting such a place.  Sorry, cultures have always fascinated me, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around why sacrifice is still such a big thing. I understand to an extent, many people live in fear of the unknown and of the future, of the wrath of gods and bad luck.  Anything that has been done by the ancestors, must have worked right, since the people are obviously still there.  How do you respect a people yet not support their practices? 

I’d like to see the age of man, where we no longer are bound by our fears but we are living in trust of life, and in respect of all beings on Earth.  This respect would be given to them because of their innate qualities, not for the qualities that are often used and exploited by humans.

I realized this too late, but only 1 hour from where I was staying was a wildlife sanctuary.  If I had been familiar with this sooner, I would have planned a trip there instead but as it was, didn't happen.  Maybe on the next journey :)

Yesterday we made it to Lanka, about a 3 hour journey from Guwahati.  It’s a much slower paced place, much more greenery than the average city in India.
I’ve been sneaking fruits to the goats who live next door to the guesthouse I am staying in.  Their pasture is unfortunately completely eaten to the bone. I have no idea how these animals are actually surviving.  The people who are ‘herding’ them seem to move them around often, however there are hardly other places that have grass or food available for them.  Anyway, I’ve been happily sneaking them grapes and apples. I’ve been doing my best to be discreet about it, never fun getting in trouble, good news is, I’m obviously a ‘foreigner’ to this place and the only advantage to not speaking the language is in playing dumb. 

I actually haven’t seen anyone who isn’t Indian in this place as of yet, I think for the most part ‘foreigners’ aren’t allowed in these parts of the country because of the political unstability of some of the places.  Now that I have a PIO, none of it really applies to me.  A PIO though doesn’t exactly change your skin or hair color, so the fact that I am not from here is all too obvious to most.  At the museum it was funny to watch how the people reacted to me.  They were sneaking pictures and sometimes forming crowds.  In some of the places in the south, they explained to me that often many of the people from smaller towns had never seen a white person before, the only place has been on television, so their first assumption when seeing a white person is that they must be a movie star.  In the south, the difference is in some of the villages that they will actually come up and ask for your autograph. 

Anyway, I find it all kind of cute and amusing. 

India is a very rich country, both culturally and ecologically.  I recently read in the paper about how the new prime minister wants to make it as easy as possible for business and industry to acquire land and make work very possible and easy here. It’s pretty disheartening to see the leaders of this country, basically say to India,  I don’t care about your health, longevity or happiness. I don’t care about your wilderness, your greenery or beauty.  The moment we throw all else out the window for the sake of development, pollution and business and the majority of the population doesn’t seem to bat an eye at this?  It’s a very disheartening time.  I hope to see people radically standing up to such claims with vehement enthusiasm to withhold from such kind of economic development.  It serves no one in the long run. Short term profit is a political joke.  A very sad state that our leaders have made us believe is the ultimate goal in life… but in reality it means nothing, just the degradation of our beautiful land and beautiful nature. 

At our last guesthouse, I was on the balcony admiring the trees and all, from the corner of my eye it looked like a white flower in the tree, I turned my attention to it, only to find that it was a crumpled up napkin. How did the napkin get into the tree?  A further inspection was that the tree was actually covered in floss, napkins and wrappers. They had been taking the trash, our trash from our rooms and throwing it over the balcony.

How can you be more at one with nature at the point? You can’t.

I immediately stopped using napkins.  In fact, I really would like to overall cut my use of products that generate waste, either because of their creation or disposal. I know this can be a difficult thing and requires that many thing to be used, ought to be made from scratch, from whole materials, grains, fruits and vegetables that don’t require packaging. 

The challenge that I would have is using a car as well as my computer.  Which is relatively needed for school. It would be possible to mitigate my use of my car perhaps, and opt for the bicycle more often. 

Let’s see how it goes. 

I think this is why I have such an immense appreciation for India.  The lessons it gives you through these extremes, you really wouldn’t otherwise get.  You can cognitively understand and ‘try’ to be a good person who uses limited resources, however your actions and repercussions are so disconnected from your life, how then do these lessons sink in?  I don’t think they properly can. 

So I am sitting here, in this nice guest house, listening to the village music which typically will permeate through an entire town. Not sure how they manage to get such an efficient sound equipment.

Last thing I wanted to share is that recently my brother in law and father in law in Pune, wrote to me. There was something about soil in the paper. 

Apparently much of India suffers from micronutrient deficiencies in the soil such as iron and zinc.  This is because there is so little emphasis on organic inputs in most conventional operations, the emphasis is on nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, however over time this creates problems.  The article mentioned how this is having huge health repercussions; people aren’t getting the nutrients necessary for good health from eating from these lands. 

Awareness is certainly getting it’s way around.  I was also recently contacted by an NGO just outside of New Delhi. They have 1 acre, where they grow many fruits and vegetables for 30 children who have AIDS. They also have an animal shelter, and place for the residents who take care of the place.  The gentleman who contacted me is in charge of composting on site, he has learned a method of composting that takes only a couple of weeks for the nutrients to turn over.

He was curious to know if there was a way to make the system more productive, sustainable and healthy.  He was interested in soil tests and making sure there were no contaminants on site.  I did a little bit of research, since in USA soil tests for contaminants is pretty pricey, I quickly found out that it's no different in India.  Most of these tests cost about $ 10 per contaminant per sample which can easily add up to over $100 depending on what all tests you are wanting.   

I told him we could investigate his property’s history and understand what soil tests would be most relevant. 

I'll be visiting his farm in a  few weeks, and I'll be sure to update again and post some pictures, especially as they are doing a lot of great work and are very interested in permaculture and sustainability :)

All the best 



We also had the chance to drive by a wildlife sanctuary, it has the highest per capita number of rhinos in the world!

This picture is a bit blurry.. but it was so amazing to see the rhinos especially with their young.