Friday, March 28, 2008

Hooray for goats

Today was a day off at Farm Sanctuary. I spent time this morning with the animals, notably the pigs of the Rescue Barn, and the goats and sheep on Goat Hill, what I call their current pasture. We fed the goats chopped up carrots for treats this morning - some of them got really fired up about the deal, and climbed up on my back and tried to take over the feed bowl.

Only two work days left - Saturday and Sunday - then it's off on Monday for the two day train trip back to Fargo. Word is it will be daylight through the Rockies on the way back, which should be awesome. The train cuts right through Glacier National Park - living next door to Montana most of my life, I've never been to Glacier. Just a couple of road trips that cut across it's southern edge.

I'll have some of the many pictures I've taken this month on display here as soon as I get home. Meanwhile, I've added some links for some pretty nifty cooking sites.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Final days at Farm Sanctuary

I knew this month would fly by, and I was right. I have only a handful of days left here as an intern at Farm Sanctuary California. The crew here had a staff/intern farewell lunch today - if anyone is considering applying for an internship at Farm Sanctuary, there are a ton of good reasons to do so. One of which is that we are fed really well. Lunch today was nummy vegan pizza with sausage, soy cheese, and other goodness. Poppy seed cake-bars and red pepper-bean hummusy dip rounded things out. Good stuff - I've gone an entire month without having to negotiate my way through a meal with non-vegans, and it's been a nice break. Thanks everybody.

Most of my cooking is done here at Vegan House, the intern residence. I was feeling sort of lazy after a good day of work and I'm trying to use up my groceries, but I'm excited to dig in to the roasted butternut squash with onions and garlic and random spices in the oven.

Tomorrow promises to be a big day. The caregiver staff is administering a health care check for each and every one of the Santa Cruz sheep herd. They are grateful refugees from Santa Cruz island off the California coast, but probably the least domesticated of Farm Sanctuary's happy residents. The herd has had free range of the farm yards the last week or so - the sheep herd and main cattle herd alternate among the many pastures on the property. This week the cows moved to the "pond pasture," north of the farm. They have plenty of green grass and a good sized pond to enjoy. Today during the daily hay feed chores, we rounded up three straggling donkeys who hadn't made their way to the new pasture yet. It took a little searching on the mountain pasture to find them, but they were bribed with carrots to move to the pond pasture. Riding around the pastures, checking on the animals and feeding out hay, is always a good time. It's the Farm Sanctuary version of ranch life, and the views from the high pastures of the surrounding snow-capped mountains never fails to inspire.

After work I spent time with the pigs of the Rescue Barn. Pot-bellied Fergus Pig, one of my favorites here, had already gone to bed - it was pretty windy and cooler today, and Fergus calls it a day early the few days when it isn't warm and sunny. He was burrowed into the straw in the section of the barn he shares with big Matilda and shaggy Ramona and Kiwi. Kiwi is another younger pig, and she and Fergus love belly rubs. I was adding water to the pigs' little pond, and Kiwi came up beside me and rolled over for an extended belly rub session. If you haven't heard the snorts and grunts of a happy pig getting a belly rub, you really, really ought to sometime.

We also spent a couple of hours this afternoon doing hoof trimming on three of the older goats today. Their names are Studley, Sprout, and Cheech. The goats have a genial cool about them. They are quite sociable and curious - not in the frat-boy, party animal, eager to please character of dogs that I love so much - but really cool about it. I'm a big fan of the goats, especially these three. They aren't crazy about the hoof trimming (it's basically like clipping toenails, but really crazy toenails), but it didn't last long and they were out in the pasture with their buddies in no time. At his shoulders, Cheech maybe comes up to my knees - he's just the best. I'm going to miss the goats. We should all be more like them.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Lucas!

I just read the newest Caringbridge update for my dear nephew Lucas Bradley Kraft, who celebrates his first birthday tomorrow back in Fargo. Lucas and his mom and dad have had a long first year, but this picture says all that needs to be said. Happy birthday buddy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I hope the caps and exclamations had Marlon Brando's voice in your mind. In my last post I referred to a little adventure during closing on Monday night. Farm Sanctuary had a missing duck, which is a big deal around here. The animal caregivers, and everybody involved here, are meticulously careful when closing up at night, to make sure each and every animal is safe in his or her home, with friends, and protected from things that go bump in the night. Here, that mostly means coyotes. I helped close Monday night, and we had a missing duck. Stella the duck.

This is a big deal. I helped Molly, the caregiver on closing duties that night, look for Stella for about an hour, as night fell. When we couldn't find her, we called in reinforcements, and soon six people were scouring the farm looking for Stella. Flashlights in hand, the searchers climbed into lofts, tore apart storerooms, looked under buildings and up into trees, and took a "no duck left behind" approach to finding Stella. After about four hours of searching, we decided to wait until morning. We knew Stella was in all probability nesting on an egg somewhere, so she was actively trying not to be found. Nobody liked to give up, but we felt like we examined every square inch of farm where Stella would conceivably have access. Plus, she no doubt had security in mind when she selected a nesting site, so she should be safe.

We hoped she would show up Tuesday morning, but still no sign. Finally, sometime Wednesday morning, Stella was back in her duck house, which is shared with dozen or so rabbits and a couple of other ducks. And a cat. This place is great. No explanation from Stella, and no apologies. Just a duck being a duck. We're glad, and relieved, to have her back. So is Douglas duck, the shelter's resident romantic. More on him later.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Northern California

After just two and a half weeks or so in northern California, I find myself really starting to like the place. So many things here are pretty much like I figured they would be. That's good.

Today I had the day off, so I made some brownies this afternoon and went for a little hike. The brownies were a recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. They're pretty yummy, and prominently feature applesauce. I'll get a picture up of those.

The hike is across the road from Farm Sanctuary, a place called Black Butte Recreation Area, or something like that. The weather today, like most days this month, has been just perfect. No wonder these Californians seem so relaxed. Windchill of deep winter does something to a people, and that hasn't happened here. Ever. I still love North Dakota, but there's much to be said for a land without winter. We'll get pictures of the hike up too. I saw a bunch of deer out there a few days ago; today, only turkey vultures and lizards.

What of the farm? The farm's still great. I worked closing shifts the last five days, which gives us a chance to "tuck in" the animals each night and make sure everybody is safe and where they belong. The highlight of this is usually the visit to Dutch the Duck, a great little guy who spends all day in his little pond and walks home at night with tiny little feet. Last night was a little adventure, and I'll be back with more on that later.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More news from an intern at Farm Sanctuary...

I know, my vegan cooking blog is turning into one of those collections of rants and diary entries that make me think most blogs are kind of dumb. Sorry about that, but I'll be back to a recipe format in April, I promise.

Meanwhile, I am starting my second week as an intern at Farm Sanctuary here near Orland, CA. I've been staying busy, doing veterinary care deliveries of animals to the vet school at UC Davis, farm chores, and spending time with the animals. My closest neighbors at the farm are the residents of FS's Rescue Barn, where new arrivals usually spend some time acclimating. The days usually end with some treats for Maya and Rosa, a pair of big Yorkshire pigs, and belly rubs for pigs named Kiwi and Fergus.

Like everyone here, I try to spend some time each day with a male calf named Cupid. Cupid loves running around his outside pen with anyone who will join him, and nuzzles up for scratching and stroking behind his ears and on his neck. Today I was sitting with him scratching his head, and he fell asleep leaning up on my knee.

Here's Cupid's story at the Farm Sanctuary page:

Again, I will get some photos of the animals and farm up on this page soon! All this text needs a little sprucing up.

Bumper stickers are to philosophy as television is to the news...

I think Richard Nixon said that. Here's some other quotes I like.

"Camus rightly argues that to commit to a just cause against overwhelming odds is absurd. He further argues that not to commit is equally absurd. Only one choice, however, offers the slightest chance for dignity. And dignity matters." - that's from David Simon

"Isn't man an amazing Animal? He kills wildlife - birds, kangaroos, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice, foxes, and dingoes - by the million in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed.
Then he kills domestic animals by the billions and eats them. This in in turn kills man by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer.
So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures to those diseases.
Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.
Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and violently, and once a year sends out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."
- from Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coats (in turn, the excerpt was printed in The Peaceful Palate, a nice cookbook from Jennifer Raymond)

This blog used to be, and will be again, about recipes.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Down on the farm...

I'm a few days into my month here at Farm Sanctuary near Orland, California. The weather is beautiful, the farm is amazing, and the animals are charming and lovable, with the exception of a goose named Romeo, who is kind of a dick.
The staff here show that rare kind of dedication of people who deeply believe in what they are doing, and I've been following staff members around each day since I arrived, learning the routines of cleaning, feeding, and just being friends with the residents here. There are cattle, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, pigs, donkeys, and a few cats who work to scare the rodents away.
I'll try to be back on a regular basis with posts, but obviously my biggest priority while I'm here is to be outside and working with the animals. For that reason I probably won't have many food/recipe posts for the month. As an aside though, I ate at Laughing Planet in Portland, OR, last Thursday on the way here, and snapped a picture of the Che burrito. It was worthy of the revolution, and chock full of plantains, sweet potatoes, beans, justice, and tempeh.
Back to the farm - it's beautiful outside, so I need to wrap this up. The rock star of the farm is a holstein calf named Cupid. His story is on the Farm Sanctuary site, which you can link to from this page. I've bottle-fed him the last two nights at closing time, and he drinks like some people I know. He's a sweetheart, and a great ambassador for calves who don't escape to places like this. So long for now from California, where it isn't winter anymore and all is well.