We had a wonderful Open House/ Brunch here on June 9th to celebrate our seventh anniversary and the local band, The Alley Rabbits performed. I served Vegan BBQ, Macaroni & Cheeze, Potato Salad, Kale, Coleslaw, Apple Pie and Chocolate Pie and a friend brought a cake. There were approximately forty people here for this, which was one of our largest turn-outs!
Much has changed since my last blog. First the sad news; we lost our wonderful black and white goat, Thistle, in the late fall of 2016. We knew he was sick and had him stay at the vets for several days trying to make him well. He seemed to be on the mend and came home, but then quickly relapsed. All the animals spent time with him during his last day. It was very amazing and touching to watch. They all seemed to know what was transpiring. The photo of Donkey Oaty saying goodbye is now used as our logo as it truly displays love across species.
Several months later, in the spring of 2017, we were offered a young white goat who the owner had traded for some chickens and no longer wanted. He was terrified of people for the longest time. We call him Bramble and over the last year he has slowly warmed up to me. Clover treats him like a son.
In June of 2017 a woman dropped off a disabled goat. She runs a Waldorf School in the Triangle and has a small group of animals for the kids to interact with. This goat was born on her farm and could get around by walking on his front knees as his legs couldn’t extend all the way. He was already two when we got him, and this way of getting around was extremely hard on his back. Apparently he was walking less and less as he grew larger and larger. The woman just did not want to have him on her property any more. She called him Cookie, which I soon changed to Kooky. Kooky was very sad and required a lot of assistance. Within months he had stopped walking all together. I would pull him around in a wagon. We have a daughter with arthrogryposis, which is the same condition Kooky has. Her name is Sunaura and I would tease her that we had replaced her. She is now working on finishing her PhD from NYU. She is also the author of Beasts of Burden, Animal and Disability Liberation. Eventually we devised a wheelchair for Kooky, and a volunteer constructed it out of wood. It was a cool and unique design, but it soon became unstable, so then we bought one from a manufacturer of animal wheelchairs. This chair cost almost $1,000 delivered. Kooky really enjoys it and I take him out in it everyday. I have devised a way to lift him using a sling and a pully system as he is now too large and heavy for me to lift.
Last summer we built a much nicer barn building for the animals that is situated closer to our house. The other shed was always getting wet in heavy rains. This building is higher and dryer and we also wanted to create a building where Kooky could have an area where he could sleep with the other animals and interact with them, but be safe from being stepped on inadvertently. Several friends volunteered to help us with aspects of its construction, but it still cost us approximately $20,000 out of pocket.
More tragedy struck and we lost our dear Daisy Dog to thrombocytopenia. Death becomes an all too frequent visitor when you have many animals in your life.
Earlier this year we got a request from Justin VanCleek from the Microsanctuary Movement about the possibility of us taking in two roosters they had just rescued from a local animal shelter. I knew Justin as he had visited here last year and given a presentation on raising chickens and roosters. I agree to take these two birds in if they would help us get a home for them. They gave us a $500 grant to purchase a rooster home. I found a wonderful small insulated building (built to house a generator) and Justin came out and helped to retrofit it for the birds. We named them Ginger and Basil. Justin assured me that the cats would not be a threat (we have three rescued barn cats) and that the roosters should be safe as in the daytime they would be in the fenced pasture with all the other animals. I quickly fell in love with the roosters as they were so beautiful and curious. They would follow me around as I did chores. In May the shearers came and we had the alpacas sheared; the next day the vet came out to check everyone and to give them their immunizations. I had gathered all the mammals into the barn to wait for him and he was delayed for an hour. The roosters were in the pasture, now unguarded, and that was when a fox saw its opportunity. Ginger was taken from us and we found a trail of feather leading to the spot where he had been pulled under the fence at the back of the field. My heart was broken again and after consulting with Justin, we decided that Basil should move to his place, as the fox was probably brazen enough, perhaps motivated by having babies, to come back for Basil. That afternoon Justin made the trek from his home an hour away and then Basil was gone as well. The refuge seems so quiet without them and I miss them every day.
One day a few months ago, I was chatting with someone in our local feed store and she told me that she had heard of a mini cow that needed a home. I contacted the rancher. Apparently he had bought the cow at an auction thinking she would be a regular sized cow that he could breed with his bull. She never grew. She was just a year old and he wanted to sell her so that he could get another appropriate cow for his purposes. This cow was worth $1.50 per pound for meat. So I ransomed her for $500, which is what she could have been bought and slaughtered for. So, now have a fat, bossy, mini cow here named Juniper Moon, although I often call her Moo-Moo Ma-Lou. She eats like a Hoover vacuum cleaner, but she is the sweetest creature when there isn’t food around. She is our only female farm animal and I think she is perfect for helping people meet a meat cow. Everyone who meets her is smitten by her.
Since October of 2018, I have been hosting Farm Tours/Open House events. At first I held them every Sunday and now I hold them every two weeks. I charge money for folks to come onto the property and they are invited to participate in a free vegan brunch gathering while they are here. The menu changes each time. This allows me to introduce a wide variety of vegan food to the guests as part of the educational experience. The brunches are always accompanied by Will playing guitar or piano and sometimes other musicians play as well. All the proceeds goes towards supporting the refuge. We have also hosted several coffee house events. I split the proceeds from these events with the musicians and my share goes towards the refuge. When I host cooking classes with guest instructors I use the same arrangement.
Our latest endeavor here is that we have remodeled our former three car garage into an apartment and we now envision using it to host artist and writer’s retreats, which we are seeking funding for. We also have it listed on Air BnB in the interim. Please check it out and come stay with us for a few days. All guests must adhere to a plant-based diet while here. We call this space Heartsong Cabin at the Dharma Farm Animal Refuge.