Vegan on a Cow Ranch
March 18th 2012
I'm on a road trip.
Lytenian and I drove here to Moline, Kansas from Buffalo, New York.
We left on Monday, March 5th at 10:00pm and arrived here on Wednesday at 4:00am. That is a thirty hour journey. We plan to leave on Tuesday to head for Georgia. We've only thus far traveled to our first destination of five. (We're headed to Florida, Georgia and two places in North Carolina as well.)
Photos, maps showing our progress, and so on, can be seen in this facebook photo album (click here).
Getting Some Sun
It is nice being out in the country and breathing in fresh air. Last week I was able to sun-bathe four days out of the week. (And it is March!) I purposely did this with my arms covered but my mid-drift and legs bare. I know I'll be getting plenty of sun on my arms later on.
Yoga & Zumba
I've been doing a little more yoga than usual which is wonderful. I was fortunate enough to be able to drop into a Zumba class in Wichita as my Aunt-in-law has a Y membership and they have all kinds of awesome classes there. I worked up a full body sweat in the hour and smiled almost the entire time. The teacher was very entertaining and fun.
On A Cow Ranch
My husband's father's parents own the ranch we're staying at. Yes, yes, I know. I'm a vegan and I'm currently staying on a ranch... No use making a fuss about that. Hearts only change for the better through love.
My husband's father's brother lives here as well, and the two sons of my husband's father's sister visit here often. It isn't a bustling place but it also isn't quite the hermit life that one could imagine in such an unpopulated area.
My grandfather-in-law has over a thousand cows. It is calving season and he says hundreds of calves are born each year and he sells hundreds of grown cows each year. They don't use growth hormone or artificial feeding methods. They do use antibiotics, but only if a cow is very sick. I have not asked how many acres there are, but with so many cows sometimes not a single cow can be seen from the house and the house is on a bit of a hill. That alone says something about the size of the land. Also, it is a five minute drive to get off the dirt road onto a paved one.
I've seen cows penned up along the side of the road with hardly enough room to turn around in some parts of the country. When I see that, it makes me angry and sad. But it isn't like that here. The cows have a very large area to roam.
Groceries & Food
The nearest grocer is a twenty minute drive away. There isn't much at the store that I consider food. It does have produce, but the selection is very limited. The only organic items sold there are small tubs of organic spinach. It's much better than nothing, but they don't always have them in stock. Everything else is conventionally grown. Rather sad and shocking when I'm in the middle of so much land that food could be grown on.
All things considered, the selection is a bit larger than one might expect for the middle of no-where. They still have bananas here, even if they're incredibly green at the market. It seems that bananas are shipped everywhere.
We've been eating steamed asparagus, broccoli, cabbage and onions from the market to supplement the food we brought with us. Trying to be 100% raw in this circumstance would be possible with enough forethought, but I would have had to bring a giant mound of kale chips along.
We did bring apples, bananas and citrus with us. Some we brought all the way from home in Buffalo and some we purchased at Whole Foods in St. Louis on the way driving in.
Not so long ago (when I took the Zumba class) we were able to pick up a bunch of great organic items at Green Acres Market in Wichita.
My grandma-in-law doesn't have a blender. It never occurred to us that anybody might not own a blender.
We brought our juicers (both our masticating juicer and our centrifuge juicer) and our food processor. It's a lot to lug around, but that is a huge advantage of road trips (as opposed to flying by plane).
We've attempted smoothies in the food processor, but they come out more like a thin ice-cream. Still good, but not quite a smoothie. The design of the food processor just isn't meant for that much fluid.
In The Great Plains
Birds can be heard almost all the time here, which is nifty. As I write this now I can look to my right out the window and see the plains and from behind me out the screen door is the sound of birds chirping.
Being Good Grandkids
We've done a little cleaning for Grandma. Just sweeping, vacuuming, dishes and organizing the fridge. Mostly that is just cleaning up after ourselves, so perhaps it doesn't count.
Hiking... A miss-adventure...
The other day I went hiking with my husband and his cousin. It's wonderful to just walk around in nature. It's something very alien to my usual day-to-day experience.
While out with my husband's cousin and my husband something happened that rather turned my world upside-down. His cousin shot a small animal he referred to as a "coon." It was the first animal I'd ever seen killed before my eyes.
I had a bit of a panic attack. I didn't want to face anybody. I turned on my heal and stalked off into the wooded area around the creek.
I had already been feeling a bit annoyed at myself at struggling so much with the rocky brush-covered terrain. I grew up in a city and I'm used to walking on side-walks.
Due to my fatigued childhood, I never did much of any walking or running, and my eyeballs just can't keep up with all the rocks and roots on the ground. My legs are capable of moving much, much faster now (much faster than ever in my life), but yet my eyes can't take in the terrain as assess where I step, forcing me to walk slow over rocky terrain.
Trying to keep up over uncertain terrain brought up a lot of emotions of being inadequate that I struggled with a lot in my childhood. Always the last in the race, always the last picked for the team, always being yelled at for being too slow, too weak and so on. I wanted to participate but felt that participating would only lead to pain and rejection, and time and time again that is all it ever led to. There were times where I couldn't keep up and was simply ditched by my peers, left lost in the middle of parts of the city I was entirely unfamiliar with.
All those emotions started bubbling in me. I would not be left behind. I would not be slowing to the men. I would participate and keep up.
My cousin-in-law struck up a conversation about horror movies and movies with lots of blood and guts in them. There are few topics I'd rather talk about less.
I am a very chill person though. I don't say, "Oh, let's not talk about this," or "Oh, I need to slow down." I mostly take everything in stride and do what I need to do differently. I don't like to be the complainer. I didn't want to set myself apart. I wanted to feel like I was just as capable and unruffled.
The problem was that I was getting ruffled and had no easy way out. At a city event within a building or in a courtyard I can just walk away. I don't need to interrupt anybody or inconvenience anybody to simply remove myself from the situation. If I dislike a topic I can wander off and go talk to someone else about something else.
I was in the wild however and could do no such thing. I wasn't even aware which way was back towards the house.
To make this all truly unbearable my shoes were entirely unsuited to the hike and I was actually sliding in my shoes each time we stepped on ground that wasn't level. And guess what? None of it was level.
And thus, about the time my cousin shot the "coon" I was already brain-numbed from conversations about bloodied movies, and experiencing a lot of pain in my ankles and going through the emotional turmoil of not being able to leave and feeling inadequate and resonating to previous unpleasant experiences.
I couldn't handle it. My mind shut down and the last thing I wanted was to confront anybody. I became terrified of having to speak to someone. I sprinted off into the middle of nowhere. I didn't think about all the cows on the land, or the possibility of running into a coyote. Of course, my sprint left my ankles hurting worse.
I went wildly around trees, over gullies, up and down hill sides and found myself somewhere... Where I could not see the house, could not tell where I had come from. I crouched down (when I felt I had put enough distance between me and them) and almost began to cry. Then I stopped myself and began to meditate instead.
I worked through everything I was feeling until I felt calm. That was a tricky bit of work. I began to feel vulnerable. The thought of the little creature's death kept making me think how unfair and wrong it all is.
Ranchers kill the predators (or hire someone to do so) to protect the cows and then other small wild life gets out of control from lack of predators and then they kill them too. They have to take down trees to make enough space for the cows. So much destruction in the name of raising beef for the American public.
And what am I? Where is my place in this?
I thought about my shoes: not the right type of shoes for hiking. I thought about my mental exhaustion: not the mind-set to be alert and able in the mind. I thought of my glasses...
With my hurting ankles and emotionally sore mind I was vulnerable.
If I were naked and without glasses like the animals on the land I would be pathetic. I had no idea where I was.
I am not fit for survival out there. I am completely dependent on this "unfair" and "wrong" society. How can I judge something that created me and that I rely on for survival?
And who am I to judge?
What gives me the right to say "this is wrong" in any form?
At least these cows seem well taken care of from all I can see. And my grandparents-in-law are very kind people. They help out other families in the town in many, many ways. They help when someone's house burns down, or when someone's child is lost or hurt. They are very generous and kind people. They do not fit the stereotype that vegans often paint of "meat eaters" as though everyone who eats meat somehow is a cruel person.
All of that flashed through my mind and more as I squatted in the brush, catching my breath and my sanity.
Once I became calm I said to myself, "I need to know how to get back." Using my brain I got to the top of the nearest hill. I couldn't see anything past the brush in any direction.
I thought again, this time using my emotions and spirit (not my mind), "I need to get back."
A bird swooped down in front of me, catching my attention, and then landed on a tree off to my left. I walked directly in that direction for quite some time. I was at least a mile from the house. I walked in that direction exactly, even when it took me through bushes and down steep slopes.
It was the exact direction of the house.
Facing my cousin-in-law and my husband was tough. They had been worried about me. I can't even express how embarrassed I felt.
We've caught a number of scorpions and put them outside. They aren't very dangerous in comparison to the brown recluse spiders we've been squashing.
I've discovered that aloe plants and turmeric roots are amazing. I've recently posted a recipe using turmeric roots and the photos on that recipe's page were taken here in the yard just a few days ago.