Friday, January 2, 2015

Whirlwind 2014

This is a really, really long post, and it's only tangentially related to food with an occasional foray into animal protection, so if you're on the hunt for a recipe at this very moment, you can skip to the list on the right and choose a recipe to start with! :) If you feel like reading my biography for 2014 and browsing through some pictures I took, keep reading. I figured I'd write this post for a few reasons. EDIT: Now that I've actually posted it, I see it is so long that it no longer shows any recipes on my homepage. To skip to my recipes, click here.

Reason #1 is because this blog is sorta a little bit like a journal for me, in that I can look back at the posts and remember what was going on and how things felt to me at that time. Since I won't have that for this past year (I've been missing for a while now), I thought, why not make a list of the best things (okay, perhaps #1 wasn't necessarily a good thing, but it was an interesting thing) that happened to me last year.

Reason #2 is that I had the idea for the post at New Year's. The post is a month late because I had some issues with the pictures which were on my phone and Instagram, and not easily accessible from my computer. That is, until I ran out of storage on my phone and had to backup and erase all my pictures anyway. Then all 3,500 of them were in one folder which made finding the ones I wanted for this post like a gigantic scrolling word search puzzle.

Reason #3 is that I dropped off the face of the earth for a year, and it seems as though I could share what I'd been up to.

So that's why this is here. You can criticize my Instagram obsession and say it's not real photography if you want, and I'll probably agree with you. But. To me, these pictures capture so well how things looked and felt to me when I took them. So. That's that. In somewhat of a chronological order, here are the most noteworthy things that happened to me in 2014.

1) Broke my arm to smithereens. (Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad).

Let's go snowboarding they said. It'll be fun, they said. 

It was NOT fun. Well... maybe it was. Until the first run after lunch when I knew I really should have been calling it a day. I had the pleasure of being pulled down the mountain in a little cot by ski patrol and then spending the rest of the day in a hospital in Leominster, MA. This is what they found:

Not good. So they tried to reset it (and when they tried to reset it I would have appreciated some forewarning so that I could have been adequately up on my pain meds!). But instead of fixing it, they just pushed it out of place the other way.


At which point they gave up and decided to operate. Which I was really excited about!

I've never had an adventure quite like this before!
The last thing I remember before going under was telling everyone in the operating room that I once watched a team of veterinarians do surgery to mend a hawk's wing, and that after this surgery I hoped that, like the hawk, I too would be able to fly again!

After the surgery I was a little alarmed to see that they used a small vacuum attachment to hold everything together.

After a few weeks of occupational therapy I'm happy to say that my wrist is now back to normal! I now also have a pretty gnarly scar. This is actually the fourth time I've broken a bone, and the third time breaking my left wrist. Before anyone rolls their eyes, like my doctor did when he found out I was a vegan who had broken four bones in her life.... This is actually my first broken bone as either a vegan or a vegetarian. Causes of my other broken bones? Age 3: Monkey bars. Age 8(ish): ice skating. Age 11(ish): soccer.

2) Went on my first business trips, both to Washington, D.C.

I got to go to the Science of Animal Thinking and Emotion conference and the Taking Action for Animals Conference both of which I enjoyed. I went for a nice run around the National Mall and snapped these photos.

3) Worked in this awesome office in downtown Boston.

Overlooking the graveyard where Paul Revere, the victims of the Boston Massacre, Sam Adams, John Hancock and Mother Goose (yes, Mother Goose!) are buried.

4) Played with horses at a rescue.

I grew up riding horses, but then, at some point, I guess when I was too old for summer camp, I went off into that awkward adolescent phase and forgot entirely about my love for them. It wasn't until grad school when we covered horse slaughter and other related issues that I "remembered" how important they once were to me. 

Even though I work in animal protection, progress can seem slow and frustrating. The best metaphor I've ever heard for the difference between policy work and service delivery was from Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary (an organization that bridges these two elements of animal protection beautifully). Essentially, service delivery is when someone is throwing babies into the river, and you're the one scrambling to save them as they float downstream. You can be doing this forever, and nothing is going to change until you march upstream and put a stop to whoever is throwing the babies in the river to begin with. However, it can be really hard to get that person to stop throwing babies in the river.

I think that's why being able to work directly with rescued animals was a really good way for me to cope with the perceived lack of change on the policy front. Week to week I could see the animals improving and becoming healthier, stronger, and regaining their trust of humans, which in turn improved my outlook on things.

This is Snickers and I. He is an old man, around 30 years old. He was my absolute favorite because he reminded me of a wild little pony in a book I read growing up.

Here's Snickers again, looking very stoic.

This is Peggy. The morning after she was born she was found with a broken leg. The farmer was going to put her down, but the person who runs the shelter put her foot down and took her in. She was named Peggy for her little peg leg in a cast. Because she was raised away from the other sheep, she always was familiar with humans. She "baahs" to people who walk by even when the other sheep ignore them, and cries when you leave, even though when I stopped volunteering at the end of the summer she was no longer a baby.  It was really amazing to see how much personality she had, just because she was familiar, and not afraid of, humans. She was essentially a dog with hooves (she even wagged her tail and learned to walk on a leash!). 

This is Chevy, and he was a wild one.

This is Spice, a little pony who no longer is skin and bones and whose coat is silky and smooth! The Shriners used her as a therapy animal for children, but unfortunately she was housed most of the time by an unrelated individual who clearly was not treating her well. There was a complaint made against him (he had other animals as well). In retaliation, this individual began shooting all the animals he had. Luckily, when the Shriners discovered the situation, they broke into the barn at night and stole Spice back, bringing her to this rescue instead. The guy had a warrant out for his arrest and skipped town. (No, I am really not making any of this up).

Just another friend.
This is Mabel, she is a donkey who was rescued at an auction where she was going to be sold to a killbuyer (a kill buyer is a person who buys equines at livestock auctions in the U.S. to export them to slaughter in Canada or Mexico, since horse slaughter is not currently legal in the U.S., although there have been and continue to be numerous efforts to bring it back).

Here's a view from the horse barn. The rescue overlooked the Merrimack River. It was a really peaceful place to be.

5) Graduated with my masters.

Graduated with my masters along with these fine ladies who also now have their M.S. in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts Vet School.

6) Ran my first half marathon... 

...and I got 5th in my age group and 7th overall! Okay, maybe it wasn't the most competitive race ever.... So what if it was named after the cheap beer of New England?? It still happened and I can be proud if I want to be. 

Also, you can't see it, but I was proudly sporting my anti-fur shirt from Vaute Couture (anti-fur in July, I know). :)

The runner's high was hitting pretty hard. After my complementary beers and a large burrito from Chipotle (extra guac!) I literally slept the rest of the day.

The free beer tickets were actually my biggest motivator throughout the race.

Shandy's are my guilty pleasure. Beer mixed with lemonade is just about the best thing on a hot summer's day, especially after 13.1 miles! Even if beer snobs don't like 'em, I'm just glad I'm able to enjoy the little things and prove.... that I'm not a snob! :)

I mean, you really can't get much more New England than a 'Gansett!!

7) Destroyed any part of me left that thought I was a city person while backpacking and visiting Burlington, Vermont. 

For our four-year wedding anniversary we took a few days and went to Vermont on a whim. Definitely one of the best decisions we've made! We backpacked on the Long Trail, and then spent the second night in Burlington, which is an adorable little college town that sits on Lake Champlain.

We were ready for our hike! It only took us half an hour to find our trailhead, but once we did there was no stopping us on Vermont's Long Trail! 

The first built camp we came across was moderately creepy, so we kept going. Unfortunately the next camp was already taken. In Vermont, you can camp anywhere below a certain elevation. Being from New Mexico, that's what we planned to do. Because when you backpack in New Mexico, there is space enough between the trees for you to put your tent. Not so in New England. Here, if you can find a level spot with a gap in the trees wide enough for a tent, it's most likely because it's a small swamp. They can say "Camp anywhere you like" with confidence because you can't actually like any of your options. Thus, the built camps are really your best option. It took a while, but we finally, FINALLY found a flat(ish) place to pitch our tent just before sundown.

Ready to fall asleep with the stars overhead. (I insist on backpacking with pillows. Shhhh....)
Sunrise on the Long Trail.
Back in Burlington we went to Zero Gravity Brewing and American Flatbread (they share the same space). The restaurant was very accommodating and was happy to make us vegan pizzas. I remember the beers being fantastic, but as anyone who's gone backpacking knows, beer tastes REAL good afterwards.

After a nice long afternoon nap we caught Lake Champlain at sunset before heading to Citizen Cider, a brewery for ciders only. Neither of us are big fans of ciders, but we'd never been to a "cidery" before and so thought we'd give it a shot. On the way over, we just so happened to walk by an apartment just starting to catch on fire. (!!) After helping to put the fire out, we finally made our way to the cidery.

Lake Champlain at sunset.

Citizen Cider. Visited after helping put out an apartment fire that started right before our eyes. 
We had dinner at Revolution Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant in the area. The food was good and the setting was great, but they had some major staff problems that night which resulted in our meal taking several hours from the time we walked in the door to the time we left (!!). It basically took up the entire evening, and even though they gave as an appetizer on the house (without us saying a word about the service), we were too tired to explore Burlington any more that evening, which was a major bummer. I did however have the opportunity to try Vermont's renowned Heady Topper IPA.

The notorious Heady Topper IPA! At Revolution Kitchen.
The next morning we had coffee at one of Burlington's many coffee shops, before breakast at Magnolia Cafe. Magnolia Cafe has many vegan friendly options (I had French toast!), and the service was much better than the night before! 

Morning in Burlington at one of the many coffee shops, before a delicious vegan breakfast at Magnolia Cafe.
For the rest of the morning we explored Burlington and used the bikes that our hotel offered to ride along the beach.

Happy to take a picture with Champ, the monster of Lake Champlain.

Parting brews at Four Quarters Brewery. Which was newer and quite phenomenal!

8) Drove from Boston to Denver to find a new home in Boulder, Colorado. 

After four years in Boston, my husband's job (he's an engineer in the wind energy industry), moved to Colorado. While Boston was without a doubt one of the most important things that has ever happened to me (for the friends I made, the amazing mentors I had, and the unforgettable experiences it offered, plus, having moved there as a lost 23-year old, it is where I found my life's calling) it was time for a new chapter. Colorado was an ideal place for us for a number of reasons, but largely because it is closer to both our families in New Mexico. An 8 hour plane ride is now and 8 hour car trip. Luckily for me, I was able to keep my job and work from home in our new home.

While I intend to make the experience of driving cross-country as a vegan (and with a non-traditional pet!) a separate blog post since it would be too lengthy on this already-long-enough post, below are the major non-vegan points of the journey. 

On our last night in Boston, we had dinner and beer at the same restaurant that we had dinner and beer at with my Dad (who helped us move to Boston) on our first night in Boston. Technically, we lived in Brookline, a community which basically is in Boston, and our first apartment (an approximately 500 square foot shithole) was on Beacon St. right on Boston's green line and was surrounded by restaurants and taverns. This particular tavern is Washington Square Tavern, and we have so many fond memories of coming here to warm up during our first, very cold, winter in Boston.

I can't remember now what beers we ordered, but I suspect probably a Clown Shoes and a Pretty Things. :) 

The next morning (okay, I should say evening), we were off in our little green car with our little yellow bird, who hangs out on my shoulder, even when driving. I like to wave at people in other cars who happen to see her and give me weird looks, because I know I'm never going to see them again, and I am not ashamed of my bird... or the fact that I wear bird print shirts with my bird in my car. 

We made it to Syracuse, New York.

And then to Chicago.

And then through the midwest.

All the way to Omaha, Nebraska (Nebraska is ROUGH!).

Then to Denver to find a new place to live, and finally to Boulder, where we stayed because Boulder is amazing (also to be the subject of another post). Until then, these are some snapshots I took from what is basically my backyard in Boulder.

9) Presented my graduate research with my adviser at a wildlife conference. 

In October I had the opportunity to present my graduate research along with my adviser at a wildlife conference, conveniently located in Estes Park, a little less than an hour away and right next Rocky Mountain National Park. 

It was an interesting conference because it's focus was human dimensions of wildlife, which translated means, methods of managing humans to minimize human wildlife conflict. While this may sound like a progressive field because it focuses heavily on human behavior, it is still in the purview of traditional wildlife management, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters, trappers, fishermen, state wildlife agencies, and university wildlife management departments--not a forward thinking bunch, who tends to manage at the population level with little regard for individual animals. There were entire workshops dedicated to things like "hunter satisfaction" and "increasing hunting participation" (wildlife agencies in the U.S. are funded by hunters, fisherman, and unsuspecting gun-buyers thanks to the Pittsman-Robertson Tax). I even got stuck listening to a talk by someone from Safari Club International, who, by the way, closely resembled what I imagine satan would look like--an all black suit with sharply shaved goatee and head, dark piercing eyes, and a gleaming gold lapel pin. He hardly fit in with the relaxed casual dress of the other conference attendees who dawned canvas pants, vests, and hiking boots. And.... perhaps I didn't sit through his entire talk... I may have gotten up and left. 

However,  over the course of the days I was there, I realized there were, sprinkled among the attendees, a few animal advocates (as well as Jonathan Balcomb who presented on bycatch in recreational fishing, with whom I had the pleasure of sharing lunch one day since my adviser had worked with him previously developing a policy course at Humane Society University). There was a girl giving one of the conference organizers hell for the lack of vegan food, to which me and my adviser chimed in. Both being vegans ourselves, we had been subsisting on pasta or rice with boiled vegetables and Kraft Italian dressing for several days. There was an amazing talk about how the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (you can think of it as the Bible or Constitution of wildlife conservation) states clearly that wildlife are a public trust, and as such, wildlife management practices cannot be determined only by hunters and fisherman as it largely is now, but rather the public at large. And the fact is, the public at large is increasingly opposed to killing animals. 

So, why were we there? We were there to present on public attitudes towards coyotes on Cape Cod. In fact coyotes in the Northeastern U.S. are only part coyote. They've actually hybridized with wolves in Canada and migrated downwards, so they are bigger than their western counterparts. The conflict with coyotes in the Northeast has to do with attacks on pets, as opposed to in the west when the major conflict comes from livestock producers. Wildlife managers are more than happy to use the conflict with pets as reason for lethal removal and expansion of hunting seasons, or lack there of. Massachusetts is actually one of only a few states that actually has a coyote season, which restricts the time of year that one can actually hunt coyotes. Most other states have no season for coyotes, meaning that you can hunt them in any number at any time of year, which has led recently to coyote killing contests (if you haven't heard of this, look it up! Truly disturbing!). At any rate, Massachusetts wants to expand the coyote season. 

However, what we found, by and large, was that pet owners were more accepting and more tolerant of coyotes than non-pet owners. Those that were concerned about pets being attacked tended to keep their pets inside, and those that felt that their pets needed to be outdoors for their wellbeing tended to accept the risk they were taking in doing so. Pet owners were significantly more adverse to lethal control of coyotes. 

So how does that translate into useful information for wildlife managers? Basically, the claim that coyotes must be lethally managed to prevent conflict with pets is no longer valid. If pet owners themselves accept coyotes and are opposed lethal control, then wildlife managers aren't listening to or acting upon the interests of their stakeholders. They're creating reasons that don't exist. 

Given the makeup of the conference I was obviously a little nervous to present research which so directly opposed the actions of most wildlife agencies, but was excited when the other speakers in our workshop (all on urban wildlife conflicts and all but one on coyotes) also came to conclusions which opposed lethal management of coyotes (hooray!). We got no nasty questions or comments (also a hooray!). 

This will be the last thing I say about the conference. Circling back to the sprinkling of animal advocates, I noticed a few things about the crowd that made me hopeful for the field of wildlife management. There were two major demographics: older white men and young women. As I know from being a biology major and getting my masters at a vet school (not a vet degree), life science fields have shifted to be female-dominated, and accordingly we're beginning to see a shift in some of the major perspectives of these fields. My mentor, a veterinarian at Tufts, once told me that the best thing that has happened to veterinary medicine is this gender shift, and that over his career he's seen the importance of animal welfare skyrocket. Let's hope that a more female dominated (or at least gender balanced!) field of wildlife management will mean a shift from one of consumption of natural resources to one of care for the world around us!

A any rate, I didn't take pictures at the conference itself, but I did take some pictures of our excursions into RMNP, which I hope you enjoy. I'd never seen elk before, but it was elk season and they were literally everywhere. I even got photobombed by one.
Just an 8 point buck, out for a stroll on the sidewalk, nbd.
Another big guy.
Fall beginning to set in... and two mule deer that I'm just noticing now. Definitely did not see them when I took the picture!
This just screams of The West to me.

10) Was honored to be a bridesmaid in one of my best friend's wedding.

Last but not least, my long-time friend (over a decade now!) got hitched in December. It was a beautiful wedding (with delicious vegan food!) at a ski resort in northern New Mexico and it even snowed for them! It was perfect. :)

Somehow the only photo I happened to personally catch that night was one where the bride was blurry. :(

I made hundreds of macaroons as gifts for the guests, which was an experience in trial and error which required the consumption of more sugar I thought humanly possible!

So, that, in a nutshell, is how I spent my 2014 and what I was doing when I wasn't here.

Somehow I feel like this post needs a good conclusion, but that is impossible because it's not a story with an ending yet. I'm looking forward to the next 11 months of 2015--so far have plans for a work trip to New Orleans (where I have always wanted to visit), potentially meeting friends in Yellowstone, visiting my brother-in-law in Charlottesville, VA, being a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding in North Carolina and hopefully a few visits from family and friends here in Boulder. (So much travels!). The biggie biggie thing that I'm excited for though, is that for Christmas my husband got us tickets to Europe! So in May we'll be traversing from Munich to Italy, over to France, and then back up to Belgium and Amsterdam! I've found a few helpful sites on traveling in Europe as a vegan, but if anyone has any tips to share, I'm all ears! :)


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