Creating the Best Life for Animals

I recently finished Temple Grandin's latest book, Animals Make Us Human. It's a really compelling book that covers a wide spectrum of interests. If you want to know more about how to keep your cat or dog happy, read this book. If you are interested in animal welfare for both domestic and wild animals, read this book. If you own or work in a slaughterhouse or eat meat, read this book. And if you don't eat meat and are an animal rights activist, read this book.

Temple Grandin thinks about animal welfare from all perspectives. She has designed the audit systems now in place for many slaughterhouses and used by places like McDonald's and Wendy's to ensure their product comes from humane sources, and humane devices to lessen animal trauma or fear in these places. Her top concern, at all times, is the welfare of animals. If we are going raise animals for consumption, companionship or entertainment (aka: farm animals, pets, or zoos) then we should at all points in the process be focused on ensuring that these animals are emotionally and physically in the best state possible.

Her previous book written for the public, Animals in Translation, focused more how language and sensory perception works in animals. It was a good book, but this new book is really groundbreaking, I feel, in being accessible to the public and touching on so many important concepts. My only wish is that she had focused a little more on backyard/small farm chickens, in her chapter on chickens, which focused primarily on larger operations. However, that is just because I have some ;)

Other chapters include Horses, Dogs, Cats, Pigs, Cows, Wild Animals, Zoos, What Do Animals Need, and Why Do I Still Work for the Industry?

So if you need a last minute gift for an animal lover, owner, farmer, lawyer or well, just about anyone, I highly recommend this book!


Chicken Wars: One Woman's Fight to Own Backyard Hens

I like to check in at http://www.backyardchickens.com/ and see what's new on the forums every once in a while. One woman who petitioned her city to allow hens among the city ordinances received a castigating "welcome to town" in the local paper for her efforts. Now, BYCers (as those who frequent the forums like to call themselves) are taking up her cause and are helping her by writing letters to the paper and the local council. I myself was incensed enough by the condescending, un-informed authorship of the following article to write in a comment as well...

For those who love chickens, and for the curious, I include the article and my response below :) If you wind up wanting to write in a comment, too, go to http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2009/dec/19/home-home-ranch/

Home, home on the ranch
Saturday, December 19, 2009

EAST COUNTY — Ah, the sounds and sights of morning. The coffee pot perking, the newspaper hitting the driveway, the before-dawn walkers gliding by as darkness lifts, the gaggle of sounds from the chickens next door ...

Someone tried to slip a henhouse by the La Mesa City Council the other night, but that group of stalwarts – “foxy” isjn’t the right word word to describe them – was too alert.
Jill Richardson, a newcomer to La Mesa, asked permission to keep a half-dozen chickens as pets and egg producers. That’s a no-no in La Mesa, save for a couple of areas with large lots and grandfather clauses.

City officials suggested it would cost $20,000 to revise the ordinance. In fairness to Richardson, however, $20,000 to a city with a $36 million budget is, shall we say, mere chicken feed.
No, there are reasons chickens have persona non grata status inside most city limits. One has to do with sanitation and public health. Another with keeping peace between neighbors – that plump hen just beyond the fence is pretty inviting to a bored feline or canine. And third is the noise. Romantics aside, roosters don’t just crow at the crack of dawn.

Richardson made a strategic mistake, and we don’t mean asking for permission. If anything, she forgot the prime tenet of real estate – location.

One virtue of neighboring El Cajon and points east is that you can be in the city but just a five-minute drive from open country. If East County is anything, it is horse corrals, mini-orchards, occasional swaths of alfalfa and plenty of rugged eagle’s-nest views.

La Mesa has charming homes on twisting hillside roads with canopies of trees, but most lots are distinctly city-sized.

We don’t fault Richardson for wanting a few pets or exceptionally fresh eggs. But she needs to do what many of us old-timers should be doing more of, taking a day trip to explore and get away from it all while hardly leaving our back yard.

Find a Thomas Bros. mapbook and head for Campo, Jamacha, Jamul, Dehesa or Crest. Or aim for Barona, Sycuan or Viejas, but take time getting there – and circle around. You’ll be away from it all, yet not that far from the city.

Here’s welcoming Jill Richardson. For many, East County has just the right mix of city and country. We’re confident she’ll find hers, too.

And here's my comment to the paper:

What a condescending article -- not only was it rude, but the author clearly knows little to nothing about chickens.

Chickens are not dirty, and they don't smell. Just as one must clean up after their cat or dog to assure clean conditions, so must a coop be regularly cleaned: the difference is that chicken manure is an inoffensive addition to compost, and safe to use in the garden.

Ms. Richardson asked specifically for the city to allow hens, not roosters -- hens do not crow, or make any more noise than your average cat. Chickens are not "inviting prey" for most cats, and most city ordinances for chickens require them to be fenced in securely within coops with runs to keep them in and dogs and cats out. Similarly, most dogs are required to be fenced in or on leash, regardless of how tempting a morsel in the neighbors yard may be: whether it is a toddler, a chicken or a steak on the grill!

City ordinances can also specify how much space each chicken must have to ensure humane animal practices, and restrict the number of chickens per household. Many cities these days in developed nations allow chickens, including the United States -- I am surprised that the writer did not do a little more research into the positive possibilties before "welcoming" Ms. Richardson so publicly.

Easy, Tasty Cookies without the Guilt

I made up this recipe yesterday and they were a huge hit. They taste a lot like snowball cookies if you roll them in confectioners sugar, but they don't need it. The best thing about these cookies is that even though they are quite healthy, they don't taste like it ;)

*Walnut Date Cookies*

3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dates
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tps vanilla
1 stick butter
2 Tbs milk

Preheat oven to 325F.
In a food processor combine dates, walnuts, and half the flour. Process until finely ground. Add remaining flour and sugar and pulse to combine. Cut butter into smaller pieces, add to processor and pulse until it is fully combined. Add milk and combine fully. Remove dough from processor.
Form small 1-inch balls and place on baking trays. Bake for 15-18 minutes.
If dusting with confectioner's sugar, do so just a couple minutes after removing from oven by rolling in a bowl of the sugar. Otherwise, simply cool on racks, and eat :)
Makes about 36 cookies.


Grandma's Fudge Never Fails

I just finished making up a 5LB batch of my grandmother's fudge... She used to make it and cut it into small 1 inch squares that she individually wrapped in tin foil. This kept it fresh and we snacked on it all through the last half of December. I loved unwrapping those pieces as a little girl. I'd eat the walnut bits first and then savor the fudge. mmmm. So I do the same thing, and give it out to lucky friends and family in cute little tins or among other cookies on a plate.

When i was around 20 I asked Grandma for the recipe, since she was in Florida by then and no longer making it for us all... Imagine my surprise when she directed me to the large jars of Fluff and their "Never Fail Fudge Recipe" that is always printed on there. I have always hated Fluff, even as a kid, and these days you know I cook healthy and avoid the evil corn syrup... but I can't get away from that recipe. I've had and made others and they just don't compare.

One secret -- the fluff fudge turns out best if you let it set in the fridge or a very cold wintry garage. Other women in the family have made the fudge and it doesn't turn out as good as grandma's or mine (grandma always got a kick out of that)... It was a mystery to me how they could be messing up such a basic recipt until one year I let mine set and cool at room temperature -- and it never did taste quite the same, or have quite the same fabulous texture as all those previous batches. Somehow, setting at the colder temps noticeably improves the fudge.


Warm and Cozy: A Simple Knit Dress for Babies and Toddlers

This cute little dress is super simple, and super warm, perfect for layering over onesies Fall through Spring. If you can do a a basic knit stitch and thread a sweing needle, you can make this for your little one.

The thickness of your yarn and needles will affect your dress -- the thicker the needles, the looser the knit. The finer your yarn, the thinner your resulting "fabric" will be.

For this dressed I used size 8 needles and a thinner, textured yarn: a beautiful nubbly purple and blue cotton/acrylic blend, which actually resulted in a tight and relatively thick "fabric" that is very soft.

I cast on 60 stiches, making the width about 20 inches, and knit row after row until it was the height I wanted: about 13 inches. Then I cast off.
I made the two straps 4 stitches wide and about 6 inches long.
After that, it was a simple matter of folding the large knit rectangle in half and sewing the two shorter ends together.
I used 1/2 inch elastic sewn to the seam at the top of the dress (the cast off end, since the way I knit that end is usually less stretchy and my plan was to gather the elastic end anyway) and then folded the "fabric" over the elastic and sewed that down on the inside of the dress, gathering it up so that the top of the dress is at least a couple inches narrower than the bottom (the dress I made should fit babies 2-8 months loosely as a warm play-dress, and then up to 1.5 years as a more fitted sweater vest). When I came full circle on the elastic, I sewed that in securely and finished off the folded down bit of the sweater so that you can't see the elastic at all (still working on the inside of the dress).
Then I sewed in the straps, attaching them to the inside edge of the dress.
I finished the whole ensemble off with a couple of decorative butterfly buttons - adorable! The straps could easily also be made to be adjustable with functional buttons.


Kids and the Great Outdoors

I just read this great parenting tip on Phylameana's Healing Blog on About.com:

"Cherokee said that when she was growing up that her and her sister would be instructed to take their differences and disagreements outdoors, and not to bring them back inside. Oh... how I wish I'd known about this when my kids were little and having their sibling spats. "

I think this is just great. I can't imagine doing it every time, but oh, how the outdoors can be a wonderful balm for the soul. I noticed that when my son was a baby, if he started really crying about something (which he rarely did) I could just open the front door and stand a couple feet outside with him and he would stop almost immediately. This was great at work (my old retail store), where he came with me daily from when he was 6 weeks to 2 years old. He would start wailing and I would say "reset!" and rush outside for a moment. Worked like a charm every time, no matter what the weather was.

I think a lot of us have forgotten how important fresh air is for children. Or we know, but we just don't do anything about it... My grandmother put all her babies (her own and over 30 foster babies, plus her daycare babies) in the pram all bundled up outside every day for at least 20 minutes and generally an hour, rain or shine, no matter how cold it was. Just their little nose and eyes peeking out.

As to sending the kids outside to work things out, I think it's a great idea -- as long as you keep watch that they don't pick up any heavy battling sticks!



Yesterday morning I went in my son's room and saw this drawing on his easle.

He's written a few letters on his own, and loves to scribble, but I've never seen him draw any sort of a figure, especially one I can recognize. The pictures they send home from school, which always have eyes in the right places, etc -- I assumed he was getting help lately. But when I asked him and Daddy (who watched Lucas while I was out the night before) -- Daddy hadn't done any drawing with him and Lucas said he "was trying to draw a robot, but that the arms with the guns weren't in the right place" (the long cross like lines on either side). The crosses are little guns that the robot is holding, according to lucas. I am totally impressed by my wee budding artist, and how everything is so symmetrical and in (mostly) the right place.
It's so neat to watch children when they leap forward to a new developmental stage. (He's almost 3 and a half.)

Just had to share :)


My New Book, Natural Animal Healing!

I am really excited to announce that I published my latest book last month, an exciting new Earth Lodge Guide to Pet Wellness: Natural Animal Healing.

Natural Animal Healing includes natural health solutions for pets from many modalities including homeopathy, flower essences, energy healing, animal communications, aromatherapy, crystal healing, over 50 pages of herbs, a comprehensive table of ailments and corresponding remedies, and a multitude of gorgeous hand-drawn pen and ink illustrations. Whether you have a cat, dog, or large animal this book is an informative, easy to use guide to pet wellness packed with enjoyable anecdotes and healing examples. (For more info or to order your copy, just click on the book cover pictured on the left side of this blog, or go to www.lulu.com)

My mother, Sandra Cointreau, also published her first healing book last month, Energy Healing for Animals & Their Owners, which is also available on www.lulu.com. Her book is a great companion to my book, teaching you how to heal your animals with the energy that flows through your own two hands. Her book also teaches animal communication and energy healing techniques, meditations and diagrams. "Energy healing is a powerful tool, and Sandra shows you exactly how to use it.” Marta Williams, Author/Animal Communicator, Learning Their Language and Beyond Words