What is life? Firsthand insight into the life and death on the farm…

I just witnessed the giving of four lives — two rabbits and two roosters. It was powerful, peaceful, and intentional.

Everything is cyclical, and therefore where all things begin, all things must end. We’re given a life from the earth and then we’ll give our lives back to the earth. We animals have a heartbeat, and then breath… Then the heart stops beating and the breath ceases.

We’re all energy forms and we all require the sharing and exchanging of energy — humans give energy to the plants and to the animals, and in return the plants and animals give energy back to humans and to each other. The earth has its own natural energy forces — water, wind, air, soil, fire. Each of those are also powerful and purposeful. And oh so very beautiful. Without one element, none of this world can exist in harmony, with beauty.

We’re all one. And we’re all beautiful.

Watching what I witnessed this morning was incredible. Before the animals were killed, I made a morning round to visit all of the rabbits and chickens (the ones that had a potential for death), and I was conscious and aware of their actions. Maybe it was myself projecting calm thoughts toward the animals, but maybe it was an energy in the air. Something was different today.

The rabbits were much more calm, and seemed to move with more direction. The male rabbits were very focused on me. Houdini (the big macho male) was jumping from side to side — a little dance to beg for his life? (Maybe that’s my overthinking lol…) And then the rabbits in the pen were much less frantic than usual and I was even able to spend a few moments with some of them — one of which gave his life only minutes later. The chickens were also less aggressive.

There was almost an air of anticipation surrounding everyone — even us humans.

When the act took place it was done with intention and knowledge. Douwe knew what he was doing and was direct and purposeful in his actions. Two large chickens were collected. Douwe held the breast and body firmly with his left arm and body, and with his right hand he twisted the chickens neck and pulled the head clean off. Then he put the animal down on the ground and held it as still as he could. My tears started to flow. With tightly clenched hands protecting my heart I cried.

Then, Marie placed her hands on the animal and gave thanks for its life and let the world know the life was not given in vain — there was and is purpose for its life and we were/are grateful for the energy provided. …This was so beautiful.

The same was done with the other chicken, except the other chicken’s head did not come off directly and therefore a machete was used to ensure the neck was broken and the animal was dead.

Then, the large white rabbit I’d just been loving on was picked up, and with two strong hands, Douwe held the rabbit’s legs with one hand and the rabbit’s head with the other. From there, all he had to do was stretch the animal. Doing it this way separates the spinal column and breaks the neck. Then, the animal was laid on the ground with care and Marie placed her hands on the animal and pet the fur and gave blessings and words of gratitude.

This is where things got tough for me. The rabbit started flailing – almost as if it was running in mid-air… leaping. Hopping.

Instantly the tears flowed. I was bawling and sobbing and forgetting to breathe. I had to turn away and let it out. I didn’t want to make a scene or spread my energy to the others witnessing the act or even worse, to those who had to help take the lives… I turned away and walked to the edge of the stable area, covered my face with my hands, and cried. I let it all out. I was overwhelmed with emotion — gratitude, understanding, hope, strength, but also pain.

I know now, without doubt, that I will live my life without taking animal flesh. I can live my life fully, in good health and spirit, without eating an animal. These animals lived their lives in peace. They were taken care of with positive energies, by people who love and respect them, with food that is neither chemically treated nor unsustainable… But still, seeing the animal offer its life for us, when I know full well I (and all of us who choose to do so) can live without that energy, makes me realize that I do not want to take in the life of another breathing, sentient being.

But I’m grateful that I witnessed the giving of life. The respect that went into it, and the respect that will carry throughout the full process of cleaning, cooking, eating, and then in turn that will provide strength and more positive energy for this circle of life we live… Beauty.

…Then I went to the waterfall and cried, and gave thanks, and prayed for a blanket of love for all of the beings on this farm and throughout the world.

…Then I sent lots of love directly to Douwe and Marie.

…Then I came back to the house area, and straight to Douwe (who was boiling the birds and cleaning the rabbits) and hugged him as tight and powerfully as I could. I respect that man so very much. And I appreciate the strength and focus he has to do what he must, to provide for others on this farm, and to respect the animals and ourselves.

What a morning. And what a way to end 2012.

Learning patience, whether I like it or not.

It’s a Tuesday night. And I’m not getting ready for work. And I’m not making myself dinner. And I’m not doing laundry. Or paying bills. Or bathing the dog (which rarely happened anyway, what am I talking about…) And I’m not stressing about what’s next.

Instead what am I doing? I’m sitting on a patio (seemingly built for one) enjoying a fresh organic banana milkshake. I’m waiting for my vegetarian lasagna and caprese salad, and watching the hustle and bustle of San Jose’s rush hour traffic go by. …and there’s a Burger King next door, but let us forget about that 🙂

What’s important is that I am taking time for me. By myself. To really reflect on the past week of farm life. I came to San Jose to fix my computer (which doesn’t seem like it shall be fixed — but should I buy a new one?), and I’m deciding to stay a couple days to do ME.

The farm is tough work. Physically and mentally, a lot of strength goes into this process. The first couple of days were quite stressful and bewildering with always so much going on and it’s difficult to feel like it’s ok to NOT be moving when there’s always work to be done. But, I’ve had to remind myself, I’m here to learn and push myself, but I’m also here to focus on me and what it is I want out of life. Where do I fit in the big scheme of things?

In these past couple of days I was able to do more of the less labor-intensive work like cleaning and watering plants and checking to make sure everything is in working order… And shredding coconuts for three hours (seriously — what a new thing that was haha). But, I was still helping to keep the farm running and the people fed and happy, but I wasn’t kicking my own ass and wearing down my mind in the meantime. It’s been better. And I’ve been happier. And I love that.

But for me, for now, I’m still trying to put all the pieces together of the life I’ve lived until now and use that puzzle to hopefully make some sense of what I want to continue with and what I want to cut out and replace with better things.

For one, patience. I’ve realized in just one week that in the states we live in a very fast paced, high-production world. I’ve asked several times when learning a new thing, “Ok so how long should it take to do this?” Or “can we do this faster?” And, I’ve always been responded to with a simple, “however long it takes to do the best you can,” and “all we have is time.”  Such a different view, and one that I think we could all benefit from if we kept that in mind.

“however long it takes to do the best you can.”

Also, going from a remote farm in the middle of a jungle to a city like San Jose takes time. A lot of time. First, get a ride or walk (seriously) the 10-15 kilometers to the closest bus stop. Then take a bus about 1 hour to another bus stop. Then another bus to San Jose. Then walk to find a bus stop or a taxi. Then good luck finding your destination because addresses really don’t exist here. But… If there’s a will then there’s a way. And there’s no sense in rushing a process that requires its own pace… So, I’m learning and living patience.

I’ll be writing a couple more posts soon, so stay tuned. And let me know what you think I should do about writing (as in.. should I purchase a way to do that?).

A few of my favorite recent shots

Best friend - the basil plant.

Best friend – the basil plant.

The nicest produce stock picture.

The nicest produce stock picture.

beautiful costa rican view near puriscal

This is what the view was today. Amazing.

The simple things are the best. Like this "crema" I had today.

The simple things are the best. Like this “crema” I had today.

Jungle food

Today I really felt at home in the jungle. I was able to cook, and I ate some really yummy variations of the typical rice and beans Costa Rican diet.

Recently everyone has really been into cooking ‘dosa’ which is basically fermented rice and beans (2:1). This is a big deal and quite the treat for everyone living on the farm because you can turn dosa into a bread-like dough… and there isn’t bread here 🙂 No wheat or wheat products because wheat isn’t produced in Costa Rica.

all local. all the time.

I’ve learned how to make butter, kefir yogurt, kefir soda, dosa (of course), fried yuca patties (this was delicious last night), and twice-fried plantanos. This morning we made crepe-like dosa pancakes with dosa, milk, bananas, sugar, salt, and cinammon, with fresh papaya jam. Yum!

My computer is still out of service so for now I can’t blog as planned, but I’m still writing everything I’m learning and will blog when I can. So stay tuned 🙂

Cheese

  • Fresh cow milk. Heat to a light froth, then remove from heat and add a type of acid really slowly (stir and pour really slowly) — lemon or vinegar used here —  you must play around with this to get the right amount of milk/acid. In the jungle with kefir vinegar and milk, it’s about 6ish cups of milk to 1 cup kefir vinegar/lemon. If you’re using white vinegar, it’s much stronger than kefir vinegar and you will therefore need much less.
  • The curds will naturally separate from the whey as you stir. Scoop out the curds.
  • Hang curds in cheese cloth to naturally drain the remaining whey.
  • Add herbs or other flavors to the cheese.
  • Voila!

Kefir Yogurt

  • Mix live kefir grains with fresh cow milk (about 1 tbsp live grains to 1 liter of milk).
  • Let this mixture sit for 2 days.
  • Strain the kefir from yogurt. (Add fresh cow milk to kefir grains to restart yogurt process.)
  • Let the yogurt sit for a few hours.
  • Skim off all the whey from the top. Discard (or try to find something to do with whey!).
  • What’s left is fresh, pro-biotic, good-for-you, organic, and delicious yogurt!

Dosa

  • 2:1 white rice to garbanzo beans.
  • Soak in water for 1 day.
  • Grind the mixture really fine — almost like flour.
  • Stir and let ferment for three days.
  • Mix with whatever you would like (bananas/sugar/salt/milk for a sweet crepe-like consistency, salt/pepper, etc).
  • Fry, bake, add to bottom of casserole, etc

The jungle can sure take its toll.

Dead computer?

The jungle may have killed my computer. Day two at the farm and my Macbook has died.

There are plenty of computers here to go around, but I´d really like to use mine to document all the wonderful new things I´m learning. Stay tuned, but feel free to follow me on Instagram or friend me on Facebook (I can access these from my phone quite easily).

IG — robinstremlow (www.instagram.com/robinstremlow)

Facebook — Robin Stremlow

Revived Robin?

I´m learning so much and am trying to take it day by day, and I´m feeling great. It will take a while to get used to this lifestyle, but I´m trying to listen to myself and respect it, moreso than ever. It´s truly a whole new world here, but already I can feel the love from everyone around me and the plants and animals sharing this place. It´s going to be a lot of work, but I´m sure I´ll be a better person after a few months at VerdEnergia.

These past two days have been wonderful — farm work including horseback riding and cow milking, a permaculture farming technique to help protect freshly planted trees from the jungle downpours, yoga, dancing, cleaning, a bit of relaxing, and, what seems to be, a hell of a lot of eating (everyone thinks I´m quite strange for giving away my food lol). So far some form of beans and rice for every meal, and fresh veggies. We´ve also had eggs, and cow milk that came out of the cow only minutes before (in part thanks to me!).

Tomorrow will be great, too — playing sous chef for breakfast, will be learning rabbit care and chicken care, will do some cob dancing and some wall making (a great technique for sustainable construction here), and hopefully more yoga and dancing, and plenty more food. Maybe even a swim in our pool (life here is rough – not).

Hard to believe I was sitting behind a desk just 9 days ago… Although I really enjoyed all the people I met and many of the skills I learned back home in the States, I can´t imagine NOT working with my hands, and traveling, and living and loving life with people from all over this planet. …my colors are coming back 😉

Sending so much love from the jungle.

xxoo, and pura vida!

But please, send good vibes or prayers for me and everyone here. And my Mac (if you´d like to read about the good times).