Backyard farming proves to be an epic fail for animals.  »

In news that is not surprising to anyone, people are abandoning the animals in their organic, sustainable, backyard farms. It was so exciting for people in the the beginning, right? When, last year, if you so much as had a backyard, you could have fresh milk and eggs alongside that homegrown chronic arugula! I can’t help but be reminded of when Faye told Don Draper, in the season four finale of Mad Men, “I hope she knows you only like the beginning of things.” I fancied Faye; I am eager (a delusion, I know) to see her in Season five. If you have cable, and saw the season premiere on Sunday, don’t tell me anything! I’m waiting til someone downloads it for me it comes to DVD!

Gosh you guys! Enough about pop culture! This is about the animals!

Though this Mother Nature Network post mostly talks about the plight of animals in New York, I can’t help but feel it is probably true of most who have taken on this whole “WOOO! Livestock in my backyard!” thing. It’s so infuriating. I’m not someone who gardens, or raises livestock (I just like watching TV so much) so you have to bear with me here. It sounds like people go into backyard farms all, “Oh, I’ll get some hens, and they’ll lay eggs, and I’ll have delicious fresh eggs all the time!” But instead they get male chicks! Which grow into roosters! Roosters wake people up before their alarm clocks! So roosters end up in animal sanctuaries, along with goats and all the other farm animals that humans cannot take care of in a kind or responsible manner. To quote the MNW post,

"We get calls all the time from people who don’t want their animals or can’t afford them. We get emails about roosters found in the city or goats being neglected or pigs that are going to be killed if we don’t take them," says Elana Kirshenbaum, programs coordinator at Woodstock.

As the local food movement takes hold and urban homesteading gains popularity, more people are giving backyard farming a try. The prospect of fresh eggs and milk inspires them to bring home adorable chicks and goats — but when chicks grow into roosters or goats begin eating the landscaping, these animals are often given to animal sanctuaries or simply abandoned.
"People have a romantic view of farming, but it takes a lot of time, energy and money to care for animals. Here, we take our chickens to the vet, and when they’re sick, we give them antibiotics. People need to ask themselves if they’re ready to take on that kind of responsibility for the life of the animal," says Kirshenbaum.

Arugula is one thing, livestock is another! Want a hobby? I hear knitting is popular! Baking too! Card games, Mad Men marathons…


Hello, friends! It’s WTF Wednesday (on Thursday)!  »

You guys, with all the stress of this thesis and nerve-wracking interviews (I have had about a million and am still waiting, so cross your fingers for me), and turning 27 (which begins with me questioning whether I’ve done enough with my life and ends with me insisting that the only way that I can make this year the best of my life is by wearing bright red shoes to work), I have been at my wit’s end. So you know what I did this weekend? I bought a knitting machine. Why?

Because I have decided that my hobby, which I enjoy and is supposed to make me less stressed, actually makes me somewhat more anxious (what with all the dropped stitches and the tangling) so I needed to find a way to make it less stressful. The bad news is that the machine is going to take about a week to get here. The good news is that I’ve spent the past few days watching this woman, Cheryl Brunette, teach me how to make sweaters by machine. What I like best is that all of these sweaters, and her patterns, are straight out of the ’80s and will make gift-making a complete joy.

You know what else stresses me out? Charities that don’t do what they’re supposed to. I’m not even talking about Madonna’s or Oprah’s charities, because you expect those to be disasters, but my good friend Adrienne sent me a link to this super-sad article about ex-racehorses that are starving to death because the charity tasked with their upkeep has not made good on their mission. WTF, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation? You’re supposed to be feeding and caring for these horses, chilling with them and making them feel loved! Instead, you’re starving them to death? What is wrong with you? I get that donations are down (this is a horrible economy, I empathize) but you knew this was happening and were all, We’ll just stop paying farms for upkeep and hope for the best. “The best,” as it turns out, is euthanizing a horse suffering from malnutrition. This leads me to another point: If you’re supposed to provide upkeep for a retired horse who has already been through a lot, don’t be pulling a Ms. Hannigan and letting horses die under your care. Like I said above, I get it, the economy is horrible, but get it the fuck together. Some ideas: Contact the g-d media. If the horses have been neglected for a while now, why is this the first we’re hearing of it? Horses ain’t done nothing to you except be hella majestic. Treat them with respect!
Our next link comes from my boyfriend Allen. Oh, before I get into this, I have to tell you about how we went to Dash Cafe tonight and heard the most obnoxious book club (why is this not done at someone’s house?) discussing The Art of Racing in The Rain, which actually sounds pretty awesome, and is about a family drama told from the point of view of a dog named Enzo Ferrari. However, the people discussing the book were being super loud and laying out incredible gems such as, “I mean, this book was OK, but I wouldn’t see it if it were made into a movie. The movie ruined Twilight for me, and now I can’t think of Edward as anyone but Robert Pattinson!” (Note: Stephenie Meyer ruined Twilight with her plot and writing. The movie just made it worse.)  And, “DOGS ARE VERY EMPATHIC! ANYONE WHO DOES NOT LIKE DOGS IS A COMPLETE FUCK-UP AT LIFE! I’M SORRY, BUT IT’S TRUE!” The last of these actually offended me because Allen, while OK with animals, does not particularly like them, and I resent that some dude was loudly proclaiming that anyone who is not into dogs is a fuck-up. People are fuck-ups for very different reasons (one of them being inclined to loudly make proclamations and blanket statements in a tiny cafe where everyone is trying to enjoy their expensive sandwiches).

If there’s one thing this dude had right it’s that dogs are very empathic. A good example of that is this amazing dog who stayed with his sick friend in the aftermath of the tragedy in Japan. That’s some empathy and loyalty for you. Tragedy is all around and this dog is all “This is my friend, yo. I’m not going without him!” Luckily, it has been reported that the dogs have both been rescued and should be okay. Come on, though, that is awesome. How many of us have a friend that would do that for us? I can only think of two people. One of them is my mother, who would stand there and tell me exactly what I did wrong to get into the position that I needed her to risk her personal safety in order to deal with me. The other is not Allen, because he would be gone like a shot as soon as Prison Wives returned from its commercial break. He just loves to watch people make bad decisions on cable television.

That’s a real bird, you guys! No Photoshopping! How is this amount of cuteness even possible? Also, is it bad that I want this bird to be my friend? Man, you know what would be awesome? Hanging out with Cheryl Brunette AND this bird, knitting and eating birdseed and wearing giant clip-on earrings. That would be amazing!

That’s it for this week. Send me links for next week and have a happy Wednesday Thursday!

[bird photo by Gerard Girling for the Telegraph]


Guest post: Vegan knitting: crafty, fun, and cruelty-free!  »

How many times have you been browsing patterns on Ravelry or clicking through the newest edition of Knitty thinking “GOD. I love this pattern but I’m vegan and I have no clue what yarn to use because the people at my local yarn shop are kind of mean about me being vegan and always try and sell me wool and then tell me that sheep like having chunks of their butts cut off without painkillers, so instead of knitting I’m going to go sit in the corner and cry.”

Yep, I’ve been through the same scenario quite a few times myself and it is not fun! The fact is, the vegan yarn market is severely underserved and being a new vegan, or knitter, or both can be quite daunting.  Well consider me your brand-new personal LYS employee who won’t scorn your ethics with a withering, condescending gaze.*

Together we’re going to go through some of the most popular knitting patterns circulating the internet today and pick out which yarns will work best for the individual projects! [Ed.: While we’ve linked to the websites of those yarn companies with websites, be sure to look for the best deals on yarns at your local stores or other, online retailers.]

Clapotis, by Kate Gilbert
With Clapotis, I feel that there are unlimited possibilities and you probably can’t go wrong. I do think a 100 percent bamboo or soy would work beautifully as they both have a silk-like, luscious drape that will compliment the bias knit quite nicely. Since it’s a scarf it’s not imperative that you match the gauge precisely, so go with whatever yarn is calling to you regardless of weight as long as you don’t mind smaller stitches. A DK weight bamboo from Southwest Trading Company would look absolutely stunning. If you’re looking for a slightly chunkier yarn try Classic Elite’s worsted weight Bam Boo or Queensland Collection Bebe Cotsoy, a worsted cotton/soy blend. If you absolutely want to stick with an aran weight yarn, then Anchor’s cotton/soy blend Bamboolo would be a perfect match!

Cobblestone Pullover, by Jared Flood
For all you male knitters out there, this is the quintessential pullover. It calls for a wooly aran weight tweed yarn, so I must recommend Kraemer’s Tatamy Tweed Worsted (40 percent cotton, 60 percent acrylic), which you may have to adjust your needle size for, but no biggie!

February Lady sweater, by Pamela Wynne
This is an extremely popular pattern that calls for a worsted weight merino yarn. It’s a lovely spring cardigan so I bet a plain ol’ cotton, such as Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton or Dyed Cotton, would work beautifully here. If you can’t afford that much per skein you can always try Lion Brand Cotton Solid or Knit Picks Simply Cotton. If you’re worried about shape retention then try a cotton/acrylic blend such as Lion Brand Cotton-Ease.

Fetching, by Cheryl Niamath
The Bay Area is the perfect place for fingerless mitts, especially for all that bike riding and stuffing our mouths full of food we do here. Make sure you’re prepared for the fall and knit Fetching. Crystal Palace Bamboozle (55 percent bamboo, 24 percent cotton, 21 percent elastic nylon) has just the right amount of bamboo to keep your hands toasty and plenty of elastic nylon to help them stay snug on your hands.

Monkey, by Cookie A.
If you haven’t knit socks yet, you simply must. They’re fun, quick, and turning the heel isn’t as scary as people make it out to be! This is a striking lacy pair of socks that any of the vegan Crystal Palace sock yarns would work well with. There is Maizy (82 percent corn fiber and 18 percent elastic nylon), Panda Cotton (59 percent bamboo, 25 percent cotton and 16 percent elastic nylon), or Panda Soy (49 percent bamboo, 33 percent soy and 18 percent elastic nylon) all of which come in both solid and variegated colors (choose variegated! Really!).

Owls, by Kate Davies
I’ve wondered just about twice a day my whole life why I don’t have a sweater with owls around the collar, and now here it is! The original pattern calls for a bulky weight wool yarn so Garnstudio’s Drops Ice (55 percent cotton, 45 percent acrylic) seems to have been made just for this pattern. Having a little acrylic blended with the cotton is important because you don’t want those owls to lose their shape and be sad, do you?!

As vegan bulky yarns can be a bit challenging to come by, I want to recommend a few other more budget friendly options, such as Berrocco Comfort Chunky or Knit Picks Comfy Bulky; both are cotton/acrylic blends.

*I have had nothing but amazing experiences at Bay Area yarn shops, but when I travel farther from our vegan paradise I tend run into downright bad manners.

Kristen is a graduate of San Francisco’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and is now stuck in the city without a paying job. Luckily, she recently landed a great internship with a local yarn company and is working towards becoming a knitwear designer. She spends most of her free time knitting, eating vegan food, and petting her cat named Cooper who surprisingly does not bother her while she knits (which is pretty much all the time, it’s kind of ridiculous). This is her first post for Vegansaurus, but she has her own fabulous vegan knitting blog, Tree Wool. Check it out!


Chickens in sweaters!  »

Yes, chickens in motherloving sweaters! Of course it’s in the UK so they call them “jumpers” because the Brits are a culturally rich and adorable people. Sorry to pair this cute picture with a downer but this goes in the bittersweet category as they are retired battery hens; due to the horrible conditions they lived in before, they have lost lots of their feathers and now they need sweaters just to keep warm. But look at that picture! Those chickens RULE. OK, OK, that’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I think I need a purse hen. Am I allowed to have a purse hen? What?! Can I live?!

Little Hen Rescue, the organization behind this effort, is dedicated to “working with the farmers to retire these working girls into a wonderful free-range life.” They rescue and rehome these sweet but neglected hens, and now with the help of Monkton Elm Garden and Pet Centre (“centre,” adorable!), they are improving the chickens’ lives a little bit more with these handsome sweaters.

Guess what everybody?! YOU TOO can make hen jumpers for Little Hen Rescue! You can get the knitting pattern from the Monkton Elm site. Also, the Little Hen site has a fleece version for those of us who find knitting terrifically boring.

[Image from Monkton Elm website]

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