I still have a bunch of posts about China to finish and I'm right in the middle of putting together some great round ups of Melbourne's epic vegan scene but I was having a think yesterday morning and I really felt like writing about where I am and what I'm doing right now. I always feel weird when my blog stops being in chronological order so I did a little Twitter poll & it turns out that nobody else really cares about that - y'all just wanted to see where I'm at so here we are!
Just in case you haven't been following me on social media I'm in Australia, Queensland to be precise. Nick and I have wanted to visit Australia for ages, since the very beginning of our travels in fact, but making it affordable was a real sticking point. We also desperately wanted to get more experience volunteering with farmed animals (#lifegoals) and felt a little unsure about whether we should be travelling more right now or focussing on the future - thankfully I came up with a cunning plan to combine the two when I discovered Farm Animal Rescue in Dayboro, and here we are, exploring Australia and spending time with these beautiful animals, learning how to care for them, and getting an in depth look at how the sanctuary works.
We arrived from Brisbane on Wednesday so I've only worked three full days so far but I'm loving it. My work day starts at dawn and ends at dusk and I really thought that I might struggle with the early starts (I set my alarm for 5:40am and am outside working by 6:15am) but it's a tiring job so I hit the hay pretty early and I'm waking up before my alarm most days. I love being more in touch with nature and dawn has always been one of my favourite times of day. I'm not usually awake for it but I have some wonderful dawn related travel memories - exploring NYC hunting for bagels, watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat, waking up with the birds and the call to prayer on my first morning in Thailand... the list goes on!
Luckily yesterday there was an open day at the sanctuary so I tagged along on a tour to learn a little bit more about each of the animals living here. As a long term vegan and animal rights activist so many of their stories are familiar - pigs being bred to be so large that they can't hold up their own weight, babies being stolen from their mothers, hens arriving featherless and weak, sheep with horrible infections from muelsing and having too much skin. It's so sad and a really great reminder of why I'm doing what I'm doing with my life.
The animals here have wonderful lives now, there's so much space for them to roam around and they can basically go wherever they please on the sanctuary's 55 acres. Watching the pigs roll around in these ponds is the best and I love it whenever I go outside and see a goat up in a tree.
The area by the red barn at the bottom of the hill is one of my favourite parts of the sanctuary, when I'm working I come down here multiple times a day to feed the pigs and it's a really beautiful, peaceful spot.
One thing that I'm super pleased to have had the foresight to arrange before coming over here was getting hold of some decent boots to wear. I travel with sneakers that work well for walking around cities and hitting the gym but they wouldn't be right for the kind of work I'm doing here. A lot of my day involves walking up and down hills and over rocky slopes to get to wherever the animals are chilling out and when I'm scrubbing and cleaning the barns or the hen house I need sturdy waterproof shoes. I did a whole bunch of research into boots and decided on the Vegetarian Shoes Approach Mid Boots which have soles with great traction - perfect for this kind of environment.
I've always like Vegetarian Shoes boots, I've had a pair of their 20 eye steel toe capped boots for over ten years now and they're in amazing condition and super comfy unlike the vegan DM's that I bought and then re-sold on Ebay after two weeks of constant pain and blisters. Sadly they're just that little bit too big and heavy to be a great travel boot so the lightweight Approach Mid was the perfect choice. They're actually so comfortable that I didn't even need to break them in properly, I wore them around the house a few times but the first time I went out in them properly was to walk The Great Wall and when paired with some thick bamboo socks there wasn't a blister in sight. They're also super breathable which is important if you're going to be wearing your boots all day. I love having the padded ankle support because I'm a little clumsy and without that I think I'd have twisted my ankle once or twice since being here. They also look really nice, I've been wearing them with dresses to go out exploring and on travel days with a stretchy skirt and leggings and they don't look clunky or silly. I love that they're ethically made and that when you buy from Vegetarian Shoes you're supporting a totally vegan company. The soles of the Approach boot are made in Italy and the rest of the shoe is made in Portugal so you can be sure that everyone involved it earning a fair wage. If you'd like to pick up your own pair of Approach boots then they're £99.95 and you can pick up a pair online or at their store at 12 Gardner Street in Brighton.
The volunteer accommodation is right in the middle of the sanctuary which is fantastic. Portia the pig sleeps outside our kitchen window and multiple hens, a few roosters, and a duck live right outside the back door.
There are also wild turkeys here and I've been woken up by them running about on the roof more than once. I'm getting quite good at making mine and Nick's space at shelters and sanctuaries cosy and I think I've done a good job here! We re-hung some curtains that'd fallen down, gave everything a mega clean and unpacked our backpacks. I'd like to stick up a couple of pictures and some art a friend drew for me but I don't have any blue tack or anything and there isn't really a good spot for them. I also found the cosiest blanket for my lower bunk because it does get chilly in Australia despite what Neighbours led me to believe! My handbag is acting as my bedside table so I've got all of my necessities like moisturiser, lip balm, and a head torch shoved in there and I'm using my travel pillow as an extra pillow for reading and Netflixing in bed. Sleeping in bunk beds isn't my favourite, it feels weird not to be able to snuggle up next to Nick, but it's worth it to be surrounded by animals.
The kitchen in the volunteer house is pretty great, it's a totally vegan house which is super awesome, getting into shared house situations is weird for me after living on my own / just with Nick for so long but living with two totally awesome vegans makes it way easier. The kitchen's pretty well equipped, there's a blender and an oven that actually works so I've been whizzing up my favourite crock cheez recipe from The Uncheese Cookbook, baking banana bread, marinating tofu, and making simple lunches like jacket potatoes and pasta with tomato sauce. I just made the cheesy sauce from Veganomicon and ate that on pasta with peas and I need to make the epic tofu scramble recipe from the Taco Cleanse cookbook soon. I also bought stuff for a rice noodle, tofu, and veggie stir fry from the local supermarket yesterday so I'll be firing up the wok this week too.
The only challenge thus far is that our scheduled days off together have been on Sundays when there aren't any busses so the only place we can get to is Dayboro. There's a cafe there with vegan options as well as a pizza place with a vegan pizza on the menu but the only supermarket is an IGA which is a little pricy and they don't seem to have vegan margarine or fancy tofu products like the supermarkets in the cities had - I even spotted the vegan egg at a supermarket in Brisbane which is super cool! I've been hearing rumours of a good local fruit and veg market though so hopefully we can catch a lift there soon and we're definitely contemplating placing an iHerb order for essentials like nooch, chocolate, Clif bars and green tea!
If you couldn't already tell I'm basically super stoked on this volunteer gig, we're here until the end of June and I can't wait to learn more and to feel more confident around the larger residents at the sanctuary. If you'd like to help support Farm Animal Rescue from afar then you can donate, join the supporters club, or sponsor one of the animals and if you're nearby you should come along to an open day sometime.
This post was sponsored in part by Vegetarian Shoes. All opinions are both unbiased and 100% my own.