Recently, I decided to treat myself to an event at a sanctuary I had just learned was close to where I live. It was a sweet occasion of people coming together to spoil the turkeys and love on the chickens. My kind of event. My kind of people.
The following Sunday I volunteered to learn more, and since then I've been going back every Wednesday to help with mid-week routine stuff. When I leave, the co-founders Rehana and Joe laugh when I thank them, "I think we're suppose to be thanking you!" Here's the thing—sanctuary life is one of my favorite forms of self-care. I'm just grateful they're not charging me for the animal therapy!
There are a few directions I can take this article. One, the version where I tell (or remind) vegans that sanctuary is one of the most joyful forms of animal activism. It's supporting an existing system needed for the future we want, and it's helping out one of the best forms of animal rights education. [Also, fellow vegans, running a sanctuary is hard work. It's our responsibility to help the people who devote their lives to sanctuary and not let them burn out.]
Or two, I can tell you a little bit about Georgia's Place. Co-founder, Rehana, started by helping others in wildlife rehab where she eventually became licensed to rehab herself. In 2012, she fell in love with a sweet little chicken named George. She later found out George was a girl, so sometimes she called her Georgia (hence the name of the sanctuary). Shortly before George passed, she met her now husband (and the other co-founder), Joe. They decided to move to Harvard, IL and start the bird sanctuary and permaculture farm we now know as Georgia's Place. Today they provide life-long sanctuary to turkeys, chickens, a pheasant, quails, partridges, and a one-legged starling. In the summer they also expand care to wildlife rehab from birds to squirrels to opossums to bunnies and more.
Or three... I can talk about how learning the names of the chickens—who, at first, all looked the same—means I'm starting to actually get to know them. How seeing Kaplan (top turkey pic), Simon (bottom turkey pic), and Mason love their new barn makes my heart smile. At other sanctuaries, how an hour sitting quietly in a field with cows lasts for weeks in my soul. How the same pig who chose to live or die on their own terms by jumping off a truck going to slaughter is now flopping over for belly rubs from new humans—a guru level of forgiveness I can barely comprehend. These therapeutic lessons ground me and give me a better perspective in general.
Helping the humans at sanctuaries makes me feel great too, don't get me wrong. That's one of the bonuses of volunteering, right? But the tiny moments between me and another animal is where my healing goes deep. So much so, it almost feels selfish to volunteer. So I'm not going to stop thanking you when I leave the sanctuary... For being those people doing the life-long care and advocacy most of us couldn't do and... providing me with animal therapy at the mere cost of a couple chores.
MEET MY FRIENDS
VEGAN SAUSAGE + CRANBERRY BITES
This recipe comes from The Savory Vegan, and the second I saw them making it in a Pinterest story I knew I would be making it (regardless of this quarterly). We tested it with a few different vegan options and also went rogue on the cranberry sauce... without a single regret.
8 ounce package crescent rolls
8 ounces vegan sausage
8 ounces vegan cream cheese
1 jalapeño diced, optional
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup cranberry sauce
agave or maple syrup, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grab a muffin pan.
Open the crescent roll package and lay the dough out on a cutting board. Press the perforations to seal them and create one large rectangle. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the rectangle into 12 squares. Place one square into the bottom of each muffin cup. Set aside.
Heat some oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the vegan sausage and break apart into bite-sized pieces. Cook until browned (~5 min). Remove from the heat.
Combine the cream cheese, jalapeño, garlic salt, and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
To each dough-lined cup, add a spoonful of cream cheese, sausage, and cranberry sauce. Place in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the dough is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Plate the muffin cups and drizzle with agave. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Crescent roll options: I used Pillsbury crescent rolls — the instructions say to seal the perforations, but it was not working for me. I ended up balling up the whole thing and re-rolling it out. I don't really recommend this either because it will be thicker than intended. It worked, but I still want a better option.
Vegan sausage options: I went with (Chicago-based) Urban Accents Street Taco Mix, which was a smart, smoky chipotle pepper choice, if you ask me.
Cream cheese options: They all turned out great, so it's really what direction you want to go. Violife was the sweetest, Kite Hill was the cream cheesiest, and Miyoko's brought out the smokiness of the chipotle pepper really well.
Cranberry sauce: I went boozy for my cranberry sauce (if you don't want the booze, switch it with some orange zest).
Sidenote: These were my favorite leftovers of the whole holiday meal (hello, schmancy breakfast!) — highly, highly recommend.