Saturday, October 8, 2011


Oh, it's been so quiet here, hasn't it?

We have been making some really big changes in our lives, and I've had a lot of thoughts in my head (let's imagine the hamsters on the wheel going super super fast! Extra hamsters coming in to carry the load. Extra wheels. A whole fairground of scampering, whizzing thoughts. It's crazy in here right now)

but I haven't known how to write about them.

Because our changes are making people say, "Why?" and sometimes, "Really?" or, "That's hard to hear." I think perhaps I'm making others feel uncomfortable.

So I've gotten blocked when it comes to writing here. I've worried that maybe writing about our changes might make people feel sad or irked or lectured to. It might seem I'm saying, "This way of living is the only way." Or, "What you're doing is wrong."

But then I think, I need to talk about it. And let other people make of it what they will. All I can do is write who I am and my own truth.

Isn't that the point of all this, after all?

Anyway, here's the thing:

we've decided to go almost-all-the-way vegan.

Other than the eggs our sweet chickens provide for us during the day while they roam our garden, we won't be eating any other animal products. When we're home or when we're out.

We've already been vegetarian for a year and a half, but now we're cutting out the other stuff. Which means we are now

meat free
eggs (other than from our chooks) free
dairy free
and because of our tummies,
wheat free too.

It's the combination of all these limits and things-we-can't-eat that have made some people say:
"But how will you survive?" and
"Oh! No icecream! No lasagne! No ricotta pancakes!"

And everyone has asked,

So, after saying, "Actually, we've been eating well!" and
"Actually, we can eat all those things, just without the dairy":),

I have said Why.
And it's tough going.

Because our Why comes from some recent hard learning,
not just by me, but by my husband too,
and then shared (very carefully) with our children.

Really hard learning about factory farming
(also called "industrial farm animal production").

About the impact intensive farming has,
not just on animals, but on our health too,
and on the environment.

It's big stuff, and if you throw in watching video footage of animals in factory farms, it's devastating.

After you've learned about it, it's hard to think about anything else. And it's big enough stuff that independent research groups, the UN, non-vegetariansjournalists and non-activists, are getting in on it, saying:
"Hey! This isn't working! Not just for animals, but for humans too—for the whole planet, in fact. This is not sustainable, this is not ethical, and this is not healthy."

I've never, ever, pushed our vegetarianism before. Even though our choice was based on ethics, it was deeply personal. I didn't talk about it. Almost no-one questioned it.

But now, just like when we started homeschooling, we're being asked, "Why?"

I get that. People want to know. They are curious.

And I suppose just like when we started homeschooling, I could say, "It's a personal choice. We think it's best for us," or somesuch. After all, when we started homeschooling I mostly said, "My daughter was unhappy at school. We pulled her out. She got happy. My son asked to join us. Now we are all very happy."

I never said, "We're homeschooling because the education system doesn't work for everyone. Because teachers are underfunded and overworked, because schools work to a formula that can't cater to the individual, because there's barely any room for creative learning and independent thinking, because it's a broken model that can limit and damage children's sense of worth, desire to learn, and future life."

Yeah, I kept that all to myself. :) I simply mostly said, "This way fits us better."

So I could be saying that about this choice too.

Why aren't I? Why, when I open my mouth to reply to the questions,
do these measured words come out, words people find hard and don't necessarily want to hear?

Because once you take your perfectly content vegetarian self to a lecture
that makes the argument against eating animals bigger than you ever imagined,

and you then look up factory farming (and "industrial farm animal production") ,

and spend days and days researching it (the cons and the pros),

and you find overwhelming evidence to say This Isn't Working,


you see the scale of suffering animals go through
to mass produce and feed people something they don't need to eat so much of (or at all),

you just can't say, "Oh, it doesn't fit us."

You (or at least I) say, This is Why.

This week I've discovered that learning can hurt your heart.
Some learning carries Hard on its back.

And if you talk about what you've learned, you have to be careful. You want to avoid becoming so bent on your own mission, so fixed on the answer that fits you, that you can't see the myriad options in between All and Nothing. I don't want to ever do that. And I never want to make people feel bad for the choices they make.

But there are things I believe, and hold dear.

For one, I believe you should live your life like you mean it. Don't hold back just because something is hard.

Two. I believe you should live your truth. Seek it, follow your heart and your gut.

Three. I believe you shouldn't beat people about the head with your life or your truth, but (especially if people ask), you should be free to speak it.

Four. You should remember to speak that truth with kindness, with compassion, with as much knowledge as you can gather, and most importantly, with the understanding that everyone has a different path, a different way of seeing, their own learning to do and choices to make.

Five. I believe in treating all living things with respect and with compassion.

Oh, I believe that last one so big. Bigger and brighter than ever before.

So. This is my truth. Our journey. Shared here—with love and hope!—in this space.

I know once we get used to this new path, the nerves will settle.

That we'll feel joy and steadiness, 

the calm that comes from knowing we are doing something that truly fits.


We're eating really well, you might like to know! Really yummy stews and soups and thai food and pasta. Oat milk is delicious in pear porridge! Not only that, I realised we were eating cheese with almost every lunch and dinner—now we're not. I'm sure that's better for us. My husband, this very minute, is working on a cheese-less pizza. We've tried batch one, and now he's working on idea #2. He's gorgeous, pottering about in the kitchen :)


Here are some more links, if you feel like checking them out…

Animals Australia

Interview with Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Eating Animals)

Report by Pew Charitable Trusts "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America"


  1. I think its fine to explain the whys of what you are choosing :)

    I guess with any choice, it's a matter of being aware that what is possible for you to choose, may not be currently possible for others to choose. For all sorts of reasons.

    But to have your family work together responding in an ethical way to a concern you all have...awesome! That's a lucky thing :)

  2. That's wonderful! I'm not a very PC person even though I respect other's choices. I believe if people feel passionate about something, they should just say it and let everyone deal with it. Maybe it's something I need to hear but do not want to. Maybe it's awareness of these differences that will advance society. We are not a vegan family but would love to be one one day. Good for you for doing what you believe!

  3. What a wonderful adventure you are all going on and for such great reasons! I wish you all the luck on your new 'fork' in the road!

  4. For years our family had "why's" about our not eating meat or dairy, and their relief is palpable now that we are (some), but I've also seen their food choices change slowly and become more intentional and well-informed (my MIL purchases organic produce, which she never would have before noting our food choices). You don't seem like the kind of person to evangelize and expect others to make the same choices that you do! I think being honest and true to your choices helps others stretch their ideas of the world, and that always seems like a good thing, if not very comfortable. If I were one person and not a family I'd not eat meat, but I think this is the season we are in - with local, small-farm animals that we can go visit if we wanted to. We talk to the kids about why we don't buy meat in a restaurant. I struggle with knowing I couldn't kill my own food (though I think I could if it were for my hungry kids, but that's not our reality, is it?). Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and welcome to your journey! We've many vegan wheatless friends who eat quite well...

  5. Good for you and your family, Helena!! I think living by your beliefs, and talking about them respectfully when asked, is the only way to go. One of my sisters has been a vegetarian since she was a young teen, and currently is primarily vegan. I completely respect that choice, for sure.
    We are not vegetarians, but we no longer buy meat at the grocery store. We raise our own, or do without. I could see myself becoming a vegetarian if we were not able to raise our own meat. Raising our own is an option for us at this point, though. We have been gradually shifting our food habits over the past few years...trying to be more conscious.

  6. Well, seeing as I share your views on cruelty to animals, it's very easy for me to say YAY!!! But what I loved about your post Helena, is that you make it clear that your family's decision is an informed one based on compassion. I think that's so important!

    Good on you guys! (Avocado is great on vegan pizza!).

  7. Cool. You'll find heaps of amazing vegan recipes in raw food books and websites. I love raw vegan "cheesecake". It's as good as regular cake I think :)

  8. I love the choices you have made. I am sure your family will be happier and healthier because of it. I will check out the links you listed.

    Live by your beliefs..isn't that the only way? If only everyone did the same.

  9. I am so glad to hear of your choice to go vegan and your enthusiasm for it. I am currently an omnivore with a strong focus on local and ethically-raised food stuffs, but I was vegan for 7 years and vegetarian for around 13 years. I love to hear people being so thoughtful in their food choices even if they are currently different from mine. Thank you for speaking your truth with kindness, compassion, and knowledge :)

  10. Good luck! :)

    I was a vegan for 9 years, vegetarian for many (11?) years more. It is hard to justify choices when really, we shouldn't have to. When I switched back to eating some meat and dairy (we ONLY buy from local farmers we know, and who have organic/sustainable/land management practices and who we treat their animals well) I lost EVERY SINGLE ONE of my vegan/vegetarian friends and they still send me murderous emails ... sigh.

    Change can scare and intimidate people. It is hard to see that there are many paths. It is hard to not always be "right". But I think as unschoolers in particular we don't always just accept and follow, we question and we understand the why of it all more, perhaps. But not so much grief from unschoolers about choices, in particular with food. Hopefully you have a community then, that supports you in your journey, understands your choices, and honors you making decisions for your family based on your environment! :)

  11. Good on you for making the change and for speaking up! Its pretty amazing how some opinionated folks make their opinions strongly announced when they are so obviously ill informed.

  12. It is hard to be a trail blazer! But you will be an inspiration to all who know you. Food is such a personal thing, I know so many families with interesting and different food choices. For every person who questions you, perhaps they will question their next meal, and over time change may take place. Good luck on your journey!


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.