Catskill Animal Sanctuary

One day in the early December last year I woke up feeling an urge. An urge to connect with animals. It was such a powerful strong calling. Like my soul was screaming. My heart was aching. I’ve been wanting to connect with farm animals for a little while, since late summer, when my friend told me about a place in Upstate, NY where you can go see and pet farm animals. This time I took a look at their website… basically those farm animals that you just petted will be later on your dinner place. It is a wonderful feeling to pet a farm animal, don’t get me wrong. But a thought of looking into their eyes and knowing that they are going to get slaughtered later made my stomach turn. I knew I could not support such a place.

I did more research. To my very excitement I found out that there are many places across the US where farm animals are truly loved (not like “I love you, you are cute, I’m going to kill you and eat you” but really loved. The way you love your dog or your cat), let roam around, do their thing and live their lives till the natural end. Wow! These places are called farm animal sanctuaries… How did I not know about them before? Is not it obvious that such farms exist? That is how I found Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS). I’ve learned that this 110-acres haven was founded by Kathy Stevens and Jesse Moore in 2001, and since then saved 3500 lives!! Amazing. Here is their website:

Few days later my partner and I were north bound. To the Saugerties! We took a bus to New Paltz and then cabbed it to the sanctuary. We signed up for a walking tour at CAS.

When we got to the grounds we were first introduced to the pigs. Oh my god! Those guys are enormous… 600-700 pounds on average. And the amount of noise they make was something I actually never expected or experienced before. I sat there and stared into one pig’s eyes and started crying. It was like looking into eyes of a very very smart dog only 1000 times smarter. What a depth… I rubbed their ears and their backs and they really liked that. They are like big puppies… they like belly rubs. And they will like you if you give them belly rubs 🙂


This guy’s name is Mario.


Then we met the cows. One of them was Jessie. He is such a sweetheart. So big, with these huge thoughtful eyes. He loved all the attention and rubs. He is so sweet and social.

Jessie ❤

He is a lucky guy I have to say… Billions of other farm animals like him are not as lucky…These creatures are branded and castrated, have their horns removed without painkillers. Majority of milk cows suffer from mastitis, a painful bacterial infection causing a cow’s udder to swell. They have their babies taken away at the very first day. Poor milk cows are constantly artificially inseminated… their gestation period lasts nine months. At the end of that period they get pregnant again. And so it goes… And I don’t even talk about their poor diets, overload of antibiotics and other stuff. Eating dairy products is nothing better than eating beef. 

Our journey continued and we met the goats. They were super friendly and very social. I was fascinated by the shape of their pupils. Never seen that before! It’s a perfect rectangle. 🙂 And they are really good at jumping and climbing trees. Wow!


The only guy we had to watch out for was Bartleby. He was looking for a trouble with his mini horns.

Curious Bartleby.

There were horses. They are very sweet. One of them was blind – his name is Buddy. He had some kind of infection that made it extremely painful for him. Generally horses would be put down to avoid the suffering. In Buddy’s case, instead, his eyes were removed and now he is pain-free. Long life ahead! Another horse was watching out for him and guiding him… like a big brother or sister. So sweet.

Another animal that fascinated me was Tucker. He is a steer. His weight is about 3000 pounds. Can you imagine a domestic creature this big? I certainly could not until I saw Tucker with my own eyes. He was saved from slaughter after living for some time at a petting zoo… I’m so happy he found his forever home at CAS.

See his first day at the sanctuary at CAS youtube channel:

Other residents of the sanctuary are turkeys, chickens and roosters, ducks, kitty cats and sheep. All fascinating in their own way. And more importantly they can live without suffering, they are taken care of with love, brushed, rubbed, played with and hugged many times, every day. This is special.


I was sad to see chickens on crooked legs… poor creatures are bred this way so that their breasts get huge to get slaughtered at the age of 6 weeks! Naturally these guys live on average for 10 years!!!

What makes this animal haven so special is the wonderful people that work there. I have not had a chance to meet the founders yet but I will one day! Christian, a man who guided the tour, is such a great guy! He genially cares so much for the animals. And so are everyone else who works/volunteers at the CAS. Because of such bighearted people the change is coming. Vegan is no longer a “weirdo” stamp. It is a proud description of a lifestyle. A fully compassionate one.

We all are compassionate creatures, but somehow we are misguided and led to forget our true nature… We just need to listen to our hearts little more carefully. Let love prevail. Go visit a sanctuary. There are so many. Support their efforts. It will change your life.

Mushroom barley soup with curcumin

This recipe is inspired by my mom’s cooking principles. I was born in Penza, Russia. Grew up there too. My mom is an amazing Ukrainian woman who also happen to have an inherited talent for cooking… just like my grandmother. And here is me 🙂

This is a perfect soup to make this winter little bit more cozy. This recipe also is a bit different than anything that my mom makes…or a typical mushroom barley soup. Why? Because it has this very magical golden color. And that is achieved by using a very special ingredient – turmeric. Turmeric is such a wonderful spice that been used in the Eastern world for centuries, but here, in the West, some folks don’t know much about it. Here are some facts about turmeric. Curcumin is a main curcuminoid of turmeric which is a root of ginger family. What is so special about curcumin? It gives this spice a wonderful golden yellow color. But what else?

An extraordinary study was published in the Journal of the American Diabetes Association. It shows that people who take curcumin extract on a daily basis saw a significant improvement in fasting blood sugars, glucose tolerance, hemoglobin A1C, insulin sensitivity, pancreatic insulin-producing beta cell function, and insulin sensitivity.

It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which help to speed up post-surgical recovery.

People who eat turmeric regularly actually have the lowest reported prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Turmeric powder and dry turmeric roots.

These are pretty awesome discoveries. You can read more on Dr. Greger’s website: He with a team of researches brings to light many incredible facts about nutrition and plant food healing. Do take a look!

On this note let’s move to the recipe itself.

Serves 4-6 people.


  • 4 medium potatoes – peeled
  • 1 medium carrot – peeled
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 large stalks of celery
  • 1 cup of dry mushrooms
  • 1 cup of fresh mushroom (I used crimini)
  • 1/3 cup of pearl barley (rinsed and picked)
  • pinch of thyme
  • bay leaf
  • 1/3 tsp. of turmeric powder or grated fresh
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl soak dry mushrooms in hot water – about 10-15 min.

While mushrooms are soaking chop potatoes and celery. Place these vegetables, soaked dry mushrooms, barley and salt in a large pot, add 6 cups of water and start cooking on a medium heat. Add water in which mushrooms were soaking for a deeper broth color. Cook for about 30-35 minutes with a closed lid. Add more water if you want your soup to me “thinner”.

In a mean time chop onion, carrot and crimini mushrooms. In a large skillet heat up olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and mushrooms. Saute for 5 minutes, then add thyme and cumin. Cook until carrots are softened and mushrooms are crispy golden.

After cooking potatoes and barley for a half an hour add mushroom-carrot-onion-turmeric veggies mix to the pot. Cook for another 15-20 minutes – until barley pearls open up and become soft.

At the very end pick up several pieces of potatoes from the pot and mash them in a bowl, then return the mash into the soup. This will create a richer creamier broth. And voila!

Let the soup sit for 5-10 minutes, then serve. Bon Appétit!


Let me know how the soup comes out. Cheers!

Why I went vegan?


Good question.

Well, about 5 months ago, somewhere on the internet I came across this incredible human being. His name is Rich Roll (check out his website: his podcast he blew my mind away. He is a world known long-time vegan endurance athlete. He inspired me by sharing his story and stories of others. Also studies. And researches. Books. Publications. Different people of different walks of life, doctors, professional athletes, successful entrepreneurs, world explorers, big musicians, yogis, monks, nutrition enthusiasts that he had an honor to interview were all talking about the same thing – living a plant-based lifestyle.

About 4 months ago I watched a movie Cowspiracy: the Sustainability secret – a ground-breaking documentary that shines light on one of the most secreted topics of all – animal agriculture and its heavy environmental impact. (Please watch it if you have not done so yet! The facts are just horrifying. Climate change, intense water use, deforestation, humongous amounts of animal waste, abusive land use, wild species extinction – just to name a few. For all of that one big industry is responsible – animal agriculture. How crazy. Cows poops and burps contribute to the global warming almost 4x more that the entire transportation sector. Can you wrap your mind around that? What?! Here is an infographics image from Cowspiracy website. Check out some of the facts. Really read the numbers.

Cowspiracy-Infographic croppedYou know, couple of days later I went cold turkey. I said I don’t ever want to put anything of animal origin in my mouth. Ever. No thanks! I don’t want to contribute to the evil in the world. Don’t want to give my money to the industry. Don’t want to eat animal suffering. Don’t want to be part of cruel treatment of poor beings. What I do want to do is reduce my carbon footprint significantly. Yes! I want to take a stand. Make a point. Be independent of those huge world magnates. I’m doing my own thing now. It’s been almost 4 months, and you cannot imagine how proud I am.

I feel empowered. I feel independent. I feel purposeful. I feel strong. I have more energy! I can fully embrace the meaning of the word “Compassion”. This is huge.

This is why I went vegan. For my health. For the health of the planet. For the billions of innocent animals. For all of this. I can finally truly open my heart through the compassionate way of living. So grateful for that.


This is me with Jessie at Catskill animal sanctuary. I’ll write about that amazing place in another post.

Share your thoughts guys. Would love to hear from you. Cheers!