Rebels & Recipes: Interview with Jojo Huxster, founder of The Field Shelter
Updated: Jun 20, 2022
Welcome back to our Rebels & Recipes series, where we interview incredible animal advocates. We ask them about their work and themselves, and we get them to share a recipe with us too!
Today's featured guest is one near and dear to my heart! I met Jojo Huxster years and years ago during the glory days of baby veganism, through vegan queen Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Post Punk Kitchen. A few years ago, Jojo and her husband Nick moved to rural Scotland and began The Field Shelter, a sheep sanctuary and vegan guesthouse. They currently have five of the sweetest, funniest, loveliest sheep you could imagine, named Martin, Matilda, Murray, Morag, and Mia. They also have lofty plans for expanding the sanctuary and the types of animals they rescue. Jojo's energy and vision of what the world can and should look like is inspiring; everything she does comes from a thoughtful, ethics-based place. She is a force and we are so excited to see what she achieves next.
Make sure you keep reading to catch an amazing Isa Chandra recipe as well as THE GREATEST picture of sheep possibly ever taken!
The following interview has been edited.
How did you decide to start an animal sanctuary?
Nick and I both knew we wanted to work with animals, and we were lucky enough to be able to find and buy the land in the part of Scotland we loved. It just made sense for us and seemed exactly the right thing, since sanctuaries directly help animals in need and that's what we wanted to achieve with our lives.
We travelled for several years and spent time volunteering at sanctuaries in Thailand and Japan, so we saw how hard but how gratifying the work was. When we decided we wanted to work especially with farmed animals, we volunteered for a shorter term with sanctuaries in Brighton, and then went for longer time -- three months -- to a sanctuary in Australia, near Brisbane. We specifically made these big life plans and moved around to gain experience with farmed animals. Honestly, three months might sound like a lot, but we should have done it for longer, like for a year, and would have if visas and money weren't obstacles. But having that first-hand experience on the job with people doing the actual work you're going to do, you cannot try to do this job without doing that. We learned so much.
What are the sanctuary's current goals?
There's so much we want to do, so many ways we want to grow. I can't believe it has only been about one year since we started. We're still technically a 'micro-sanctuary', so one of our goals is to become a larger sanctuary, rescuing more animals and other species of animals. We want to build more of a community, too. And those two goals have to go hand in hand for us: Unless we have more of a community around us -- more volunteers, more donors -- then we can't rescue more animals. We need the financial help to make that happen as well as more help on the physical labour front. So the next actual step is to build our volunteer caravan. With this, people can stay and live on-site and get to the know the animals' routine and how best to help out. For The Field Shelter, our volunteers will need to live on-site since our day starts at 6 am. I hate the whole hustle or grind culture of running sanctuaries -- because I hate that culture in general -- where there's that prevalent idea that because I started this, I have to be the one in charge all the time. And I prefer the idea of running the sanctuary communally and not hierarchically.
As for specific project goals, next on our to-do list is to build a better bridge across our small river/creek that leads to the sheep's area. It's a small plank of wood right now!
The next bigger project we would love to get going is a woodland for pigs. We have woods that would be amazing for them, but when our land was used as a farm previously, the farmers used that area as a landfill! So there's a lot of work needed to get that cleaned up and then fenced in. But we can't get pigs until we have more volunteers.
What's the daily schedule of The Field Shelter?
The details change day to day, no two days are the same. Sanctuary work is very seasonal. At the moment the day is longer, so we start at about 6 am and go until about 8:30 pm, but in the winter we have to condense all the animal care tasks into a much shorter day.
So currently our day generally looks like this:
6 am: Wake up & go outside! Get the sheep up, observe to make sure everyone looks their usual and is exhibiting normal behaviours and eating. Clean the barn & re-straw. Move some hay/straw from the hayloft up to the barn, refill water buckets, and maybe take another wheelbarrow of water up the hill to their shelter area.
7:30 am: Breakfast for me! By this point I need carbs and protein.
Rest of morning: This is when I do admin stuff like social media, sorting guesthouse requests, placing orders, replying to emails, thanking donors, and researching our next project.
If we had guests the night before, this is often when I’ll take them on a tour to meet the sheep. If guests are leaving, then this is when I'll do changeover cleaning before the next guests. I always laugh at the fact that I spend half of my day covered in mud and the other half trying to keep the guesthouse spotless!
1:30 pm: Sheep check! We make sure that the sheep are all happy and healthy. This midday check is especially important in winter when the flock are reliant on hay. When it’s snowy or below freezing, we go outside to check on them every 2 hours. Usually I’ll sit with them and spend some time giving everyone strokes!
Rest of afternoon: This is often when we do the extra sanctuary chores like full health checks, working on projects like renovating barns, baking cookies for guests.
5 pm: I try to stop working around 5 and either read, cook, study, or just watch TV depending on how tired I am!
8:30 pm Put the sheep to bed! Clean the barn & re-straw, refill the hay feeders, refill waters, tuck everyone in and make sure the barn is secured.
What are you most proud of so far?
We started The Field Shelter during the pandemic, which was a huge accomplishment. Also, I'm proud that we hold ourselves to a high standard of care and we don't give in to pressure to rush our growth, so we can grow sustainably.
Do you have advice for anyone wanting to work in this area?
Definitely go and volunteer first at a sanctuary, for as long as you possibly can. Especially one where you can live on-site, so you can see what the full day-to-day is like. Check out opensanctuary.org too. It's a database for people running sanctuaries, for how to care for animals from a compassionate viewpoint, which is unique because all the other guidance you can find is from the farmer's viewpoint. They have been ridiculously helpful for every single question we've had.
When did you become an animal lover?
I've loved animals forever! When I was a kid in England, I was so into the lambs that lived down the road from us. I always wanted to pet them and never was allowed. I've never eaten lamb because of them, though I still had that disconnect with other animals because I didn't go vegan until I was about 22 years old. And since being vegan, my connection to animals has strengthened. Ethical veganism is all about that better connection to the other beings on this planet, for me.
What are your relationships with animals in your life like?
I think I am good at being in tune with animals and paying attention to their individual needs, how they are feeling. I was able to notice that Murray was sick recently because his ears were low and he wasn't into his morning food. Those were little things to notice, but it turned out he had pneumonia. The veterinarian said most farmers wouldn't notice stuff like that because it's so subtle. It's so important to treat animals for individual needs and not treat them as a monolith.
As for domestic animals, we have Fay, an ex-feral cat we rescued in Japan. At the Japanese cat sanctuary we worked at, Fay was well-known for being difficult, and for how no volunteer could ever really handle her or gain her trust. But we connected with her, and over the years she has grown and developed so much. We do have to be so, so careful not to freak her out, so careful with how we approach her. But to see her grow and change and figure out what she's okay with has been amazing.
What communities are you a part of, and how do they treat veganism and animals?
I'm quite intentional about choosing communities. I feel happiest when I'm surrounded by like-minded people, so I usually search out left-wing, radical political communities and make myself a part of them. I look for those traits and have found them in Food Not Bombs, the punk communities, in political groups. Usually those are all vegan-leaning or accepting. I also love being part of the sanctuary community; everyone has been so helpful. I'm particularly inspired by the work that pattrice jones does with Vine Sanctuary.
Any recommended reading/listening for animal advocates?
So many great books! I definitely recommend The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol J. Adams' classic. And I haven't read it yet but Vegan Entanglements by Zed Zayn McNeal sounds amazing.
How can people support The Field Shelter?
All the money we make from the guesthouse goes to the costs of running the sanctuary, so if you stay in our vegan guesthouse (where all the products have been ethically sourced, and you get freshly baked treats), it supports the sanctuary. Also, we have a Kofi set up, where people can send tips online (see end).
Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Sundried Tomato Mac & Cheese!
Of course I'm going to share an Isa recipe! Running a sanctuary and a guesthouse means that I'm low on time. I love quick, easy meals that pack an umani punch. This mac & cheese is a go-to! You basically throw the ingredients into a blender and you're done.
Reprinted with permission
1 15 oz can coconut milk
3/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil (it was about 1/4 cup of oil, if that helps)
2 tablespoons miso
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 lb macaroni
Black pepper and something green to garnish, if ya want.
Put everything in a blender and, uh, blend. Until totally smooth.
Cook noodles in salted water, drain them and return the pot. While still hot, add the sauce and mix with a rubber spatula. Taste for salt, I didn’t need any because miso and sundrieds were salty. Serve!
~I don’t know how this will come out with sundried tomatoes that aren’t in oil. My guess is not very good. It needs the oil. So do what you must but don’t come for me if you end up eating wallpaper paste.
~I used Thai Kitchen coconut milk (full fat) and I would recommend that brand! It does have a little guar gum in it according to the label and that might have aided in the thickening, but let me know if you use a different brand. Make sure it’s unsweetened!
~I used red miso (Miso Master) which has soy and I loved it. However I think chickpea miso would be just awesome, too!
Thank you so much to Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the queen of veganism, for allowing us to reprint one of Jojo's favourite recipes.
THE TAAP TEN
The TAAP TEN are fun, more personal questions we ask every Rebel to end our time together!
1. What's the best advice you've ever been given?
This isn't one specific piece of advice, but the people at fellow Scottish sanctuaries TASS and Ananda as well as Farm Animal Rescue and Woodstock sanctuaries have been beyond helpful answering all of my newbie sanctuary questions with patience and kindness.
2. What's your favourite food to cook?
I bake a lot of banana bread. Isa's rosemary chocolate chip is my favourite.
3. Would you rather order in or go out to eat, and if so what/where? (Non-pandemic world)
In a non-pandemic world, I'd rather have a picnic! I'd make quiche, pasta salad, scones, sausage rolls, potato salads. . . (Ed. note, she is a picnic genius).
4. Cake or pie?
5. What never fails to make you laugh?
Comedian Cameron Esposito is so hilarious on Instagram. Every single post makes me laugh!
6. What's your favourite book or movie?
I read a lot so it's hard to narrow this down, but one of the most valuable books I've read in the last couple years was Layla F. Saad's book Me and White Supremacy. You spend a month working through the book and really delving into your white privilege and how racism is showing up for you. I think all white people should read it.
My movie pick would be Legally Blonde or Clueless!
7. What's your biggest pet peeve?
I hate when my socks get wet!
8. What is one ability that you believe everybody should possess?
9. What is a song that make you sing along whenever you hear it?
Anything by Taylor Swift, the entirety of Green Day's Kerplunk album, and anything by the Petrol Girls -- though that's more like screaming along!
10. Were Ross & Rachel on a break?
Ohhh. Yeah! I think they were. But I still hate Ross!
Thank you so much for your time, Jojo!
For more information about The Field Shelter:
Ko-fi link https://ko-fi.com/thefieldshelter
How to donate https://thefieldshelter.com/donate