Ask a vegan what they’d prefer spending their day doing and you’ll most likely get the reply:
- eating vegan donuts
- spending time with animals
- doing hot yoga.
CAS at least has one out of those three, which is pretty decent as far as getting wishes fulfilled goes.
For my birthday weekend, my ever-enterprising (also vegan!!!) sweetheart thoughtfully gave me the gift of gobble. No, he didn’t get me a pet turkey, but he did get me a way to pet a turkey, which is decidedly better considering I live in a matchbox-sized NYC apartment.
A lil’ history:
CAS is a nonprofit animal rescue society that basically acts like a real-life guardian angel to displaced, unwanted and needy animals of the farm-domestic kind (they’ve even taken in llamas!). Started in 2001 by Katheryn Stewart, the animal-loving compound used to be a dumping ground for unwanted machinery (cars, tractors, trailers) and other odds and ends (toilets, broken pipes, toasters). So I guess the tradition of sheltering unwanteds continued on, just in a more cuddly form.
Once the 110-acre plot got spruced up, the animals began trickling in. Animals that grew too big for their owners to keep (goats, pigs, orangutans), the lucky ones that fell off or escaped a slaughterhouse situation and diseased, sorely neglected cuties from animal hoarders.
Kathy made sure she and her staff did all they could to rehabilitate all of them. When I met these critters, the obvious care and attention they received was apparent in their approachable and nonchalant attitude towards unfamiliar human contact. Their coats, fur and feathers shone with health. The few that were wandering around the grounds either paid our tour group no mind, or came up to us and welcomed our touch.
Now that I have that bit of background out of the way, let’s got to the crux of my review!
Visitors, be warned: it is no simple task to get to The Homestead like it is to Grand Central. Accustomed as I am to the convenience (and frustration) of the MTA, it spoils me to the point of thinking any city/town without an efficient rail system isn’t one I want to be in.
However, staying in the city all the damn time isn’t great in itself, either. You get cramped apartment fever, grumpy New Yorker syndrome and easy-food-fattied. The Homestead might be a pain in the ass to get to, but it was 110% worth it for a bit of perspective.
The Homestead, as I mentioned earlier, is a pre-Civil war structure that has been standing in the same spot since 1813. Of course, it has been fully restored since then, but the fact that it has such a long history is pretty impressive. It gives the aura of a bed & breakfast.
Note: I’ve never been to a B+B, but if I did, this is how I’d picture it to be: cozy, homely + filled with pictures of rescued farm animals (the latter I expected as much at CAS).
There is mahogany-paneled wood flooring throughout the house, and each animal portrait has a price marker underneath, should one feel like taking a critter’s portrait home (at an average of $80-$200 a pop, I think i’ll just put it towards vegan food though, thanks!).
Healthy snacks are also available in the dining room/kitchen whenever needed. Best of all, everything they serve is organic!
Our room was called The Paulie Room, named after “a rooster who ate lunch with us, begged for car rides, broke up arguments between pigs, and took his job as Peacemaker very seriously!” It’s super cute that each room’s name is an animal currently (I hope) living at CAS, with their own special backstory.
We did have to share a bathroom, but it wasn’t a huge pain. I suspect it’s much more annoying for people who shower in the morning (I prefer to do so at night and didn’t ever wait :) ).
The room itself is quite comfy for a couple like us, but we did notice it got super cold in the morning, to the point of near-icebox status. There was an adjustable thermostat in the hallway, but not an individual one for each room, which would’ve worked out better. My guess is that the heat comes up for a certain amount, then doesn’t turn back on until it gets raised again. This resulted in the night being cozy/toasty, but the morning was ice-cold.
I wasn’t a fan of the pillows, either: they had this crunchy-plasticky noise like it had a bedbug protector covering or something. Overall, I didn’t sleep that well, but it wasn’t because of noise, for once: CAS is 110% SILENT, you might hear an animal noise, if anything, but you won’t catch any kind of traffic, people, or plane audio at all here, a welcome blessing for someone who is used to all three on the regular.
The bathroom is nice + spacious and very confusing as far as taking a shower goes. Taking a shower really shouldn’t be confusing in the first place, but we actually needed to ask a staff member how the F to use it: so apparently, you need to pull down the faucet spout as the bath-to-shower plug. There’s no indication of this except a minor gap between the spout and the faucet head. I joked to Nancy, the warden (sounds cooler to say than “staff member” eh?) that they really should put a waterproof sign denoting how to use the damn thing next to it.
CAS provides all-natural toiletries by Nature’s Gate as well — and not wasteful teensy bottles, either. Everyone uses the same bulk-sized shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. No lotion though!
For breakfast, Nancy created a from-scratch Belgian waffle and fresh coffee. Everything served was natural/organic (real maple syrup, Cascading Farm cereal, So Delicious yogurts). The waffle tasted fresh (because it was!) and it was topped with blueberries. Nancy also made second helpings for us, but I was already stuffed after eating two.
Farm Tour: I went into the tour having read a few reviews by Yelpers who noted that some of the tour guides were very pro-vegan agenda. Therefore, I was curious to see to what degree our guide, Felicia, would take it to.
The farm is dotted here and there with animal-friendly, pro-life-beyond-the-slaughterhouse quote signs. At the beginning of the farm is a “welcome hut” which sells the usual souvenirs and farm-related goodies.
Our first stop on the tour was visiting the pig/rooster pen. I’m pretty sure the roosters don’t actually live with the pigs and had just stopped by for a visit as neighborly roosters are prone to doing!
Most of the pigs were still asleep when we entered but started filing out as we came to see them. Since CAS was technically only open to people who were staying at the Homestead, we were the very first humans the piggies saw that day! I learned that pigs pee in increments of 3-5 minutes at a time, just like me after too much coffee 😛
Next, we made our way to the chicken coop, where Felicia continued regaling us with enthralling tales of tortured chickens and showed us a crate-sized cage to give us an idea of how cramped factory farm chickens are. To distance myself from this all-too-familiar spiel, I instead chose to horse around (like my very apropos play on words there?) with Speckles the calico kitty instead, getting a few choice cat-model pics!
My favorite creature, by far, was Violet, an adorable mini-goat who had apparently been an abandoned runt and was raised by the caring staff of CAS, growing up (kinda) to be a naughty little goat with lots of personality.
Check out her antics below:
Overall, if you don’t mind shelling out a bit (and contributing to) a great cause, I highly recommend CAS for a compassionate AND romantic getaway. The vibes are rustic, the cause is worthy and the animals are adorable. What’s not to love?