The Valhalla Project – Hands on and heartfelt

ross pond overlook

As you may have read in my recent article for (You can read the article HERE) a few friends and I paid a visit to the Valhalla Project in the Ozark Mountains in January. Gordon Cucullu and Chris Fontana, the owners and operators of The Valhalla Project, have been in need of assistance with the day to day operations of the project following a severe injury that has put Gordon on the sidelines until a much needed surgery takes place in the near future. A small group from the Aid to Valhalla Project group, me, Ed Gawrelak, Mickey Tomlin, and Chris Smith, spent a couple of days at Valhalla putting some much needed backbone into a few repair projects that needed immediate attention.

Ross Elder and one of the goats from Valhalla

The author gets acquainted with some new four-legged friends at Valhalla

I also had the opportunity to do a few things about which I admittedly know very little. Most notably, dealing with farm animals. Now, I am no stranger to the outdoors or animal life but, when it comes to caring for goats, chickens, turkeys, and ducks, I know more about the potential for life on other planets than I do the needs of farm animals. I know, I should be ashamed of myself. I used to live in Oklahoma, for crying out loud. But, it would seem the ranch hand genes bypassed me along the way and were better suited for my farm and ranch-dwelling cousins. I often preach the necessity for people to understand how to live as humans did more than 100 years ago in order to have the skills necessary in the event of a serious disaster. Valhalla helped me understand that I have neglected my own ideas on the subject.

The author holding a turkey at Valhalla Project.

The author holding a turkey at Valhalla Project.

“Okay, time to feed the animals!” Chris Fontana told us early one morning. The crew headed out to the animal pens and the first thing that struck me was that I have no idea what these animals eat. Feed cans were at each pen but I had no idea what that feed was. But, I fed goats, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and the loyal dogs who protect the other animals from predators. It only took me a few moments to realize that I needed a serious education on rustic living. I think I managed fairly well with guidance from the Valhalla staff but, if it came down to it, in a serious SHTF scenario, with good ol’ Ross and the animal kingdom left to rely on my personal skill sets, sadly, those poor animals would be toast. One of us would be eating the other and I can’t guarantee that I would remain at the top of that food chain under the circumstances. Goats can be very mean, you know.

Growing your own food is also a necessary skill for any survival-minded person. I have been procrastinating on putting in a garden on my property for, let’s see, I don’t know, about 5 years now. Experiencing the concept of the Valhalla Project, with an emphasis on self reliance and living naturally, has really inspired me to finally break ground on that garden in the spring. Valhalla gave me a newfound appreciation for the very skills my father tried to impart to me as a young man. I may never be a rancher, but I can at least begin the process of ensuring that my family will have the necessities of life in a sustainable lifestyle that can endure whatever may come in the future.

I came away from Valhalla with much more than just an appreciation for what these wonderful people are doing for our combat veterans. It gave me the inspiration and confidence to begin my own adventure – a new, old way of life that will provide endless opportunities for valuable family time, education, and survivability.

Ross Elder

One thought on “The Valhalla Project – Hands on and heartfelt

  1. Regarding what may appear to you as “mean” goats, here’s a trick to calm them down and get them to pay absolute attention to you while also putting you in charge,,, particularly when you’re feeling nervous around them: simply do your best to suddenly reenact part of a Broadway play (Fiddler on the Roof, Cats, Annie, whatever you can remember) complete with singing and dancing just after they’ve all finished their breakfast or dinner. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing or dance to save your own life in any other venue (although it may help to do this alone or with just one other very trusted human who’ll never talk). The goats will definitely be pleasantly shocked and mesmerized by watching your every move, then they’ll give you a level of reverent awe and respect that you’ll never have problems with them again. They can be very big and therefore intimidating animals for sure, but this trick has never failed me yet! And, look on the bright side, they have no idea what a Broadway play is supposed to look like so they’ll be very, very impressed no matter how bad you may be in your most sincere attempt.

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