Caring for chickens led this man to realize he could care for fellow veterans too.

Following several violent tours in Iraq, Ray Russell was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He had applied for services at his local Veterans Affair office, and after the diagnosis, the VA set up Russell with resources designed to help. But he always felt like he was still missing something.

At the time, he didn't think much about treatment other than what the VA offered. Instead, he spent most of his days working overtime in the restaurant industry.


"I had been working myself to not feel," he explains. "I would work 80 hours, 90 hours; there was a time when I worked 110 hours a week."

He and his family, though, had moved onto 30 acres of land in Tennessee, and while he didn't have any experience doing so, he dreamed of farming and raising animals there.

One day, on his way home from an appointment at the VA, Russell decided to buy some chickens at a tractor supply store.  

Russell on his land in Tennessee. Image via Ray Russell, used with permission.

Russell didn't know much about caring for chickens then. He didn't even have a coop for them, so he temporarily set them up to live in his basement.

Not long after this positive step forward, however, tragedy struck.

In 2013, Russell's wife, Maria, died by suicide. It was disturbingly similar to another suicide he had witnessed while serving in Iraq, and the experience amplified his PTSD symptoms significantly.

He developed a sense of hyper-vigilance or heightened alertness. He stopped sleeping, lost his restaurant job, and couldn't keep another job which was particularly difficult for him, considering he'd been working since he was 11 years old.

Russell in Iraq. Image via Ray Russell, used with permission.

What's more, his two young daughters needed him, so he felt mounting pressure to provide for his family. However, with trauma like this affecting him everyday, it started to feel impossible.

Russell knew he needed help, but he also knew the mental health services available to him through the VA weren't quite enough.

"There were things that the VA was not able to do for me, such as bringing me into a community and giving me a purpose and a focus other than just work," he says.

He knew he wasn't the only one who was struggling in this way. He'd lost several friends who'd served in the military with him to suicide. Like them, he had no idea how to help himself.

That's when Russell turned to his farm.

Without a job to occupy his time, he began clearing the overgrown land and setting it up for crops and animals. He started to teach himself what he needed to know to run a farm by watching YouTube videos.

Part of Russell's land in Tennessee. Image via Ray Russell, used with permission.

After a few months, he noticed his farmland wasn't the only thing that was improving — he was starting to feel better, too.

"I was feeling good about myself like I hadn't in years," he says.

The effects were so encouraging that he couldn't keep it to himself. He thought of all the other veterans he knew and came up with a way to try to help them heal through farming, too.

He told his VA social worker and psychiatrist about his idea to invite other veterans to the farm.

Since he wasn't a mental health expert, he wanted to make sure he wouldn't accidentally hurt other people or himself. As it turns out, people at the VA thought it was a wonderful idea and even offered to help Russell create mental health programs on the farm for the veterans.

Soon after, Russell shared his plan on Facebook. He received an overwhelmingly positive response.

"[My post] got so many shares, so many likes. I was getting messages from people all over, saying, 'Hey, man, I need this kind of help,'" he remembers.

Some of the animals on Veterans Hill Farm. Image via Ray Russell, used with permission.

That was the beginning of the Veterans Hill Farm — a place designed to help disabled veterans, primarily those with PTSD.

It's designed to work like this: A veteran can stay on the farm for 28 days. During that time, they complete a program designed by mental health professionals and led by volunteer experts, including agriculturists, woodworkers, and animal experts. Each week, the veterans focus on a different area, such as tilling the land or building structures, to help them develop useful skills. They also work with a local chef to learn how to prepare farm fresh food for healthy meals.

When they're not working and learning on the farm, they have the opportunity to go through counseling and take part in healing practices like yoga and church services.

Image via iStock.

They experience all this with fellow veterans who've had some of the same struggles, which aims to help them rebuild a sense of community.

Veterans Hill Farm isn't officially open so far, in 2018, but it's getting there — thanks to help from supporters both close by and around the country. They're clearing the land, building tiny houses for the veterans to stay in, and donating materials to get the place ready for guests.

Through all this preparation, the farm has already helped 10 veterans. One veteran came by to offer a hand, and Russell and his team helped him find work and housing. They even reunited him with his 7-year-old daughter, who he hadn't seen since she was a baby.

Russell hopes veterans leave his farm with skills they'll need to move forward in their lives when they get back home as well as a strengthened support system.

After all, that's exactly what the farm has given him. He loves working in nature with the 120 or so animals that now live there. He's developed more tools that have helped him continue to heal. He's even found love again. Russell now has four children, and his wife, Veronica, works beside him on the farm.  

Image via Ray Russell, used with permission.

Russell says he also considers every veteran to be family because of their shared experiences and that he always will. To him, it feels like a natural step to give them a temporary home on his farm. He's just grateful for the chance to help them find the hope they're looking for.

"We have to be there for each other," he says. "And that's what I'm trying to do."

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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