I'm itching for winter sowing. Soon... Soon we will play in dirt and start planting seeds in anticipation for our 2018 garden.
I got more updated photos of the bunnies today, and we got most of the house cleaned. I didn't get to trying to get boxes out.
The five bucks living in the basement have been photographed. I'm really hoping they can find homes. I don't have it in me to slaughter them. Especially not Nardol and Rascal. They're my (not so little) buddies.
A couple days ago we had an unexpected loss of one of our rabbits. I had to put him down to end his suffering, and I cried harder than I have in a while. He wasn't supposed to die. He was a good rabbit. And it was in that moment that I lost all gumption to slaughter my rabbits. Now I have to really push hard to find homes for the older rabbits, so I don't have to kill them. In the meantime, I have five rabbits in my basement, and I am not happy about it. Neither is my husband. So we need to find them homes. If anyone wants a rabbit, please contact me. We have a lot to choose from! Make me an offer, I'm willing to barter. I just can't process right now. Maybe next year, but not now.
I'm itching for winter sowing. Soon... Soon we will play in dirt and start planting seeds in anticipation for our 2018 garden.
I'm trying something new. I'm taking updated photos of the rabbits with a cute Christmas background. A stocking and an ornament as props. So far I've only got the tiniest ones photographed, but they're looking pretty cute.
In the spirit of trying new things, I'm also conducting an experiment. Someone in a rabbit forum I visited said that bunnies can me sexed as soon as they're born, because buck rabbits do not have nipples, while doe rabbits do. So the newest litter was checked over today. In an oddly perfect split, the four broken blacks all appear to have nipples (girls), and the three Charlie marked and the brown seem to be lacking nipples (boys). So I will check them again when they're older and can be determined the conventional way to see how accurate this method is (considering I've never checked for nipples before and could be wrong).
This evening while #3 and I were dinking around in a part of the house we don't usually spend a lot of time in, we decided to peek in a crawl space. And we were rewarded with a cool spelunking opportunity.
It seems the previous owner purchased some freeze-dried survival food, and then squirreled it away in a long forgotten hard-to-reach location.
Given the To/From on the boxes, these are well past their "best by" date (though this company boasts a 30 year flavor guarantee)... These were addressed to the gentleman's name c/o his business, with no additional address except city, state, and zip. Which means this box is from way back before people had numbered house addresses, back when the mail carrier just knew where you lived when packages came to your city post office.
We didn't pull any of the boxes out tonight, but we might try to wiggle the easier one out tomorrow. There are four more that are wedged in places we can't get to. Just the Rice & Chicken box might be removable. When I showed these to Tony he suggested we keep looking around. Who knows what else might have been left behind and forgotten in strange places.
Tonight we had a real treasure hunt. It's so interesting to get glimpses into the history of this house. I bet the sellers of the house (the children of the previous owners) didn't even realize these were stashed away in there.
Tomorrow I'm hoping to get more of the rabbits photographed with the nice background. Our rabbit page was due for some updates anyway. I'm also excited to consider a big reveal video opening the box of freeze dried food - assuming we can get it out. I haven't done any videos for a while.
Tonight we went back to the live nativity as a family, complete with five awake kids. While the little one wasn't really interested, they were nearly silent the entire time going through, except for a few questions ("Is that a real fire?" and "Where are the sheep?"). That said, we spent probably half an hour in line this time. Yesterday we were worried they'd be closed for the night, as there was just one care ahead of us. Tonight there was a line that snaked through the streets, three times around a parking lot, and onto the main road, causing traffic to congest. Yikes! But completely worth it.
The damaged kit from the new litter didn't make it through the night. I think it was just too much stress for such a little one to go through. We have eight left from this litter.
Tonight #3 was able to get the mom of the new litter to nurse her babies. This is the same mom as the older litter currently being shelved, but she refused to nurse them and they had to be fostered on to MoR instead.
I did a calendar check for the other two does in the coop, based on when they last had litters (both lost their last litters). Looks like we should get a litter from Lady Mo sometime between Christmas Eve and December 27th. MoR should be due for her next litter around 12/31.
Today we worked out a paid chore list for #3. She will feed and water the rabbits and chickens every day, and we will give her $2 per day credit. That means she could earn $14 a week. Payment will come from the tax return (in cash), and when the weather warms up, I can take over barn chores again. That means that starting tomorrow, if she works through the end of April, she can earn nearly $250. But the best part? She's been wanting a pet snake for a while now, but it's either "we can't afford it" or "you need to show us you are responsible enough" - Tonight we agreed that she can use her $250 to buy a snake and accessories next spring, because she will have proven her responsibility with the chores, and paid with her own money. She immediately set to researching snake species, prices, health issues, basic care, illnesses, temperaments, diet, and care requirements. She's got until spring to figure out what she wants and plan out what kind of enclosure she needs. So far she's off to a great start!
Today Willy, Wonka, and Wisp are 31 days old. That means their momma was set to deliver another litter any day. Upon inspection this morning, I found the nest n the same place she put the last one, and it was wiggling. I grabbed the nest box and started to load the new babies in to bring them into the house to be shelved.
No sooner did I get the first handful of babies into the nest box, Gypsy jumped down from the rafters, into the nest box, and grabbed a baby bunny. It was screaming, she was growling, and I had to pry her jaw open to get the bunny away from her. There was some blood, but within a few minutes the bleeding stopped and I wasn't terribly worried. We've had several bunnies get nipped by momma that did just fine. On the plus side, at least we know Gypsy is a ruthless hunter. She will annihilate any mouse she finds I left the nine new kits in the nest box with the older W litter and went off to cookie day with my mom and aunts (and #5).
I got to my mom's about 11:30 am, my aunts were already there in the middle of baking their first round of cookies. We spent the remainder of the day making all manner of cookies, breaking just once for lunch, working until all but the last two recipes had been completed. They'll try to finish the rest up tomorrow. I got some of each variety and packed up to go home after my aunts left. My mom gave #5 and I a ride home.
As we were heading home, #3 texted me. She was concerned that one of the new bunnies wasn't doing well. It wasn't using its back legs. I asked if it was the one Gypsy got. Yes, it was. When I removed the kit from Gypsy's jaws, she had it by the head. One tooth mark near bunny's eye, and the other near the opposite ear. Neither was particularly deep, so I hadn't really worried about it. I missed the other two puncture wounds. One on the thigh, the other just to the side of the backbone. I can only assume this bunny has suffered a spinal chord injury. It doesn't seem to have any feeling or motion beyond that puncture spot near the spine. I will leave it for a day or two to see if there is any improvement, but between the fact that it's a cat bite (infection risk is high) and the location of the injury (likely spinal damage), I'm not optimistic.
On our way home we passed a sign that said "Live Nativity, Next Left." My mom said "We should go see that... But we need to get you home..." I looked at her and said, "Mom, take the left." We turned left.
Following a few more signs, and then getting directions from one of the people there to guide traffic, we found the right place. You drive your car through different scenes from the nativity, each with real actors, live animals, and full costume with props.
Now, I am not overly religious, and I will never push my views on anyone else. Tonight was something absolutely spectacular. It was special and touched my soul. It's one thing to hear the story in Sunday school, or to watch a play, or read about it, or watch a documentary. It's another thing entirely to suddenly be immersed in it.
It was just me and my mom tonight, little #5 was fast asleep in the back. We stopped to ask another traffic director when we left if it would be open again. Tomorrow is the last night.
So if you are in the area (or perhaps want to come from out of area), tomorrow is the last night of the Live Nativity in Pillager, Minnesota. It is free, just come between 6pm and 8:30pm and drive through. If you have a smart phone they have a scanner code to tell the story, otherwise they have big boards with the story as you go. It is worth the few minutes to go through it. Bring your kids, and make it a family outing. Tomorrow night Tony and I will go through with all of the kids. I am still in absolute awe of what I saw tonight. It's cold out, and these folks are dressed up and sharing their holiday love with anyone who wants to come through - free of charge. I've rarely wanted to cry tears of joy, but for whatever reason, this event made me smile from ear to ear, and I was choking back tears through it all. To see a live representation of a story I've heard since I was a child is utterly phenomenal. It was well put together, and all I can say is that I loved the experience. I am so thankful we took the left.
Tomorrow is cookie day. I had every intention of dealing with rabbits today, but then little #5 asked me to come cuddle with him. I couldn't say no. I mean, how many parents out there would love to spend their day cuddling with their kids instead of going to work? And how many parents missed out on cuddling their kids and would give anything to have that time back? I will take full advantage of cuddle time while he's still small and wants to spend time with me.
So today was all about cuddle time, lounging in the bedroom, and him watching a couple shows on Netflix (we don't have cable). I didn't get much done except for some laundry, but it was worth it to get some one-on-one time just hanging out.
We woke up to a light layer of snow outside. Enough to coat the car, but not hide the leaves on the ground. It's interesting to see where all of the duck and goose foot prints lead around the yard, and where the main traffic is. It never occurred to me how much bigger Josh's goose feet are than the ducks' feet until I was looking at the prints in the snow today.
Well, I didn't get to slaughtering today either. Instead I took the last two from the big grow out cage and brought them to the basement with the other three. Yes, I now have five semi-adult rabbits living in my basement until I can get to actually processing them. Then I moved all the remaining weaned buck kits from the U and V litters, and little Boon (who isn't so little anymore) to the now empty buck grow out pen. The idea being that now (or once the five in the basement go), the three cages that now only have one momma rabbit and no additional babies, will go from a full bin of food to a measured amount of food, thus saving me money on my food bill. In the meantime, I have five rabbits enjoying the warmth in my basement.
On the good side, Luna started using her foot again a few days ago. That's a good sign. I was starting to worry about her, but she kept using it to climb trees and the screen door, and then not walking on it, but then using it to jump up and down off shelves in the bunny barn. She must be feeling better now.
We got one brown egg today in the nest box (Henrietta).
I had an idea to make some crochet coasters, but I wanted to see how well they'd work first. I made my first prototype. It looks nice, good size, but I haven't had any spills or any condensation to really test it. I do like the idea of it being washable though. Then when I did a Google search, come to find out crochet coasters are a thing - and they come in all kinds of cutesy designs if you know how to read a pattern (which I don't). So my double thick squares are a bit different than the ones I'm seeing. Maybe I'm on to something.
In the mail today I got the seed swap seeds back. I was pleasantly surprised that about half of the seeds are new-to-me varieties (a real challenge considering our extensive collection). I have updated the seed list accordingly. Thank you to those who participated in the swap this year! I'm certainly going to be planting some of these next year!
And a wild thought. I know there are "YouTube celebrities" out there that are famous for playing video games - which for some reason people find more interesting to watch than playing the games themselves... And there are plenty of how-to videos, and videos of some pretty mundane things too. I wonder if there would be any interest in doing a long video of just me crocheting something. I suppose it would be the crafter's version of the gaming craze - watching someone else make something. Why not? If I had a quiet moment to do it, I wouldn't mind, but my house tends to be loud and a lot going on at any given time (I do have a three year old after all).
Wednesday is Christmas Cookie Baking Day... The day when my mom and her sisters, and I all get together and bake our Christmas cookies all together, then split them up and bring them all home. It's always something I've kind of looked forward to, but with my recent dietary issues (seriously, I'm practically allergic to digestion at this point), it means I'll have to really limit myself on what I taste, and since almost every recipe calls for some kind of dairy product... well, it might not be as fun this year as in previous years. Maybe next year I will remember to ask about substituting Lactaid instead of cow milk - but this year the ingredients have already been purchased. It should be a fun day anyway as I will have #5 with me - and he loves to help! I just hope my aunts can have some patience with him as he tries to help in his own way. They don't believe in Aspergers, which makes it that much harder to prevent or deal with outbursts and meltdowns. Oh well, We will be going home with cookies, so it's all good.
All of the ducks are doing well. They seem to be pretty cohesive as a whole. The new ducks tend to follow Captain Barnacles and Dashi more so than Leonardo and Tweak (or Josh), but they do all tend to stay together. Tomorrow I plan on opening the bunny barn door and letting them free-range for the first time. Hopefully they will follow Josh's directions and he will keep them safe. Josh seems pretty happy to have enlarged his flock. He isn't picking on the new ones like he picked on the two we added before, so maybe there's safety in numbers after all. Or maybe they just respect Josh enough to let him eat and drink first (he is the dominant bird in the waterfowl flock), so Josh deems them unworthy of argument. Either way, I think they'll all do well together. Our waterfowl flock is complete!
Little Babylon is looking the same as yesterday. At least she's not looking any worse. Her nose is nipped so she has a little flap, but it looks like all the tissue is still alive and well, and she still has blood flow to the flap, so she should make a full recovery as long as she avoids infection or further injury.
For the first time in quite a while, we got no eggs today. None at all. Maybe tomorrow. The girls get a day off now and then too.
Today I made turkey soup. I made the broth a couple of days ago by boiling the frozen Thanksgiving turkey carcass (what was left after we carved it up for dinner that day), and then removing the bones. Today I added in potatoes, onion, carrots, a couple bay leaves, some sage, basil, thyme and Rosemary, a can of green beans, a can of corn, a dash of almond milk, and some salt and pepper. I put it back on the stove and let it simmer for a few hours. It smelled wonderful. My only complaint would be that I needed just a bit more salt, and that I included the skin from the turkey, and the kids (and I) were not impressed with the fatty texture of the skin pieces. So next time, remove the skin, and add a little more salt.
I've been dizzy the last day or two. This morning especially, then better all day, and this evening I'm feeling dizzy again. I wonder if I've got an ear infection again. It's only when I move my head or eyes quickly and it's a moment of disorientation (this evening anyway). This morning it was full-on room spinning for several seconds and I just had to hold on for dear life when I rolled over to grab the alarm. Yikes! Maybe it's just stress and lack of sleep. Cold weather always wears me down, and I've been having trouble getting to bed at a reasonable time lately, which means I'm skimping on sleep hours lately. Perhaps this weekend I can get a day to catch up on rest since Tony has the weekend off.
I have so much to share today!
This morning we went and picked up five new ducks. They're supposed to be Indian Runner, but one may be crossed with a magpie duck. One has a white collar stripe and the blue patch on the wing, so it may turn out looking like a mallard. One is a dark brown color with an olive green beak. Two more are brown, but have a lovely creamy color along the backs. The last one is black and white splashed (the mix). They're fully feathered, but they're still babies (they were eggs in the incubator back when we brought Josh and the first two ducks home on October 1). I brought them home in a large wire dog kennel, and transferred the kennel right in to the bunny barn when we got home. I left them in the kennel for the remainder of the day, allowing Leonardo, Tweak, Captain Barnacles, Dashi, and Josh to meet them and get to know one another behind the bars (though all the ducks could stick their heads out/in, so they were nuzzling and chatting a lot).
At night before bed, I closed up the bunny barn and let them out. They are flock animals and they went straight over to Josh and the ducks. I refilled the heated water bucket (that I brought in the bunny barn just for today and tomorrow while they're penned up), and they all gathered around it and drank. I refilled their food, and a few wandered over there. I hope that Josh is able to keep command of his now large flock of ducks. He started with two, then four, and now he has nine. A couple days in the bunny barn together should help them to learn each others' languages and what is expected of them when Josh calls to herd them one way or another.
Josh is an awesome guard goose for the ducks. We've had bald eagles come to the yard a few times, we've had hawks circle over the fields while they were out, but so far (knock on wood) we have had no predatory losses because Josh keeps them safe, running them back into the barn or into the trees for cover when aerial predators are spotted. I highly recommend a goose as a flock guardian! That said, ours are free range, so they aren't likely to get stuck against a fence or pulled through a fence, it would be hard to corner them.
If sexing by the noise they make is accurate, I'd say we have four girls and a boy here - but that would mean the bow-tie striped one is a girl, and it's looking a lot like Captain Barnacles looked when he first arrived (before his gorgeous green adult feathers came in over his head).
So far just the one with the white neck stripe has a potential name. It reminds me so much of a bow tie that I wanted to call him Matt, after Matt Smith, who plays The Doctor on Doctor Who (he always wears bow ties, because "bow ties are cool"), but then the name wouldn't fit if the duck is a girl. So perhaps Mr. Smith, which can be changed to Ms. Smith if it turns out to be a lady. Or maybe we can scrap that and name them all collectively... Gem names, like Pearl, Ruby, Amethyst, Onyx, and Opal. Or maybe nature names like Twig, Brook, Branch, Stone, or Pebble. Or flower names (Marigold, Peony, Zinnia, Pansy, and Petunia)... or herb names (Thyme, Rosemary, Mint, Basil, and Sage). But I get ahead of myself. I need to wait until they mature to see which ones grow the curled tail feathers (boys).
When we returned from getting the ducks, as we pulled up I saw all of the chickens huddled outside the chicken coop. It's snowing and cold, and I wasn't sure right away why they were all outside. I went to go take a peek and here they'd bumped the door shut and couldn't get back in! As a result, the eggs in the nest box had gone cold, and Boss Lady has abandoned them. In a strange twist, there were only six in the box when I pulled them after she left them and they cracked. I searched for the seventh but didn't find it. Weird.
Today was also #4's Christmas program at school. I think she was more excited about being able to buy ice cream for #5 afterward using her own money than the actual singing.
And in other news, the chomp on Babylon's nose is much worse today. She's got a bit of a flap, and an open space, but she seems alright otherwise so far. She was a little hesitant to let me pick her up today, but I was careful not to touch her nose at all, so she will be more trusting tomorrow when I go to catch her to check how she's doing.
For dinner we'd planned to break in our new smoker that my parents bought us for Christmas. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it to work and have to return it tomorrow. The pork chops were wonderful, the brine and rub flavored them up nicely, despite not smoking them. Hopefully we can try the recipe again when we have a functioning smoker so we can fully appreciate the flavors.
I spent yesterday boiling the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving and then de-boning it. Tomorrow we're having turkey soup. I just have to add in the vegetables and cook it tomorrow and it's good to serve. Tasty!
Wow it was a busy day! I am really hoping that Tony gets up with kids and #5 lets me sleep in. What a day!
Little Wisp has been confirmed as a doe. Yay! So now the little shelved litter is Willy, Wonka, and Wisp. Too cute!
Today the bunnies have been hard at work digging holes in their fenced yard. I can't imagine any grass is going to regrow in there next year at this rate. At least three times one of the kids or I went out and refilled the holes to keep them from digging out. The last time I shoveled them full, packed them down, and put a brick over the two places they're particularly drawn to. Then we added a stick from under the apple tree to give them something to chew on to perhaps distract them. Seems to have curbed the digging, at least a little.
Boss Lady is now sitting on seven brown eggs. Henrietta must be going in and laying one every day and Boss Lady just keeps adopting them. Some more seasoned chicken keepers have suggested that I mark the eggs she's sitting on, and daily remove any new eggs. The idea being that she will only sit on the eggs for so long once the first ones start to hatch, so if she has too many, she will end up abandoning the last eggs, literally right before they're ready to hatch. Guess I'll be doing that tomorrow.
Which brings me to tomorrow. Starting about 2am it's supposed to start raining, turning to snow around 4pm and snowing straight through until 10pm. We are anticipating 1-3 inches of snow. In the weeks to come our low temps will start to be in the negative numbers.
No matter how many years I've lived in Minnesota (my entire life), I never feel quite prepared for the bitter cold when winter finally rolls in.
Yesterday little Babylon had in injury to her nose. I'm not sure if she got pecked by a chicken, bit by another rabbit, or if she cut it some other way. It's scabbed up and swollen. Poor baby. I make a point to spend several minutes every day cuddling with her. She's so calm, she cuddles right in, and she really seems to be happy when I put my hand over her ears to warm them. She's such a sweet little girl. Hopefully her nose heals up quickly, because she's got a home lined up for her when the younger litter is ready to go (I think she's going to live with Willy in her new home, and Willy won't be ready to go until Christmas Eve).
The lady we bought Josh, Tweak, and Leonardo from sent me a message today. She has five more Indian Runner (or Indian Runner cross) ducks that she wants to rehome. They're young, so we won't know gender, and permanent color isn't in yet. Looks like three brown, one that could be mallard colored (green head), and one black and white splashed (mixed breed). I'm so excited to get more ducks! I really hope that it brings some more females into the flock. Poor Dashi is the only girl duck right now.
Yesterday when Tony got home, as he walked in the door, with an arm full of stuff from the van, he went to close the door, not realizing that Luna was perched on top of it. She managed to smush her paw, but seemed fine initially. Today she's limping, and bites when I try to peek at her feet. It's not at an odd angle, but there is a distinct line in her fur where the door caught her. I'm going to watch her for another day or two to see if she gets better on her own. She is still able to jump up on the shelf where the bed and food and water bowls are in the barn, and back down to go potty. I'm hoping she's just sore and will recover if given some time. I know when I slam my finger in a door it hurts for several days, so I'm thinking that's what we're dealing with here as well.
And as is a daily (or rather nightly) occurrence now, the two barn kitties come in every night when I go out to turn off the chicken coop light. They sleep in the entry way and go back out in the morning. I'm so glad they figured out the litter box!
Today I weighed the shelved litter again. Willy weighs in between four and five ounces, Wonka is a solid six ounces. And the tiny little spotted kit is now up to three ounces!
The momma bunny that's been feeding them (MoR) didn't make a good nest this round and her newest litter died in the night before we could find and bring them in the house. So she is now full of milk and with just the bigger two boys for competition, and stretching each feeding time for 15 minutes or more, the tiny kit is starting to feed better, gaining strength, and survival odds are increasing.
Of course little Wisp/Wilder (name depends on gender) is still tiny compared to big brothers Willy and Wonka. She started out as the runt, and the difference has only become more apparent as her brothers grow at a faster rate. They're all looking a little fluffy right now, but none more than the little one. I'm not sure if it's because her fur is growing as though she were growing, or if she's just got crazy long fur. Either way, she's almost more fluff than flesh at this point. I'm hoping she grows into it, but admit she'd be a complete doll if her fur stayed long.
While in one of my groups online someone shared a photo of an egg skeltor. I've never heard of such a thing before, but what an awesome idea! You can put it on your counter, you can hang it up. Assure you're always using your oldest eggs first. This is going on my Christmas list! And if I don't get it for Christmas, I'm going to buy one for myself.
Boss Lady remains broody today. She had three eggs under her the other day when she left the nest long enough to get some food. I don't know if she's laid any more since then. The website I visited said once a hen goes broody she won't lay any more eggs, but that confused me a bit because if hens generally only lay one egg per day (or none), then how do they have clutches with many chicks? I can only assume they do lay more eggs and just continue to sit on them, and that's why chicks hatch at different times. If this sticks through to the end, we have 16 days left until we could potentially see our very first chick.
And once again, a stunning sunset over the lake. This place is amazing.
Boss Lady finally came out of the nest crate this morning to eat. She's sitting on three eggs. She's been sitting on them since Saturday. My research shows hens incubate eggs for 21 days. That means if she continues to lay on the eggs, we could potentially have chicks hatching December 16th. Not exactly prime chick time, but hey, why not give it a try? It'll be an interesting combination... Our first hen to lay and our biggest rooster (Sterling). Should make some fine chicks.
The little spotted shelved kit continues to hang on, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. It's so small, and thin. It gets the same amound of nursing time as the two bigger siblings, who appear to be normal size for their age. This tiny spotted baby has long fur, and remains stunted. I have started adding a slice of apple and a pinch of pellet food to the nest box while they are in the house to give her some kind of alternative to get calories in her system. (I assume female because the last litter has two dark boys and a white girl).
We have named the two black kits in the shelved litter. There's one solid black kit, we've named him Willy. There is one black kit that has one white foot, his name is Wonka. The pair make Willy and Wonka. If the little spotted kit pulls through to weaning, she/he will have a W name as well. Straying from the Willy Wonka theme, perhaps Wisp would be fitting for her thin frame. Or we could stick with the Willy Wonka theme and call the spotted kit Wilder, (a reference to Gene Wilder who played Willy Wonka in 1971) which might be better suited if it turns out to be a tiny buck. It's a long shot that this kit will survive. As of yesterday it was tipping over. She doesn't even register on the weight scale. She's adorable though, and those panda eyes will melt your heart.
Her fur is too long to be a normal coat. I'm really hoping for a miracle with this kit. I'd love to see how she turns out. I bet she'd be a gorgeous long coated adult if she makes it that long. Despite her diminutive size, Wisp/Wilder is 16 days old (two weeks + 2 days).
We had a beautiful sunrise today. I got a photo. It's almost as pretty as yesterday's sunset!
In a wonderful turn of events, our dear Lady Mo has returned! She had dug a big hole and then back-filled it, so it looked like freshly dug ground, but there was no hole to be found. She came out of her tunnel this morning. She's missing the fur between her front legs and some down her belly. I know she's got kits down there, but I have no way of getting to them. I hope they survive largely on their own. I will let nature take care of this one. Lady Mo came in and ate, she's been with the coop herd all day, and as of this afternoon she and the nursing momma took turns burying the hole again. Tonight Lady Mo is in the coop with the other rabbits. She has made no attempt to reopen the tunnel since this afternoon. I waited until well past dark to close up the coop to give her every opportunity I could to go and nurse them this evening. I have no way of checking on them to see if they're even alive or not. Frustrating, but part of raising rabbits in a colony with dirt available for digging.
Since her triumphant return, Lady Mo has spent a lot of her time chasing the spotted doe around. The spotted doe came from a different place, so isn't one that Lady Mo originally came here with, but they had largely worked out their differences prior to Lady Mo's disappearance a few days ago. The spotted doe is the mother of the three young kits still being shelved. She will not nurse them though, so they are being nursed on MoR, the other Dutch cross doe (Lady Mo's sister). For some reason, Lady Mo does not like the spotted doe.
In turn, the spotted doe spent most of her afternoon trying to sneak out to the yard to mess with the nest hole. Several times MoR or Lady Mo came and chased her away, before they finally filled the hole in.
I'm all for giving second chances, but if the spotted doe doesn't step it up next litter, she's going to have to go. It was her first litter, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, but if the other doe doesn't like her, and she isn't a good momma, there's no reason to keep her around. I'd just as soon put Boon's momma back in there and just have the three Dutch cross sisters as the entire female force of the colony.
The three older shelved kits that were returned to the coop yesterday are doing well. All three can now get up the big step behind the coop door, and they have discovered the water dish. Though Machu Picchu doesn't quite understand the concept. He did figure out how to drink while standing outside the bowl when I filled the bowl completely full again. They sure do know how to make their dish dirty too! It was clean when I filled it this morning, but then one of the rabbits decided to dig next to it and kicked dirt in it. I had to clean it out again to refill it this evening. They're still not as messy as the ducks though. The ducks will leave mud in the bottom of the water dish every day. Theirs has to be cleaned out constantly!
Tony, #3, and I added chicken wire around the bottom portion of the kennel fencing to keep the ruins litter in. They could walk right out through the kennel bars. A note here - if you decided to do a system like this, please remember that chicken wire will not protect your animals from predators! A predator can easily tear through chicken wire! We added it strictly as a way to keep baby bunnies in. The kennel itself is the predator protection.
While we worked on the coop, Sterling and Turducken patrolled the area. He's our dominant rooster and he watches over his hens all day long. He's such a handsome boy. Still no idea what breed he is, but he's handsome. And what big comb and waddles he has! Unfortunately the tips of his comb look like he's gotten frostbite. Odd since we haven't had any really horribly cold nights yet. A few quick searches brings up the best prevention - choosing breeds with small waddle and combs for northern keepers. Well, guess we failed there.
Our other big rooster is Big Red, and he has nearly caught up with Sterling on size. He's still a smidge smaller. Big Red would like to be the dominant rooster, and has tried a few times to breed with the hens, but Sterling is quick to chase him away as soon as he starts harassing the ladies. So Big Red bides his time with Phil. Largely, I believe, because Phil is submissive and lets Big Red crow and strut and eat first in the bunny barn.
Then there's little Phil. He's clearly some sort of cochin or whatever people call miniature or dwarf chickens. He's got feathered legs and he's about the size of the two silkie roosters. Phil can fly though, which the silkie roos can not. The silkie roosters spend their days in the coop or in the yard attached to the coop, unable to fly over the four foot fence to free range. Phil spends his days free ranging the yard, or hanging out in the bunny barn during bad weather. He roosts up in the rafters or on the end of the garage door track. He doesn't go to the chicken coop, and doesn't interact with the hens ever. He does seem to hang out with Big Red, or maybe Big Red hangs out with him. Sometimes it's hard to tell who is leading and who is following.
Phil is great fun to watch. When he runs he kicks his feet out slightly to the sides, and with his leg feathers, it almost looks like he's dancing while wearing bell bottoms. He's a sweet rooster though, and is easy to catch and handle (though he's not happy about it). This makes him my favorite (but shhh - don't tell Sterling).
Turducken is an interesting bird. She's smaller than our other two hens. Henrietta is a barred rock, and Boss Lady is an Easter Egger. Turducken is a naked neck (also known as a turken). My initial chicken research last year had me believe that naked necks were only good for meat production, but Turducken lays eggs almost every day. She's not very big, which would seem counter productive to use her as a meat bird. In the photo below you can see her free ranging next to the fence, and one of the silkie roosters in the pen. They're roughly the same size (about 15 inches if measuring based on the height of the fence). And of course Kin, the rabbit, is in there too, but he's rather large.
The entire time I'm working on bunny and chicken chores, Moose follows me around, dropping his frisbee at my feet. This dog loves nothing in the world more than chasing a frisbee. Today I was blindly throwing the frisbee to get him away while I was working on connecting the chicken wire to the kennel, and apparently he was too focused on the frisbee... He ran over Luna on his blind chase to retrieve the frisbee. She wasn't hurt, just startled. I was more careful about what direction I was throwing it from then on. He will literally chase the frisbee until he's so out of breath he can hardly breath, frothing drool, and will still want me to throw it again. We have to play in moderation so he doesn't end up giving himself a heart attack or something.
The barn kitties have been spending their nights in the porch. They have access to a water bowl and a litter box, and a cardboard box to sleep in. It's insulated but not heated. They choose this over the barn that is not insulated or heated, but has food and water and a cardboard box with blankets to snuggle in. It's not even that cold tonight, but after evening chores were done they were quick to follow me in for the night.
The views over the lake today were nice. While today was mostly cloudy, I got a few nice scenic shots.
And sunset was beautiful, as it tends to be here on our little piece of heaven. It's hard not to feel completely blessed every single day here. The beauty of Mother Nature is found in everything here, if you just look. And sometimes, the sunset just takes your breath away. Today it was bright pink with purple clouds.
A note to follow up on yesterday's blog. In most of the videos I watched of how people tan rabbit hides using the salt and alum solution, they stir it with a stick. I had my hands in the bucket yesterday to squeeze out air bubbles, with no negative effects. Today I lifted the plate off the top and reached in to stir the pelts around. I notices some of the pelts are already starting to pull apart from the fatty layer that comes off in 6 more days. After a couple of minutes moving pelts around in the water, my fingers started to burn. I replaced the plate and washed my hands immediately, but it was too late.
Now I've got tiny blisters between my fingers. Every time I wash my hands, the warm water makes the bumps itch uncontrollably. If you have sensitive skin, you should wear gloves or use a stick! Tomorrow I will not be sticking my hands in the water unless I'm wearing gloves.
No sign of Lady Mo. I'm almost certain some kind of bird of prey took her out of the coop yard. Heartbreaking, as she was due any day now. I know we've had hawks and bald eagles, and there's an owl that was hit by a car not far from our driveway (it was dead when we first saw it). The predators are in the area, so this does not come as such a surprise. What does surprise me is that we hadn't had any losses before this, and that it was a rabbit and not a chicken or a duck that got taken.
Today the older shelved litter has graduated to life in the coop. They are now eating pellet food and drinking water on their own, and since we can no longer contain them in the kitchen (Tikal discovered how to go up the stairs), it was time to reintroduce them to the herd. Since Lady Mo is gone, we have an open space for an additional doe, so if Babylon doesn't find a home in the near future, she may just stay back to replace Lady Mo. It would be easier than trying to introduce another adult doe into the group.
Tonight it's just the younger shelved litter in the house. The two black kits are doing well, eyes are opening, they're well fed and active. The little broken black is still struggling, even more than originally. It's thin and doesn't nurse well. Today we actually removed the older kits and only had the three smaller kits in for the two nursing times. The little spotted one isn't eating enough. Tonight I cut a small apple in half, removed the seeds, and set the two halves in the nest box with the kits. The spotted one immediately started chewing on it. I know it's hungry, but I don't understand why it isn't nursing when it has 15 minutes every feeding with a doe in milk. If I can get it to hold out just a few more days, I think that it will do better. The momma it is nursing on is the mother of the older litter, and she is getting round, so I suspect more kits may be on the way. The actual mom of the younger litter refused to nurse her litter, instead stepping on kits, sitting upwards so they couldn't nurse, and spending her time trying to escape the box. As a result, we stopped catching her for nursing time, and she has dried up (no more milk). Good thing the other momma has been a gem and has taken the extra kits in.
As of initial introduction to the coop, Babylon and Machu Picchu explored the coop, and Tikal instead went out the door, figured out how to climb up the brick step, and out to the yard. Great! Now I know he can reach the water dish. Unfortunately, this also means that he can walk right through the big cage bars. So he came back in the house until bed time. Tomorrow we will be adding chicken wire to the bottom portion of the fence to prevent escaping. Then I will be adding a small wire ramp behind the door to help the other two bunnies get out of the big step in area so they can have access to the heated water bowl too.
It's Black Friday, and while most Americans are our shopping for the best deals, I am finally getting around to processing rabbit hides for the first time. I've amassed a collection of rolled up rabbit hides in the freezer in two plastic shopping bags. The culmination of various culls during the illness outbreak, a couple of meat rabbit pelts, and one that was culled due to temperament issues. It's about time I got my freezer space back, and since I have all of the ingredients on hand, there's no reason to keep putting it off. Here goes!
You will need one cup of Alum Sulfate, and one cup of non-iodized salt. I bought the salt at Menards, and the Alum from Amazon. If you can't find these locally, you can buy them both on Amazon.
In a clean five gallon bucket, add three gallons of warm water and mix your one cup of alum sulfate and one cup of non-iodized salt until all ingredients are dissolved.
Add your hides. Mine were frozen so it took a while for them to thaw out, but once they did, I unrolled each one, held it under the water and gave it a gentle squeeze (never wring hides) to get the air bubbles out.
Once all of the hides were wet enough to sink, I stirred them around a bit more just for good measure. When no more air bubbles were coming up, I put a plate on top of them to make sure they remained submerged. You don't want any part of the hides or fur to be sticking up out of the water!
Now it will sit in this mixture for one week. Be sure to stir it around every day to make sure the pickle solution can reach all parts of each of the hides. You want a nice thorough pickling. Don't miss any parts!
After one week in this solution, the hides will be removed from the bucket. Be sure to gently squeeze the liquid back into the bucket - it will be used for the second part of the process. Again, remember - never wring or twist hides!
Each hide will be removed and any remaining flesh will be hand peeled from the hides. I'm told this is a tedious process, and where many people struggle or give up. I refuse to waste the pelts. It seems that would be dishonoring the animals that died. Because today is Friday, these pelts will be ready to de-flesh next Friday and over the weekend, which means I can have kids help too.
Once the hides have been fleshed, you'll add one more cup of Alum Sulfate, and one more cup of non-iodized salt to the bucket and mix again until completely dissolved (essentially doubling your pickle solution - but don't add any more water). Add the hides, stir well, and again anchor with a plate to assure all hides are under water. They will stay in this mix for another two weeks (14 days), and you should continue to stir the mix every day to make sure there are no bubbles or places that aren't getting access to the solution.
At the end of the second soak, it's time to start the last part of the process - cleaning and drying! If you have had your hides in tube form, now is the time to cut then open down the belly. If your hides were flat then obviously you can skip that step. Rinse your hides a couple of times in your bathtub to get as much of the alum/salt solution out as you can. There will be a lot of loose hair, so use one of those screen plugs for your drain to prevent hair clogs.
At this point, some people will wash the hides with soap or shampoo. This isn't required, but if you want them to smell nice, you can use a scented body wash. Rinse well.
Squeeze out as much water as you can (remember, never twist or wring), and hang them up somewhere out of the way to start to dry. As they are drying, stretch them a couple times per day. Don't let them dry without stretching or they'll turn into rawhide. Breaking the leather will turn it white and it will be soft and supple. Work around the edges first and then work toward the inside. Be careful around the edges and thinner spots. You can also use the back of a chair to help you break the leather (leather side down).
Once your hides are dry and stretched, brush out the fur. You can add mink oil to the leather side if you desire. I'm not sure if I will do that or not. I have not looked in to the price of mink oil yet.
One video I watched said it's easier to start fleshing from the back to the front. One video suggested doing 3 cups alum and 3 cups salt in three gallons of water and then only soaking for 7-14 days before cleaning and drying. Some people say to cut the pelts flat before tanning, some say to go ahead and tan them still in tube-form.
Another note about the alum/salt pickling. It's not technically an actual tan. It's a pickle. So if your hide gets wet again, you have to start all over with breaking the leather again. This is not a method you should use if you want to use the furs for clothing or something that will potentially get wet or require being washed in the future.
So what do you do with a hide once it's been pickled? I have a few potential ideas. I could sell them. Processed hides usually go for about $3-$5 each on eBay (from my recent search for sold items anyway). There isn't much market here locally as we live in a small farming community and many people also have rabbits. Most commercial fur places have strict requirements for the fur they will buy - how it has to be treated, the age or breed of the rabbit used, and the color of the coat. Since we don't have mass quantities of furs, and most of ours are mixed breeds of random colors, selling commercially isn't really an option for us. Another option I've considered is making a big blanket from the furs. I know there are special ways to sew leather, and that the blanket would not be washable. I'm allergic to rabbit fur, and I'm not sure if the pickle and the processing will make a difference, so I don't know if I'll be able to snuggle up with the finished pelts yet. That and five kids plus pets means pretty much everything in the house has to be washable. We can always give pelts as gifts or trade for things we want or need. Another alternative would be to take some of the furs (particularly ones that are damaged during the breaking process), and cut them into strips to incorporate them into cat toys. Cat toys can be given to our cats, given as gifts to our cat-loving friends, donated to area animal shelters, or sold to make some extra money. There's always a market for humanely raised small-farm supported craft supplies too. We could sell a kit with scraps of old fabric, a couple feathers from our birds, and a few strips of rabbit fur as a "make your own cat toy" kit. I'm sure there are lots of other ideas out there if I scoured Pinterest or asked on some of the rabbit forums. Really, let your imagination lead you. But remember, that by using the whole rabbit, you are honoring their sacrifice. No need to waste what could be used.
Thanksgiving 2017 is coming to a close. We had a wonderful afternoon meal with my family, followed by a lazy evening playing some cribbage and getting the kids to write out their Christmas wish lists so my parents can do some shopping. I think I'm going to largely stick to the homemade gifts that I discussed in my prior post yesterday.
My holiday wish list is short this year. Gift certificates to my two favorite seed shops, a pot/pan holder to put in the kitchen above the old stove, a couple of ornaments for the tree (a goat and a goose), a gift certificate to a local greenhouse for us to get some fruit trees in the spring, gift cards to the local feed shop to help us with rabbit food expenses, and a credit at the vet under our account so we can afford to get Gypsy spayed as soon as she is old enough. I also added books on wild-crafting in Minnesota, and herbal remedies, since I know my mom likes to buy books as gifts (the gift of reading and education is great). Honestly, I'd be happy with a single gift. I hate when people over-buy and then I feel like a heel because I can only afford to give one gift per person (and then I have to be selective with who gets gifts).
Today I am especially thankful for family. I know there are folks out there missing loved ones this time of year. My mind wanders to the old schoolmate that died in February. This will be his family's first Thanksgiving since he's passed away. It's got to be a rough day for them. And there are so many more families just like them out there. The holidays can be a great time spent with family, or it can be heartbreaking to be reminded of the family that isn't there with us. I am so fortunate to still be surrounded by my loved ones this holiday season. I recognize the blessing, and I am grateful.
Tonight when we got home, I closed up the bunny barn, then went to catch the momma rabbit for the evening feeding with the shelved kits. I noticed someone was missing. I did a head count in the chicken coop... Three roosters, three hens, and three rabbits... One rabbit short. MoR was in nursing kits, the momma of the younger litter was hopping around, and Kin came to greet me. But no Lady Mo to be found. I checked the outside area, and I didn't see any holes. There was some digging behind the coop door, but no holes that I could see. I checked the coop again. The window is still intact with the glass and the screen, and the cement floor would prevent any digging to escape. She wasn't in any of the hiding places. She's just gone.
When we finally gave up searching, and brought the shelved kits back in for the night, #3 grabbed the bird identification book and found three predatory birds that winter in our area and are big enough to have taken a 6 pound rabbit. Two types of owl, and a hawk. We haven't seen or heard any of these in the area lately, but admittedly we try to spend as little time outside as possible once it starts to get cold. Aside from going out for chores twice a day, we tend to be inside if it's below freezing outside. It's possible something got her, but I can't imagine the other animals would be so calm. All birds are accounted for (three roosters and three hens in the coop, two roosters, four ducks, two guineas, and a goose in the bunny barn), and both kitties were seen safe and sound. Lady Mo is the only one missing.
We will go out tomorrow when it's light out to see if maybe we're missing something. Until then, I closed the coop up for the night, so if Lady Mo is alive and out there somewhere, she's on her own for the night. We will have to see what tomorrow brings.
Tony works open shift for Black Friday. He's got his alarm set for 3:45 am and needs to be out the door no later than 4:45am. He's looking at a 12-hour day, but most of it will be overtime, so it's not so bad.
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