The Fluff on Rabbits

Well, I guess the best way to attract people and get them to come back is to talk about baby rabbits. Yup, the cute little furballs with the wiggly nose and powder puff tail. They start off looking like tiny aliens, then turn into cute little bunnies before growing into full grown rabbits.

We are raising New Zealand rabbits which is a bit misleading because they apparently don’t come from New Zealand. They will grow into 10-12 lb adults and most don’t really have the personality to be constantly handled on a regular basis like people think a pet rabbit usually is. They can be friendly and get used to being handled but they are a big rabbit and strong and when they don’t feel like cuddling anymore they can give a powerful kick and struggle to get away. They can also inflict damage with a pretty good bite. People who handle these rabbits on a daily basis can get the rabbits used to being handled which makes caring for them easier and make the constant interaction with them less of a chore and more of an enjoyment.

When breeding, most people take the doe to the buck as the does can get territorial about their space and attack the buck when he is introduced into her area. There’s usually some chasing around and, if all goes well and she’s cooperative and lifts her butt, multiple mountings which only take a few seconds each and end with the buck falling off backwards or sideways with a little grunt or sometimes a scream. Our Fred usually makes a noise that sounds like Donald duck saying “ohhh”. Yep, pretty funny!

Gestation last about 28-32 days and we’ve had litters here from 2-11 kits. The higher the number, the higher the likelihood that a couple may be lost, usually the weaker ones lose out on the battle for the nipples. It’s quite the shark feeding frenzy, the mother hunched over them while they all lie on their back like tiny mechanics under a car with their feet sticking out. The mother usually licks them around their naughty parts while they’re feeding to stimulate them to pee and keep them clean. When they are finished feeding they usually look like they’ve swallowed a ping pong ball and some just lie there on their backs, too full to bother turning over.

They are born naked, blind and deaf but start growing fur quickly. Their eyes open on about day nine by which time they should be fully coved with fur. They’re still a little shaky on their feet but can get around the nest quite well. When they’re a couple of weeks old they can peek out of the nestbox but don’t go on walkabout for a few more days when they can hop better and start actually looking like rabbits. They start being weaned by about three to four weeks and by that time they’ve been nibbling on the nesting material for a while and usually transition nicely to pellets, greens and hay.

If left with the buck, the doe can be pregnant again right after giving birth. In our case, ol’ Fred had been trying to mount her while she is still in the nestbox trying to get the old litter out. They are now separated. Those who breed rabbits usually keep the buck and does separate and give the does a break between litters.

Generally, New Zealand rabbits are ready to process around ten weeks and should generally weigh about five pounds. They should process out to about half of their live weight. Rabbits are all white meat and are extremely low in fat, so low, in fact, that one would develop what is called rabbit starvation if they ate exclusively rabbit with no other source of fat intake. The meat is highly nutritious, with many required vitamins and minerals, a good source of protein and can be substituted for chicken in most recipes.

So there ya go! Just a little overview of rabbits and a tiny snapshot into their lives. They are interesting creatures and we’ve enjoyed the journey of discovery since getting into raising rabbits in Feb./08.

Back To Basics

As with any journey it’s necessary to begin with the first step which, in this case, is to get back to basics and take stock. Anyone restoring a car or renovating a house knows that, to get a solid and satisfying finished product, you first have to strip away the old stuff and get back to the structure. It’s not an easy task as it usually involves a lot of hard and dirty work and requires some tough decisions on how much to strip away and what old stuff to get rid of. It can involve oneself getting rid of things that may have some historical or emotional significance and involve years or decades of layers of repairs and alterations. To get the best final product it is necessary to strip every last thing down to the bare bones in order to assess the integrity of the structure to ensure that the new materials are added onto a clean solid base and will last for a lifetime. This process can be extremely difficult but is completely necessary so one can assess the condition of the original foundation and fix any flaws so that the rebuilding can start on a clean and solid foundaion.

The list of things to go through can include filing cabinets with old records, the house itself and it’s contents, vehicles, household expenses including bills and utilities, the yard and clothing. Anything that hasn’t been used in a long time is fair game. Cleaning is crucial but can’t be done until the clutter is taken care of. Things can be put into five categories: Keep, Donate, Recycle, Sell and Garbage.

Keep: This is sometimes the most difficult category since one is trying to reduce the amount of Stuff on hand. We obviously want to keep things that are necessary or have deep emotional or historical significance. Go through the closet and if anything hasn’t been worn in a long time, get rid of it. If an article of clothing has some significance to it, a special gift, a momento of a trip or event, it can be kept in a safe place if it’s not wearable anymore, along with other significant items from one’s life. There can be room for a special box or trunk that can contain any amount of emotionally significant memorabilia. Obviously, any up to date paperwork including banking, mortgage and income tax information needs to be kept, as well as recent records of all bills and untilities. These records can be kept as far back as needed but everything has it’s own requirements. This may be discussed later on another post. Go through the cupoards, sort any food that is there and discard any that has been long past any expiration dates. Go through tools, building materials that may be stashed away, hardware (nuts bolts, screws) and anything else in the workshop. Keep anything that may be used in the near future and toss everything else.

Donate: This is the next step. Anything that didn’t make the cut in the Keep category goes through the disposal filter, of which the first category is donate. Is it still usable, clean, in good repair? If so, it may be reused by someone else. There are many donation centres and organizations that will take good used items or maybe a family member or friend can use it. There can be great satisfaction in knowing that something can be a benefit to someone else.

Recycle: This is mostly for materials, ie. plastic, metals, paper, etc. that can be made into new products. In many cases it’s cheaper to recycle materials than it is to produce new materials.

Sell: Many things can be sold if they have some value left in them. eBay, Kijiji, having a garage sale or just putting an ad in your local newpaper are some ways to offer items for sale. Any money made can be put toward upgrading or replacing any Stuff that needs attention or just to buy something nice for no reason as we all need to treat ourselves from time to time.

Garbage: This is the category of last resort. Anything that can’t be kept, used, recycled or sold goes into the garbage and usually ends up in a landfill. For that reason it is vitally important to try to fit every item possible into the first three categories.

This is just a basic overview of the purging process. We burden ourselves with so much Stuff that we often struggle under the weight of our Stuff. According to Wikipedia, as of 2009, there was 2.35 billion square feet of self storage in the USA, three times the size of Manhattan Island. This is just to store Stuff that we don’t even use. In addition, there is an unknown amount of Stuff sitting in basements, garages, barns, abandoned buildings, yards and in plain sight that isn’t being used and is largely forgotten. If we can start individually with a purging of our Stuff we can slowly ease ourselves of this unnecessary burden. Think of each item in your life as having a voice and they’re all talking at the same time. As one eliminates Stuff item by item the din of the many voices will become quieter and it becomes easier to concentrate on some of the more important issues in life. Try working on a project with a large group of people standing beside you all talking at once. We need to get back to more quiet and simplicity in order to find peace in our lives. Hopefully this grumpy truck driver can make some progress in the right direction and find that path to peace he has been seeking for so long.

Why Do I Love the Country?

Why do I love the country? I suppose it’s a combination of growing up in the city with all it’s hustle and bustle and possesing a gene from somewhere down the line of a love of farming. I love the feeling of relief I get when I leave the city limits and enter the world of two lane roads, barns, cows and horses and fields of crops extending to the horizon. It’s a good thing to not be parked door handle to door handle with other cars in a traffic jam or breathing the constant cloud of exhaust from all the cars in front of me. Just being in the city makes one’s blood pressure rise and the stress levels creep up into unhealthy territory.

Upon further reflection these past few years I’ve become of the opinion that humans weren’t designed to live in cramped conditions like that. Our bodies thrive on hard work, eating healthy food, breathing clean fresh air and peaceful, lower stress days. A healthy body can stand short bursts of stress and recover easily but contant stress over a long period of time is known to have very destructive affects on our health. Due to our increasing knowledge of sanitation and infrastructure our cities have become healthier than any time in history but cities in the past have usually become cesspools of filth and disease which resulted in intolorable conditions and high death rates from preventable illnesses.

We do need our population centres. They concentrate wealth and knowledge that we need to grow as a society and as a civilization. Medical and technical advances that benefit us and make our lives better would not be possible without the gathering of great minds and big pocketbooks. They allow the growth of arts and culture which make our lives richer and produce philosophers and great minds that push the borders of the imagination. They provide a base for trade and commerce, bringing in a wide variety of goods and food from around the world that local people would not be able to enjoy otherwise. They allow for a concentration of manpower to manufacture items in quantity or size that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. I’m not saying that all cities should be abandoned or dismantled. However, for this grumpy truck driver, they are a necessary evil, only to be entered out of necessity and fled from as soon as possible.

There are many less tangible reasons for my love of the country. There seems to be a longing in me that I can’t explain, something that is searching for just that right place, for a home, perhaps for somewhere I’ve already been, a long time ago. My spiritual beliefs are open enough to wonder about past lives, was I a farmer or rancher, is there somewhere my soul grew attached to that it feels incomplete being away from? Do we all have somewhere on earth that we belong, a place of peace, of belonging and feeling at home? I can’t explain it but I just feel “right” in the country and feel the urge to get back to it when I’m in the city.

I look out over my back fence on a summer evening and I imagine my little house as a ship drifting out on a sea of golden wheat, the wind making gentle waves which flow away over the hills, the sunset painting the sky with fire, the rich reds and oranges glowing on the clouds as the sun sinks down past the hills for another night. I hear the quiet sounds of the animals, the rabbits playing in the straw and the chickens clucking away as they climb the ladder into the coop. I can smell the fresh cut grass and the smoke from the fire in the fire pit. Up the road I can hear the cows lowing and from somewhere nearby a horse whinnies. As the sun sinks down below the horizon and darkness fills the countryside the coyotes start yipping and laughing. As I look up in the sky it fills with billions of tiny, twinkling stars, like sand on a terrestrial beach and the night gets cool. Time to move back towards the fire as it twists and dances above the barrel, the occasional pop sending a few sparks into the air. As I feel the cool of the evening on my back and the warmth of the fire on my front I realize… this is where I was meant to be.