Of Rats and MInk (and dead roosters)

Last week we separated five roosters from the flock for processing on the weekend. They were young roosters who were hatched last summer and were now mature and causing all kind of chaos in the coop. They were put in the turkey shed with the intention of processing them last weekend. Due to having a busy weekend we didn’t get to the processing and plans were made to process them on Monday.

At chore time Monday morning we opened the door to the turkey shed and were met with a scene of devastation. Things in the shed were knocked over, there were feathers everywhere and the bodies of the five roosters were scattered around the shed. The bodies were not eaten and, aside from some obvious injuries to the necks that likely caused death, they were largely untouched. We lined the bodies up inside the door to deal with the situation later. It was a real punch in the gut to be greeted by that scene by surprise.

When we returned from a couple of hours in town it was discovered that two of the bodies had been moved so they were returned to the rest of them inside the door. A couple of hours later the bodies had been moved again and an attempt had been made to drag one of the birds down the hole that the predator had apparently come in. The bodies were then removed and taken to the compost pile and a live trap was set just outside the hole with a can of sardines and a rooster head in it.

Sure enough, the next morning we had an unlucky occupant in the trap. General consensus is that is was a mink. It was very feisty and screamed and hissed in the trap. Fortunately, mink are generally known to be solitary and territorial so there is little chance there is another one around for the moment. It’s possible another one will move into this territory so the traps will continue to be set out just in case. There are already traps out to catch any rats that may be around as we’ve caught about a dozen since early last summer.

Terror and Military Spending

As the world reeled in shocked horror in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris it unleashed the predictable torrent of emotional outburst so familiar after any large world event. Many people changed their Facebook profile to include an overlay of the French flag on their avatar. Monuments around the world were lit up in the French flag colours and another wave of moral outrage against Islam was unleashed on the internet.

Once again, though, there will be an effort to fight against the symptoms instead of getting to the root of the problem. Each time a world power gets goaded by a small terrorist group they end up stomping around the world, usually the Middle East, snorting and raging against anyone they think is connected to the attacks. This behavior is very predictable and exactly what the terrorists want as it legitimizes their cause and gives them yet more reason to attack the west. In addition, it continues the financial bleeding that a great many of the western countries cannot afford as they are already swimming in debt that they cannot afford.

A small scale guerrilla attack costs comparatively little, perhaps a few lives and whatever it costs to set them up with guns, bomb making materials and the means to get them to the site of the attacks. The Return on Investment is quite substantial, though, as a country that is the site of these attacks usually spends hundreds of billions (trillions?) in the following years in a massive military campaign that may take out a small number of the terrorist organization and cause huge collateral damage in the process, many times wiping out the infrastructure of entire cities leaving the population living in horrific conditions and disillusioning many people making them more likely to join fanatical groups bent on the destruction of the west.

This can continue ad nauseum if we let it and in 100 years we will be no farther ahead than we are today, in fact, the multiple tiny bites of terrorism could cause the west to bleed dry and collapse, resulting in the fall of society as we know it today. However, there is a solution but it wouldn’t be very popular with those who profit from war but would likely save millions of lives.

Imagine, if you will, that the money that is poured into the military campaigns was instead spent on education and infrastructure, not just in the Middle East but everywhere. Improve our school systems here at home and build schools, libraries, playgrounds and recreation facilities around the world. Build infrastructure in population centers in third world countries such as fresh water systems, sewers, electrical grids and improve food production and distribution systems. If something gets blown up or destroyed, rebuild it as many times as necessary. This money was going to be spent on destructive military campaigns anyway so it’s not being wasted even if something that it was used for is destroyed and needs to be rebuilt again. Even if only half of the money spent on military uses were to be used it would still be hundreds of billions of dollars and that would make a huge difference.

If you provide people with a clean healthy environment in which to live and educate them to a level that they can feel empowered and think for themselves they are many times less likely to be disillusioned about their situation and go fight in inhospitable conditions. As more and more people become educated and the standard of living increases it should result in a drop in religious fanaticism which is born out of ignorance and disillusionment.

This does not negate the necessity of military action. Walk softly and carry a big stick, as they say. Military action is a necessary tool in the political handbag but must be wielded with care and responsibility and also with the knowledge that it comes with a heavy cost in money, resources and, most importantly, lives. However, if we can start to divert a small part of the military spending toward social and infrastructure improvement I think we will find that, as conditions improve around the world, there will be less likelihood of radicalization happening in the first place which will result in less need of the military machine, thereby reducing the need for military spending and allowing a greater portion of each country’s spending to be directed toward more constructive projects. Saving money by reducing the problem in the first place saves a lot more money than by trying to treat the symptoms afterward.

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.

Welcome to the life of a grumpy truck driver

I suppose I should explain myself. I grew up in a big city and had dreams of living in the country and farming.. Ten years ago I finally left the city for a small place in the country and the peace and quiet that goes with it. As time goes on I am trying to move closer to living a simple life and being as self sufficient as possible. This includes reducing debt as much as possible, raising/growing as much food as I can and generally reducing my needs to a minimum.

 

Living in the country and closer to the land keeps us in touch with our roots and connected with Nature and each other. It keeps us in mind of the true cost of our food. It helps us stay healthier and happier. Time seems to slow down once one leaves the hustle and bustle of the city and returns to the slower speed of Nature. Our bodies function better in the natural light of the sun and moon rather than the artificial lights of the city, where the changing of the day and night cycles are less noticeable. Food fresh from Nature’s own pantry is tastier, healthier and is hopefully produced in a more environmentally friendly manner.

 

Everything I do in my life is my own experience and I am fully aware that other’s situations are different from mine. I have less expenses and expectations than a family with children and I don’t intend for my words to be a judgement on others. My life has been fraught with my share of bad financial and personal decisions so I am in no position to be critical of anyone. I hope that people can follow my journey with interest and possibly see things that they can apply to their own situation to help reduce their stress and save some money.

 

I have felt drawn to the country as far back as I can remember. I have a strong feeling inside me when I see century houses, old barns, cedar fences and fields full of crops. I love the smell of a barn, the warm smell of hay and straw, the smell of grains and bags of feed. I love the interaction with the animals, when a creature accepts you and is comfortable in your presence. I feel a warm, homey feeling when I see a fire in a fireplace or woodstove and a sense of comfort when seated around a table with a group, large or small, of family or friends, most of whom are both. There is no finer feeling then getting together with those who are glad to see you and run to greet you with a smile and a hug.

 

These small things are of a priceless value but seem to have been lost in modern society and replaced with commercialism and instant gratification. Raising livestock is a lesson in patience, from breeding, the gestation period and the growth period from birth to adulthood, all the while trying to avoid obstacles like illness and death. Crops need to be planted and there is a time period until harvest which cannot be altered. Nature proceeds at it’s own pace. There is very little instant gratification in farming but tremendous satisfaction when an animal reaches maturity or a crop is harvested and stored away or sold.

 

I hope that I can reach the goal of being as self sufficient and as close to the natural ways as possible. Some say it’s the journey that is most important, not the destination, so as I put one foot in front of the other we shall see what unfolds and deal with it as best I can.